Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Last night, the most hallowed ground of American rock music was sealed off forever and delivered to its rightful place in history. CBGB (actually CBGB & OMFUG) has lost its ongoing battle with the New York Bowery Resident’s Committee, and has been likely banished to – of all places – Las Vegas.

For those of you unfamiliar with CBGB, you have to imagine the lower regions of Manhattan. Just think of any Cagney or Bogart noir that takes place in the city, and chances are some of it took place in the Bowery. Once one of Manhattan’s most elegant strips, the Bowery became New York’s “Skid Row” populated with transients, alcoholics and the homeless from the 1920’s to the 1980’s. Most people steered clear of the area during the 70’s and 80’s due to the high crime. CBGB was at the heart of the Bowery – on Bowery Street itself with Bleeker Street pointing right into it’s front door. It was surrounded by – to use the pre-PC vernacular – flop houses and tenements. Mostly “men’s hotels” as they were once known.

The club itself was apparently designed along the lines of a shotgun shack. It was very long and very narrow. It had a bar running down ¾ of the left hand wall and ending just before the stage – a very small trapezoidal shaped stage that stood about 3 feet tall. The ersatz dressing room and bathrooms were behind the stage.

The man behind the club, Hilly Kristal, was a very no-nonsense guy. I had 2 conversations him. Once was when verifying directions and a few items on the contract rider we had given him. The other was when I was getting our money after our gig. Both times I felt like the biggest rube to come in from the sticks. He gave me the impression that he had seen it all, and I’m not sure he hasn’t. In the pictures I have been seeing of him lately, he looks like he has. When I last saw him, though, he had a full head of curly hair and a beard, and he looked like a younger version of Topol.

There are two things I will always remember about the set we played. The first is that it was hot and loud and once people found out we were from Mississippi, they kept screaming for us to play “Freebird”. I guess they didn’t trust non-southern bands to play it properly. Needless to say, we obliged – even down to the 3 guitars. The second was when I stood in the dressing room for about 20 minutes just reading all the graffiti on the walls. The New York Dolls, the Ramones, Television, the Talking Heads – all of them had played that very room and written things on those very walls. That will always be with me. And the photo I took of everyone standing under the awning…

So last night, Ms. Patti Smith gave the final show. Debbie Harry was there, too. I'm sure the party was long and lound. I wonder if anyone played "Freebird"?

I still have old copies of “Rock Scene” magazine from the mid 70’s full of shots of Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye, The Damned, Richard Hell, the Heads, the Ramones, Wayne County (ewwww) and a multitude of names and faces that meant so much to me. I remember being in Junior High and just imagining the scene. I used to read these magazines and dream of playing those cool Manhattan clubs. (I guess the equivalent of the stereotypical b-movie fodder - “the girl from Kansas reading the movie magazines and jumping on the bus to Hollywood”.) And while I never had the chance to play Max’s Kansas City or the Bottom Line (closed, closed), I will always have my memories of CBGB.

I don’t know if I like the idea of Hilly moving the club to Vegas, though. It might be a spectacular addition to Fremont Street, but it could never be the same. And perhaps he isn’t looking for it to be the same. And while I love Vegas, it’s hard for me to envision the gritty, dirty environment that I will always picture as the Bowery and CBGB and then reconciling that with the slick, choreographed, specatcular and money-grubbing Strip. For all it’s grime, CBGB also had a sort of innocence (not the right word, but go with me) that Las Vegas will strip away quickly and then turn her into a whore! I go to Nevada frequently, but I don’t know if I will be able to go to CBGB there. We’ll see…

By the way, CBGB & OMFUG means “Country, Blue Grass and Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers” (although I always believed it was “…Other Music for
Under Ground”. I told you I was a rube!)

For more info, please visit the CBGB website.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Life without daddy...

Tomorrow morning I will wake up, and it will be exactly 5 years since my father died.

Yesterday afternoon as I left the gym, it was five years to the minute that I had walked from the gym through the tunnel to the hospital across the street and talked to my dad for the very last time. I didn’t know he was getting ready to die. He was undergoing his second round of chemotherapy after having the leukemia suddenly decide that remission was boring.

A few years prior to that, he discovered (by accident) [well, the doctors doing the tests discovered – I just say “by accident” because he just went in for a physical even though he felt fine] that he had leukemia. The doctors gave him a “new” (that sounds like “experimental”) chemotherapy treatment. (In other words, they were guessing – and wrong at that!) It didn’t quite take care of all the bad stuff. So they gave him a second round. That wiped him out. He told me that dying of leukemia would have been much more acceptable. However, after all the sickness passed (after a stay in the hospital four times as long as expected) and the home nurses were through, the doctors declared him to be fit. He had lost a lot of weight, felt pretty darn good, and the next few years were spent enjoying life.

Then in July of 2001 it came back – with a vengeance. I was getting ready to do a cross-country drive out to Death Valley in August, and I asked him if he wanted me to stay. Silly me! Of course he said no. My biggest regret EVER is not cancelling that trip and getting a few extra days with him. A few days when he was not shivering and in agonizing pain – his state when I returned from my trip.

