Oct 09

The Mendocino Coast

Jerry wrote a little blurb about how much fun Total Eclipse had playing the Abalone Festival this weekend.

If you’ve never had abalone, I highly recommend it. It’s so freaking tasty!

Anyway, UMB and I drove home via Highway 1 down the coast and stopped for some photos along the way. If you ever get the chance to visit the northern California coastline, you will find it to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Here are some selected photos… you can see them all in the Mendocino photo album.

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May 29

Memorial Day Boating Incident

How was our Memorial Day at the lake?

I think it can best be summed up by reading Othurme’s post about it.

He makes it sound worse than it was. I’m sunburned and sore, the gig went fine, and save for the last ten minutes that we performed (which were spent shivering in a fierce wind) the weather was perfect!

Things will return back to normal tomorrow, hopefully.

May 11

San Francisco Tourist Tips for Safety

San Francisco at NightNow that I’ve given you a few tips to make sure your vacation to San Francisco goes smoothly, I’d like to give you a few tips to keep you from being beaten to death by people who actually live and work in the city everyday.

  1. Remember that not everyone around you is on vacation. People actually live and work in San Francisco. All those buildings that you are staring up at and taking pictures of? Yeah. Those are apartment buildings and office buildings. There are people in there going about their everyday lives. These people don’t care about you and your week off from Fernley’s Fixtures in Cleveland. They do not want to stop on the sidewalk and give you directions. They do not want to wait for you to gather your six kids together for the photograph that you have asked them to take. It’s not that they are angry or mean people. In fact, San Franciscan’s are among the nicest people you will ever meet in a big city. The fact remains that they are busy people who are trying to get to and from work as quickly as possible.
  2. Similarly, please keep in mind when you are taking advantage of the public transit systems that the trains and subway and buses are primarily meant for people who are just trying to get to work. Get out of their way. You have all day to get to Chinatown. The woman who is patiently waiting for you to move your fanny-pack-and-bermuda-shorts-wearing fat ass out of the bus doorway has to be in her office by 8:30 and she still has to stop at one of the five million Starbucks on the way. This goes for the historic San Francisco Cable Cars, too. Real people use them everyday to get where they need to go. Get out of their way.
  3. You may remember how I mentioned that it is very expensive here… please don’t mention this to us. We know already. We pay rent and mortgages in the 2nd most expensive area of the country. You want to know how we can afford it? We work. Hard. And you are still in our fucking way.
  4. There are a lot of homeless people in San Francisco. Yes we know. Yes, it’s awful. There is no need to complain loudly about it. Oh, and also, shut the fuck up. It’s not as easy as going out and “getting a job.” There are so many homeless people here because San Francisco actually has very lenient laws and successful rehabilitation programs for them to take advantage of. Most of the homeless are mentally or physically disabled and don’t need you picking on them. The rest are down on their luck and certainly don’t need you making them feel worse about themselves. They are not likely to bother you beyond asking for a handout. If you politely say no, almost every single one of them will say “God Bless You” and move along without argument.
  5. As a matter of fact, it is YOU who does not know how to drive here. So what if we rarely use signals, double park, and take red lights as merely a suggestion to stop? You need to keep up or risk getting your ass ran over.
  6. Yeah, we all know that the pedestrian has the right of way. IF he or she is in a designated crosswalk and walking with the light. If you walk against the light, or cross in the middle of a block, you WILL get hit. Probably by a Muni (bus). And you deserved it. Pay attention.
  7. Here’s a biggie. San Francisco has a lot of gay people. A. Lot. Of. Gays. If you have a problem with homosexuality, or feel that you will be horribly offended by the sight of two men holding hands while walking down the street, I suggest you pick another vacation destination. Dollywood is nice this time of year.* The gays don’t just hang out in the Castro district, though that’s the area of town where you will find the gay porn stores, a majority of the gay bars and rainbow flags everywhere. Complaining, snickering, or preaching about it will likely get you into a world of trouble. You are a guest in our city. Wipe your feet and be on your best behavior.
  8. San Franciscans have an unusual sense of style that is going to appear strange to you. You will see white women with dreadlocks. You will see Mexican guys with mohawks. At some point during your trip you will see a man in a dress. You will also see lots of tattoos, facial and body piercings, hair colors that don’t occur in nature, and lots of unusual clothing. We like vintage clothing out here, usually in layers (remember it gets cold here in the summer). It is not uncommon to see a girl wearing pink and white horizontally striped leggings under a miniskirt with a peasant blouse under a flannel v-neck vest and trench coat. You will see a lot of guys wearing dirty jeans and long sleeved tee shirts under a short sleeved tee shirt and blazer. They look smart, especially with their thick rimmed glasses and fedora hats. Don’t point and stare at us. You are the one wearing black knee-high socks with sandals and plaid bermuda shorts.
  9. There are a lot of minorities in San Francisco. We don’t see this as a problem. As a matter of fact, we love this. The racial makeup of the city is quite diverse. Keep your racist, bigoted and unenlightened comments to yourself. We have a distinct lack of rednecks around and we’d like to keep it that way.
  10. San Francisco is not really a “steak and potatoes” kind of place. Do not make fun of the way we eat. San Franciscans are healthier than people who live in other parts of the country. There are a lot of vegetarians and vegans here.** If you can think of an ethnicity or a country, chances are there is a restaurant near where you are that serves food from there. There are only a couple of steak houses. It will be easier for you to find a restaurant that serves beef tongue with cabbage, or a squid salad than it will be for you find a Big Mac. If you are not adventurous with food consider staying outside of the city in a suburb where you will find fast food and chain restaurants much more easily. Might I suggest Denver?

