A Deep Dive When I was in 4th grade, I went on a field trip to a convention center in downtown Houston with several hundred other elementary students to hear a speech on ecology by Jacques Cousteau. I was running around the exhibit hall grabbing all the free brochures I could get my hands on, and suddenly I looked up to see the larger than life undersea explorer himself right in my path. I walked up to him and he extended his hand down for me to shake, but my right hand was full of pamphlets so I shook it with my left. I'll never forget that wonderfully awkward moment. I first started playing and hanging out in live music clubs at the tender age of 16. I have always had an irresistible instinct to make the acquaintance of influential figures, and music has been a great facilitator. I have been blessed with great resourcefulness when it comes to rubbing elbows with some of my heroes. Over the years I have met countless stars, and it is not difficult to get me started over a few beers telling the stories of these fateful meetings, which are often quite dramatic or comical. I have had photo ops and in-store type opportunities with many artists, but many more I have just met and hung with in random circumstances. This is an attempt to get them listed for posterity, and I plan to expand and add to these stories over time as the memory gets jogged. Look out below, big names will be dropping down like rain. Lollapaloozers My first band The Urge toured the east coast in 1987 when I was 21. The first time I was ever in New York City, we came out of the Lincoln Tunnel after an 8 hour drive from Virginia and stopped at a phone booth in the Village to get directions to the club we were playing called Kenny's Castaways. I was digging for quarters to use the payphone and I noticed a short, skinny couple on my right with matching buzzcuts. Adam Horowitz & Molly Ringwald were on the next phone over. I introduced myself and told them I went to UT with a childhood friend of Adam's named Art. They told me where the club was and were very friendly. Many years later, I stayed with Art while he was housesitting for Adam and Ione Skye, who were not around, but we had a pool party with Roman and Sofia Coppola and Donovan Leitch. In 1994, I was scheduled to play a Sunday night Hole in the Wall date with my pal Miles Zuniga, who I first officially met in 1985 at a UT dorm party in the Union ballroom that my band was playing. He was back in town that summer playing solo shows, following a year living in Berkeley after his band Big Car had broken up. Art called to invite us to join him in Dallas for the Beastie Boys Lollapalooza tour. Miles could not go Saturday because he had a gig, so I opted to go without him and then play the Hole without him on Sunday. In Dallas, a huge storm blew through the Starplex Ampitheatre while early acts The Breeders and George Clinton were onstage, so Arthur and I escaped from the torrential downpour into the Beastie Boys dressing room. There was a huge group of people hanging out, playing a practice drumset and singing on a karaoke machine, passing around guitars, bottles and bongs. Adam Yauch was making amazing fresh juice drinks for everyone in a huge industrial blender, and we were taking turns playing Ramones and Clash covers. I was trading off songs with this scraggly little green haired kid, and did not find out until months later after they got huge that it was Billie Joe from Green Day. Later we watched the Beasties' and the Smashing Pumpkins' climactic sets from the side of the stage. Back in Austin, I called several friends including Beaver Nelson, Scrappy Judd and the Sleestacks to help me fill out the Sunday night show. It was so fun that Debbie gave me the weekly gig and the Free For All was born. Tricksters The Urge used to play Aquafest every year on Auditorium shores. Our love of 60s classic pop made us a perfect fit for frat parties, and we had a large following of college kids. One of our biggest shows ever was a wild night at Aquafest when it rained and 1000 wet drunk rowdies ran over to our stage from the big outdoor stage where Joe King Carrasco was headlining. We stage dove, high-fived and rocked out.
Cheap Trick was playing a few nights later, so Miles and I hatched a scheme to get in free. I worked at a copy shop, where I took the backstage passes from our previous show and altered the dates with pasted-on copies. They looked very fake up close, but they worked perfectly. We found an amazing parking spot and began to notice a pattern of good luck. The guy at the artist gate thought I was Will Sexton. Cheap Trick played an amazing set, Miles and I used his patented "pretend you're about to get sick" technique to get closer to the stage, and after the show we joined the large crowd clamoring at the backstage gate. The event staff saw our bogus passes and practically grabbed us from the throng and pushed us in to the hospitality area. We ran into Robin Zander and talked with him for awhile. Someone mentioned that there was a Monday night jam at Steamboat. We were regulars and planned to attend. We got our passes autographed by Rick Neilsen in their trailer. Glowing from the presence of greatness, we headed downtown for a few beers. On Sixth street, we ran into some people who told us Robin was sighted at Maggie Mae's. We rushed over but missed him. Back at Steamboat we nursed a couple of Coronas and began to speculate that they would not show, but how great a time it had been anyway. Right on cue, Robin Zander walked in the front door dressed in white and magnificent. Miles asked Robin about vocal technique and Robin, smoking a cigarette, said he did not "sing from here or here," as he pointed to his chest and throat, but that he just sang. I walked up and asked Robin to sing a Beatles song with us, and he said he would be back. I went to the stage, told host Stephen Doster we had invited Robin to play with us, and he said we would have to wait our turn. Robin left and we went back to nursing our beers for an hour or so and were once again resigning ourselves to a near miss, when in the door he walked as last call approached. I went on stage and Doster graciously handed me his custom guitar. Knowing the catalog of Cheap Trick B-sides, I began the riff to Day Tripper and called to Robin to come up. I could see him casually sipping his beer at the rear bar talking to a statuesque blonde girl. Then he rose and casually sauntered to the stage while I had to play the riff for about 12 extra measures. He grabbed the mic, leaned in, and then that unmistakable golden voice almost tore my heart out of my chest: "Got a good reason, for taking the easy way out... " Miles joined us for Ain't that a Shame and then a long line of locals began taking turns on classic blues numbers, including Van Wilks, who got a good natured dome polish job from Robin when he made the mistake of kneeling in front of him for a solo. Years later I met Robin again backstage at La Zona Rosa. During the show Rick Neilsen hit my date squarely in the chest with a well-aimed pick from about 50 feet and it went right in her bra. Later backstage, I told Robin the story of meeting him at Aquafest and asking him to come jam. I told him, "We didn't think you were going to show up," and he replied "But I did, didn't I?" That night in '99, he joined me for a drink again at Texas Music Saloon, (now Opal Divine's) where I was stage managing. I said, "There's a 5-piece blues band playing right down the block," and he said "Tell this guy where to pick me up," and then we walked down the block together. This time he did not sit in, but he grooved along at the table as I filled in on bass to a rendition of "Shake your Hips" with the Blues Crawlers. In 2001, I was invited to accompany Fastball to the Super Bowl for a big corporate party in the parking lot with Cheap Trick. We got to hang with them some more and then go to the big game after. It had been a long day of partying, and by third quarter, I was quite impaired. I went to get hot dogs for everyone and was standing at the condiment table grabbing napkins and relish when a familiar face walked up beside me to dress a dog. I recognized him and blurted out, "Hey, you're Peter Buck." He smiled and said, "Yes, I sure am" and walked off. I called after to him to enjoy the game, and then immediately realized it was actually Mike Mills. At SXSW in 2003, I was reintroduced to Mike by Miles and we had a laugh about it in a downtown taxi ride with Gary Louris of the Jayhawks. Rick Danko and the Last Temptation I was first turned on to Rick Danko in the late 80s while staying overnight at Pete Gordon's mother's home in Georgetown while on an east coast tour with the Neptunes. We stayed up late in the basement watching the Last Waltz on video, and I remember Pete and I being blown away by his passionate and fragile performance of "It Makes No Difference." In 1993 I went to see Rick Danko at the Cactus Cafe on UT campus. I was late for the show because I had been at the Black Cat watching the Booze Weasels, Joe Ely's back up band, running through a classic set of covers with ace guitarists David Grissom and David Holt trading blistering leads. When they launched into the Band's "The Shape I'm In" it reminded me I needed to hustle on over to the Cactus to catch Danko.