So 5 years ago yesterday I told him I would be back in a couple of days, and for his wife to call me if he needed anything. He felt really bad so I didn’t stick around long. So it was quite a shock when his wife called me up that Sunday morning and said that he was gone. At first I though she meant he had sneaked out of the hospital and she was blaming me for helping him!

As I was growing up, I watched my dad go from a 60’s boulevardier to a far right “Spotlight” reader and then back a little to just left of far right. But he was also a very smart man – the smartest I have ever known – and could listen to your arguments against him and see your point. At least as long as you were able to do so lucidly and with proper grammar. Our debates were fun. “I can’t believe that you actually tell people you voted for Clinton” he would say derisively. I wonder what he would think of the current regime. I know he would have some issues with W. W is not a thing like his dad. My dad liked George H. He flew in the Navy and was shot down. He liked John McCain (who flew in the Navy and got shot down). My dad flew in the Navy (I have his flight log right here!), but he didn’t get shot down. I guess that makes him better than they! Anyway, I don’t think he’d like W. He was a Reagan man!

His crazy wife waited forever to have the funeral. She’s weird. She threw out a bunch of his stuff and then told me about it later. “Well I didn’t think you wanted it because you aren’t sentimental” she said. Who the fuck are you, bitch! He was my fucking dad!!!! I don’t talk to her very much. I knew her daughter before she met my dad. Her daughter was a freak. Not to far from the tree, as they say. She was a party girl, for sure. She even used to bang (to use the vernacular) several of my buddies. I was at my dad’s fixing his computer many years ago and he said “Laura went and got herself got knocked up!” Crusty, old guy slang for pregnant. I was waiting for him to use the word “simoleon” next. He and his wife raised that child (because she wasn’t balanced enough) and then when she went on a tearing, drug induced rampage my dad really wanted his wife to have her committed so they could adopt him. She wouldn’t do it, so they raised him anyway but without parental rights. What a stupid bitch (his wife/her mom). She committed suicide last year. Not his wife… My dad really loved him, though. And had my father lived, the boy would have been much better off for it now. But now the kid is a freak because his mother had control of him for 4 years without my dad’s influence.

So anyway she (his wife) had him (my dad) cremated and we had the funeral and she dumped his ashes in the woods he loved so much. That was September 10th. The next day, well… you know what happened. I used to joke with my friends that the terrorists knew that everything was clear, since we had just buried my dad. But it was tough. My “go-to” guy was no longer there. I wanted to find out what his take was on everything, and couldn’t. I still find myself thinking about something and telling myself that I need to call my dad and get his take on it…

My other regret is that I didn’t get my pilot’s license while he was alive. He took me flying when I was a child. The first plane I ever flew in was a Beech D-18. I was 4. I thought it was so cool that my dad was driving! IN THE AIR!!!!! I can still remember that flight. It’s one of the memories that I am pretty sure will pop up in my last minutes on earth as well… Anyway, after having 2 kids and starting a business, he just couldn’t find the time to fly anymore. I started flying when I was 13, but ran out of money after just a few hours – long before being ready (or old enough) to solo. Every few years I would get to fly. So the week after the FAA let the planes back in the air, I called my old instructor and started lessons again. Unfortunately, I was then working in Savannah for 2 weeks at a time, coming to Jackson every other weekend to see my cat and check on the house, and then taking flight training in Greenwood. Slow going! Once I moved back to town, I got a local instructor and advanced rapidly. I soloed on 9/11/2002. (That's me coming back from my first solo!) And ever since, I have made sure I went flying on the anniversary of my dad’s death. Actually, on the first anniversary (a couple of weeks before my solo), my instructor and I did an early morning flight over to the Jackson airport (the big airport) and I was coming in for a landing on 16L, several deer went bounding across the approach lights. It was nice. I thought of my dad immediately. So hopefully, this weekend I will be able to get some flight time in. My girlfriend loves to fly, so that’s definitely a plus!

Occasionally, I see my dad. Not really, but occasionally I will pass someone that bears a striking resemblance. Of course, once I do the double take and get a really good look, there is hardly any resemblance at all. But I’m sure my stares have a most disconcerting effect on the “victim”. I guess it’s because there’s so much stuff I want to tell him that he’s missed out on. And I would love to be able to introduce my girlfriend to him. She would love him.

I have become my dad, in a way. The daughter of one of his old buddies gave me some pictures she found a couple of years ago. They were taken on Cat Island, in the Mississippi sound. (Every year around this time he and some of our friends would go camping for a few days. I remember being miserable when I couldn’t go. They finally took me 2 months before my eighth birthday on August 13th and we stayed until the 15th. In 1969. Ring any bells? Yes – Hurricane Camille was bearing down on Cuba – unbeknownst to us. This was before Jim Cantore started showing up a week before a hurricane would hit. Data wasn’t very good back then. Fortunately, we heard it on the radio. I remember thinking the Gulf was mighty angry when we were riding the pre-storm winds and waves in. It’s the only time I have ever been seasick. 2 days later, she hit.) Anyway, when I first looked at those pictures she gave me, my first thought was “where did she get those pictures of me?”. I don’t remember my dad’s goatee (it was a Vandyke, actually). I have only seen pictures. But looking at these, it was like looking in a mirror. I still run into friends of his, and they get weepy when they see me. I have become my dad.

