May 1st, 2005.

Happy May Day. Amy’s mix CD is guiding us home through the rain, to a tiny house in the woods of Connecticut on family land. She is our lady of Ineffable Wisdom when it comes to the songs of other writers.

The last two nights have been damp, and cold, and exhausting and delicious. Last night’s show at the Centre Coffee Bar, reeling from the wonder of doing a two and a half hour show twice in as many days.

Hugh McGowan, Heather and I playing at the Burren in Somerville, MA.
Hugh McGowan, Heather and I playing at the Burren in Somerville, MA.

Wednesday night we played the Burren, in Somerville – and the two and a half hours of ilyAIMY almost killed us. We’re out of practice and out of breath and the two months at home doing short sets has left us unprepared for the world we’ve created for ourselves.

Hugh McGowan played with us for most of the gig, and his percussion was elegant, and passionate, and so welcome. I always worry that we’ll go away and people who Loved us and people we’ve Loved will fade from memory and that they will forget us. I was afraid that had happened with Hugh, and our meeting was distant, and cautious. But he remembered us as we played, and he grinned as Heather’s harmonies locked, and as the rhythms shifted. I wish we could pocket him and bring him home to Rowan, and let ilyAIMY have some new blood. I Love You and I Miss You was particularly applicable.

Davis Square at night in the mist.
Davis Square at night in the mist.

Friday night we came home again – to the Centre Coffee Bar in Connecticut, and played from 7.30pm to 11 with a short break in-between two sets. I didn’t feel like I did that well, but we were Loved, and I guess that’s a mark of how far we’ve come. We made a couple of really good friends that night – one of which even came out the next night….

Tonight was a Godsend. It’s in my blood – the music, the heat and the passion. I don’t know where it came from. But I want loud, clear signals. Unavoidable and unignorable.

 

We went up to Lowell, MAto go see a film about Walmart and it's effect on the American economy with Whitney's boyfriend, Freddie. It was a pretty interesting documentary, but by the end of it, I felt like it perhaps had focused on the wrong thing. It seemed like we'd just watched a lengthy flick about a dog getting into a cookie jar. There was brief mention about how there was some guy who got the cookie jar down off the fridge, and even something about how there was a rule about how you were SUPPOSED to leave the cookie jar on the floor - but that most of the film was about how bad and horrible the dog was. It IS interesting how Walmart has spread, and it's interesting learning about the effects of it's spread on American (and world) economics... but I do feel that Walmart is simply doing the American Thing and doing it really well. If there's a problem, it's a problem with the environment and the rules that allow such a creature to persist. Hell, we don't blame wolves for being wolves, but we do shoot them when they chase the local livestock.
We went up to Lowell, MAto go see a film about Walmart and it’s effect on the American economy with Whitney’s boyfriend, Freddie. It was a pretty interesting documentary, but by the end of it, I felt like it perhaps had focused on the wrong thing. It seemed like we’d just watched a lengthy flick about a dog getting into a cookie jar. There was brief mention about how there was some guy who got the cookie jar down off the fridge, and even something about how there was a rule about how you were SUPPOSED to leave the cookie jar on the floor – but that most of the film was about how bad and horrible the dog was. It IS interesting how Walmart has spread, and it’s interesting learning about the effects of it’s spread on American (and world) economics… but I do feel that Walmart is simply doing the American Thing and doing it really well. If there’s a problem, it’s a problem with the environment and the rules that allow such a creature to persist. Hell, we don’t blame wolves for being wolves, but we do shoot them when they chase the local livestock.
Rob playing Angus. Angus is the beast that Lives behind the Centre Coffee Bar in Windsor, CT. He's owned by Steve, who is also one of the owners of the Coffee Bar. A lucky man in all respects.
Rob playing Angus. Angus is the beast that Lives behind the Centre Coffee Bar in Windsor, CT. He’s owned by Steve, who is also one of the owners of the Coffee Bar. A lucky man in all respects.

I want to threaten the hearing of the masses.

