Thursday, September 17, 2009

Laredo, TX & Punch Party VI!

So check it (noting the utter lack of any sort of civilization for most of the drive AND the fact that we had to go BACK through El Paso to get to Laredo):

View Larger Map

Now add my truck & 5th Wheel. Finally mix in a supremely feverish, unable to even swallow, snarfy dude. Quite possibly the longest, most miserable trip between towns I've yet experienced. Blarrrgghh.

Although I suppose if you're going to take a 15hr drive along the Mexican border on a mainly deserted highway, passing through border patrol checkpoints with officers asking lots of questions....

"No sir, I am not transporting illegal immigrants in my RV. I'm driving by myself because I work for the circus and we are playing in Laredo, TX. You can expect about 40 RVs to pass through this way."

....the only way to do it is in a feverish daze.

So, the drive is nothing, nothing, nothing, then BAM! Reservoir. A welcome brief change of scenery.

We were the first ones on the lot in sweltering Laredo, TX. I pulled off to the side and slipped into an uncomfortable state of unconsciousness in my baking RV until Kat arrived to park us.

Laredo Texas is interesting because you get to be a foreigner in your own country. Seriously. There a lots of businesses where English isn't an option. Eventually I was able to procure some antibiotics. It was imperative that I get well ASAP as the anuual Punch Party was being held that week.

For those who need a refresher: PUNCH PARTY V post and pics.

I was all set to top my Purple Rain Punch from last year. The combination of our location, Thiago's Luchador mask, and a black suit yielded my entry: Orina del Diablo.

Some of the ingredients (the rest of the rum was dumped in as an afterthough because...why not? And the bottle of Razzmatazz that was added wouldn't fit on the table):

And resulting presentation:

Let it be known that this will be THE party to top. E-P-I-C.

Epic Surprise #1:

A Mexican Mariachi band was hired to give a concert then stuck around and helped drain some punch bowls.

Epic Surprise #2:

The freaking Laredo Lowriders Club.

Unfortunately the motor mating call of hydraulics and bling attracted an uninvited roaming band of gangster driven, tricked out neon sports cars that ended up on our lot and were eventually escorted off the property by lot security, haha.

By the end of the long night, the Pens had won and all of my punch, everyone else's punch, and several extra cases of beer were gone. Successful venture. A few choice highlights:

It's important to note the inflatable monkey and its long tail.....

So that THIS one makes more sense.....

Full Flickr set

So ended the weekly traveling for a while as after a 2000+ (as in TWO THOUSAND PLUS) mile drive to South Brooklyn, we'd be parked for 3 months and the Coney Island Summer would begin. Stay tuned....

Rio Rancho/Albuquerque/Santa Fe, NM

After one final snarf of the lovely Mexican breeze seeping over the border and onto our lot, I set off for Rio Rancho, NM (about 30mins North of Albuquerque).

The story I had heard was the last time the show was in town, the town of Rio Rancho was in its infancy meaning the arena was more or less brand new and smack in the middle of nowhere. THIS time when we rolled into town, the town of Rio Rancho wasn't quite in its infancy.....but the arena was STILL smack in the middle of nowhere. As in at least 5 miles or so to the nearest business. Blargh.

The other thing I had heard was that the last time the show was in town, the dust storms that swept across the lot were legendary in their brutality. This time around, they had re-landscaped around the arena a bit to slightly ease the brutality of said dust storms.

Two options existed to get your ass from the lot way up top to the arena down the hill;

1. Follow the pavement that wove its way down the hill and eventually dumped you in the right spot after a lengthy walk.

2. Brave the elements, spelunk your way down the loose and steep dirt hill, and try not to face-plant onto the sea of cacti. In some ways it was even tougher coming UP and at least one dude (cough coughjeremygroomscough cough) embraced a cactus in a most snuggly fashion during an attempted climb back up the hill to the lot, haha. No photographic evidence unfortunately.

On one of our off days, the usual crew (B, Davie, and me) headed out for Sandia Peak. Longest, steepest cable car ride EVER. Holy shitballs. After reaching the peak and snapping a few obligatory pics from the tourist lookout point, I wandered off on some trails while D&B ate shitty food at the shitty shitty restaurant they stuck up there. Seriously, SKIP IT.

We all reconvened outside the Barf Palace and headed back down the trail I had scouted. It should be noted that by "trail" I mean "little strip of walkable land with a steep ass mountain on your right, and guaranteed death on your left, ha."

So naturally after our treks off the trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, there was no way were staying on this one. After climbing a bit we found a few cool nooks that yielded awesome views.

(I do realize the Mountain Man pose does not qualify as an 'awesome view')

Getting back down onto the trail was something not quite as well thought out (not that any thought was put into randomly climbing up the side of a mountain). For nimble dudes like D&B, a few quick shimmies was all it took for them to find themselves safely back on the trail. I however, chose a different path, ha. There was this tree type log thing growing/jutting out of the mountain that extended over the trail and a bit out into the abyss. Somehow adopting the "act first, think later" mantra (and among shouts of 'DUDE WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!?', I leaped from the nook and caught hold of the thankfully solid and not rotten log/tree thing, then dropped somewhat gracelessly onto the trail. It only took me about 5 seconds to realize what heavy consequences (for both myself AND Davie who would've been right in the path had my little descending party been crashed by rotten wood) could have likely materialized had my target not been so solid . Oops. Live and...learn that you'll probably do the same dumb ass thing again at some point.

The cable car ride back down the mountain was just as rad as on the way up and everyone made it home alive. Win.


The next day, I headed out on a *Santa Fe excursion to hang with a friend and check out the scene....and for me, it was only worth checking out once.

Obviously there is a heavy heavy focus on the visual arts. Lots of cool (and some pretentious) galleries and lots of fauxdobe houses mixed in with some true adobe structures. I got the inside scoop of how the scene kind of works over a few extremely well made Gin and Tonics and later checked out some of the galleries including Chuck Jones'.

The REAL highlight of my Santa Fe visit however was a memorable trip to Bobcat Bite for what was to be far and beyond the best burger I've ever eaten.

It's a tiny ass place where you write your name and party number on a little dry erase board. The place only seats like 20 so we lucked only having to wait about ten minutes for bar seats to open up. The Green Chile Cheeseburger, Cole Slaw, and a Grilled Toreado (Jalapeño) made for some bad-ass eatin'. Highly recommended!

After the coma inducing meal, I felt it was best to head back to the lot before slipping into unconsciousness.

Bonus sidenote: The alcoholism problem (among Native Americans especially) is really bad, and the cops will slap ya upside the head with a DUI even if you're sober and lock your white ass away for a long time. Don't fuck with New Mexican police. The speed limit ain't no joke either. It's already super fast so just resist the urge to even inch above whatever limit is set. Didn't learn these things from experience....but have heard the horror stories.

Bonus for me: Near the end of our run, I manged to catch a bug that made me more feverish, severely sore throated, and downright miserable than I have ever been. Just in time for the 1000+ mile drive back THROUGH El Paso (since you know, they're so good at planning a tour) and all the way down to Laredo, Texas! Joy! I know I've said it before but...Good Grief...

Definitely made for a surreally memorable drive along the border. Recap forthcoming.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

El Paso, TX

The drive to El Paso was very, very long...but extremely scenic. "(Colorado and New Mexico) you got it goin' onnnn. Not in a gay way, just in a 'hey mate, I wanted to say that you're looking okay, mate.'"

We arrived in El Paso late Sunday night, a couple of hours ahead of the generator. The arena wasn't all that difficult to find. We simply avoided all the lanes labeled "this lane to Mexico only" (which really narrowed the choices), and we were golden. For real though, the arena lot was pretty much a taco's throw away from the border. A light northerly breeze constantly filled our parking area with the oh-so fragrant smells of Juarez.