Except that I would vote for Clinton. Again. In a heartbeat!

I love you, daddy!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Happy Birthday to meeeeeeeeee!!!!

Yes, it has indeed been a year since I started posting to this blog. It seems almost like yesterday that I was a wee lad in short pants, dreaming of one day making daily posts to a blog, and having scores of fans hanging on to my every word, waiting for each witty pearl that I passed down.

Of course I have done no such thing. Tumbleweeds scurry across my page, and in the distance you can hear a screen door banging forlornly in the wind. What readers I once had have now gone on to better and brighter blogs. The sound of merriment no longer fills the room.

Too bad.

Well, since it's my birthday, I will tell everyone my birthday wishes.

  1. I wish that Anne Arkham's sister would make a miraculous recovery, and that she (Anne) would finally get a really cool job and start posting again.
  2. I wish that CheesburgerBrown would get some more books published, and that Oprah would tell everyone that he is the greatest living writer, hurtling him on towards multiple best-sellers. And I wish for his children to grow strong and happy and wanting nothing (although I have an idea that will be the case even without my intervention)
  3. I wish that Steven Spielberg would show up on Neilochka's doorstep, begging him to screenwrite his next project which then becomes the highest grossing movie ever. And that he and Sophie would get back together. (Yes, I'm a sap!)
  4. I wish for DeadpanAnn to get a job in a wonderful schools system and that decades from now, she and Tim are swamped by mail and calls from her past students telling her how none of their successes could have been possible without her guidance.
  5. I wish that 1-2-3/Grumpy Teacher/Derek would finally get laid, and by a cute, smart girl!
  6. I wish that TC Byrd would start writing again, so I could keep up to date on what's going on in Hattiesburg. And I wish for her pending nuptials to go flawlessly - even if she wears Doctor Martens.
  7. I wish that Hillbilly Mom will enjoy her new home, for the sake of gummi Mary and all that is holy!

So let it be written... So let it be done!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Road Trip - Part 3

Day 7 - Wednesday, 7/5/06

The last time to ever wake up in Suite 12403 at the Stardust West Tower. We took a nice bath together in the Jacuzzi and then a good, long shower. Grabbed muffins and juice at the lobby coffee shop, tipped everyone huge, and hit the Boulder Highway towards Henderson. Stopped for provisions in Henderson and found no avocado Pringles. Damn! Traffic over the damn dam was atrocious. (Go figure the traffic at Lake Mead would be bad over the July 4th holiday!) Wasn’t even halfway down 93 to Kingman when my girlfriend passed out. Woke up at the same Chevron station (fortunately the one-tooth burper was off duty) where we gassed up. I was learning that the Marquis did not hold a candle to the Impala we traded in when it came to gas mileage. And out west the gas is about 40 cents higher per gallon than back home. Ouch. This was going to cost me, now.

At Kingman we took route 66 northeast away from the interstate. This is (I think) the longest, unbroken stretch of original 66 left today. Some areas can only be described as magnificent desolation. Did I steal that from some astronaut? Sounds good, though. After winding up the hills through Hackberry and Peach Springs. You can see the southern end of the Grand Canyon from here! Not many people know this. On past Grand Canyon Caverns and Truxton. The road runs next to the Sante Fe RR through here, and we must have seen 12 huge trains in 150 miles. Long ones, with several locomotives pulling and a couple pushing! We were making our way to Seligman (what many consider to be the Capitol of 66) when, of course, the rain set in. A nice hard one, too. Couldn’t see the mountains, save a random glimpse through white sheets. Lightning flashing… Then about 2 miles west of Seligman it quit!

Stopped at the World Famous Snow Cap while in Seligman. Quite a crowd stopping by to get squirted with fake mustard. I also learned that since my last trip the owner, Juan Delgadillo, tossed in his apron, as it were. He died a couple of years ago. But his sons have taken over and seem to be keeping the place up to the same standards. The late Juan’s brother Angel was pretty much instrumental in creating the Nation Route 66 historical society in Arizona. “The Mayor of Route 66” is how Angel is referred to in just about any Route 66 book you can pick up. I did not see him, and unfortunately I did not talk to the boys and their families. It was like being in the presence of Pete Townsend or Keith Richards. But I took photos and we told everyone goodbye and got back on the road.

At Williams, we made a left through town (Arizona really touts it’s 66 traditions well) and moseyed on up to the Grand Canyon. We arrived about 6:30. It was cold and the threat of rain was in the air. I had been making big plans for this moment, timing the trip to arrive at the canyon to catch sunset. It also looked like all my plans were going to be for naught. Lots of tourist (duh!). This is where I realized that dads on trips are assholes to their kids and wives. I had been making these observations for a few days, but this one asshole really nailed it here. Plus he was rude to my g/f when she accidentally nudged his tripod. Dude! It’s not film! You can erase and shoot over! Now can’t you see I’ve been waiting patiently for your spot? After a span, the throng diminished. The light was fading fast, but I had my tripod so I could shoot good 20 second, light-gathering shots. It was us and one other couple (the girl had a nice Canon). We were all watching the little slice of clear sky on the horizon that we knew the sun was going to hit in a few minutes. We had out positions… Bam! Gold! In about 45 seconds, the crowds returned (except for the ashoole. Good!) but we stuck to our hard-earned positions. Once the sun passed the slit of clearness everyone left again. We remained but it was not to be. So at least we had that.