Heather was worried – we got to Jitters before it opened (who knew that a coffeehouse would have a “doors opening” time?!) and sat in the car in the rain listening to music and fogging up the windows and waiting… We got inside and worried more. Though very cool the space was small – and Heather

well – you really can’t blame her. Track down Jitters’ website. You’ll see some HUGE ASS speakers in the pictures. That does indeed imply a pretty big space.

The eagle of Windsor, CT.
The eagle of Windsor, CT.
The Sour Grapes at Jitters in Southington, CT.
The Sour Grapes at Jitters in Southington, CT.

I’m glad it was exactly what it was – an eclectic coffeeshop owned by a woman who celebrates leaving her husband ever December 10th. She owns the connected consignment shop and books whatever it damn well pleases her to book. A small space packed with consignment-shop left-overs, knick-knacks, buddhas and umbrellas and ice skates and skis. And two massive speakers.

Me and Lacy being joyous.
Me and Lacy being joyous.

I Love playing coffeehouses. I Love the intimacy. And I Love being LOUD. This really was a pretty perfect combination for me. Could’ve used a slightly larger space to wiggle around in, and a larger audience to pack the tiny room – but you can’t have it all, and I was pretty happy with what I got.

And the energy was perfect. I place a lot of that at the feet of the energy there, the volume, the fact that we’d been playing the last couple days and I was back on top of my chops, and my voice was back (and I could hear it – Mike did a great job with sound, but without monitors, I was kind of struggling) – and at the feet of the performers we were guesting with – Sour Grapes.

Larry and Ellen have an eclectic, high-energy sound that crosses the sound and vocal agility of Rusted Root with the good-natured JOY of… of what? I don’t really know – it’s not jam band altered-state amiability, and it’s not pre-planned and coldly executed folk fun… it was something that reminded me of my old partner, Audrey, and something that reminded me of sledding… joyriding down a hill and laughing with the sheer frenetic joy of it.

Sunday, we rerouted ourselves to return to the Lovely town of Putnam, CT.
Sunday, we rerouted ourselves to return to the Lovely town of Putnam, CT.

Sour Grapes really was anything BUT their name. Ellen is one Hell of a percussionist, one Hell of a vocalist. Larry is a great harmonica player, and they both have some rapid-fire vocal abilities and an almost Brazilian rhythmic sensibility. And add to that their REAL hook – tap dancing. I’m going to leave it there, cause I can’t do it all justice – I’m hoping we can drag them down to Maryland at some point. Y’all would enjoy them muchly.

May 3rd, 2005.

Wow, so I just heard that Conan O’Brian is going to have Ani Difranco on tonight. I think that this will be first time he’s ever had a musical act that doesn’t suck. How nice.

It’s been a rough day. Yesterday was so relaxed, full of wandering and Indian foods… today has been dumb and expensive, and we haven’t even gotten out of Massachusetts yet. I hang me head in shame. I got the car towed. No big deal, and I’m not going to go into details. Should’ve seen the sign, didn’t see the sign. Paid the towing fee, gonna pay the ticket, but again, won’t bitch too much because the same thing would’ve cost about five times more in Baltimore City. Ploo. So now we sit in traffic on our way North to go visit Dan Blakeslee. I wish we had either wings or a car plow.

Ok, so the Historic Cargo Falls Mill of Putnum CT has been transformed into something extraordinary. When we went back this Sunday, it was thankfully open, and... the interior was beyond our wildest imaginings... room after room of antique goodness. Keep watching for historiccargofalls.com, they are planning on creating a whole bizarre mall here, including a shop for antique musical instruments, a shop entirely devoted to Holland, an outdoor pavilion... I can't wait to go back and see how it comes along.
Ok, so the Historic Cargo Falls Mill of Putnum CT has been transformed into something extraordinary. When we went back this Sunday, it was thankfully open, and… the interior was beyond our wildest imaginings… room after room of antique goodness. Keep watching for historiccargofalls.com, they are planning on creating a whole bizarre mall here, including a shop for antique musical instruments, a shop entirely devoted to Holland, an outdoor pavilion… I can’t wait to go back and see how it comes along.