If you hadn't been following the news at that point, we were all chilling in the lot less than a mile from Juarez right after a recent wave of killings had happened. In case you need to catch up.

It had gotten so bad (as I was informed by a local) that the cartel had sent letters to El Paso residents saying "We're coming for you and your city next." which prompted the El Paso mayor to send everyone a letter basically saying "Please please please please don't go to Mexico. You'll probably die. And now we're going to have a city-wide curfew." As always, this tour has had impeccable timing regarding dangerous situations. Be it hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico, record (pipe freezing) lows in Knoxville, or border towns at the height of the Swine Flu thing, we're always on top of it.

Other than that, El Paso was a pretty cool and historic town to explore. I resisted the urge to track down Al Jourgensen at his El Paso estate. His quote about El Paso sums up El Paso's "Outlaw" vibe nicely: "No one asks questions because they all have a history and a past—and so do you."

There was a cool coffee shop nearby that I frequented during the week but I found the nightlife rather lacking in...well fun-ness.

I did manage to take a trip up Scenic drive and snap some shots from the overlook park. It was interesting being able to differentiate Juarez from El Paso based on the flicker frequency of the city lights and how they went from neat and orderly in El Paso to haphazard mayhem in Juarez.

Although it was a cool town, I really don't have any extraordinarily fun stories to share. No one got kidnapped by the Juarez cartel so I suppose the week could be considered a success.

As with many of these towns, I'll do a better job exploring next time around.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Loveland, CO

The drive to Loveland was long and flat. It was actually pretty cool driving across Kansas for a bit, seeing more sky then I've seen in a long time. It was a very overcast day which was probably for the best since we driving directly West in the late afternoon and into the evening.

It was a contently uneventful trip until we neared our destination. We hopped on the loop that went around Denver instead of through it. We were only on it for 30 miles or so but hit 3 tool booths at $7.50 a pop with the RVs. Yargh. Just before we hit the last toll booth a flash of sparks flew out from Steve's trailer as the tread of one of his tires flew off. We were able to pull over right away and any severe damage was avoided. That dude has got to hold the record for fastest tire change ever. It would've taken me three times as long for sure to get the job done.

We banged out the remainder of the drive and arrived on the lot in the wee hours of the morning. The generator wasn't due to arrive for a while so we stayed hitched and just crashed out.

There's not really much to Loveland as it almost serves as a pseudo suburb to Fort Collins (a much more happening college town) up North a few miles. I found a gym and after talking to the dude on the phone about a week pass, he told me not to worry about paying anything and just come on down. So I did. I went to the counter, gave my name, ready to head right in. The girl at the counter said "OK, so you're here for 5 days so we'll do the daily pass at $10 for 5 days. $50 in advance please." Ummm...what?

The dude I talked to then appeared avoiding eye contact and the girl went into the office to talk to Mr. Bossman to see what could be done about not screwing me over. A disapproving glance later from the smug douchebag and the offer stood firm. It was one of these tiny gyms that caters to super executives and snobby folk who stand around in their expensive gym gear instead of actually working out. After a "well f*ck you very much" I drove the extra few miles to a super nice Gold's Gym and got a $20 week pass. Yeesh.

My first visit to Ft Collins was enjoyable and it reminded me of when we were in Springfield, MA. Not much happening there but Northampton was just a few miles up the road. Very similar layout in both respects.

Oh, and Fort Collins is home to the best freaking Margarita I've ever had for the record.

A day or so later, B, Davie, and I saddled up and drove out to Rocky Mountain National Park for hikination. Holy freaking schnikies. Amazingly gorgeous. We chose Deer Mountain as our route of choice and began the 3 mile hike up to the summit. There were several spots to stop and scope the view, each more impressive than the last. We trudged through snow, avoided the bear shit in the road, and eventually reached the top. Of course pictures don't do the place justice at all but several taken nonetheless. Just as impressive as the views was the unbelievably strong and relentless winds that bombarded us making our jaunts onto rocks on the very edges of the mountain even more adrenaline filled. Imaginary 'lines of majesty' Trogdor style were drawn all around our area and we just soaked it up. Puerto Rico was great but I think Rocky Mountain National Park may take the cake as far most bad-ass place to find oneself on tour.

We made it back down the mountain without incident although disappoint had seen no Moose or other wildlife that could stomp or maul us to a bloody puddle.

Redemption was ours however upon leaving the park. We had just come out of the twisty mountain road when a bunch of cars started flashing their headlights at us. Instead of a cop waiting with a Radar Gun, we saw a huge moose on the left side of the road trying to cross over to join its two mates on the other side. It creeped to the edge of the road, then bolted back away from it several times. Once we had passed and the traffic was gone, it bounded on over to the other side. Pretty cool.

We were hungry ass dudes after out hike so we headed to a brewery in Ft Collins that was recommend to me as having good food as well. As we rolled into downtown we found ourselves at an intersection facing the crowded outdoor patio of a restaurant. As we turned left the entire place stopped eating, looked over at us and just.....glared, scoffed, and scowled at us for several seconds. Strange. As we passed another patio, the exact same thing happened. WTF. Did we have a string of dead babies dragging behind the truck or something? It wasn't until later talking to a local Couch Surfer that I discovered the sheer hatred festering in those stares was directed at my truck. My F250 environment killing DIESEL truck. For real. Wow. Damn Colorado hippie toolboxes. I'm not saying I've never been immediately judgemental of anyone in the past as I have, but this was ridiculous. It was as if a big honking truck that uncomfortably seats 3 was my cruising vehicle of choice and not a necessity. I half expected a circle of smelly protesters around my truck after we got out of the restaurant. Had I known the welcome we were to receive upon our arrival I would've stocked up on Aqua Net hairspray cans to spray out the window while flipping off the 'Greener than thou' crew seething with hatred as we passed.

The rest of my time in Colorado was very enjoyable though. A trip to another brewery where they serve you a free flight of 4 beers for free was awesome. I got a growler of Fat Tire straight from the source as that was where they brewed it. Add to that snow peaked mountains in the distance, super fresh air, and not being in Kansas. All wins.

We closed on a Saturday night so we stayed over and tackled the 800+ mile drive to El Paso the next morning.


....end transmission....

Topeka, KS

We continued our travels out of Texas and into Oklahoma. Nothing stands out in my mind in particular about that part of the trip, save when we passed through Clinton, OK which bore a obscenely huge sign on the outskirts of town declaring it the "HOMETOWN OF TOBY KEITH!!!"


Anyway, on into Kansas. If you've never driven through Kansas and talk to someone who has, you'd probably hear:

"Near my home there used to be a beautiful lake, but then it was gone."

"Did the lake dry up?"

"No, it just wasn't there anymore. Nothing was there anymore. Not even a dried up lake."

"A hole?"

"No, a hole would be something. Nah, it was nothing. And it got bigger and bigger. First there was no lake anymore and then finally, no rocks."

And that's Kansas.....


After some searching online after our arrival on the lot, I found there was one bar/club called the Wild Horse Saloon (complete with the tagline "Where Topeka comes to Party") right down the street from the arena. Everything else seemed like creepy ass old dude bars. It was a Wed night and the club was having their weekly "Poor Broke Redneck 3 Ring Circus" night. Yeah, buddy. B and I of course HAD to check THAT out. I like to think it was a good and bad thing I had forgotten my camera. Bad insomuch that we saw very unsettling things that would've been great to document. Bad insomuch that we saw very unsettling things that would've been hard to function enough to document.

After parking at the place, we met the door guy who apparently had several bales of hay up his ass. After refusing B's ID since it was falling apart and staring at mine for several minutes before declaring it a fake we had second thoughts about wasting an evening there. Eventually Mr. Bale-Ass said he would 'let me slide' with my Valid PA ID but we had to go back and get B's passport to gain entry.