I’ve given you some tips on making your visit here go smoothly. Now I’ve given you some tips on staying on the city’s inhabitant’s good side. Lest you think that you shouldn’t come here for a visit, my next post is going to give you some tips on the places that you should really see while you’re here.

* Scratch Dollywood, there are plenty of gays there, too.

** There is a difference: Vegetarians don’t eat meat. Vegans don’t eat anything that comes from an animal, including milk and eggs, gelatin, etc.

May 11

Welcome to San Francisco – Tourist Tips

Elmer FuddMemorial Day is rapidly approaching, signaling the start of the tourist season in the San Francisco area.

Let me be among the first to welcome you to one of the most beautiful areas of the country. We have a lot to offer. Within 200 miles you can visit the rocky cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, the Redwood forest, Yosemite, the rolling hills of the Napa Valley, the beautiful Monterey Bay and Carmel. San Francisco is home to some of the best restaurants on earth. There are numerous theaters, a world-class symphony, hundreds of live music venues, nightclubs, and seemingly every weekend there is some special event or parade happening to entertain you.

That being said, I’d like to give everyone who is considering a trip out here a few pointers to make your vacation go as smoothly as possible. Some of these tips may even save your life.

  1. It’s fucking cold in San Francisco. Yes, I know when you think of California you immediately picture Baywatch, the beach, bikinis, sunshine, surfers, and hot guys walking around half naked. Here’s the reality: the average high temperature in San Francisco during the summer is 70 degrees. Let me say that again, the HIGH temperature in the SUMMER is 70 degrees. That’s on a sunny day. If the day happens to be foggy, that temperature could be more like 56 or 57 degrees. You may recall that San Francisco is often called the “Fog City.” You will most likely experience the fog. Your flip flop sandals, board shorts and tank tops are a ridiculous choice to walk around town in. People who live in the city carry a jacket with them at all times. If you forget this, don’t worry, there are hundreds of vendors and crappy tourist shops near Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Chinatown where you can buy $50 sweatshirts with signs on them that broadcast you are tourist.
  2. It’s fucking hot outside of the city. Yes, I know I just told you to bring a jacket, but if you plan to leave the city, you have to know that the temperature rises basically 1 degree per mile. I’m not kidding. I live around 45 miles outside of the city. One day last summer I left the house to drive to the city. It was 104 degrees outside. When I arrived at the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, the temperature had dropped to a chilly 56 degrees. If you plan to leave the city to visit Napa, Sacramento, or other outlying areas you’ll want to dress appropriately. Daisy Dukes are not appropriate. Ever. I mean it.
  3. You know that vacation budget you have set aside for your trip here? Double it. Everything here is expensive. As I mentioned, there are great restaurants here, they are not cheap. However, you will find that food is the least of your worries. You can expect to pay around $145/night for a moderately nice hotel room. If your tastes run more along the Hyatt, Omni, or the W you can expect to pay $300 or more.