The show had started earlier than I thought, so I got there just as he was going into his last few songs. The crowd sang along on the Weight, and when it was over I called out for "It Makes No Difference" from the side of the stage. He told me he was sorry but he had already played it and asked where I had been. I apologized for being late, and to my utter delight he said he would play it again just for me. The whole crowd sang along on the glorious chorus, and then he ended the show with "The Shape I'm In" and a lovely version of "I Shall Be Released." In March of 2001, my band the Superego All-Stars were ending our 7 year run as Sunday night house band at the Hole in the Wall by re-enacting the Last Waltz , with a cast of local favorites portraying the stars of the concert. Li'l Cap'n Travis played Neil Young, the Damnations did Emmylou Harris and the Staples, Ted Roddy was Muddy Waters, and Beaver Nelson stole the show as Dylan. We called it "The Last Temptation of Superego" in reference to another climactic Scorsese epic. While preparing for the show earlier that week, I was putting together some lyric and chord charts for some of the back up musicians who would be playing with several performers. My band was functioning as "The Band" so we had to prepare a lot of music. I was downloading lyrics from a website that had a fan message board for the Band, with a section for people to recount their chance meetings with the band members. While I was logged on, I decided to post my story of Rick Danko playing "It Makes No Difference" for me at the Cactus. Danko had passed away not long after that show. A few days later, I received an e-mail from a guy in New Orleans. It said "If you were at Danko's show in 1993 at University of Texas, I have a board tape of that show. You can clearly be heard requesting "It Makes no Difference" at the end." He mailed me the tape a few days later, and sure enough it's me on there. Thanks to divine intervention, I finally got to hear the rest of that show, years after the fact. One of my favorite parts of the Last Waltz is when Danko plays some solo material he has been working on for Scorsese in the studio. He sits there wistfully and listens to his own lonesome vocal singing "I want to lay down beside you..." I was always curious about this tune, and thanks to Napster I finally got a chance to hear this beautiful song called "Sip the Wine." I included it on the mix CD I planned to play between sets at the Last Waltz tribute. A few days before the show I was thumbing through some old one dollar T-shirts at a St. Vincent thrift shop. A gray shirt with a cluster of grapes embroidered on the front caught my eye. I pulled it out and it read "Rick Danko Band - Sip the Wine" with a silhouette picture of him on the back. My eyes welled up and I felt a surge of wonder course through me. The dearly departed are out there watching out for us and sending us little cosmic shout outs when they approve of our efforts in their honor.
A Magic Night with one Kink
Miles sat in with Ray Davies at his awesome storyteller's show at La Zona in 2002. I met them at a secret location after the show, the steak restaurant Tru-lucks on Colorado. Miles told me to hang back until I got the signal and he would introduce me to Ray. Of course I was so excited I walked right up and said "Hi Ray, great show, I'm Paul Minor!"
We couldn't get a cab because of a big rain storm so 4 of us rode in the cab of my 1980 Chevy pickup to a couple of other bars. I told him I like the song "Rock and Roll fantasy," and he said, "You should with a truck like this..." He was hilarious and very gracious. He kept calling me "James Carville." He made his crew and sideman ride in the bed of my pickup and told us "You can't treat them too well or they take you for granted." After we sat in with the blues band at Ego's he said very dryly, "I had no idea you had so much soul." I ended up singing "Don't cry for me Argentina" with Mr. Davies at a Korean karaoke bar. We also cruised through the gay bar next door before we parted ways. Daniel and McCartney in the Van I gave Daniel Johnston a ride one time from Waller, TX to the Hole in the Wall for an Anniversary gig. He was napping in the passenger seat in between Beatles songs on the CD in the rental van. There was a serious storm underway with dark clouds swirling and thunder clapping, very surreal. I had my girlfriend and her special needs autistic friend with us, so it was an interesting crew to say the least. After "Got to Get You into My Life," played on the stereo, I asked my girlfriend if Paul McCartney played the song in concert when she saw him recently in Dallas. Daniel awoke suddenly, assumed I had been addressing him and said, "Yeah, he played it, and then he pointed at me and dedicated it to 'my good friend Daniel Johnston, let's bring him up onstage for a round of applause.' So I was walking across the stage to shake his hand and I tripped on a wire and fell on my face right in front of the whole crowd. There was blood everywhere, and then I died..." Then he went back to sleep, and we drove on in stunned silence to the gig.
Still to come:
REM plays Hole in the Wall 3-11-08 Playing Stevie Ray's guitar Dinner with Emmylou Bono uses my lyrics at Antone's Run-ins with the Replacements, Paul Westerberg playing Slim Harpo on his backstage boombox in Houston Church with Rev. Green David Byrne at the Grand Old Ryman with Tosca Lou Gramm at Cotton Club Atlanta Neil Young Continental and Antone's watching Scrappy Nick Lowe Auditorium Shores Big Star's Jody Stephens in Memphis, Alex Chilton in Austin Jason and the Scorchers Peter Criss, Jeff Buckley, Morphine, and Joan Jett at Electric Lounge Exene Cervenka at Free For All Ivan Neville and Dennis Quaid at the Last Temptation, Bad Blood with Lou Barlow, plus: Sonic Youth, Ramones, Tori Amos, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Lowe, Jayhawks, Quentin Tarantino, Dick Clark, Lyle Lovett, Archie Bell, Doug Sahm, Roky Erickson, Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbons, Tracy Ullman, Gene Ramey, James Michener, Walter Cronkite, Ladybird Johnson, Ann Richards, Emory Gordy, Jr., Matthew MacConaghey, Eric Bogosian, Tracy Ullman, Data, Natalie Portman, Ani Difranco, Margo Timmins, Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Harry Dean Stanton, Max Weinberg, Dan Rather, Will Farrell, Luke Wilson, Josh Freese, Johnathan Richman, John Stamos, Leon Russell, Lance Armstrong, Paul Shaffer, Billy Strings and more...