Back into the car and into Flagstaff. Checked in at the Fairfield and went exploring for some grub. We were both starving. I got a sammich at Arby’s, she got a salad and potato at Wendy’s. Stopped at a gas station for beers, when lo’ and behold - Wasabi Funyuns! Mmmmmmmmmmmmm! I had seen the BIG bags in L.V., but no small ones. My patience was to be rewarded! Went back to the hotel, ate, drank and passed out (after some really good “what a great day” sex!)

Day 8 - Thursday, 7/6/06

After 3 nights in the huge, spacious suite in Vegas, the Fairfield?marriot – while nice, don’t get me wrong – was like waking up in a steamer trunk. The bathroom was so cramped that you couldn’t touch any toiletries on the counter without knocking something over. But we managed more sex, a shower, followed by more sex. Then breakfast. Which tastes so good after sex! (Yes – I haven’t been talking about sex much, but as I said on the first installment, Oklahoma City and Amarillo were the only 2 times there was no sex. I figure you would get tired of hearing about how incredible I am! HA!) Anyway, the day was bright and clear (a rarity) and I was hoping to finally get some of the pictures I had planned (blue sky, puffy clouds, road and telephone poles looming into the horizon) but it was not meant to be. The good stuff was to be behind us all day (where we had been, dammit). A quick check of the groceries turned up no Avocado Pringles.

Bought more water and struck out to the next destination – Tucumcari. On all of my trips I had only been there during the day. I always longed for the chance to shoot the wonderful neon signs. This was to be it! Stopped at the Jackrabbit (what a wonderful place) but Two Arrows has fallen into such a state of disrepair, I just drove on by. Passed Meteor Crater again. Stopped again for gas in Holbrook (but no DQ this time). My g/f passed out about 2 hours west of Albuquerque. We stopped at Garcia’s in Albuquerque to get some more-authentic-than-you-can-get-in-Mississippi Mexican food. What a great place. I love Albuquerque. But I hate typing it. Go ahead – try it!

Drove into Tucumcari about an hour after dark, and was shocked to see that half of the city was dark. Even the streetlights! Had there been a power failure? I was crushed, yet again. Got pictures of the Blue Swallow and Teepee Curios. The rest was a bust, though. Disheartened, I drove on to Amarillo instead of staying in Tucumcari.

Of course, arriving in Amarillo at 1AM when there is a Jehovah’s Witness convention AND a rodeo does not make for an easy time finding a bed for the night. After stopping at 3 different places, the clerk said that the only place he knew of that had rooms was the EconoLodge. We had trouble finding it (since the name had apparently changed in the last five minutes) to the point where I almost drove on to Dallas! But my navigator – sleepy though she was – saw the little sign that said “formerly EconoLodge” and we checked in.

I have learned one thing. In my youth spent in a touring band, I had no qualms about stayin gin less-than-savory digs. Although I liked the really nice places with bellboys and room service, we wisely chose to bring back lots of money instead of spending it. In the autumn of my years, however, I now look askance at places that would have bothered me not at all 20 years ago. And I absolutely will not even think about checking into a motel that has different colored doors for each room.

While the “Luxury Inn”, as it was now known, boasted all the same color door, it was one of those places where I was sure I did not want to walk on the carpet in my bare feet. And while she passed out quickly, I wasted another 45 minutes trying to slumber. Such was also the case in Oklahoma City. So now you know my secret - I can only have sex in nice hotels.

Day 9 - Friday, 7/7/06

At about 4:45, some d*ckhead decided to roll his suitcase down the stairs just outside our room, instead of carrying it. WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! I laid there for about another hour trying to get back to sleep, but it was not meant to be.

After a quick shower, I woke up baby girl and tossed her in the shower. As I was carrying the luggage to the car (carrying, not rolling down the stairs, mind you), my nostrils were assailed with the rich smell of bovine excretions. Welcome to Texas, y’all!

Again, no Avocado Pringles. Bought some beer to have icing down for our arrival in Dallas. Road a highway I have never been on before... Saw Wichita Falls... Made it into Dallas around 4:30 and checked back into the Sheraton Suites... Got the requested room on the downtown view side… Took showers, closed the curtains, and had sex until 7:30. Ordered room service, popped open the beers and watched “Monsters, Inc.”. Stood out on the balcony and took pictures of the Dallas skyline and watched the crowds leaving “Medieval Times”. A couple of hours later, drunk and sore, we passed out in a hotel for the last time on the trip.