Heather found a bar. Heather desired the bar, and even looks good behind the bar, but at $12,000, Heather can't HAVE the bar. Poor girl.She wants to make a coffeehouse some day, and this really would be the coolest place to purchase all the coffeehouse accoutrements... sigh. We've GOT to get a lucrative record deal.
Heather found a bar. Heather desired the bar, and even looks good behind the bar, but at $12,000, Heather can’t HAVE the bar. Poor girl.She wants to make a coffeehouse some day, and this really would be the coolest place to purchase all the coffeehouse accoutrements… sigh. We’ve GOT to get a lucrative record deal.

Then I rounded a corner and found HIM and his babies. Apparently, one of the owners of the shop took a picture of the Alien to a sculptor in Thailand, and this is what came out of the viewing. If you want him, though, he's substantially more expensive than the bar. Close up, you can see that he's made of bike chains and screws, bolts and wiring. My friend Chris has decided that what we REALLY need is a couple of these guys, but remote controlled. We'd take them to the supermarket and let them hump the shopping carts and chase the other patrons. It'd be fun. You know, for the kids?
Then I rounded a corner and found HIM and his babies. Apparently, one of the owners of the shop took a picture of the Alien to a sculptor in Thailand, and this is what came out of the viewing. If you want him, though, he’s substantially more expensive than the bar. Close up, you can see that he’s made of bike chains and screws, bolts and wiring. My friend Chris has decided that what we REALLY need is a couple of these guys, but remote controlled. We’d take them to the supermarket and let them hump the shopping carts and chase the other patrons. It’d be fun. You know, for the kids?

Beautiful glass. They didn't have much small stuff out "yet", they were currently focusing on the architectural...
Beautiful glass. They didn’t have much small stuff out “yet”, they were currently focusing on the architectural…
And the downright weird, apparently. I don't know that you could pay me enough to spend the night there. Not alone, anywho.
And the downright weird, apparently. I don’t know that you could pay me enough to spend the night there. Not alone, anywho.

May 4th, 2005.

You know, wandering like this has really driven home one point in particular. I was raised with psychotic pets. A dog that bit me, a cat that bit me, and indeed, multiple hamsters that often at one point or another tried to bite me, and toads, that no doubt, if they’d had more than a mere bony ridge in their wide insectivore mouths, would’ve probably bit me.

David Morreale was the surprise other guest of the night at the Burren. It was a great night of bonding with him... I mean, I thought - maybe he was like "dumb long-hair, always hangin round me..." - but I don't think so.
David Morreale was the surprise other guest of the night at the Burren. It was a great night of bonding with him… I mean, I thought – maybe he was like “dumb long-hair, always hangin round me…” – but I don’t think so.

And so, it comes as a bit of a surprise, to me at least, that one of the primary effects of the Trip has had nothing to do with my interaction with human beings… Who’d’ve tunk Iwould become the type of person to go up and randomly pet passing large dogs and harass cats until they roll over and allow themselves to be Loved.

Lawn gnome hidden in a second story planter for Shane.
Lawn gnome hidden in a second story planter for Shane.

Go fig.

Dan, Jason’s cousin. We first encountered him in Providence, RI. 
Joe Kowan. His lyrics are genius. We got around to listening to his new CD, Discohog, in New Jersey. There are some of the finest moments ever recorded by man on that album. And some of the worst. "Ignorance is Bliss" is AWESOME. Track 13.... well, heed the warnings on that puppy and DO make sure you take the survey on the back. The CD even comes packaged with the 3D glasses required to truly appreciate Joe's design prowess.
Joe Kowan. His lyrics are genius. We got around to listening to his new CD, Discohog, in New Jersey. There are some of the finest moments ever recorded by man on that album. And some of the worst. “Ignorance is Bliss” is AWESOME. Track 13…. well, heed the warnings on that puppy and DO make sure you take the survey on the back. The CD even comes packaged with the 3D glasses required to truly appreciate Joe’s design prowess.
Teresa Storch - fellow Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival competitor. After our show at the Burren, the host, Tom Bianchi sort of turned it into a friend's only open stage. Theresa was in the audience, as were Joe and Ryan Montbeau. They all ended up using Dave's guitar. It got USED. I like the fact that her website spells "Teresa's Torch". It was unfortunate. After taking numerous pics of her, it occurred to me that she MIGHT think I was shooting pictures of her crotch.
Teresa Storch – fellow Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival competitor. After our show at the Burren, the host, Tom Bianchi sort of turned it into a friend’s only open stage. Theresa was in the audience, as were Joe and Ryan Montbeau. They all ended up using Dave’s guitar. It got USED. I like the fact that her website spells “Teresa’s Torch”. It was unfortunate. After taking numerous pics of her, it occurred to me that she MIGHT think I was shooting pictures of her crotch.
Ok everybody. Listen up, pay attention. What you see above is marketing GENIUS courtesy of David Morreale. He let us share his display and sure enough, we sold more CDs that way
Ok everybody. Listen up, pay attention. What you see above is marketing GENIUS courtesy of David Morreale. He let us share his display and sure enough, we sold more CDs that way