It seemed redundant for the club to have their huge Dress Code laundry list as everyone was either dressed like a cowboy or like a...well Kansasan I guess.

'Ring 1' was Beer Pong. Not that exciting.

Before the 'Ring 2' festivities got underway we saw at least two all-out drunk girl faceplants as they descended from the dance floor, one 'dude picks up chick then runs with her across the dancefloor....and faceplants', and one 'dude picks us chick then runs with her across the dancefloor plowing in to a couple who is actually dancing'. Not bad. Oh, and apparently all the girls come to the club with their moms to hang out and drink in Topeka. Weird.

'Ring 2' was the 'Gold Digger' contest which was hosted by a young, slinky, mouse-like dude with a molester stash playing the role of Ringmaster. Like Kid-Rock meets Steve Urkle.

Girls were selected from the crowd to paw and root (I swear I heard some snorts) through various troughs of dirt and filth looking for 'prizes'. It was like watching a redneck version of a Double Dare Physical Challenge. The girls were all used to farm life or something because not a one made any real effort to clean themselves off after rooting around like hogs sniffing truffles and just went back to drinking their beers. Bleh.

Between 'Ring 2' and 'Ring 3' we began to notice the schizophrenic nature of the DJ who would play such endearing classics like 'Crazy Bitch' screaming into the mic trying to get the crowd pumped up....and then immediately transition into several country ballads. From there it would be hip-hop night for a song or two before reverting to a medley of country tunes.

The second most 'WTF' moment of the night was when the DJ started up 'The Twist'. The Twist is a song where the name of the tune is the dance that you do to the tune, right? Not in Kansas. No, in Kansas you line dance to the twist just like it was any other shitty song that people line dance to....and you continue the same line dance as the song switches from 'The Twist' to 'Great Balls of Fire'. Watching people line dance is like listening to Reageatone. There's never any need to do it.....ever. I guess what I don't get is that while everyone on the floor is doing their little dance, not one of them is smiling or even remotely looking like they're having a good time. Everyone is concentrating so hard on facing the right direction and stomping the ground at the right time to have fun with it. I don't get it.

But whatever. 'Ring 3': The 'Sexy' Shower contest.

Sounds hot, right? Just remember where we were and what we had already witnessed.

The shower was this dirty, stand alone contraption they dragged out onto the dance floor. The water came down then recycled back up the side of the thing and came down again....and again. Disgusting.

The contestants (many of the classy gals who were on all fours rooting through dirt and filth earlier in the night), clad in their typical barely there wet t-shirt contest shirts were hurriedly chugging down their $1 cans of Natty Ice and dragging heavily on their cigs before waddling over to the shower beaming (no pun intended) with anticipation for the attention they were about to receive. We lasted 30 seconds which is probably about how long someone rubbernecks at an accident scene. Twas a site best left to our scarred memories and not shared with the world at large....

The shows were fine, and after the last one Steve and I hitched up right away and shoved off for Colorado.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dallas Texas (En Route to Topeka)

Opting out of crunching the ridiculous assload of miles between Lafayette and Topeka in one shot, we booked spots at the Dallas KOA. T'was one of the better KOA's I've stayed at. Card access gate, nice pool, laundry, and wifi that actually WORKED (amazing)!

The main thing on my Dallas to-do list was to head into town and check out Dealey Plaza and the Depository museum. Quite a sobering experience.

The museum was tastefully done but there was no photography allowed inside. The whole place had obviously been renovated save for the corner on the 6th floor where the shot was fired. That had been glassed off and presented as it had been the day of the assassination.

There were a plethora of photographs, videos, and time-lines all over the museum and for the first time, I actually made it through a 'Self-Guided Audio Tour'!

Stepping out into the street and standing on the 'X' after traffic had passed is a moment I won't soon forget. Best left in memory and not bastardized through an attempted translation to words. The place was smattered with various conspiracy theorists handing out their literature to anyone willing to take it. They were exceptionally gifted at the hijacking groups of foreign tourists who mistook them for actual museum tour guides and preached their particular theory to a captive and enthralled audience.

After having my 'moment' I headed into Deep Ellum which is the warehouse district where the artsy crowd supposedly hangs. Apparently they don't hang there during they.....nor does anyone else for that matter. I was able to get coffee but everything else was closed until the evening. Total waste of time.

Since we had decided to stay an extra night to avoid getting to Topeka any sooner than we had to, I was able to smash through my laundry and check out a "cool dive bar" not far from the campground.

I don't remember what it was called and it doesn't matter because it was full of redonkulous hipsters. The place had such hilarious ironies such as a video of a fireplace fire in their fireplace. Good Grief.

The whiskey was cheap though and the ambiance wasn't THAT bad so I decided to stay. While at the bar awaiting a fill-up this drunk ass bumbling hipster douche decides to pour a drink over the head of his equally ironically clad lady-friend....directly behind me...effectively spilling half of said drink all over my ass and lower back. Now, thrashing this dumbass would've been like the scene where they put the cow into the Raptor cage in Jurassic Park. And even confronting the dude would've been pointless since he was so wasted and any confrontation would have surely resulting in his soiling his girl I called it a night.

We headed out the next day around noon for the Cultural Wonderland that is Topeka, KS.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Back in Lafayette, LA

We booked out of San Angelo after the closing show Wed night to get a jump start on the 600+ mile drive back to Lafayette, LA. It had been a while since we last crashed in a Wal-Mart parking lot with the truckers.

An early start the next morning put us in Lafayette late-afternoon Thursday. Not a bad town to finish up our Split Week Marathon and we were treated to a rare Friday off with only one show Saturday evening. I wasn't feeling all that hot after our arrival so called it an early night after a quick trip to the coffeeshop.

The next day Steve, Elizabeth, and I found what was by far the most ginormous gym I have ever been in. Two sizable floors of separate weights and cardio equipment, indoor AND outdoor pool, basketball, racquetball, and tennis courts, full restaurant, smoothie bar, etc etc. A bit intimidating.

I was hoping for another trip into New Orleans but was holding out in hopes that Steve and Elizabeth were going so I could snag a ride. Lucky for me, that WAS part of their plan so we left around 4:30 on Friday and headed out, not really thinking about the whole rush hour thing. Baton Rouge was freakin' brutal but we finally made it into NOLA a bit before 7.

I had know Nathan was taking a trip in as well and had assumed he just cruised in on his bike. But after a quick phone call I discovered he had snagged a coveted spot at the RV Park right next to the Quarter and was cool with me crashing at his place. Score.

The Jazz Fest was all that weekend so the Quarter was swarming with people. Our initial attempt to score the best Jambalaya in the universe at Coop's was initially thwarted by throngs of people all waiting to pounce on the next open table. After waiting in vain for a while Steve and Elizabeth gave up and I was going to try to score a barstool. Literally seconds after they had walked out the door, the waitress yelled over at me and motioned to a table in the back. Success! It may seem like no big deal but if you have eaten at Coop's, you can empathize with our plight. Good stuff.

I've never been a fan of Bourbon Street, its huge souvenir plastic beer cups held by its parading, equally plastic tourists, but having never been in NOLA on a Friday night around that many people, it was worth a stroll. I met up with Nathan on one of the corners after witnessing a couple unflattering "Flesh for Plastic" exchanges between Balcony squatters and street Bead Hunters.

We hit up a few bars on Bourbon and were treated to a band performing a moving rendition of their anthem "Fix My Nuts":

And now with crowd participation:


A few bars and many drinks later, we were ready to make the jump over to Frenchman Street.