  4. If you plan to rent a car (and really you should consider NOT renting a car and using our fairly nice public transportation system) you should ask yourself if it will bother you to spend $20 every time you park your car. Not per day, every time. This means if you pull over thinking you’ll just walk around Fisherman’s Wharf for a couple of hours, before moving along to Haight/Ashbury you’re going to spend money to park both times. For all intents and purposes, there is no such thing as street parking. Dream on.
  5. Sticking with the expense theme, let’s talk about gasoline prices. I bought gas today at the cheapest station in my town. I bought the cheapest gas. I paid $3.36 per gallon. I don’t live in the city. If you buy gas in San Francisco (providing you can find a gas station, I swear there are only three any where near downtown) you can expect to add a good $.25 more per gallon.
  6. You know how you like to stare up at buildings, take pictures on every corner, and wear a fanny pack? Don’t do that. Besides the fact that you look ridiculous, you are just making yourself a target for scam artists and thieves. It’s a big city, and San Francisco has all the same problems with crime that any other big city has.

Stay tuned for my next post where I will give you some tips that will hopefully keep you from being beaten to death by one of the city’s fine residents.

* Despite the similarity in description, “tourist season” is not the same as say, “deer season” or “rabbit season.” I got some strange looks at the parks and recreation office when I asked.

Apr 27

A Story About Hoss

Hoss Burns Adjusting the TemperatureFinding that picture of Hoss yesterday made me think of this trip that I took with him, Mama Sharon, and Hoss’s friend Jack to Destin, Florida.

As a refresher, Mama Sharon was the crazy cool older woman that I was living with in Nashville. And Jack was the friend who owned the property out in the middle of nowhere that brought about Movie Moment #1.

Hoss and Mama SharonWe stayed in Destin for a couple of days, in this little cinder-block shack that sat less than 20 yards from the high tide line on the beach. There was a lot of alcohol and pot being passed around. We laughed ourselves silly and swam and sunbathed and drank and smoked some more. There was also some cocaine and who knows what else was in that cigar box, but Mama Sharon and I stayed away from that.

One night, Hoss and I decided we wanted to hit a club. Jack wasn’t feeling very well, as he had been put on a new HIV medication that was making him puke about once every half hour. (This made the 5 hour trip to Florida somewhat exciting.) The nearest gay club that Hoss knew about was a piano bar in Pensacola, about an hour away.

Hoss had been drinking and smoking pot all afternoon, so he was completely trashed. I suggested that maybe we should wait until the next night to go out, but he insisted that he was going to drive us to the bar in Pensacola.

When we got in the car, I asked him if he would rather I drive.

He said, “No, I’m alright. Let’s get going… put on some music.”

Hoss and Mama As I remember them most…About 10 minutes later, he turned the wrong way down a one way street. I asked him again, “Are you sure you don’t want me to drive? I haven’t had anything to drink or smoke in like 6 hours..”

He said, “No, I’m fine.”

We made it to the highway, and he was doing ok… he only drifted over the line a couple of times.*

Suddenly, he pulled over to the left shoulder of the highway, put the car in park and looked me directly in the eye and said, “Here’s the deal. Where are we going?”