May 7th, 2005.

Ryan Montbleau is like unto a god. I was just blown away by his spectacular guitar-work and Stevie Wonder-ish voice. Songs of flirtation and more in a bluegrassy, oldtimey kind of style. This is the closest to orgasm I've gotten due to music in a long, long time, and the first CD I wanted to buy in several months (he traded with me though!)
Ryan Montbleau is like unto a god. I was just blown away by his spectacular guitar-work and Stevie Wonder-ish voice. Songs of flirtation and more in a bluegrassy, oldtimey kind of style. This is the closest to orgasm I’ve gotten due to music in a long, long time, and the first CD I wanted to buy in several months (he traded with me though!)

 

Last night, I slept in a bed. It was glorious. Last night Heather and I competed at the Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival among such great writers as Teresa Storch and Zoe Mulford… and Heather Lloyd. That was a little bit weird. It was a beautiful night, added to by the flattery that I took third in the competition – Nick Annis took second and Zoe Mulford (who almost made me cry with her tune “Our Lady of the Highway”) took a well-deserved first.

I was really flattered because a lot of our friends came out to support – Brennan, Tyler and Ray as well as Heather’s parents. Steve Key was in the audience, and it was good to see him. In general, it was good to see friends from home. Our friend Jamie even came up from North Carolina to see the show. I’m beginning to feel really guilty because I totally fail to recognize her every time I see her.

In any case, after the competition I figured it was time to go home. I know I’d only been out for a couple of weeks, but they really came at a rough time, and I was really glad that even if Heather wasn’t ready to go, she was willing to let me head home.

I’m kicking myself, because I’m realizing I forgot to leave her with a camera. So, I came back to Heather’s parents’ house, watched some television, and slept HARD. I still haven’t Lived my fantasy of having slept for 24 hours straight, but I’m feeling human…. or at least robbish again.

This last leg of the Trip – though it was exhausting and stressful and crazy – it was one of the best legs we’ve had in a long time. I stayed with friends that I had been craving the company of, and I was exposed to some music that blew my mind. This was what the Trip is SUPPOSED to be. Meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends, and encountering amazing music, amazing art. It was one of the most fulfilling two weeks ever, and I’m already planning a return sometime in July, one way or another.

George Washington hanging out with the Cambridge firemen.

May 14th, 2005.

I had a dream the other night with the full awareness that my Father had died. Previous dreams involved just having him in the background, like he always was… then progressed to dreams where the cancer was some sort of mistake, and he was going to be fine, and then dreams where he was still alive, but sick again, and the whole process was just about to begin again, but this time we knew the hopelessness, the helplessness, and the inevitable outcome..