Frenchman is always a welcome reprieve from the over saturated, tourist soaked Bourbon St. It was no surprise to turn a corner and find ourselves in the midst of a huge crowd scattered all over the street rocking out to a strolling brass band who was just killing. I honestly cant remember which bars we stopped in but ended up at the same bad-ass Sushi place I had checked out on my previous trip, Yuki. Check it out if you're in town.

I was already about done for the night before we reached Yuki, but once Nathan started ordering Sake left and right without my knowing and I found shot after shot magically appear in front of me, it was truly over. On the walk back to the RV Park we walked past an 'Alligator on a Stick' vendor which always seems like a great idea at 4:00 in the morning (in case you're's not).

We made it back to the RV sans incident and we're up and on the road back to Lafayette mere hours later to make it to sound check on time.

Nothing else to report really.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

San Angelo, TX

City 3 of 4 of the split-week extravaganza. In case anyone was making vacation plans....there is NO reason to ever visit San Angelo, TX. I mean, it wasn't a hellish town or anything, there's just nothing really there.

Only one item of note worthy of entry inclusion: Every year, a local radio station holds a big scavenger hunt contest. A different annual location is picked and vague clues trickle out to the masses week after week. If you find the hidden item, you win $1000 and the pot goes up $1000 every consecutive week until the item is found. This year the location was the Coliseum we were playing.

I was totally unaware of the contest until I saw Davie and B poking around by the athletic field next to the arena. They told me they ran into some random old dude poking around on the other side that said: "There's two grand out here somewhere".

The clues that had been released up to that point were:

"Left of Center"
"Under something silver close to something blue"
"Net the Catch"

...and a couple others I have forgotten. The hidden object was always a piece of paper with a phone number on it in some sort of container.

When asked why he was the only dude out there sniffing around with $2000 up for grabs, he enlightened us with this anecdote. Just imagine Hank Hill is telling it:

"Wellll.....ya see, last year they had the hunt at the park up the way a bit. 3000 people came out and were looking all over the damn place for the thing. 2 weeks went by and nobody found it. The station released the hint that everyone was within 100ft of the object. The next day when everyone was out there lookin', this old pickup truck rolled up and a guy got out.... :lowers voice: ......he was a MEXican.....He walks right over to a pile of rocks, sticks his arm way up in there, and pulls out the object and says 'hey look what I found'. He gets back in his truck and drives on off. That was the first anyone there had ever seen of the guy. That really ticked everyone off so this year nobody showed up to look for the thing. There year before that the paper was stuffed into a pen that was stuck in the ground. I had a doctors appointment today so I'm just out here lookin' fer it."

We sure as hell didn't find shit and I have no idea if anyone has won yet.

The End.

600 mile jaunt back to Lafayette, LA.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lubbock, TX

The trip from Amarillo to Lubbock was one of the rarest of rare experiences on this tour: A mere 2 hour drive!!! EGADS! WHAT A CONCEPT!

I felt just plain dirty like I was cheating some ominous Circus God looking down disapprovingly as we rolled in to Lubbock Texas only a couple hours after departing Amarillo.

We were parked right on Texas Tech campus next to the arena. There was a huge road construction project underway which confused the hell out of the GPS getting in and out of the place.

After grabbing dinner at Chili's with some show peeps, I called it an early night expecting to get up in the morning and run some errands.

Under normal circumstances, the accomplishment of said plans would've been no problemo. However, we underestimated the diabolical audacity mixed with ignorance of the Texas Tech students. It was assumed that having all the trailers parked in two rows with our trucks parked in front of them that our section of the parking lot was "off limits" for student parking. Not too hard to figure out, right?

No such luck. We woke up to find all of our trucks completely parked in by retarded student dipshits. Like for real...bumper to bumper with us even though it was perfectly obvious there was no way for us to get out. Eventually, Steve was able to snake his truck out and I jumped into the open spot with mine to prevent any more potential blockination.

After that ordeal, both ends of our section of lot was blockaded off but students continually strolled right in between all the trailers and there were at least two cars that made it around the blockade and parked in our lot again. I was very close to organizing the First Circus Car Toss starring Mitko, Vallo, and any other takers but abstained. Little student pricks. That's not to say that the entire student population of Texas Tech were complete fools ....just most of them. I did meet one of the exceptions.

From what I was told, Lubbock is supposedly shaping up to be the "next Austin". I didn't get to explore the nightlife at all to confirm such a claim, but there is a big bike culture there and tons of musicians.

A bi-annual (more frequently?) event is the Bike Pub Crawl. It started with a small group of friends, a ten mile bike ride, and a house party stop every mile. The immense popularity of the concept transformed the event into a pretty big deal with tons and tons of cyclists. The continual increase in participants eventually caused some problems with the free liquor provisions at each stop so it became BYOB. It's not uncommon to see a cyclist hauling a skateboard behind them with a cooler of booze. Unfortunately I was not in town at the right time of year to witness the festivities.

Not much else to report since Lubbock was the beginning of our two back to back split weeks.

Off to Wichita Falls for the weekend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Amarillo, TX

Once again the circus proves it knows how to take over a joint and rock it to the ground.

The venue: The Big Texan Steakhouse

The Event: The Big Texan Super Circus Steak Showdown

If you're not familiar with The Big Texan their main selling point is this: If you can eat their 72oz steak, baked potato, salad, shrimp cocktail, and roll in an hour, it's free.

My boss came up with the concept for the evening. We gathered sponsorships for those willing to tackle the mammoth task and were able to cover everybody's $80 meal so even if the didn't finish, they wouldn't have to pay.

The Big Texan provides free limo service to and from the restaurant upon request. Twas an awesome moment when 4 limos with huge horns adorning their hoods rolled onto the lot between all the trailers. Perpetuating every Texas stereotype in existence, the boot and cowboy hat clad drivers chatted the whole drive offering tips and techniques to the participants regarding the best way to down the mass of meat that was to be placed in front of them.

The restaurant was forewarned about the mass of people who would be infiltrating their establishment but they were still somewhat unprepared when 60+ of us rolled on in. The joint looked like something straight out From Dusk Til Dawn. There was a stage and long table in front of it set up for the entrants. As I was snapping pics of the dudes filling out their waiver forms, my phone went off. It was Mr. Jeff Boudreau who on my tip, was checking out the event via the Big Texan's webcam. I picked up the second time and got the 'you asshole, you can't hang up on somebody when they're watching you on a webcam.' Ha.

When the starting starting bell sounded, they dove right into the steak. Corey had an impressive lead right out of the gate and it seemed as though he'd have the thing polished off in no time. Raffa was holding his own, but screwed himself by sending the steak back multiple times to be cooked longer. Big Mike in his usual methodical manner was in no rush and steadily worked away at the hunk of cow on his plate. Big Mikto (well...the ONLY Mitko but it's entirely necessary to throw the 'Big' in their once you've seen the man haul a 68K lb semi trailer across a parking lot) was steady and methodical as well.

As time rolled on, the sweat starting pouring and the looks of enjoyment turned to sheer determination. The Russian Acrobat (apologies but I don't know how to spell his name) starting struggling early on. Corey, who had an early lead soon began to slow down. Raffa, Mike, and Mitko all seemed to have a handle on things with Raffa being the underdog.

I should mention as a side note that on this particular evening, there was a god awful pseudo Vaudville/retarded Hee-Haw troupe that was trying in vain to entertain the crowd. I think it was their 'audition' for future performances at The Big Texan. Unfortunately for them, the timing couldn't have been worse with our entire crew there cheering and crowding the table. They were barely heard (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). The crowd around the combatants was three deep at one point when this old woman came up to do her bit on the stage. Halfway through her "act" Mitko was close to finishing off the meal. So began the chant of "Mitko! Mitko! Mitko!" completely cutting the woman off and bringing her act to a grinding halt. She was none too pleased. To everyone else in the joint our chant probably sounded like "Meat Go! Meat Go!" which incorrect, but still appropriate.