FREEWHEELIN' IN NEW YORK July 29, 2011
I have been wanting to cross Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble in Woodstock off of my to do list for many years now, and Julie also had some relatives she has never met in New York, so we decided to just pull the trigger on a weekend excursion. We have both been busy with work and gigs, but we did manage to make some well-researched last minute travel arrangements and reservations.
•We got the flight and concert tickets confirmed, and on Thursday night after work I finished off a detailed itinerary of classic dive bars and dining so we wouldn't waste any of our short time in the area. I mapped it out on Google so we could walk a clearly laid out route from Grand Central Station to Chelsea and into Greenwich Village and cover some cool points of interest along the way.
•On Friday we left Austin on a 6am American Airlines flight. It connected in Dallas and was delayed on the runway for an hour. We landed at La Guardia around 2pm and caught the NYCAirporter shuttle to Grand Central. The first stop was for some big meaty sandwiches at Bloom's Deli at 40th and Lexington Ave. From there we walked down 42nd street to Times Square and had a quick beer at Jimmy's Corner, a tiny bar and boxing shrine near W 44th st and 6th Ave.
•We caught the #1 subway to 28th st and 7th Ave and walked to our airbnb.com apartment, which turned out to be a sleek and swanky loft with big picture windows over a courtyard on 23rd st. After a brief pit stop there, we walked west, past the Upright Citizen theatre to 10th Ave, where we climbed the stairs to the High Line parkway, a lushly landscaped new terrace park built on an obsolete rail line with great modern architecture and indigenous greenery.
•At 15th street, we went down to the Chelsea Market, where there are rows of new fancy bakeries, wine stores and upscale organic markets, with an amazing classic rock photography exhibition by Dick Waterman. From there we walked down Eighth avenue to the White Horse Tavern, and drank a pint to its most famous patron Dylan Thomas. • •We took W. 4th St east from there to Jones St, and took a picture on the same block as the cover of Freewheelin', while the rain started to sprinkle down. We saw Dylan and Suze's first apartment at 161 W. 4th St., saw Cafe Wha, the site of Dylan's first time on stage in NYC, at 115 Macdougal and 3rd st. We went past Dylan’s 70s era Apartment at 94 MacDougal and then watched a band set up at the Gaslight Cafe at 116 MacDougal St. We stopped in to the Little Lebowski shop, and then we headed down Bleecker St past the Bitter End, detoured north a couple of blocks to Washington Square Park, and then east to Bleecker and Bowery, the former site of CBGB, now a John Varvatos boutique boot store. • •We walked north past the Great Jones soul food cafe, which was too crowded to attempt, and turned onto St. Mark's Place. We stopped and took pictures of the Physical Graffiti building at 96 E. 8th, and then dined at Odessa on Ave A at 7th. From there we walked around Tompkins Square Park, saw a Joe Strummer mural and some supersize rodents, and found the Lakeside Lounge at 10th and Ave. B where we met old pal Jonny Myers for a drink and watched the band for a few songs. We walked past the Horseshoe Bar to Manitoba's where we admired the endless collection of punk era photos. Austin poster legend Billy Bishop appeared out of nowhere and tipped us off that DJ Johnathan Toubin was spinning at his own New York Night Train birthday party all night at a club on Houston St. • •We stopped into Joe's Bar, but the jukebox playing Santana wasn't living up to its honkytonk reputation, so we walked past the closed Porchetta sandwich place on E. 7th and decided to grab dessert at the dusky and romantic Frank on 2nd ave at 5th st. We called to get on the list at Please Don't Tell, the secret St. Mark's social club, but they never got back to us. As we crossed Houston St and walked up to the throng of hipsters at the door of Home Sweet Home, DJ Toubin came out and grabbed us and showed us through the door. We danced to the old school 45s in the basement and cooled off in the white brick lodge room and art gallery upstairs, before heading back to Chelsea on the F train. Walking back to the apartment we ducked into O'Reilly's pub on W. 31st to use the facilities and then we walked back to 26th St and called it a night.
WOODSTOCK •Saturday morning we departed from our sweet Chelsea digs, caught the #1 train at 23rd St and 7th Ave to 42nd St station. The 7 line to Grand Central was under construction, so we had to catch a different shuttle train across town. Some nice subway cop ladies buzzed us back in the gate without having to pay again. While following the maze of tunnels, I spotted Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo scurrying down the hall. At Grand Central, we quickly bought tickets and just made the 11:40 Metro North train to Poughkeepsie. The train went through the Bronx and we caught a tiny glimpse of Yankee Stadium, and then we were right alongside the truly scenic Hudson River for the rest of the trip. • •We caught a cab at the historic Poughkeepsie train station and drove 3 miles to pick up a rental car at Avis on IBM road. We drove across the Mid-Hudson Bridge, saw the Hudson Walkway and caught Hwy 9 N to Kingston. A friendly local in a pickup led us over the old iron bridge to Wurts St. We pulled up in front of one of a few old churches on the block. It took a few minutes to figure out the gate latch, but once we were in the beautiful courtyard, it was obvious we had found a very special place on airbnb.com. Peter and Julie welcomed us graciously into their converted chapel space and we rested for a few minutes after a brief home tour. Our corner loft room had high ceilings and gorgeous stained glass windows. • •After a quick detour to the Rondout Creek strand of restaurants by the water near the chapel, we decided to wait and eat later. We took Hwys 28 and 375 into the Woodstock Village, where we parked and walked around for awhile. We stopped at the Bread Alone bakery and admired the Elliot Landy autographed album cover photos. We ate at the Landau Grill across the street, where Julie got a voicemail saying our Hotel Chelsea rooms reserved for Sunday night had been canceled due to the sudden sale of the property. We walked to a couple of hippie memorabilia shops and took a photo on the steps of a former bakery that also appears in the Landy collection. The famed photographer had extended an invitation to meet with us but there was not time to devote a proper amount of time so we declined until the next trip.