Day 10 - Saturday, 7/8/06

Woke up around 7:30. Showered, occupied ourselves for about an hour, got dressed, wrote postcards, checked out, went to the post office for stamps, and then went into Dealy Plaza. We wandered around there and at Pioneer Park for a while, then headed back up to Northpark for Le Madelaine and the Puzzle Zoo (my new favorite store in Dallas). I bought a 2 level maze, a 3D Puzzle (level 4) and a wind-up bucking donkey. New office toys. Headed out Northeast Highway, got on Highway 80, hit I-20 at Terrell. Stopped in Kilgore at the Albertson’s to score some Lone Star beer, but was denied. So I settled on Asahi and Dos Equis. Crossed into Louisiana and stopped at the Welcome Center at 4:30. Hit the Mississippi River at 7:00. Dropped my girlfriend at her apartment at 8:00.

On Sunday, she came to my house and we had a clothes washing party, made a big salad and decompressed. It finally caught up to me and I passed out at 2:30. We woke up at 6, I took her home, went back to the house and went to sleep, after setting my alarm to wake me up for work at 5AM.

The trip was over.


While my girlfriend has been to Vegas prior to now, she has naver made a trip like this one. I had the most fun showing her pieces of Americana that she never new existed or had only read about. I can never thank her enough for her patience and understanding, either. ANd we are looking forward to the next trip. Perhaps Mount Rushmore and the big sky country...

I shot about 500+ pictures, dumping the chip to my portable hard drive daily. I just haven’t dumped them to the PC yet. Then I have to convert them all from raw format to JPEGs. So I promise – pictures are coming soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Road Trip – Part 2

Yes, it's long. But so was the trip. And I keep remembering stuff, so this is good!

Day 4 – Sunday, 7/2/06

I love Albuquerque. I like the people, the smell, the view and the grocery stores. Most of all, I love the fact that you can get Avocado Pringles there. Never again did we see these on the store shelves. It was a fluke.

Had a quick “continental” breakfast at the hotel (since we were Club Level – woohoo) and hit the road. But first we visited Smith’s grocery and purchased munchies and lots more water. Also, we deposited a large batch of postcards into a mail receptacle. Jumped onto Central (old Route 66) and headed west through “old town”. Beautiful. We also invented a new term – “Jesusy”. As in pressing the scan button on the radio, listening for a second and saying “sounds Jesusy to me.” Scan… When out west, you go through spells where you can only receive 2 stations. One is Mexican. When you have several stations, about 60% of them are “Jesusy” – at least on a Sunday, they are. Occasionally a good rock station. These increase exponentially as you cross state lines.

Here I must also add that in all of my trips to the southwest – including Death Valley – I have only seen it rain twice. Once, I saw a rogue storm scooting across the Arizona desert near Meteor Crater. Another time as I was driving back from Death Valley to Vegas, I could see angry clouds over the mountains near Pahrump, and the Vegas radio station I was listening to was giving traffic reports that would have fit well at Gomorrah. By the time I crossed the pass, it was over. Las Vegans driving in rain are somewhat akin to Mississippians in ice, apparently. Anyway, from the time we left Albuquerque, we saw storms every day until we went back through Albuquerque. They (Albuquerque) had over 2” of rain while we were in the SW area (compared to 1.5” in the previous nine months).

Most of the morning we played the “guess how many miles to that farthest rise in the road” game. My girlfriend is a wonderful travel companion, I must add!!!! We also noticed that we were both starting to miss green. Not much green to be found out there. We found more nice stretches of Route 66 and tumbled into Arizona around noonish or so. Lots of nice dinosaur statues along the road as well. We stopped in Holbrook for gas and burgers (at an ancient DQ) and hit the road again. No time for fooling with Rt 66 as we were trying to beat the weather to Meteor Crater. She had never been and I knew it would be a treat for her. Remarkably, the storm we drove through stopped 4 miles east of the crater. And from the “moon tower” overlooking it, we had a splendid view of the east side storm and another on the west side. We could also see smoke from the Sedona fires. Creepy.

While at Meteor Crater, I saw 2 girls (actually, they were “grrrrrls”) placing a Styrofoam chicken to be photographed with one girl, then the other. As we were walking up the steps from the observation post inside the crater, I noticed that this chicken had “Bob Mould” printed on the bottom. (Of course, I’m sure you all know that he was the songwriter/guitarist for the great Husker Du, before embarking on his solo career.) So I had to quiz them. These two were probably in their mid twenties and looked like a nice couple, and I was impressed that they would even know who Bob Mould is so I stopped to ask them about it. Their reaction? “She (the chicken) went to his show. Wow – I can’t believe you know who Bob Mould is!” This made me feel really old. I mean, Bob and I were playing the same clubs at the same time, way back when. He got famous – I did not. Then they also proudly displayed John Doe’s signature (and were duly impressed when I knew about “X” as well. You may remember him as Amber Wave’s husband in “Boogie Nights”.) Anyway, that chicken has been to some pretty cool shows. But how old did they think I was? “Yeah, I never got anything new once my Edison Cylinders wore out…” Hmph. They probably don’t even remember LPs.

Back on the road, we bypassed Winslow, the Jackrabbit and Twin Arrows because we were kind of in a rush to hit Hoover Dam before nightfall. It wasn’t to be, however. We watched the mountains of Flagstaff approach and marveled at how green everything got as we entered the Ponderosa pines. We crossed through 7000 feet and the Arizona divide, and then she passed out until Kingman. Again, drove through a pretty heavy storm, but then I got to watch a great electrical storm stuck in the valley at Kingman for about 30 minutes as I approached. Stopped for gas at the Chevron at the bottom of 93 and got waited on by a woman with one tooth that burped out loud – I mean LOUD! Headed north up 93 into that electrical storm and missed the best opportunity I will ever have to get pictures of lightning, mountains and sunsets. I could kick myself. (I just did!)