Corey bowed out waving a napkin stuck on a knife with an extremely pained expression on his face. The favorite along with Mikto, Big Mike, wasn't able to pull it off. It wasn't a matter of him being full, he just found himself unable to swallow the steak. A dipping sauce was provided but he took one sniff of it and pushed it aside which was probably his downfall.

At this point, Mitko had forgone the provided utensils and was gnawing away on the steak with his hands. With about 8 minutes left in the allotted hour, Mitko popped the last bit of Steak into his mouth and our crowd went nuts once again bringing the unfortunate performers' act to a screeching halt.

When the MC came over and asked Mitko for his winning words, he replied: "I need a dessert!". A huuuuge hunk of Carrot Cake and a 32oz beer were provided and quickly vanished. The manager took a guess on how to spell "Mikto" on his shirt and the Wall of Fame. He will forever be immortalized at the Big Texan as "Meat-Co". Awesome.

The instant the the hour was up, Raffa made a B-line to the bathroom taking out an old lady on his way and recycled a good portion of the meal. The stall next to him was occupied by a similarly suffering Russian Acrobat.

Another successful outing.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

College Station, TX

Since we weren't allowed to arrive on the lot in College Station until 12:01am Wed there was no point in taking off Sunday night. So we spent one final glorious evening in Corbin, KY.....

Our goal for Monday was to reach the Memphis KOA, knocking out a bit under half of the 16 hour drive to College Station. Usually daytime drives are no problem to knock out but we had shitty weather more or less the entire drive. Nothing too brutal, just overcast annoying rain that put a major strain on the eyes. We rolled into the campground a little before 7 (after the time change) and I was done. It was tempting to head into Memphis and hang but being there before and knowing Monday nights weren't that happening, I just vegged.

We were back on the road the next day around 12:30 to push on trying to time our arrival with the designated allowance bestowed upon us. Even after killing as much time as possible at a Flying J, we were still going to be about half an hour early.

Around 9:30 or so while driving an endless stretch of Texas Highway I noticed a sign that read 'Caution: Smoke Ahead". Sure enough, we were almost immediately engulfed in a heavy heavy Spy Hunter smoke screen that drove visibility down to nothing. Looking into the woods on either side of the highway there were trees burning freely. Five minutes later, the smoke subsided and a gorgeous Texas night sky opened back up. Weird.

On the outskirts of town we ended up behind a show RV. We took our exit and merged onto the highway and he blew right past it by mistake. It seemed only appropriate being in Texas that the road he stayed on was the 'high' road. We half expected he was either going to cut us off at the pass or leap Indiana Jones style off his "horse" onto our "tank".

Our exit into downtown came up shortly after and as we pulled on to the main drag we were suddenly surrounded by 4 other RVs from the show pulling onto the drag from all directions. It felt like a combination of the scene in Desperado when his buddies show up to kick some ass and an RV version of the Reservoir Dogs slo-mo walking scene. An accompanying Mighty Mighty Bosstones soundtrack completed the feeling of "we rule this town" bad-assness.

When we all arrived at the lot there were already multiple trailers completely set up, satellite dishes and much for the "enforced arrival time". Ironic how everyone has a complete phone list but no one called anyone to say "hey, you can get on the lot before midnight". Oh well.

The Olsen Field lot was to be our home for the next few days and the setup was great. RV spots lined the entire perimeter complete with power and water hookups. Steve and I backed into two spots next to each other and I leveled and unhitched. As soon as I was done Steve came around his trailer with the report: "There's no power". We tested both spots and nothing.....gah. We walked over to the next two spots and lo and behold: POWER. Of frakin' course.

So....I hitched back up and we jumped down a few spaces, plugged in, and called it a night.

The next day Steve and I got a week membership to the local Gold's Gym and did laundry at Harvey Washbangers, the Laundromat/Sports Bar and Grille. Not a bad idea.

Texas A&M is a huge sports school so we weren't sure what to expect Thursday night heading out after the show. There were a TON of bars and people milling about everywhere. Mainly sports douches and super hot girls with the most piercing and annoying drunken squeals and laughs my poor ears have every be assaulted with. Bleh.

The highlight/lowlight of the night was when we popped into this bar called 315. I ordered a Jameson's on the rocks and received a full honking glass of the stuff for only $4.75. Awesome. It should have been our home base for the next few nights but as we were hanging on the deck that all changed in an instant. A group of black dudes were coming up the deck stairs to hang in the bar. The door guy stopped the first dude and without any sort of subtlety or lowering of his voice announced "Hey man, you can't bring all those BLACK guys in here!". I was hoping I heard the dude wrong but such was not the case. I looked around half expecting some chart that read "You must be THIS white to enter" but none was to be found. WTF. The ended the night immediately. Go Aggies.

The following night it seemed as though we had somehow waltzed into Stephen King's "The Stand". The area of bars that was packed the previous evening was as dead as our show at 31st Pub with The Dirty Sunshine, Project Portis, and Soulharmonic. Those few souls who were there can picture it perfectly. Everyone had apparently gone home for Easter.

Other than that, the show crowds were great, it was a light week, and the lot was great. There were trains that rolled by now and then next to the lot, but they paled in comparison to the torturous blaring we experienced in Augusta.

On Sat morning before the first show, I came out my door and noticed my one trailer tire was flat. It was fine when we pulled in but somehow completely deflated throughout the week.

There wasn't time to change it between shows and I was beat after the last show of the day so I planned on tackling the task on Sunday. It seemed feasible that if I rolled the other tire up on leveling blocks, it would raise the axle enough to change the flat tire. No dice. I broke out the jack, raised it up and swapped tires. This may all seem trivial but realize that I've never actually changed a tire...ever. Pathetic I know but the opportunity just hadn't presented itself up to that point...or when it had I had the AAA crutch to lean on. Hey, you pay for it, may as well use it.

We had a 9 hour drive ahead of us so we rolled out around 2:30 from College Station. We timed things just about right as we avoided any nasty weather. It was freezing though when we rolled into Amarillo and started raining a good bit just as we were finishing setting up. Other the people on the show who left College Station earlier than us didn't have the same luck. They were treated to a lovely storm complete with GOLF BALL sized hail. To quote Nathan Explosion: 'Brutal'. Nobody incurred any truck damage but certain RV skylights did not receive such a merciful fate.

Upcoming plans in Amarillo include The Big Texan eating competition this evening. 4 edudes from the show will tackle a 72oz steak, Shrimp Cocktail, Salad, Roll, and Baked potato with a 1hr time limit. The fleet of stretch limos complete with longhorn hood ornaments will roll onto the lot shortly. Update and plenty of pics to follow.


Monday, April 13, 2009

The Unhappiest Place on Earth

An extended drive up through the mountains eventually landed us in Corbin, KY. We were to be only the 3rd Show to perform at the brand spankin' new arena up on a hill behind the town's most popular hangout: Applebee's. Boy shucks howdy hootnanny time to be had! Oh, it was also a dry "moist" county (you could visit a bar or restaurant for booze except on Sundays....because Jesus hates beer).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There were still those haunting 5 words replaying themselves over and over in my head as we ascending the final hill: "We THINK there is power"......

Surprisingly, Steve and I were the first trailers on the lot about an hour or so ahead of the lot manager. Upon inspection of the power boxes which lined the back perimeter of the lot, we discovered dangling wires and no sign of anything up on the power lines. Once the LM rolled in, we were parked away from the boxes under the assumption we would be using the generator all week. It was a freeeeezing night to spend with no power but so it goes.