Jack Wimberly Minor 4-22-58 to 11-11-96 Surely that can't be right, I tell myself as I write this. I am sitting on a beautiful plaza in Houston with a fountain and a giant peacock made entirely of fertile green vegetation. It is a clear, cool, breezy, twilight evening, and the heavenly glow in the atmosphere has me thinking about how I have would like to write something about my big brother Jack, who passed away last Monday morning after suffering with liver cancer for about a year. The funeral was Saturday, and I was moved mostly by the crowd that packed the small church on a drizzly weekend morning. There were so many caring folks from so many periods in his life that I couldn't help but think of Jack's favorite movie, "It's a wonderful life" where a decent, righteous, caring guy doesn't realize how many friends he's really got until he gets in some deep shit and they all rally around to save his life. Except this time there there was no saving the protagonist, because cancer is much meaner than Mr. Potter. Jack was sick for a long time, but I am determined to remember him by the mental image I have of him as an enthusiastic pursuer of life's most golden dreams. We reminisced alot this week, and in the process I discovered that I was not the only one who had some great stories to tell about my bro. Stories that reinforced the image of the Jack we all know and love, and stories that introduced all of us to new sides of his personality that we might not have been given the opportunity to appreciate. Jack's interest in computers was something that came about relatively late in his too-short life, but in a way, he was the perfect computer industry consumer. He was new enough at it to be excited by the new technology, and intelligent enough to learn how to best make such a powerful tool pay off for him in enjoyment.
I would like it if others out there would add to this page with their thoughts, and it could stay accessible for a long enough time for those who will no doubt require much longer to gain perspective on his tragic demise will be able to contribute later. I would like people to think of this small bit of memory in cyberspace as a small tribute to a great man, not unlike an online epitaph, or a cosmic shout-out.
I plan to soon undertake the project of cataloging and scanning the slides of Jack's rock & roll photography collection from the 70s. The artists include Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, The Clash, The Ramones, Leon Russell, Bruce Springsteen, and many others I am forgetting. I would hope that I could also gain access to some of the photography he did in the line of duty at the house of reps, since the subjects include such international luminaries as the Queen of England and Governor Ann Richards, not to mention several presidents, actors, politicians and other entertainers.
Jack was not interested in participating in the showbiz moments that he constantly recorded for posterity with his trusty Nikon. He was content to be the medium, which is such an underappreciated and necessarily invisible role in life. Jack's well-developed unflinching eye was the focus through which millions of people have seen some truly grand subjects.
With three energetic, attention-demanding kids like Jack's, I could see how one would want a day at the office to be as smooth a process as possible, and I think that is what he strived for in his work. Unobtrusiveness was his specialty. I would love to hear some more words from people who worked with Jack.
Here is one anecdote I find especially amusing, but it is not especially profound or ironic. It just captures Jack's charm at a particular age, an age well before the bigger threats in life came out to play.
I remember Dad telling me about Jack joining LIttle League at about nine years old. It seems that due to his non-proclivity for the sport he was given the position of right-field. He wore big, nerdy horn-rim glasses and that probably contributed to his skill quotient. He finally came in from a particularly intense barrage of fly balls, and he asked the coach what probably seemed like a sensible request to his young mind.
Jack wondered if it would be o.k. for him to wear protective gear like the catcher. I really wished I could have given Jack some extra-strength protective gear this past year, he could have used it.
So look, i am just thinking out loud here, but I know that Jack would not want a lot of hoopla surrounding any kind of enterprise regarding his photography work. I honestly don't know how good it is, since I am sure I have family bias, but I am reasonably sure that the guy was a pro at his work, and everything I have seen is of the rare, straightforward, honest quality that I tend to appreciate in all forms of art.
Anyway, I won't be advertising this, but I would like to give people the opportunity to acquire some of his work and either donate the proceeds to Jack's children's college funds or the American Cancer Society. I would hope that being able to enjoy a high-quality printed and matted photo by Jack would be worth at least covering the cost. So the catalog should be appearing here very soon. Watch this space and tell anyone who might be interested that some of the photos will be here for all to enjoy for free.
Most of all, Jack was just a great guy.
Let's Get Lost: Notes on Costa Rica - 1996 I recently returned from a 9-day vacation in sunny Costa Rica. Like any vacation, it was a great week with some wonderful moments of relaxation and tranquility sprinkled throughout and separated by some arduous, somewhat stressful travel experiences. Since I was on holiday, I didn't do any note-taking during the trip, so this is all pieced together after the fact. Instead of trying to assemble my thoughts chronologically, I just kind of let the memories flow in the order I recalled them.
I hope to have some pictures to accompany this text very soon. We have some lovely photos that we took with a couple of disposable cameras, and I hope to have a scanner as soon as I get some money, but I blew a !or of that on the trip. It was worth it though.
Strangely, we were generally up by 7 am every morning and in bed by 10 or II. Something about traveling that throws me off, even though it is in the same time zone. Here is a rough itinerary of the trip: Mon. Oct. 15th- Arrived San Jose 8 pn Stayed at Hotel Loy Loy. Tue. Oct. 16th- Bank and Market in San Jose, Bus to Puerto Viejo 3 pro, Arrived Puerto Viejo 8:30 pro. Stayed at Cabinas Royale Wed. Oct 17th- Moved to less expensive Cabinas Yucct Explored village and beach on foot Thurs. Oct 18th- Rented bikes, got lost. Fri. Oct. 19th- Fishing & Snorkeling trip. Dinner on beach with fishermen. Sat. Oct. 20th- Hiked to Punto Cocles. Picniced and swam. Sun. Oct 21st- Took bus to Cahuita Hiked in National Park. Returned to PV 2 p.m. Relaxed on beach Mon. Oct 22nd- Took bus to San Jose, arrived I p.m., bank, rented car downtown, drove through Cartago, Saw Basilica, arrived Paraiso 8 p.m. , Stayed Sanchiri Lodge. Tue. Oct 23rd- Drove through Orosi [ )t!lev, Hiked Tapanti National Park, Swam in Mineral Pools, toured coffee plant & orchid garden, drove to airport in Alajuela Wed. Oct 24th - Airport 7 am. Arrived Austin 1:45. At work at 3. Highlights: //6. We rented some rusty old mountain bikes from a tall, old Caribbean gentleman with a strong, stout, sweet little grandson who was just learning to say "con permiso." We took off in search of the perfect beach, but ended up making a wrong turn down a road that gradually became narrower and narrower until the trail dead-ended into a little homestead where some small kids in underwear and some little puppies greeted us warily. The vegetation was beautiful and verdant, and ripe little mangos were dropping out of the trees at our feet as we pedaled slowly back to main road. Huge cypress trees stretched into the canopy and the ride was shady and cool. We stopped on the beach in front of the Vista Verde hotel and had a picnic.