The Mug of Destiny. I think that this well-meaning yet ill-conceived birthday present from my parents, given years ago (most likely for my 18th birthday) probably did a major job of reshaping my Life. Titled "This Being a Grown-Up isn't all it's cracked up to be", it's filled with the nightmares of adult Life. Well, no, generally it's filled with hot chocolate. It's covered in the nightmares of "the real world", and I spent a lot of time being absolutely horrified at what I was supposed to have to look forward to. It's exactly the stuff I'm trying to avoid. Though... from what I can see above... well, we still pay health insurance. And our car still has troubles here and there... we get backaches from our jobs... at least we don't have mortgage and we always get to eat other people's butter, hey?  Sigh, there's butter in the house where we're staying now, but no bread. Well - getting closer everyday. If we ever get our million-dollar record deal, I'm going to have all the BEST breads. My friend Chris says they way he'll know he's "made it" is that he'll be able to eat as much as he wants and not worry about it. He'll know he's made it when his scrawny frame can become so fat he can't fit through his front door - and when he doesn't worry about it either.
The Mug of Destiny. I think that this well-meaning yet ill-conceived birthday present from my parents, given years ago (most likely for my 18th birthday) probably did a major job of reshaping my Life. Titled “This Being a Grown-Up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”, it’s filled with the nightmares of adult Life. Well, no, generally it’s filled with hot chocolate. It’s covered in the nightmares of “the real world”, and I spent a lot of time being absolutely horrified at what I was supposed to have to look forward to. It’s exactly the stuff I’m trying to avoid. Though… from what I can see above… well, we still pay health insurance. And our car still has troubles here and there… we get backaches from our jobs… at least we don’t have mortgage and we always get to eat other people’s butter, hey?
Sigh, there’s butter in the house where we’re staying now, but no bread. Well – getting closer everyday. If we ever get our million-dollar record deal, I’m going to have all the BEST breads. My friend Chris says they way he’ll know he’s “made it” is that he’ll be able to eat as much as he wants and not worry about it. He’ll know he’s made it when his scrawny frame can become so fat he can’t fit through his front door – and when he doesn’t worry about it either.

The other night in Disputanta, VA, staying with Chelsea and Beau, I dreamt that I was standing in the hallway at my mom’s house, and that I glimpsed my dad sitting in a chair in the Living room (a chair, bright yellow and long since disposed of in the real world). He was almost solid, and though he motioned me closer, I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I don’t remember being shocked in the dream, and I remember telling other people about the vision, and them telling me that it was a good thing. I think my brother could see him too. I woke up confused and feeling comforted that this was confirmation of the existance of some sort of afterlife, a promise of continuation – until I remembered that we’d thrown at the chair and realized that it was a dream. That sort of threw me. I’ve been feeling a little off ever since, I suppose.

Audrey 'Dahl singing melancholy songs at my Father's non-service at the Folk Art Cafe. We had decided not to have a real "funeral", but rather a party of sorts - we had some music and a LOT of food (mostly supplied by Audrey). And the Folk Art Cafe was kind enough to open on a Monday and let us use their space. We really wanted to have something at a place that he'd enjoyed while he was alive, and though I fear I looked at my mom like she was crazy when she first floated the idea, I quickly came to like it. In hindsight, it really was one of the best ideas possible.
Audrey ‘Dahl singing melancholy songs at my Father’s non-service at the Folk Art Cafe. We had decided not to have a real “funeral”, but rather a party of sorts – we had some music and a LOT of food (mostly supplied by Audrey). And the Folk Art Cafe was kind enough to open on a Monday and let us use their space. We really wanted to have something at a place that he’d enjoyed while he was alive, and though I fear I looked at my mom like she was crazy when she first floated the idea, I quickly came to like it. In hindsight, it really was one of the best ideas possible.
Rick 'Dahl listening intently. (My Aunt Laurie and Uncle Greg, in from Georgia, are in the background). One of the things that I have always appreciated about death, and funerals (if this has been a "funeral" per se, it would've been number 34 for me, I think) - is the way they bring people together. Aunts and Uncles, so much family, people I can't keep track of. So many of my mother's friends, and more friends than I knew my Father had. The bitter half of me, of course asks why they weren't around while he was still alive, but I still enjoyed the stories. I met my Dad's college room mate from Arizon State who told me about how they'd run off in my Dad's Jaguar and taken a roadtrip from Arizona to the Newport Folk Festival to go see Janis Joplin - about how my Dad had talked his way into one of the local diners and got them the "local" prices on everything from sandwiches to clam chowder.
Rick ‘Dahl listening intently. (My Aunt Laurie and Uncle Greg, in from Georgia, are in the background). One of the things that I have always appreciated about death, and funerals (if this has been a “funeral” per se, it would’ve been number 34 for me, I think) – is the way they bring people together. Aunts and Uncles, so much family, people I can’t keep track of. So many of my mother’s friends, and more friends than I knew my Father had. The bitter half of me, of course asks why they weren’t around while he was still alive, but I still enjoyed the stories. I met my Dad’s college room mate from Arizon State who told me about how they’d run off in my Dad’s Jaguar and taken a roadtrip from Arizona to the Newport Folk Festival to go see Janis Joplin – about how my Dad had talked his way into one of the local diners and got them the “local” prices on everything from sandwiches to clam chowder.