I said, “Hoss… we’re going to the gay bar in Pensacola. Do you want me to drive?”

He giggled and his eyes lit up, “Would you!?”

*Don’t think for a minute that I wasn’t scared to death the whole time.

Feb 22

Where I’ve Been

There’s a cool site I ran across yesterday, World 66. You can generate maps showing what states you’ve been in and countries you’ve visited. Here are mine:


create your own personalized map of the USA


create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Looks like I’ve got some traveling to do.

Feb 01

Key West and a Happy Birthday!

I love spontaneous trips. I booked the tickets less than 12 hours before the flight, and Jerry was kind enough to let me park my car at his place to avoid the $17/day fee at SFO. He even took us to the airport on his way to work (picked us up too… nice guy that Jerry).

The first thing we noticed about Miami was that the city is apparently suffering from a sign shortage. It is truly impossible to navigate your way around because streets are not labeled, and if you do happen to catch a sign it lists multiple names.

Me: “Let’s see, we are at the intersection of La Jeune and NW 62nd or King or East 21st street. Which direction do we need to go?”

UMB: “I have no idea. Is East 21st the same as 714?”

Me: “Umm… let me drive up another few blocks and see…. yes! Yes! I think it is 716!”

UMB: “Great, except we need 714.”

Me: “Umm… ok. Well… It’s a peninsula, I suppose we could just drive in one direction until we either hit water or Georgia…”

UMB: “Sounds like a plan.”

We finally managed to find my parents in Florida City and grabbed a late dinner.

Key West RoosterThe next morning we made the three hour trip to Key West. Mom and Dad were there the day before, but didn’t get the chance to see everything they wanted. Dad specifically wanted to go to the Aquarium and the Butterfly exhibit. He was especially taken with the flock of wild chickens that roam around the island, so we have many pictures of them.

Key West Butterfly Exhibit

I was going through the photos from the trip choosing some to include in the Miami photo album and made a discovery. While I have always suspected my mother was a little bit crazy, I have now accumulated photographic evidence. She likes to talk to inanimate objects.

 

I’d like to offer the following exhibits into evidence:

Key West Dancers Here, she asked if she could cut in. I’m not sure what she would have done if he had tried to feel her up.

 

 

 

Key West Aquarium Here, she is carrying on a conversation with a red-eyed squirrel fish. He remained strangely quiet, but watchful.

 

 

 

SailorExhibit Three: She offered this guy the job as Santa Claus for this year’s Christmas celebration. I don’t think she can match his salary demands, or adhere to his rider requiring ‘120 pounds of fresh tuna daily.’

 

Sponge ManExhibit Four: She offered the Sponge Man a drink of water. He politely declined.

Perhaps this is just a symptom of aging? My mother officially became a Senior Citizen today. I think she’s not taking my calls because she is in mourning. Either that or AARP has had her tied up on the phone all day.* Happy birthday Mom!

* Man, she is going to kill me for that.

Jan 29

Here I Am!

Kudos to Bianca for guessing correctly that I’m hanging out in Florida.

Key West and Miami Beach to be exact.

I’ll have lots of stories to tell when I get home tomorrow night, but right now there is a white sand beach with turquoise blue water waiting for me right outside my window. UMB didn’t wait for me, he’s already there.

In the meantime enjoy these pictures taken out in the Everglades.

Everglades

Gator!

Dec 08

December 8, 1980

ImagineI was a precocious five year old, and already a gigantic fan of music.

We didn’t have much money when I was young, we never went to the movies, and couldn’t afford to spend anything on “entertainment.” But my parents had a large collection of 33-RPM albums and singles on 45.*

The most expensive thing in our house, besides perhaps the gigantic wooden consoled television, was my dad’s hi-fi and turntable. Every weekend would be spent with the three of us on the floor in front of the speakers while my dad would play disc jockey.