The next morning, we plugged in and assumed we were set. That's when we noticed the city electric people up on the pole installing and juicing up the lot power.....all the boxes well out of reach of our trailers and only 50amp available to boot (many trailers are only 30amp). The final verdict was that since the lot NOW had power, the Genny was to be shut off and we had to come up with some way to reach allll the way over to plug in....or else we had to tear everything down, hitch back up, and move our trailers. Great way to spend a day off, right? Luckily through the generosity of a couple kind souls, we were able to procure appropriate adapters, splitters, and a shit-ton of cable to reach the boxes. Crisis averted.

A shining beacon piercing through the doldrums of Corbin, KY was a pretty rad coffeeshop just down the road a way. OK, so there were 2 beacons. Corbin KY is also the home of Cumberland Falls. The falls themselves aren't that impressive but they do house a rare natural phenomenon: The Moonbow. It appears over Cumberland falls when there is a full moon. Unfortunately, our week in Corbin did not correlate with and full moonination. However, our visit did correlate with very suitable hiking weather. Steve and I took the trail that led to another waterfall down the way a bit. The trail was surprisingly brutal at times. At one point it seemed to end and empty out onto a huge beaver dam which we climbed over to get to all the huge rocks to climb over to get to the falls. T'was worth it though:

I realized yet again that I really need to get better shoes for such adventures as I was sliding rapidly down a huge rock careening towards the falls clutching my camera in one hand and clambering for a grip with the other. Anything for a good shot I suppose.

The only other claim to fame in Corbin is that it's the birthplace of KFC. Oh yeah, hometown of the Colonel. I was all excited to go to the celebrated "Colonel Sanders Museum" as it was toted as being a 'sit down, old timey cafe':

Imagine my surprise when I walked in and discovered the fabled "cafe" was nothing more than a regular old KFC with a display case of random Colonel shit, and a statue on a bench. May be impressive to dudes named Cletus or Bosephus, but I have higher standards when it comes to commemorating the Colonel. I was also disappointed to see the timeline did not contain mention when they tried changing the name to "Kitchen Fresh Chicken" to create the illusion that this place with was healthy and not "Kentucky Fried".

My parents came to visit with my little cousin so that was cool.

Despite the arena being pretty much packed for every single show, we were stuck with by far the most unresponsive, dead quiet, indifferent crowds I've seen thus far on tour. I mean it was WEIRD. The crowd just sucked all of the energy and vibe out the shows like a big, fat, illiterate, inbred Kentucky vacuum.

The mystery was somewhat solved the next week during the meeting in College Station.

One family who had come to the show was just blown away by every aspect of it. She wrote a letter thanking everyone and giving props to Performers, Musicians, and Crew alike. In the Post-Script, she revealed an explanation for what we experienced crowd-wise.

Apparently studies have shown that people in Southeastern Kentucky are the most depressed in the country. The letter explained that people really did enjoy the show and were grateful for our being there, they were all just too downtrodden, lethargic, and glazed over to even put their hands together or cheer. Yikes.

I'll update this entry with some quotes from the letter the lady wrote. And as per usual with the tour, while were treated to a fullllll week in lovely Corbin, KY, were were only going to be in College Station TX (right on Texas A&M campus) Wed-Sun since we weren't allowed to arrive on the lot before then. Gah.

P.S. On a sadder note, the man, the legend, Mr. Jeff Boudreau left us for his new gig with the Blue unit. He, his laugh, his immaculate Rock Band vocal prowess, and 'Homestretch' call will be sorely missed.

Adios, Corbin.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Augusta, GA

After a l-o-o-n-n-n-n-g ass drive from Pittsburgh, we finally arrived back at the Agrirama in Tifton, GA where the trailers were waiting. T'was a welcome site. However the '24 hr' RV access had somehow been mis-communicated to someone somewhere at sometime......the farkin' entrance gate was closed.....and locked. Gah. We called the security booth (which was for some reason located in the RV lot about 3/4 of a mile away). The dude answered:

"Uh yeah, the gate is locked and we need to get to our trailers"
"Really? It's locked.....:sigh:....are you sure it's locked?"
"Uh, Yeah"
":sigh: well my car's broken so I have to walk down there and let y'all in. I'll be there in a bout 15 minutes"

Great. Eventually the dude makes it down and un-locks the gate.

Trailers were still in one piece and we left the following morning and headed towards Augusta.

The last song we heard on the radio as we pulled up to the gate was "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors so not only was that stuck in my head forever, every time I hear it now I'll be reminded of the good 'ole Agrirama in Tifton, GA. Super.

Parking in Augusta wasn't nearly as treacherous as everyone made it out to be. The one thing they WERE correct aboot though were the trains.....oh the blasted trains.

See, the way Augusta is set up, these trains tracks run all throughout downtown. There are very few legit railroad crossings; mostly just a stop sign with an adjacent sign reading "Look for Trains". This means the trains have to go about 2-3 miles per hour all the way through downtown, blaring their whistles...their LOUD whistles....their VERY VERY LOUD whistles as they approach every intersection.'s just a train, right? Well, the main set of tracks through town ran parallel to our lot.....about 6ft away from the last row of trailers. We were parked in the second row from the tracks. The trains rolled through approximately every hour and a half, sometimes 2 as close as 20mins apart.....24 hours a day.....7 days a week. It seemed appropriate to change the Beastie's "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" to "No Sleep 'Til Corbin" (our next destination). It was unreal how loud that shit was. The worst part was when finally drifting off to sleep and then hearing a faint whistle off in the distance. That meant in about 10-15 minutes, your trailer would be shaking (not in a good way), and the conductors would lay on those whistles probably chuckling away all the while.

The saving grace of all of this was that Augusta really wasn't a bad little town. The best part:

James Brown Statue Photo Opp

Hell yes.

There was a nice area called 'River Walk' where you could...well...walk alongside the Savannah River. The only life in downtown was right around the corner from the Arena where there were a few blocks of decent bars/venues.

Live music highlights of Augusta:

1. Joe's Underground Cafe: Stone Dogs

This was a pretty sweet dive ass bar in the basement of some building. The Stone Dogs were playing that night...complete with homemade wall banner....oh man....

A couple dudes in Polo shirts, a drummer (couldn't see him) with absolutely NO concept of time, and the frontman: Mr. Middle Age "Always gonna be a ROCKER!" bass player that wishes he was a guitar player.

We walked in on set break where they were playing every Pink Floyd hit in existence (there was a touching moment where the frontman slow danced with his woman to 'wish you were here').

When they reconvened on stage totally shitfaced, I had an inkling that we were in for something special. By the time the dude asked the crowd "are there any FLOYD fans in the house tonight?!?", we were set.

They launched into the most overdramatic, retarded interpretations of Floyd classics I have every heard. Their "creative" version of "Another Brick in the Wall" put "Jazz Odyssey" to shame. Wow.

A few minutes into "Comfortably Numb" (complete with human echo effect provided by the guitar player) this older heavy set bald dude started bumbling up towards the stage seemingly headed to the bathroom as "Ok..ok..ok..ok..just a little pinprick" was sung in the background. The dude fumbled up onto the stage and grabbed the mic just as "there'll be no more..." was coming out of the singers mouth and let out a primal "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!" at the appropriate moment, hopped off the stage, and continued to the bathroom. Classic!

By the time "Wish You Were Here" was in full swing, complete with the drunk ladyfriend of Mr. Frontman slow dancing and obviously reliving some late night rendezvous of a bygone era, it was time to leave.

2. Sky City: Modern Skirts

The next night, on a new friend's recommendation, I checked out The Modern Skirts. Now I'm usually not a fan of bands who constantly switch instruments during their set but all the dudes were pretty accomplished on all the instruments so it wasn't too bad. They DEFINITELY relied waaaaayyyyyy too much on laptop backing tracks however. It's never cool to hear a bass line, look up, and realize no one is PLAYING bass. Gah. All in all though, not too shabby.