Crossed the dam exactly at 9PM Pacific Time. Breezed through Boulder City and Henderson to be welcomed with a view of Las Vegas herself, sprawled out and twinkling. What a sight! Made the trek into town and got stuck in traffic on the strip, of course. It took 45 minutes to go the length of 2 casinos. But we got to watch the Bellagio fountains, so it was cool. Made it to the Stardust at 10:30.

For those of you who don’t know, the Stardust will be imploded at the beginning of next year. She is one of the last of the original strip hotels. This is the only place I’ve ever stayed in that city – and I always get suite 12403 on the 24th floor. There are nicer places to stay, by all means, but from here you get the best view of the strip, and if you stay during the week you can get a 1000 square foot room for $140/night. Great bed for king-size sex, too! The bathroom is bigger than my bedroom at home! Huge whirlpool and a walk-in shower with a bench. The shower alone is about the size of my bathroom. She’ll be hard to replace. Anyway, we ordered room service and several beers, stuffed ourselves, got tipsy and passed out.

Day 5 – Monday, 7/3/2006

Skipped breakfast. She wanted to go to the Korean BBQ we passed on the way in, so we struck out on foot. It was only 90 degrees. We walked through the new mall (I think it’s called “The Fashion Show”) that sits between the Frontier and Treasure Island. They know how to do things right, for sure. It was cooled to within an inch of your life, lots of stores (that stay open LATE) and a great food court. Coming out of there, you have to take a bridge to the next corner and then around the front of Treasure Island (as opposed to walking through the casino – I prefer outside). 91 degrees. Past the Mirage. 93 degrees. Caesar’s Palace. 94 degrees. Stopped at the Bellagio under a blessed shade tree. We had only walked 1 ½ miles, and even though you don’t sweat out there, I could feel it sucking the life right out of my body! I came very close to diving in the fountain! Once past the Bellagio, we had to hop to the other side of the street just past the Aladdin. Our destination was just this side of the MGM Grand, behind the Walgreen’s. Ate some wonderful Korean food (I had never experienced it before) and then moseyed up the other side of the strip, past Paris, Balleys, The Flamingo and the (new) Hilton and Harrah’s. Went into the Venetian. I love that place. Got to see a couple of free performances, but didn’t ride the gondola as the lines were pretty long. Finally made it back to our hotel for a quick shower. The plan was to drive out to Death Valley and go exploring, but the rental car began showing signs of stress and developed a rumble at top speeds. We turned around at the Hualapai reservation and abandoned Death Valley. I am kind of sad, and she has never seen “real” desert before. But it would certainly have sucked to have the wheels fall off out there! So we went back to the hotel and then walked down to T.I. to catch the cheesy pirate show.

The cheesy pirate shows are at 7, 8:30, 10 and 11:30. We arrived at 6:30 and it was already packed. So we listened to it (oh, it is so freaking goofy) and then immediately parked ourselves in a good spot for the 8:30 show. (Yes – I am the best boyfriend in the world.) Chatted up with a nice lady and her friend (turns out she’s from Australia), watched the show and then tried to get some food. The food court at the Fashion Show closes at 9, by the way. So back to the hotel for more room service! Whee!

Day 6 – Tuesday, 7/4/06

Happy Birthday, America. Ran into some Brits in the elevator (excuse me, the lift) and had to chide them somewhat. Went to the Budget Car Rental to exchange vehicles. They tried to downgrade us to some trunkless wonder that was beeping for an imminent oil change. Went back in and managed to wrangle a Mercury Grand Marquis out of them, but I was going to miss the Impala. The new car had leather seats (instead of fabric). But Tony Soprano could have stuffed several bodies in that trunk. Of course, it was showing 37% oil life left, but at that point, I was ready to go.

Drove out to Henderson to find out where the fireworks show would be that evening. Can you believe that no one at our hotel knew where any fireworks shows were? Nor did the paper say anything about fireworks in Vegas. It just happened that 3 weeks ago I googled Vegas fireworks and found a small blurb about Henderson. So we visited and talked to an uber-polite EMT coming out of a 7-11 carrying what could only have been a seven gallon soft drink. He told us where the park was, how to get there, and what time we should show up to get a good spot. It turns out this was an annual festival they do. Lots of kiddie stuff, some food, etc… And fireworks. So we went back to town and visited the new Wynn Resort – the newest since the Venetian (which was the newest on my last trip). I must say that it is indeed the most sumptuous and well appointed place I have ever been. But it still wasn’t as fun as the Venetian.