Nearly every song had a story to go along with it. My mom and dad laughing and reminiscing about driving around in a 1966 gold Ford Mustang Fastback, listening to Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons or The Beach Boys, or Jan and Dean. I’d hear the story about the night my dad went to a surprise party at my mom’s church. When the lights were lowered and everyone in the room was quiet, waiting for the guest of honor, my dad let out a very loud obnoxious and realistic “MOOOOOO.”

Apple LogoAnd interspersed with all these stories were the songs of The Beatles. I knew all the words to almost every song. I had listened to every album. Even today when I hear “In My Life” or “Hey Jude” I can still picture the 45 with the bright green apple logo spinning on the turntable.

That Monday evening the news reports broke into prime time television with the announcement that John Lennon had been shot and killed outside of his New York Apartment. My mother cried, my dad gritted his teeth. I don’t remember crying, I probably did, as I was an extremely sensitive child** and could cry at the drop of a hat.***

It wasn’t until the next day or two afterwards that it struck me that other people in the world liked The Beatles, that other families knew the words to “Imagine” and “Happy Christmas (War is Over).”

News reports showed the candle light vigils across the world. People gathered in Central Park when officials moved the crowd away from the Dakota. The world was grieving. I have only the vaguest impressions of memories surrounding Elvis’ death and funeral, so this was really the first time in my life that a celebrity death really impacted the people around me. It’s funny how when you’re a kid, you have no real concept of the world outside of your own family and friends.

It was also the first time that I got a glimpse of fame and admiration for a musician and I was hooked.

Many years later, my high school show choir went to New York City to perform at Ellis Island. It was my senior year, and I was on a bus loaded with my 50 closest friends,**** and some chaperoning parents, including my own.

As part of the tour, we walked through Central Park and ended up in Strawberry Fields and the memorial mosaic that sits across the street from the Dakota. The choir had been performing “Imagine” all year long, and we gathered around the memorial and sang it.

As we finished the song, a voice called out from across the street, “Thank you! John would love that!” Yoko Ono was standing on the stoop of her building waving at us. She grabbed the hand of the child next to her, turned and entered the building.

* Ok, for the young ones out there… there used to be these things called albums. They came on pressed sheets of vinyl with sounds cut into special grooves, that when a needle was applied, and the album spun at 33 revolutions per minute, music would come out. You only see these in thrift stores now, unless you DJ dance music, then you ruin the records by scratching over them with the needle.

** Are you surprised?

*** I still do. Damn that fucking holiday Folgers commercial. And ER. And the trailer for Pursuit of Happyness. And…

**** I barely interacted with anyone outside of the Harmonaires. I didn’t have time, with all the rehearsals and concerts. I didn’t know many people in my graduating class of 300, however for some reason everyone knew me.

Nov 19

Movie Moment 1

Movie CameraEvery so often, my brain likes to play a trick on me. I call it having “movie moments.”

A movie moment is similar in many ways to ‘deja-vu,’ which I have experienced about a million times in my life, but movie moments are very rare. It’s the sudden sensation that you’re actually watching the scene that you are in play out on a screen… almost an out of body experience, but my mind’s eye pulls back on the surroundings and things become hyper-focused. It seems to occur when just the right combination of music, scenery, and dialogue makes things seem unreal and scripted.

The first one that comes to mind takes place in the time period of the Record Contract Series, actually right about now in the chronology of the story (Part XIV).

It was Hoss’ birthday. I want to say it was his 33rd, but I can’t recall exactly. I know it was the end of May, and it had so far been an incredibly warm and beautiful spring in Nashville.

Hoss’ friend Jack lived on a large (100+acres) piece of property in southern Tennessee, and invited us all out for the weekend. There would be a mountain of mind-altering substances and naked people running around in the woods.

I was a little bit terrified of the idea, but I agreed to go along.