After our show on Sunday, we closed up shop and got ready for our excursion to Corbin, KY to play a brand new event center where we were told there was power waiting for us.....(foreshadowing? you bet...).

Later, James


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Post PR Pittsburgh Visit

Pittsburgh was fun as always. A few quick highlights:

Chilling with friends early on at New Amsterdam

Dancination with friends at Brillohole for Laser Crunk

Catching up with Thiago and Katie post-crunk into the wee hours

Catching Sproul rock out again with LTD at Gooskis

Checking out the Warhol w/the lovely Miss Jocelyn

Making a few new friends


Woot. Off to Augusta, GA

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

PR Week 3: Arecibo n'at


I forgot one very important detail about Ponce.

So, at the Sat afternoon show (I think) there was this super old guy in a cowboy hat sitting in the front row next to the ring. Anytime anything exciting happened in the ring the guy would throw is arms either up in the air or over his head OMFG style. After the trick landed the arms would fly back up and he'd give this 'OLE!' type gesture, hat in hand. One more than one occasion the dude got up and walked toward the ring trying to converse with the performers. During Stas and Vas' act he leaned over and from our vantage point looked like he was trying to buy Vas a beer. By the time Finale came around he was up on his feet hands flying in the air again. As the performers ran past he extended his hand and received a much deserved hi-five from the majority of the performers. Absolutely classic! After the show I was hanging back by the sound board and the dude comes up and gives me a big hug and starts in:

"Ah! Puerto Rican!" :gestures to himself: "Puerto Rican People. American People!" "God bless God bless!"

It was later discovered the dude was in his 90s, had gone through 4 wives, and took Viagra every single day.

I now have something to strive for when I become a crazy ass old man.


OK, onto Arecibo.....

As I boarded the bus leaving Ponce I was expecting to chill and enjoy a relaxing ride up the west such luck.

Things started out well enough until we hopped off the interstate onto that skinny ass, windy, road of death we had traversed in search of the waterfall. Keep in mind we were in a huge freaking bus. T'was entertaining to say the least. The were several corners rounded the nearly resulted in head on collision with semis. Even more entertaining was watching the impatient Puerto Rican drivers zip past the bus on blind curves and avoid death by inches serving out the way of oncoming traffic.

**Side Note** I will be forever confused as to how s-l-l-l-o-o-o-w-w-w-w all other aspects of Puerto Rico (food service esp) are except for their batshit crazy drivers. What gives?

We survived the drive and ended up at our destination: El Buen Cafe Hotel and Restaurant.

The hotel was still better than the good 'ole Diamond Palace, but it wasn't nearly as nice as the HoJo in Ponce. One saving grace was that we were only a couple blocks from an incredible beach (not the swimming kind but the climb on rocks and narrowly escape death from waves kind).

There was this huge Prudential Rock looking thing jutting out of the water a bit off shore so we decided to go climb it. The water was relatively shallow but there were tons rocks poking out here and there and a suuuuuper strong current. Wasn't the smartest idea to venture out there but what's the point of being in Puerto Rico if you aren't going to cheat death multiple times? We made it across but soon regretted not bringing our sandals. Pointy. Ass. Rocks. Everywhere. Our feet were sufficiently sliced up by the time we made it back to shore (against a much stronger current that when we came out mind you). There were other spots on the beach where the rock formations were transformed into very cool mini-waterfalls when the monster waves slammed against them.

Next to the beach we discovered a very surreal "playground" area:

Back to beach adventures however. There was a pack of 5 stray dogs we ran into everyday just chillin' on the beach. We also encountered an huge Iguana on the beach that took off into the water as we came near, swam his ass off, and chilled on some rocks giving us the evil eye.

The "new" arena we played in Arecibo was hardly that. The first sign of trouble was during load in when the show had to kick out some random homeless dude who was sleeping on a couch in the production office. The only bathrooms they had were backstage and the building tries to talk the show into letting the public come back during intermission to use

We made one excursion on our last day with one of the gals working at the hotel out to Isabella to chill on a more 'swimming appropriate' beach. After a few drinks however, Davie and I went off to climb more scary rocks and almost die yet again. Soooooo many cool ass rock formations with the huge waves just smashing around everywhere. Pointless to try to put it into words. Even the pics don't quite translate the awesomeness.

That night there was a birthday bash for Marty outside of a few of the villas. It was also Gob Bluth Magic Man Joel Ward's last night with the show.

During Finale of the final show the previous day, a card was left in Joel's dressing room reading 'Good Luck'. And as a endearing parting gesture a huge piece of elephant shit complete with candles was ceremoniously placed upon the paper.

At the party, Marty decided after all the tricks illusions Joel had treated us to it was time for Joel to be the assistant for Marty's magic trick.

It would have probably made more sense to take the plastic covering off the cake BEFORE having Joel stand next to it with his eyes closed but he was a good sport aboot it, kept his eyes closed, and awaited what was obviously coming.


Holy crap. Marty slammed him so freaking hard we were sure he had broken his nose. Cake was splattered on people several yards away. A fitting farewell.

That pretty much wraps up Puerto Rico. I am definitely planning on going back at some point and exploring the rest of the island, but at that point I was ready for another week home in Pittsburgh.



Ponce and Beyond

The bus rolled out around 10:30 Monday morning for Ponce. Ponce is the 2nd largest city on the island located on the coast in SW PR. The diversity of the landscape really revealed itself as wound our way around the island. It's only about 35 miles top to bottom and 145ish across but has such an incredible smorgasbord of Mountains, Ocean, rolling hills, rain forest, caves, and plains.

It seemed like around every corner there was a collective gasp of "Whhaaaaat? Whoooaaahhhh!" from most of the bus.

On the edge of the Ponce city limits there were these 'uuuuge stand alone letters stretched across the road spelling out P-O-N-C-E. Pretty neat.

The hotel in Ponce was infinitely cleaner, more comfortable, and WIFI equipped than the Shit Palace. The unfortunately thing was that we weren't near anything.

Well, except for the 'Chicken Shack' outside the hotel which provided some awesome food

Our proximity to civilization problem was rather easily remedied by renting a car for the week. We split it 4 ways so it was totally affordable and as we were to discover over the next few days.....a very FUN decision.

We got the car Tuesday and headed down in search of a beach. What we found I suppose could technically be classified as a "beach" but there was def no swimming. Very rocky and had the 'Syringe Beach' feel to it. A boardwalk area "La Guancha" was rumored to be right next to said beach so we went in search of it.....and ended up driving through some random neighborhood avoiding roaming stray dogs and getting plenty of odd looks from the residents. Eventually we headed back to the huuuuuuge parking lot by the beach after realizing there was no way all of that parking was just for the beach. Sure enough the row of buildings next to the beach we dismissed as 'private harbor area' was most definitely 'La Guancha'. Oops.

It was completely dead being Tuesday night but I did see one of the most incredible sunsets ever:

Not bad.

The next day Steve and I made our way into downtown to a'splore a bit. Very cool architecture but def a very teeeeny town compared to San Juan. We checked out the Ponce History Museum and I realized I can read and comprehend quite a bit of Spanish but conversing without sounding like a complete fool is a different story.

B and I went to a local watering hole down the street a bit from the hotel for 'College Night'. One thing I had not experienced up until that point was being a complete minority in a bar. I mean the record player didn't scratch and stop as everyone slowly turned their heads toward us but we were definitely observed. The gals in the place seemed approachable even with the potential language barrier but the dudes (who greatly outnumbered the gals) stared right through us daring us to approach anyone and make it back to our car at the end of the night without being followed. So we abstained. A local band was setting up so we stayed for a bit and were treated to some shitty ass rock. Good to see crappy bands exist everywhere....made me feel more at home.