Then we hit New York, New York and rode the roller coaster. That was a stone gas, baby! I really wish we had gone again (it’s cheaper, then) but for some reason we did not. We wandered around inside (got lost, actually) and then made it over the the MGM Grand and saw the lion. Back over to NYNY and found the car and headed on out to Henderson, but not before driving the rest of the strip into north Vegas (past Fremont) and then south to the sign. Got to Henderson around 6:30 and wandered around the park, enjoying the festivities. One reason I love my girlfriend is that, while she is most certainly an adult, she has the ability to get so excited about certain things that she appears quite child-like on occasion. We watched a couple of nice clowns making balloon animals for lines of kids, and she sent me off in search of a sheet of paper while she got in line – her goal was to trade an origami crane for a balloon duck. The crowd was pleasantly entertained during this show! Then we wandered over to the “Mad Science” tent and they helped her make some “goo”. She spent all evening shaking it and getting it to the perfect consistency. Then we set up the camera about 50 feet from where the fireworks were set up. I have to say that was the best fireworks show I have ever seen. And the loudest (since I’ve never been directly under the big aerials before). Car alarms were going off all over town. And it lasted a good 20 minutes or more. And on the way back, we could see hundreds of aerials going off all over Vegas. It was so freaking beautiful!!!!

By now we were exhausted. It was too late for room service, so we wandered into one of the restaurants to get a kick nibble before going to bed. Then I was reminded once again of the thing I hate most about Las Vegas (or any casino). Keep in mind, it’s after midnight. At the next table sat a puffy, round dumpling of a woman sitting across from her 2 kids. She had her cellphone cradled in her ample neck, chatting it up with someone as she sat there and cut her steak and ate. To me, this was wrong on so many levels! First, she was ignoring her kids. Second, why are the kids up after midnight – they looked to be about 5-ish to me. Third, don’t talk on a goddamn cellphone in a restaurant. Fourth, don’t talk on a phone while you are eating. Can you say “gambling addiction”? But then, as if she didn’t get a chance to ignore her children during all of that – she immediately started writing a text message once she hung up from that call. I can only hope that the phone call was her despondent husband’s lawyer threatening to take the kids.

For all the fun I can have in that city, it is really a depressing place – especially when you see people in gas station parking lots, sitting on their luggage. You know they lost the car on a crap table somewhere. Or old ladies shuffling through the lots next to convenience stores like they are looking for coins – like all they need is one more pull to get it all back. Any idiot should be able to look at the Venetian or the Wynn and know that they weren’t built by philanthropists trying to fill a void in their lives by donating to the public. The were built by greedy millionaires looking to exploit the weaknesses of the many-headed. C’est la vie.

Tomorrow – leaving Las Vegas

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Road Trip – Part I

First of all, thank you CheeseburgerBrown for the parting sentiment. The smells of cattle, desert rain and Ponderosa Pine are fresh in my nostrils as I write. And Lisa – we didn’t have sex in OKC or Amarillo. But we had sex everywhere else, in case you are keeping score…

Day 1 – Thursday, 6/29/06

So on Thursday morning, I picked up my girlfriend at 6AM. Yes – I was late. We hit the road and stopped for some coffee on the outskirts of town. We crossed the Father of Waters at about 7:15AM local time and made it across the Louisiana delta without incident.

We stopped in Shreveport to fill up at the ATM (our bank – no fees) around 9:30 and hopped into Texas with a stop at the Texas Welcome Center around 10. Hot and humid. Fortunately, the rental car had a bitchin A/C with dual temp settings – she and I are pretty much polar (no pun intended) opposites when it comes to comfortable ambient temperatures. It also had pretty good gas mileage, as well. We were getting about 30 MPG so we didn’t stop until somewhere around Van, Texas. Nothing special happened, except I almost elbowed the teeth out of a young Mennonite lady that snuck up behind me.

Hit Terrell around 1PM. Into Dallas and checked into the Sheraton around 2. The bonus item here was that the hotel was next to Medieval Times. For those of you unfamiliar with this name, it is where Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick eat in “The Cable Guy”. (Janeane Garofalo was a “serving wench”) I hate to disappoint, but we did not feast within. No, instead we struck out for Northpark (a very rizzycratic mall) and wandered around for a bit. Then we drove around town to check out some sights, went back to the hotel, showered, changed and then made for downtown Fort Worth and The Cattleman Steak House. They did not actually slaughter a steer at the table and chainsaw it into cutlets, I’m sad to say. But a fine steak and a few Lone Star beers made it a wonderful evening. Got back to the hotel around 10PM and bedded down for the night.

Day 2 – Friday, 6/30/06

Friday morning dawned bright, and we struck out for pastries at La Madeleine, and tracked down a boba (bubble tea) shop. Unfortunately, they did not have coconut milk boba for me, but my g/f was more than satisfied with her purchase. Hit I-635, looped around to I-35 and headed to OK City. Made a boo-boo at the Red River and ended up turned around back into Texas. After turning around at another exit, we finally made it into Oklahoma. Stopped at the Welcome Center to powder our noses, and I sat in the most comfortable rocking chair in the world. Kudos to the Welcome Center. Good info, too.

Hit the city (OK, that is) around 3PM, jumped onto Route 66 (after a bypass to the big milk bottle) and checked into a “couple of steps away from sleazebag” hotel across from the 66 Bowl. Went to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and got thoroughly depressed. We were kicked out promptly at closing time, so we didn’t get to see the last few exhibits. Wandered through the chairs and then decided we needed to perk the scene up. Went down to Bricktown, but it turned out to be a touristy contrivance. The canal was nice, though.