Hoss, Mama Sharon, Rique’, and I piled into Hoss’ convertible Sebring and took off early in the afternoon and made the hour and a half trip to literally the middle of no-where. We turned off the paved road and continued driving for several miles before Jack met us in an ATV on the path and led us back to his house.

There’s a complete story to this evening that I will write about soon, but for now (and to remind myself of this story) suffice it to say there was quite a cast of characters, including a couple from New Orleans who definitely made the weekend unforgettable.

However, I’m digressing from the point of this post… remember… the movie moment…

Not long after we arrived, Hoss realized that he had left the house without grabbing his medicine bag. He would be due for his next dosage of HIV meds in less than four hours. For those of you who don’t know, it is vitally important that you take your dosages at the same time every day. He was quite upset. Since the party favors had already been passed around, he was in no state to go after them.

I offered to drive back to Nashville to retrieve them. Hoss gave me his car keys, his cell phone with Jack’s number programmed into it, and rudimentary directions and I headed back to town.

Along the way, Hoss’s phone rang, and I recognized the number as Matt’s. I answered, surprised, “Uh, Hi!? When did Hoss give you his number?”

“About 3 seconds ago. I tracked you down through Mama Sharon’s salon. They knew where she was, and so I looked up this Jack guy and called looking for you.”

I was concerned, he hadn’t made quite that level of effort to find me before. “Is everything ok?” I asked.

“Well…” he proceeded to tell me how he had been having difficulties with his on again, off again asshole of an older boyfriend who was not thrilled about Matt getting a record deal. He had just come out to his parents, and you know how well that went. He was just feeling pretty low in general.

I invited him to meet me at Hoss’ and to come along with me back to Jack’s. He was pretty hesitant at first, thinking that he didn’t really feel like meeting any new people and putting on a happy face. I talked him into it. Promising him plenty of alcohol, and time to ourselves wandering around the woods if we wanted.

He finally agreed, and when I arrived at Hoss’ house he was waiting for me.

“Are you sure they’re going to be cool with me coming along?” as though he were looking for a reason to change his mind.

“I’m positive. I called and talked to Jack and Hoss. They would love for you to come. Rique’ is planning to stay there a couple extra days, so there will be room for you to ride back with us. No problem. Get in the car.”

I collected the medicines and we headed out of town. The sun was just setting, and the full moon was already visible.

“Hey, why’d you put the top back up?” Matt asked, referring to the Chrysler.

“I was afraid you’d be cold,” I responded.

“Hell no, it’s nice out. Put the top down!”

So I pulled over and put the top down. While we were stopped I pulled out my travel cd case and handed it to Matt to pick something to listen to.

We got back on the road, and Matt buzzed through at least 4 cds, picking and choosing songs and singing along. We got way out of town on the interstate, and were virtually the only car on the road, the cruise control set at a brisk 75 miles per hour.

And then it happened.

Full MoonThe interstate made a slight curve to the south, bringing the full moon around directly in front of us. It was hanging low in the sky, enormous and bright, almost as though we could hope to eventually drive straight into it. The brisk wind was circulating around us, our hair flying in all directions, and stars shining overhead. And the latest cd that Matt had popped in the player started, blaring against the road noise. We sang our damn fool heads off, and waved our arms in the air and laughed until we couldn’t breathe. We looked at each other and the camera panned back and circulated the car in a helicopter doing an overhead shot, zooming back into the car and moved to a tight shot of the moon.

“You are a Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen…”*

It was at that moment, just as the sensation of the movie moment passed, that I knew that Matt was supposed to be in my life, and we were going to be forever linked in some way that was bigger than both of us.

It was clear that Matt felt something happen then, too. He suddenly looked at me, all serious like, and said, “You know, no matter how the rest of this weekend goes, it was all worth it just for this car ride. Thank you. I needed this.”

“Anytime, Matt.” And I meant it.

* Yes, ABBA. I love ABBA. Yes, I realize this makes this one of the gayest posts you’ve ever read. I’m perfectly fine with that.