#5. After a great night's sleep at the Sanchiri Lodge in Paraiso, aided by a surprise after-dinner coffee liqueur aperetif, we woke to a breathtaking view of the Orosi vailedoff the balcony of our cabin. We had a relaxing drive through the coffee-rich valley, a spectacular, long and muddy rainforest hike in Tapanti national park, a tour of a top-quality coffee plant, a refreshing swim in a warm spring-fed mineral water pool, and a quick tour of a beautiful orchid garden, all on the last day of our trip.
#4. We stopped outside a little baptist church and heard some fine moving spiritual singing by a small but earnest group of local folks in Puerto Viejo. A crab crossed the road and hung out with us for awhile, claws outstretched.
#3. A big family of spider monkeys came out of the forest to feast on leaves in a tree right above our heads on the return leg of an afternoon hike through the Cahuita beachfront national park. #2. We hiked several miles down the beach trail from Puerto Viejo to a place called Punta Cocles, where there is nothing but a big long tranquil beach and a small, beautifully landscaped resort hotel. It is much more private and peaceful than the tourist trappings of Viejo, and we found the perfect spot for a relaxing, romantic afternoon in the hammock and in the surf, where the water had big spaces between the coral perfect for dipping. The sunset was magnificent as we walked back.
# 1. Perhaps the best day I have had in a long time began with an early morning wake-up, and a quick walk to the tourist info shack in Puerto Viejo with the big "?" sign. For 10,000 colones, or 25 dollars each person, you can hire a couple of local guys to take you out on their homemade dugout canoe, which they carve themselves out of the large cypress-type trees that are scattered throughout the rainforests that line the beaches. They will cruise around two or three points on the map and hand you a big sturdy rod and reel with a lure that drags behind the boat.
It was a splendorous, mild morning, and we were drinking in the air and shooting the breeze, when the fishing pole was nearly jerked out of my hand. I reeled furiously as the hombres pescado cheered me on. I said "En Tejas, Dice 'Yee-Haw!' and everyone did. The resistance on the line was pretty mild, so I knew it wasn't a Moby Dick, but when it came out of the water, everyone gasped in delight.
It was a sleek, aerodynamic, shining fish about 20 inches long with scales like a marlin with effervescent and luminous blue, silver, and purple colors in multiple shades. I held it up for a picture, and it was so awe-inspiring I wanted to throw it back, but the driver grabbed it from me and clubbed it to death before I could object. It bled slowly in the bed of the boa at my feet and I had a hard-time not staring at it and grinning for the whole rest of the trip. One of the fishermen said, "es 'bonito' and I agreed that it was a beautiful creature, but then he clarified, "El hombre de eso pescado es bonito." After a few more miles, El Capitan asked "?Desea swim ahora or comer?" and we decided to have lunch in Manzanillo. It was too early to get most of the items on their menu, but I had a perfectly cooked fried egg while the chicken in the yard of the soda walked around with two little chicks. The hombres Pescado were visiting with some friends, and by-and-by we all leisurely reconvened at the boat. We stopped in front of the first point and they handed us the snorkel gear. We looked down and realized they had dropped anchor over an expansive coral reef that we had only glimpsed for a moment on the way out. I flipped backwards into the water like Jacques Cousteau and my mask immediately filled with water. After a few minutes I remembered some of the techniques for regulating the air pressure in your sinuses, and started cruising around a spectacular brown coral reef that was mostly within 4 or 5 feet of the surface. There were lunminous blue angel fish about a foot long swimming in small schools directly under us. Larger orange and yellow species ducked in and out of holes in the reef. Tiny Jellyfish grazed my shoulders and stung momentarily. I ventured down into the depth a couple of times but coidn't stay submerged for long. One of the larger brown colored camoflauged fish had a little tag-along eel attached to him. It was a real nice variety of undersea life, not a spectacular photography day, but everything I saw made a vivid impression in my mind's eye.
When we got back into the boat, the fishermen were reeling in little sea perch and speckled fish like crazy. About a dozen of them were flopping around the boat. They were reeling them in on a little stick and some line like a kite string. One of the fishermen asked for my mask. His line was stuck and he was venturing down to free it. He stayed underwater for a couple minutes, and then came up with the line in hand. He then started reeling in the line and out came a beautiful brightly colored yellowtail tuna. He and his friend were visibly excited about the days haul. We headed back for home after a quick stop at Punta Uva for the driver to look at a surfboard for sale.
I carried my fish around town for awhile and we stopped at the stand for some garlic, butter, onions, and a ripe shiny red pepper. I borrowed a big skillet from the friendly Frau and set out for the beach to prepare a fire. After building a carefully constructed boy scout style bonfire, I had no luck getting it lit. The kindling was too moist and the beach was too wipdy. I finally went and sought the help of one of the friendly fishermen, who was hanging out by the info shack. I gave him a pre-ro!led, and he came and rebuilt the fire between a couple of rocks. With the help of some paper and some serious lung power he had it going in no time. I cleaned and the vegetables and he cut the tuna broadside into thick steaks. I told him I could take over if he needed to split, but he stuck around to patiently stir the vegetables until they were sauteed soft and succulent. We didn't throw the fish in until the last five minutes or so, and I was glad to have him there.
He told us about his immigration troubles in broken English. He had one parent in the West Indies and one in England and maybe some family somewhere else, and as a result of his dark complexion and complicated passport papers, he was denied entry to the Estados Unidos. I forget his name, but I was compelled to wonder if I could help him find an immigration lawyer or something, because without him I would have been trying to filet that sucker and cook it for 20 minutes. The fire came on strong and had that brew bubbling intensely.
Tuesday we got up early, checked out of the Yucca Cabinas, bought a couple of Jorny Cakes from the stand, and caught the 9 o'clock bus for San Jose. We were relieved to see a newish model direct line bus pull up, but once we got in line it became apparent many of us would be standing. I paid the driver 2200 colones for two tickets, leaving us with 500 to our name ($2.00 us). I got the last available seat next to a Tico lady and her healthy bouncing baby girl, who slept most of the way and played with our fingers and toes the rest of the time. Except for a short delay in between Puerto Viejo and Cahuita for the national guard to search the bus, and a quick snack break in Limon where a counter lady had some trouble processing my credit card, the trip went pretty quick and it was nice to see the scenery on the way back, since we had traveled in the evening on the way there. We arrived in San Jose and went immediately back to the Bienvenidos bar where the locals had laughed at me the week before when 1 couldn't grasp the floor urinal concept. With our new knowledge that the "bocas" were free with the cerveza, we ordered up "dos pilsens" and within 10 minutes I was swaggering to the men's water closet to show them how it's done.