I was also very saddened to see that the 66 Bowl (a grand sign in it’s day) has a lot less animated neon than it did 5 years ago. In fact, that would be - none? Just a few stationary circles. Apparently the cost of maintenance is too much to bear? At least I got good shots on the previous trip...

Day 3 – Saturday, 7/1/06

Saturday morning, we got out of town around 8. We stopped at McDonald’s in Yukon for some quick carbs riddled with fat. Being from an area that is littered with small towns, I was not surprised to see that at 8:30 in the morning, the Yukon McDonalds was packed with lots of old men (or codgers, in the vernacular) drinking coffee and talking about farm stuff and such. However, my g/f had never witnessed such a thing. She found it fascinating AND funny, trying to listen to their conversations. It was indeed a treat for her. And everyone was nice and polite, but I think they don't get too many Asian girls dropping by, so they had their onw stare-fest. Of course, it may have been the cute-factor, too...

Once on the road again, we spent the next hour or so tracking down long, lost bits of the old Route 66. Up towards Geary and Bridgeport and across the old Pony Truss Bridge that looks so cool. Then to Hydro with a stop at Lucille's. (Although Lucille Hamons died a few years ago, someone bought the old building on eBay and is supposedly going to fix it up. They are also opening a new tourist trap at the exit into Weatherford.) Then, Weatherford (home of Astronaut Tom Stafford and a quick stop to shoot the F104) and into Clinton and the Route 66 museum. While there, we chatted briefly with a French couple we had found on the old road. They were on a motorcycle and were navigating 66 by notebook. After buying souveniers, we were back on the road.

Foss, Canute, Sayre, wind farms, Erick, Texola and then on into the Texas panhandle. Shamrock (with the famous U-Drop Inn), Mclean and Alanreed. Onto I-40 to Jericho and then back on 66 past the leaning water tower. Of course, we had to stop at the western hemisphere’s second largest freestanding cross (since we saw it looming for the previous 10 miles) and a view of multiple Jesi doing the crucifixion, as well as a mock sepulcher and fake shroud of Turin. (It was THE largest, but I read that Effingham, Illinois built one 8 feet taller. Bastards!)

On down the road we broke off from I-40 again to follow the trail of 66 into Amarillo. On the other side of town, we visited Cadillac Ranch. We also got knocked over by a little tornado while standing out on the windy plain. The weather was clear and hot, too.

After stopping to take a couple of pix in Glen Rio (Exit 0 – long abandoned ghost town, but it sported the first and last hotel in Texas), we blasted out of Texas and into New Mexico. Several stretches of old 66 through here. Nice and mountainous… Wind farms…

As we were nearing Albuquerque, we got a wonderful sight. For about 30 miles, we were able to watch a small storm stuck in the valley just east of the big mountains going into the city. As we finally got next to it, we had the added bonus of the smell of desert rain. I have no idea how to describe this smell. But it certainly smells different from rain in the south!

Pulled into Albuquerque just as the sun was setting. Checked into a nice hotel, and hopped out to downtown to go photograph the neon paradise that is Central Ave and have dinner at the Route 66 Diner. Be advised – on weekends, Central is barricaded! Good and bad… Back to the hotel after dinner (philly sammich and beers, mmmmm) and passing out around midnight.

Next installment – Viva Las Vegas, baby!

Oh! And pictures soon.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

He's leaving home... bye...bye...

I will be leaving you. (But I'm not meeting a man in the motor trade!)

Dry your eyes. It's only for 10 days. I’m taking my girlfriend on a journey. And it’s not like I’ve been posting a lot, anyway. (I haven’t had anything to bitch about lately, and even less after reading this great post…)

Anyway, we will leave home around 5:30AM on Thursday and proceed to Dallas. While there, we will do some shopping at the Galleria and Northpark. (She deserves this for being such a good sport about what she will have to endure over the next several days!)

Friday, more stuff in Dallas and then on to Oklahoma City. Visit the Memorial. Get a hotel. Drive around and take pictures at night.

Saturday, west on Route 66 towards Albuquerque. With stops in Clinton, OK at the Route 66 museum and Amarillo at the Cadillac Ranch.

Sunday – west on 66. Stops in Winslow, AZ (Meteor Crater), Joseph City (Jackrabbit Trading Post), Seligman and Kingman. Turning north on 93, crossing the Hoover Dam and the checking into a suite on The Strip for 3 nights.

Monday/Tuesday – Death Valley, Mojave Desert, Baker, Amboy and riding through the desert under the stars. And fireworks.

Wednesday – Back on 66 to Williams, up to the Grand Canyon, then on to Flagstaff

Thursday – back through Albuquerque and spend the night in Tucumcari

Friday – back to Dallas

Saturday – home

Sunday – decompress

For those of you keeping score:
Day 1 – 427 miles
Day 2 – 205 miles
Day 3 – 551 miles
Day 4 – 574 miles
Day 5/6 – 500+ miles
Day 7 – 352 miles
Day 8 – 497 miles
Day 9 – 478 miles
Day 10 – 427 miles

Take care, and I’ll let you know when I get back…