Friday, August 29, 2008

San Francisco, terminus

I find myself rhapsodizing way too much about this trip to report objectively. Blogging about it after the fact creates a challenge, being afforded the chance to be both factual and eloquent. I will stick to the narrow path and leave out the parts about waking up Friday in Palo Alto surrounded by musical artifacts of classic San Francisco psychedelia, and getting a blister on my right foot from the Jeep's heater Thursday night (small price to pay for no speeding tickets and getting Patrick to San Fran safely!)

Patrick on the dark end of the street


Matt contemplating similar unification, days in the making!


We had a full day to go until our show, so what a better way to go than attending the Outside Lands festival! Teaming up with Jen and two of her friends, the six of us tackled major taxi and public transportation delays to attend.

Jen and Patrick, into the throng of humanity.

A major challenge of touring must be not blowing your take on other touring attractions/bands. This is the only picture that could come close to capturing my experience of seeing Radiohead in Golden Gate Park.

It was sublime. The lights, the sound (minus the second PA failure, the first one gave a great contrast!), the songs, the total audience freak out, the dad and two sons in front of us, the late teens next to us (one who proclaimed "this is better than a f'n rave!"), dear friends close, and others wandering the festival to be seen at some later point. (cell service was critically deficient)

This was taken through the front window of a furniture store, toward the El Alhambra Theater, home to gym currently. We joked about them "praying toward South Beach" as this is the only gym I have ever seen with minarets!

The show at the Parkside was ragged and great. We had witnessed Radiohead screw up and keep their game faces on, which inspired us to do the same. Here is Patrick with his!

Thee Parkside sits in Portrero Hill, east of downtown, and seems to have been through some gentrifying as of late, though the neighborhood has retained much of it's charm.

The array of friends and family in attendance was humbling. Nothing quite like seeing friendly faces after a week of space travel.

Pearl Bauer is a dear friend of Anne's, so therefore has become a good friend of mine. She and her husband Chris completely feed into our vagabond/wanderer tendencies (or as Anne is keen to point out, MINE). They operate on a life list that they constantly work toward checking experiences off their list. Years ago Pearl was to play tambourine in a band in New York, but it never worked out. Upon booking this show, I knew it was imperative to help her realize this dream. Chris had just checked skydiving from his list, so we invited Pearl up on stage to play the last song of our set (and tour) with us. Many thanks to Bartender Mary and Boom for being so accommodating, when in San Francisco, please visit Thee Parkside! Punk rock bathroom in full effect!!!

Laura in Russian Hill

Jen, at whose place we crashed (thank you!)

Patrick, Ms. Pac-Man (aka decompression tank for the road-weary)

Beginning this trip in an airline terminal just steps from where my sister and her family were embarking on their trip home; after a week of being with people near and dear, it was a little lonely watching fog eat San Francisco alive from SFO.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Genius + Love = Cherry Mash

If you have come here to read about music, sorry. Today we will discuss road food. And not just road food, but localized confectionary genius. We stopped off at a gas station in rural western Kansas (one of the few places we were 100% comfortable leaving the Jeep unattended!) and my life changed forever.

I introduce you to the Cherry Mash.

This candy comes out of Missouri, the Show Me State, a sobriquet I hardly understand. All puns resisted, I removed the wrapper to discover a weighty chocolate nugget.

What no cherries? Huh?

One bite reveals a gummy sort of whipped nougat-like center, flavored in Missouri's best atomic cherry flavoring. Coupled with the complexity of the chopped roasted peanuts in the chocolate, this must be the face that launched a thousand diabetic ships.

The label reveals you can chop up Cherry Mash and put it in a milkshake! You can also put it in cookies! Just do not taunt Cherry Mash.

Kansas persisted to stretch out even farther toward the horizon than we thought possible as trains made haste alongside grain filling stations and the fields whence it came, and we were suckered by Prairie Dog Town. For the sake of being kosher, I will not post photos of mutant cows alongside the hallowed Cherry Mash.

Dig me some sunflowers though!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On America

Here are some random shots taken throughout the trip.
First off, state signs!

In place of North Carolina, please accept this photo of Monument Valley, inside of Charlotte, NC's famous The Penguin. Not pictured: fried pickles.

In place of Tennessee, accept this photo taken just outside of Knoxville.

In place of Missouri, here's a photo approaching St. Louis.

In place of Kansas, we offer our new, non-offensive name to call people... K Tag (ie, "you are such a..." or "don't be such a...")

In place of California, here is the very next sign AFTER the "welcome to" sign.

Tennessee and California were near impossible to get, careening over mountain passes with little or no shoulder well into the night. Missouri's was lost in St. Louis. Kansas was sheer lethargy of ye olde camera hand. Sorry again, Patrick!

Stay creative, Colorado!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On Traveling Through The Mountain West

Took this picture of myself early, early Thursday morning as we loaded up and headed over the front range of the Rockies, leaving Denver behind in civil twilight. I was a little freaked out by the prospect of having 18 hours ahead of me in the Jeep. Not that it hadn't been a great trip so far: a lot of ground still to cover, a lot of different kinds of air to breathe, all on an average of 6 hours of sleep per night. I love fresh air, but 3 days without a top on the Jeep was starting to test me!