An aside on urinals:
Earlier in the week, when we first stepped out of the taxi from the San Jose airport, we ducked into the first establishment we encountered to take a load off and enjoy a refreshing beverage. I looked around for the facilities and they pointed me in the direction of a broom closet-sized room with a swinging half-door. 1 walked inside and thought for sure I was missing something. When I walked back out bewildered, the kind bartender took some keys off the wall and showed me to a fully equipped restroom in the back. Amy-told me when I returned that the locals had had a good laugh over my confusion. Moments later 1 witnessed the cultural norm that I had been ignorant of, when a caballero walked into the little closet, talking over his shoulder to his companeros at the bar the whole time, and wizzed in the general direction of a small, rusty drain in the corner. ! soon grasped the concept and became quite handy at relieving myself in these little stalls with no visible fixtures whatsoever at fine Costa Rican businesses across the country. One in particular stands out in my mind. A large bar & grill type diner in downtown San Jose served us up some mediocre huevos rancheros and tortilia soup. In the rear of the diner were two doors to the facilities. I opened the door marked caballeros and tepped inside a dank, cramped, stall lined with decaying, dingy tile. In the murky half-light creeping in through the holes in the door behind me I peered for the hole to aim at, and saw a small opening in the tile at about knee level, where a pipe may have once been attached. There was a three or four inch string of something hanging out of the hole in the wall, and when I aimed a stream at it, it began to squirm and slowly disappeared. I think it was either a rodent tail or some kind of worm. I got back to the table and tried to put it out of my mind as ! finished my papaya juice.
The worst meal I had by far was the taco bell with the jacked up prices in the Houston airport. The best was the tuna that I caught and cooked over a fire on the beach in Puerto Viejo. For the most part, Costa Rican cuisine is very good. I was particularly impressed with the rice & beans "casado" plates, which is basically a combination platter with steak, fish, chicken, or my favorite "the chuleta," a garlic-smothered pork chop. I had a great one at "Poas" in San Jose and another equally satisfying one at the reggae bar in Puerto Viejo. The caribbean flavor that insinuates itself into the coastal food is good but overly salty for this gringo. I bought a 500 colone plate of pescado casado from a vendor outside the big beach disco that had a savory rice and beans but the over salted fish and the super-greasy sauce had me running for a liquid quencher. The "margarita" garlic and mushroom pizza at the Coral restaurant in Puerto Viejo was delicious but not real filling, and that place is so upright they made me put my feet down off the bench. I tasted an amazing red snapper caught fresh that afternoon at the upscale Italian restaurant by the bus stop in Puerto Viejo. They have decent bruschetta appetizers and and arezing chicken breast with mushroom sauce. I think it's called Amodino. Every soda has free appetizers with beer orders. The little dish of rice & beans that came with our piisens at Poas was just a little teaser, but the "tacos rico" at the Bienvenidos bar were quite satsfying. Other culinary highlights were the fish cocktail at the Sanchiri lodge served by the oldest of the five generations of the family that runs the place, and the steak at the mineral poolside care in Orosi. Overall, my belly had a good trip and came back about a pant-size broader.
Everything seemed to be reasonably priced in the tourist areas. 1000 colones, a red printed bill, is equal to 5 dollars. You could generally expect this to cover any decent meal you could want. Things got somewhat cheaper in the working class areas like downtown Cartago and the diner where the bus takes a break in Limon. The room in San Jose was about 7 dollars, and the Cabinas Yucca In Puerto Viejo was 15 dollars a night. The gracious German couple who ran the place were very kind about refunding us for one night's rent when we decided to head back a day early. Beers were generally 150 to 200 colones, and often came with a substantial appetizer (bocas). Overall, everything seemed priced fairly. There were no inflated, opportunistic tourism type prices, but also no incredible deals.
The bus rides were brutal. The muddy, pothole-ridden back roads made the scenery seem to crawl by. They stopped seemingly every 3 kilometers, and never attained a speed of higher than 40 mph. Often we were crawling along behind a banana truck at a snails pace for half an hour or more. We learned the hard way that the seats are often oversold and many people arrive early to claim their seats to avoid having to stand the whole trip. On the first ride I ended up paying a guy 1000 colones to switch seats with me so Amy and I could sit together. I drank a quick beer right before getting on the bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, and for the first hour of the trip, I had to whiz worse than I have ever in my whole life. I was in absolute agony to where the surface of my entire body seemed sensitive and burning. I finally asked the driver to stop and no-one seemed to notice or care. People got on and off constantly anyway. Later in the trip the driver stopped at a little jungle-style restaurant by a river and every woman on the bus went inside for relief. You can rent bikes in the coastal towns, but they are often in disrepair and generally uncomfortable. I had to fix the chain and tighten the handlebars on the mountain bike I rented before I could even drive it out of the lot in Viejo. We could only ride about 3 km on the bumpy roads until we had to give it up, or else risk not being able to sit down for the rest of the trip. The wooden bench on the dugout canoe felt pretty hard the next day. The traffic in San Jose is horrible. There are these traffic circles where you play roulette with your life every time you jump in. There is no such thing as comprehensive insurance coverage on rental cars, so every time we got in one of those vortexes of maniacal taxi drivers and huge buses hurtling around, I was scared shitless and ended up spinning around two or three extra times before feeling courageous enough to take one of the exits, which were poorly marked and randomly attached. The airport was kind of disorganized, and we ended up having quite a difficult time returning the rental car, getting the airport tax paid, and finding our gate. 1 got the impression that one mano never knew what the other was doing. People would send us from one place to another to find assistance and they were often wrong. The airport tax guy sent me outside the terminal to a bank that wasn't open yet. A parking lot attendant charged me for parking when I mistakenly drove into his !or looking for the rental return area. He actually ran across the lot and lowered the gate before we could escape. A San Jose Continental employee was very helpful when our plane was boarding and we found ourselves in the terminal without boarding passes. It made us nervous when she disappeared with our papers and passports for a good ten minutes, but she got back right in time. You never feel farther from home than when you're in the airport trying to make a plane.
They have these amazing canopy-like trees on the beach there. The slender trunk grows up a few feet and then the branches stretch out real wide like the top of an umbrella, except they extend extremely far out to the sides, intertwining extensively, somehow remaining perfectly parallel to the ground. They are called Almedras or something like that. I brought home a couple little sprouts to try to grow. They make for a great hammock spot. There are also these gourd trees everywhere, and the ripe ones can be hollowed out and made into bowls that dry hard and sturdy. They carve and poke holes in them when they are green, and then when they are dry they use them as chandeliers.