The real adventure started the next morning as we set out for Fajardo and some Snorkeling radness. $70 bought us a 5 hour Snorkelfest complete with free drinks, lunch, and an awesome crew. Very cool experience and chance to bro-down.

The next morning (I think?) we were off in search of a waterfall in the middle of the island. Davie was stuck at Tiger practice so we unfortunately had to leave him behind. Even in the tiny-ass rental car we feared for our lives on more than one occasion careening up and around the twisty-est, steepest, scariest ass mountain roads ever. Seriously, this shit made Pittsburgh's Dirty Dozen look like freakin' Kansas.

We never got completely lost but ended up in some interesting places. We took one side road that was even steeper and more narrow than the 'main' road where we eventually had to pull a U-Turn and noticed on the way back down the couple of overturned cars in ditches off to the side.

We continued on our journey through some moderately shady neighborhoods. Eventually when we were beginning to lose hope Grooms says "that looks like a waterfall through those trees there". There were two pseudo-pull off spots on either side of the road so it was decided an investigation was in order. After trekking down some very steep natural steps we found what we were looking for. The water fall wasn't huge but was still super bad-ass. It emptied into this little pool that was deep enough to swim in the spilled over the edge emptying into this lagoon type area with some large cliffs on the opposite side.

The way to get across was to utilize the vine someone had attached to a tree off to the side and lower yourself down. After that you battled some slippery ass rocks and swam across the channel. There was no way we were leaving without partaking in some cliff-jumpin'. Holy crap. What a freaking rush. The water was plenty deep and freezing cold. After a couple jumps I swam back over, scaled the slippy rocks and grabbed my camera to capture one my my Comrade's leaps. Unfortunately there was no way to get any footage of myself jumping off but B's jump sums up the radness:

On the way back, we stopped at a little side of the road joint and chowed on some super authentic PR specialities.

The rest of the week included a trip to La Guancha on the weekend and an unsuccessful attempt to find another bar ending in yet another scary ass drive through some rather unflattering parts of Ponce.

While San Juan was fun for the swank nightlife Ponce was much more enjoyable thanks to the awesome adventures and predicaments we got ourselves into.

Off to Arecibo....the city that made Ponce look like San Juan. Woot.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Puerto Rico Tour Week 1: San Juan

Things I've learned about Puerto Rico:

  1. If you don't specifically order 'Black Coffee' you get a cup of milk with some coffee splashed around in it.
  2. It's a good idea to ask for your check as soon as you order food
  3. Jumping off a waterfall cliff is awesome
  4. Cheating death over and over on scary ass rocks with waves crashing everywhere is dangerous awesome
  5. Snorkeling is awesome
  6. Cuba Libres are awesome
  7. Puerto Rican Drivers have watched Death Race 2000 waaaaay too many times
  8. After midnight traffic lights and stop signs are optional
  9. 4 years of High School Spanish didn't help all that much
  10. Don't mess with Larry's Flambé or his Discoveries
  11. I hate Reggaetone
  12. I hate Reggaetone
  13. I hate Reggaetone
  14. I hate Reggaetone
  15. I hate Reggaetone
  16. I hate Reggaetone

I was stoked to go to Puerto Rico having never been across an ocean before. My anticipation grew even more upon boarding our flight out of Pittsburgh: "Uhhhh Ladies and Gentlemen this is your Captain speaking uhhhh........we're going to be on the runway here for about an extra half hour as we wait for the plane to be de-iced to allow for a safe flight." Yeah buddy, some tropical weather was most definitely in order.

We landed in Atlanta, met up up with the show, hopped on the plane and after about three hours this is what we were treated to looking out the window:

Hellllls yes.

Upon landing we hopped on our bus to the 5 Star Resort cheapest hotel in San Juan; The Diamond Cockroach Palace. Oh yeah, we travel in STYLE!

Luckily, I scored a room on the top floor where apparently the roaches were too lazy to climb. We were right on one of the main drags so I wasn't planning on spending too much time in the room anyway.

The beach was only a couple blocks away from the Diamond Shithole and there were plenty of plush hotels we could pretend we were staying at if asked so it was all good.

We arrived a few weeks ahead of the hordes of Spring Breakers so most places were filled with locals. There was a general consensus between a few of us after scoping the scene that first night:

Enough said aboot that.

The waves on the beach were freaking ginormous and excessively salty. I entered the water with an earning......and exited sans said earring and a scraped up knee from being slammed and dragged ashore by a particularly redonkulous wave. Yeesh. Good fun though.

We unfortunately only managed to make ONE trip into Old San Juan but twas a cool experience regardless. We meandered around one of the old ass forts for a while before setting out in search of a cabbie recommended local place a bit off the beaten path. The dude wasn't bullshitting us; t'was a great recommendation.

After dinner we wandered around by the port for a while then once we were touristed-out, we took a walk to find some of the local bars up a steep ass hill. We found a coconut on the way and it only seemed appropriate that B roll it back down the hill once we reached the crest. How could it possibly go wrong?

The first thing that popped in my head when the rollination commenced was a bit from Mitch Hedberg (which I think I may have used on here already so apologies for the potential 'bloggy foul'):

"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.""

Case in point:

Luckily the girl was a good sport about it and the dude didn't kick our asses.

We found the strip of local bars.....which were all it was back to the Casino at the port where we lost even more $$$. Very eventful evening, ha.

The next night (night after that? who knows?), plans were made to head to this club we thought was in 'Old' San Juan. Perfect. We were all about checking out the Old City on a hoppin' Thursday night.

Unfortunately, through some garbled phone miscommunication, we didn't realize the club was in the 'El' San Juan the airport. Gah.

So....we roll up with about 20 people from the show. It sounded like a pretty swank club so I wore the rare collared shirt just in case. Sure enough we walk up to the gay-ass velvet rope and see the 'no tennis shoes & collared shirts only" sign which disqualified more than half of our group. Luckily Joel the Magic Man was there and his big movie star TV Actor friend rolled up and got everyone in (after cutting in line with his harem of course).

Brava was about as far from what I consider a comfortable place to have a good time as I've ever experienced.

On the plus side, the women there were some of the hottest I've seen anywhere (go Puerto Rico!) but the vibe just wasn't my thing (and the $20 cover didn't help things). Oh yeah, and Deion Sanders and Terrell Owens were there hanging out to maintain the unprecedented level of Doucheness that permeated the joint. Phef.

The post-Brava story is one that is extremely funny in retrospect....but at the time......not so much. And it shall be left at that......yeesh.

While the resort are where our hotel lodging roach-infested accommodation abomination was located was pretty nice (besides our hotel I mean.....have I mentioned that yet?), downtown San Juan by the arena was a very different story. The arena was huge and really nice but the business district was just crumbling all around it. The crowds were consistently packed to the rafters. A couple of the shows far surpassed the largest number of people I have ever performed for:

Past acts who had played the arena included Sting, Dream Theater, Korn, Elton John, and most impressive:

Michael F'n Bolton.

San Juan was a sweet town to hang in. It just would've been ideal to CLOSE the 3 week tour in San Juan and not OPEN there. As predicted, numerous shows were canceled in both Ponce and Arecibo. Whoever made the original show schedule was out of their freakin' gourd and apparently expected the entire island to show up and see the show at least twice...yeesh. I'm all for being ambitious but C'Mon!

So yeah, if we would've had the San Juan sched mirror Ponce & Arecibo and if we would've closed there, we would've had a TON more time to explore AND we would've been in San Juan right smack in the middle of Spring Break! Gah. Par for the course with this tour, haha. At least we didn't have a hurricane follow us again. Off to Ponce.....

Full Pic Set from San Juan