Gearing up in gloves and hats for a cold pre-dawn through the Rockies, we started the Radiohead marathon as interstate 70 started to twist and convulse through canyons and mountain passes. Oh, and I got a tasty breakfast burrito and a cup of coffee at Daz Bogs in Silverthorne.

Having been broken down on the side of the road in 1995 nearby, I was somewhat familiar with the area as the last good place for a breakfast stop, so we pulled off just as the sunlight crested the hills. From that point on I knew it was all manifest destiny from there.

The mountains fell apart into sandhills with mutinous boulders, then canyons started appearing as we crossed over into Utah. The sun was kicking it up a notch too, so we were able to jettison our outer layers (much like backpacking!) and made it a practice to fill up on gas every half tank. Distances start to stretch in this country. Mountain ranges bend and wind their ways around gigantic valleys made for Dinosaur commutes. Long gone as they are, along with vegetation, left behind are skeletal remains and oil exploration. The farther we drove into Utah, the denser the air became. As we exited I-70 for Highway 50, it was clear that most of the fresh air we had experienced would be replaced with an arid imitation!

Dust storms kicked up in the distance, we outran them. Trucks kicked up dust clouds in the road, we drove through them. All that dust has to go somewhere! Welcome to Nevada. Rugged, rural beauty. The sun wanted to eat us alive. Meanwhile, my guitars slept packed away, blissfully unawares in the back. Sun, heat, cold: these things are not your guitar's friend! We took every chance we had (roughly every 100 miles) to get out, gas up, reapply sunblock, administer eye drops, and buy water. Note: make sure you eye drop in the shade and NOT looking into the sun!
Range after mountain range; vista after sweeping vista, the sun finally began to disappear into the western horizon. We were left with red earth behind us, and blinding white hot sun ahead. With less fanfare than expected of a desert sunset, twilight had begun.

A coyote scampered across the road oblivious to the speeding hot metallic death that was the Jeep (Patrick swerved deftly to avoid it) and finally day gave up it's grasp of the sky, revealing an infinite canopy of stars that featured the purple-blue ink of the Milky Way. This had me wishing for a blackout once we made Reno.

I was exhausted, and Patrick was willing to stop, though disappointed of only making it a 15 hour day. After a brief discussion, it dawned on me that he had further responsibilities in San Francisco than had been communicated to me. Still willing to stop, I ventured that we should persevere. Wow, this all sounds so civil, but in reality, you have two road-weary/grizzled men with the will to drive themselves sleepless, and the entire contents of central Nevada's famous baked oxygen bottled inside our lungs as perverted laughing gas going straight to our brains. Throw in a disagreement, and you've got volatility. Once our exhausted grievances were out there, there was no pulling them back. Rather, these became fuel (with the assistance of two disgusting Monster Energy Drinks!) for the remainder of the trip. Onward! Outward! Westward! Blistering! (the heater in the Jeep would prove caustic to my right ankle!)

Truckee, CA will never look the same to me!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Denver Show Report

I found it surprisingly difficult to get online on our weeklong trek. The best part is, after phone calls to the missus, I really didn't need it. Moments in between were spent ambling around Lawrence/Boulder/Denver/Austin, NV (google it!)/San Francisco. While it crossed my mind to plug myself in and regale the ether with my ramblings, I found better use for my brainpower and eyes (reading, sleeping, driving etc). Here are some belated notes on our journey, will post several of these.

Started Wednesday as tourists, and visited scenic Boulder. While once a hippie town, it seemed to have been slowly devoured by Bed Bath and Beyond. Never fear, we found a staunch, independent record store called Albums on the Hill, and paid Andy a visit. If you ever drop in, tell him we said hi.

The Denver show went well. Hooked On Colfax had a dark, yet photogenic performance space in the basement.

We played without any amplification, so my voice was a little throttled by the end. Jim flew out and made an appearance on his new Cajon drum, which will be making it's way out more often. Picture a wooden suitcase fitted out with a snare in one part, with a drummer sitting on top of it. I am a believer! We did a monster, 16 song set that still ran under our alloted 2 hours. Elegiac made it's live debut, and we dusted off "You Know It Has To Be Right!," "I Was Electric" and a brand new cover of Nada Surf's "Inside of Love"

Afterward we had a few Fat Tire's at Annie's Diner. Eating fish taco's at my wife's namesake made me wish I were driving toward her! Some friends of Patrick's came out and regaled us with stories of their famous family Thanksgiving fireworks (a euphemism, of course) and that took the edge off.

At dawn we started off toward the west, starting a Radiohead marathon of every one of their albums. Could there be a better landscape for their cavernous, isolated sound? I think not, as the farther we drove the more it seemed we were on the moon. We had 20 hours to drive, and San Francisco to make before the next morning.