We saw some amazing animals. The fish in the coral reef were spectacular. The monkeys and sloths in the rainforests were friendly, and in the village of Viejo there were little crabs and lizards crossing the paths. There are also these trails of noble little leaf cutter ants everywhere that spend their whole lives carrying green pieces of vegetation back to the nest from high up in the trees. The swallows and bats come out at night to eat the bugs. The skeeters come out at dark, and you really have to wage war on them at night before you go to bed, or they will keep you awake swatting and itching. Those little green burning cinder repellent deals work pretty well, but there's no deterrent better than swift manual pulverization. There are friendly stray dogs roaming the coastal villages and beaches, and they seem content and we!l-fed on scraps and wildlife. A family guard dog bit me on the back of the leg when we were shortcutting from the road to the beach trail in San Jose. I was trying to calm the angry mutt down as it came barking out of the cabin, but I should have just run like hell. He hit me with a great deal of force, and the bruise from the impact was worse than the teethwounds, which barely broke the skin. I have been foaming at the mouth and howling at the moon ever since we got back.
It seemed like every radio played cheesy 70s pop ballads, like "Candida" and "All by Myself." They also had some interesting latin adaptations of songs like Boston's "More than a Feeling." On the coast at the dance clubs, we heard a lot of American rock that had an island feel, like "Hotel California" and "It's a Wild World."
For live music experiences, I can't possibly top the little reggae skiffie combo that seemed to move from cantina to cantina with banjo, bongos, and washtub bass. They switched instruments constantly and sang soulful, unamplified melodies and scruffy harmonies on reggae and calypso classics. They always had the crowd dancing and singling along, especially in this one breezy little bamboo place down on the main beach. There was also a guy with an acoustic electric and a tiny digital beatbox that had some swinging drums, keys, and bass stuff pre-programmed while he played jazzy leads. Every night he would serenade the little group of tables set up outside the general store where they exchanged dollars and sold toiletties and groceries. His sound was kind of a smooth jazz latin lounge deal, but it was amazing how pleasant a mood it evoked, especially as the breeze blew in off the gently lapping waves.
On the last night of our stay in Costa Rica, we were ready to get the car back to the airport and settle in for a restful stay in a normal hotel. The trip from Cartago to the Airport in A!ajuela took us through a stressful blur of intense gridlocked San Jose traffic, and several confused traffic circles where we just played auto roulette and took our chances trying to find the right route. At one point, we were trying to find the entry ramp for the main highway but a huge dead tree trunk was blocking the onramp. We followed the truck ahead of us as it squeezed through a small space to gain access to the overpass, but we soon realized we were the only cars on a dark, spooky stretch of unfinished highway with no streetlights. It dead-ended into an industrial area and we had to backtrack. Once we made it to the airport and accidentally got stuck for 150 colones in a pay parking lot, we had to stop at 3 different rental car places before we found a guy at the terminal who would take us to the correct place, which turned out to be creepy fly-by-night operation down yet another decrepit back road. The guys doing the intakes seemed real sleazy and anxious to find something wrong with the car so they could stick me with that huge deductible. They were also trying to hustle eachother out of a commission on our room reservations. I just wanted to get rid of the car and get back to the hotel. That king-size bed felt really good that night, and the world series and "remains of the day" on the tube was a welcome reminder of the comforts of home that awaited us the next day.
PORTLAND TOUR DIARY
I flew to Portland on Tue Oct. 3 for a working vacation. I was hired to play the wedding of Ann Wieding, a friend I met in college when I was her Teaching Assistant in Brother John Perron's English Composition class at St. Ed's. I know a drummer in Portland named Pete Szymczak, who lived in Austin in the early 90s. We had a grunge band called "Agitation" that practiced a lot and had just a handful of gigs at the back room and steamboat.
In 96 I was accepted to play the North by Northwest music festival, and I had some free tickets from a Continental Airlines christmas party. Pete and I put together a band including Jeff Groves bass player at the time, and my travel partner Allyson Lipkin. We did the songs from the new Superego CD at the time, My Bad. Pete was a gracious host back then and has gotten even more generous. This time around, He helped me find a bass player named Brian Casey, who is currently in the orchestra of the Too Much Coffee Man musical in Portland. We recruited a sax player on a Portland Jazz website named Noah Peterson. The gig went great. It was at an amazing resort/bed & breakfast called Edgefield, which is part of the chain of properties developed by the McMenamins, former Grateful Dead roadies who have turned an impressive real estate portfolio of run down old schools, restaurants, hotels and theaters into rustic resorts and brewpubs. Edgefield had four restaurants and 6 bars and a hotel nestled into the cozy architecture of a former poor farm and old folks estate in the verdant forest northwest of Portland.
On Tuesday I flew to Portland and connected in Denver, where I ate in the terminal at Chef Jimmy's bistro, remarkable only for the fact that they have servers and decent salads, and a bizarre wildlife moment with a tiny field mouse that I caught under my table and gave to the waiter who was frantically trying to sweep him up. On the frontier flight, I caught a good portion of Fast Times on the little movie screen on the set in front of me, Sean Penn's finest film achievement.
Pete picked me up at the Portland Terminal and we went straight over to the Edgefield to have a production meeting with Ann, her fiance David, and the soundman Nate. We had good burgers at the Power Station and Ruby brews at the Little Red Shed and nightcaps at the Distillery while discussing details of the reception and walking through the site of the wedding tent. Pete and I checked into his charming new 2 story frame house in the SE Clinton neighborhood, and took a last call walk over to nearby Division street to catch up on things at the Reel M Inn, a dive straight out of east Austin.
Pete had the week off from his freelance graphics business, so he showed me around the town in high style. On Wednesday, we had an incredibly full day of exploring. We ate some lovely fritattas at Detour Cafe, went over to the New Seasons Market for some echinacea, grabbed a binder for my loose charts at Fred Meyer, and headed over to Hawthorne St for some shopping. I bought a vintage Bavarian green Fedora at the Red Light thrift store, and we chatted over lattes at Peet's Coffee. We drove over the bridge through downtown to Washington Park, where we toured the Japanese Garden and meditated by the Koi pool with some of the most gorgeously colored fish I have ever seen. Down the path is the Rose Gardens with every known variety of rose bushes, in glorious bloom even in off-peak season.
After parking downtown at a debit card operated meter, we wandered around, stopping to browse at the gigantic indie bookstore Powell's Books and the groovy record store Jackpot. A quick pit stop to Whole Foods yielded some delicious fresh tuna steak samples, an the downtown Red LIght thrift store was too pricey.
Pete's lovely wife Diana, another St. Ed's friend, invited us to her bosses tailgate party on the huge 10th story deck of the Wieden + Kennedy building, the most influential marketing company in North America. Their buildings like a museum, with glass think tanks and high gloss conference rooms surrounding a giant courtyard space. There is a giant eagle's nest built into the rafters where high level brainstorming sessions take place.
After the party, we returned to Pete's neighborhood and caught the end of the People's co-op fall harvest festival, with square dancing to a live fiddle band, organic farmer's market, and face-painting. Later we dined on some upscale creole cuisine at Acadia, and made some posters that we hung up for my solo show at Mississippi Pizza. We stopped for late night Tiramisu and gingerbread at the Pied Cow, a lovely little dessert shop in a spooky old house with lots of strange art.
Thursday, we breakfasted at the old fashioned diner Juniors and headed out on the highway for some sightseeing. Pete drove us to the spectacular Multnomah Falls, a 700 foot waterfall that occasionally drops giant tree trunks and boulders the size of a house from its sheer cliffs. I asked him to drop me off at the Max Train station so I could ride the rails across town. The train was just arriving so I hopped on without a ticket. It was the most pristine public transit I've ever seen, with bright yellow rails and places to hang bikes. People actually sat on the floor and used their laptops. I hopped off just across the river in the Old Town district, where I popped into several clubs including Kell's Irish Pub, Berbati's Pan, Dante's (where the Knitters were on the bill), and Ash Street. There was a vintage guitar and amp shop called Old Town Music, and I encountered a shop owner at the Avalon forties era gown and hat emporium who had stepped right out of a Hitchcock film, complete with black gloves, huge black spectacles, cigarette holder and poodle. I walked through the ornate entrance to Chinatown and past some tasty looking restaurants and rough looking vagrants. On a whim, I went into the Portland's tallest, the pink building and up the elevator to the 30th floor for a draft Stella at the Portland City Grill, where I drank in a spectacular city scape, all the bridges, the hills and trees laid out like a panoramic postcard. Back in the street, another vintage hat shop nearby had some great styles, but too expensive and none my size. I got a transit day pass at Pioneer Square and caught the train, but by the time I got to Beaverton, there was only time to hop off for a piss and hop back on to go back and get a bus for Division St, where I arrived with 5 minutes to spare before rehearsal.
Brian and Pete really did their homework and it was a smooth rehearsal, we covered 3 hours of music and stopped only for the occasional tweak. His spacious basement is the perfect rock and roll workshop. After rehearsal Pete took us over to Slabtown, which was reported to be the hipster hang out of local alterna-mercial darlings the Dandy Warhols, but turned out to be a good old blue collar pool hall where I felt right at home on their open mic.
Friday morning we set out to rent a keyboard for Ann's Uncle Jay, who had signed up to play for the reception, but the Casio he was provided was not up to specs. We first priced the offerings from Showcase music on Hawthorne, then stopped at Pro Audio, who referred us to a guy way out in Gresham. His one synth was too complicated and he was busy supplying backline for the Romantics show at the Crystal Ballroom that night, so we headed back and stopped for some lunch at Pho Hung, before returning to Showcase. As I was about to pay for the rental, we recognized a customer as Uncle Jay himself, who introduced himself just in time to pay for the rental. He followed us over to Pete's house and we set up for a rehearsal, but the keyboard was defective so we had to return it and start again. Once we got going, it was a fun Jam with Jay, who had great shops and atitude. After rehearsal I enjoyed a peaceful nap in my cozy second floor spare bedroom.
Later Pete, Diana and I had Sushi at a great place called Kappaya, and went next door for fancy desserts at Pix Pattisserie, where we ordered Tiramisu and an orange tart to go. We took a walk through the Ladd neighborhood, and stopped in at yet another sweet coffee shop called Palio, where a scrabble tournament was underway. We walked over to hawthorne, past the bagdad theatre and some vintage antique window shopping, and it was back to the house for the first half of Spike Lee's Katrina Documentary and our delectable treats.
Saturday, I awoke to some delicious Quiche ordered from Clinton Corner, then took a leisurely walk to people's co-op for some carrot juice, and a film crew was interviewing a rock and roller organic farming activist with a giant MC5 fro. We loaded up the gear, including a great Maple Stratocaster and Deluxe Amp loaned by Pete's bandmate Lee, to head out for the sound check at Edgefield. After we hooked up all the gear with the help of Nate and his able assistant Casey, we snacked on some awesome calamari and mushroom pate at the Black Rabbit, washed down with a ruby ale. The reception went great, the band all arrived in plenty of time, we started with our standards and had them dancing all night to the classics. Uncle Jay never made it down from his room, his vertigo condition had flared up during the wedding so he could not get behind the keys, but nephew Jay provided some enthusiastic harmonica textures. After the show climaxed with Whiskey River and Is Anybody Going to San Antone, we packed up and wandered around with the wedding guests to the red shed, and ended up around the distillery campfire, where I made a joke about a drum circle and immediately a drum and didgeridoo jam broke out that went for hours. I explored the grounds and enjoyed some stargazing, eventually ending up in the family room where late night breakfast was picked up at a truck stop down the road and Ann brought back meat loaf, scrambled eggs and pancakes for a feast. I lay down in my dorm room with no phone or TV and passed out around 3am.
Sunday morning turned into nearly noon, and I was waiting around for a city bus in the rain, but ended up hitching a ride back to town with Casey. My hosts were on a grape stomping excursion so I walked to the corner of Clinton where I had OJ at Dot's and ws denied a meal at Henry's which closed 15 seconds earlier, so I ended up at The Press Club, which had tons of magazines and some great breakfast crepes. I ventured into the Green Noise psychedelic punk record shop next door and picked up a Nat King Cole trio album as a housewarmer for my hosts. We watched the Packers and the Chargers and I took the keyboard back to the shop and gassed up Pete's truck.
At 8 we stopped by the White Eagle open mic but it was crowded with old folkies, so I skipped it in favor of my billed show with Shoeshine Blue at Mississippi Pizza. Ann, David, and Jay came out for pizza and all bought CDs which helped lower my overhead that much more. We decided to try one last sweet shop before I left, so we stopped at a place named after a Russian composer. There were lots of signs about where a party of various sizes was allowed to sit and a table of 10 was waiting for a phantom waitress, so we took off after 10 minutes to go back to the tried and true Pied Cow, where the Pecan Pie hit the spot and put me in the mood for my return to Texas. All in all I broke even for the trip, which made it an awesome working vacation. Monday's flight was uneventful and I got to catch a good portion of Inconvenient Truth on the plane before finishing a short novel called Hula, which was kind of like To Kill a Mockingbird meets The Little Prince. On my arrival in Austin, I caught the Airport Flyer Cap Metro bus to Springdale where my trusty pickup was waiting. I spent some time with the locals hanging out at the Springdale bus stop, and one of them knew my partner Allan from hanging out in the vacant lot by his studio where my truck was parked. I got the keys, drove it back home and unloaded the PA that had been working in my absence. I'm getting back in the groove.