Friday morning we got up and drove from Disputanta to Carrboro, North Carolina where they were in the midst of an Art Walk. Open shops and open doors. Carrboro is a strange little college town with poorly defined boundaries and murals on every available flat surface. Heather, of course, had nothing to worry about, but I had the fear that if i stood still for any length of time, someone would come out of the woodwork and art me up.

We discovered a happy lizard living about the shutters at my Mom's house. I think one of my uncles pointed him out... and then talked me into shaking the shutter a bit in the hopes of coaxing him out a little bit. Not too much luck with that. He seemed happy with where he was.
We discovered a happy lizard living about the shutters at my Mom’s house. I think one of my uncles pointed him out… and then talked me into shaking the shutter a bit in the hopes of coaxing him out a little bit. Not too much luck with that. He seemed happy with where he was.
Heather with balloons at my Dad's non-service. Dressed in bright colours. Who'd've thunk? That's my Grandpa in the foreground.
Heather with balloons at my Dad’s non-service. Dressed in bright colours. Who’d’ve thunk? That’s my Grandpa in the foreground.

All of our Northern North Carolina friends came out and represented at the Open Eye (Cafe of the Dark Lord), and in honour of Sauron (the logo for the Open Eye looks very much like the Eye), I even sang a special version of “the Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton”. Hail Sauron. A special thank you to Russ and his wife (the nail queen!) for coming out, and on top of everything else, mentioning us in a drum circle to a local duo, Alison and Darren. On Russ’ advice, they looked me up, and Darren is slowly working his way through learning Deep in the AM. He seemed thrilled to actually watch us play – their enthusiasm just lit up the room.

Then our host for the night, Jamie, also brought out a bunch of friends. All in all, we had a pretty decent crowd. Jonathan Byrd (who’d we met at the Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival a couple days previous) even walked in. Go fig. Oh he of the beautiful CD designs.

vNear Chelsea and Beau's place, where we crashed on Thursday night. I took a photograph of this "abandoned" falling down house. Going back and looking at the picture and realizing it had satellite TV was kind of funny.
Near Chelsea and Beau’s place, where we crashed on Thursday night. I took a photograph of this “abandoned” falling down house. Going back and looking at the picture and realizing it had satellite TV was kind of funny.
n Carborro, NC and it's surrounding environs, everything is arted up. Here's a bug that would crush ALL of Amy's intricate minions. I mean, not to underestimate her creatures, but really - little wiry critters vs massive feet of wood? Of course, this guy doesn't look too bright. If Amy's minions are clever enough to construct traps and then maybe, I don't know, light him on fire or something... well, I don't want to pontificate on the subject TOO much - it wouldn't be a fair fight if I gave anyone ideas, now would it?
n Carborro, NC and it’s surrounding environs, everything is arted up. Here’s a bug that would crush ALL of Amy’s intricate minions. I mean, not to underestimate her creatures, but really – little wiry critters vs massive feet of wood? Of course, this guy doesn’t look too bright. If Amy’s minions are clever enough to construct traps and then maybe, I don’t know, light him on fire or something… well, I don’t want to pontificate on the subject TOO much – it wouldn’t be a fair fight if I gave anyone ideas, now would it?

After the gig, we went back to Jamie’s and just shot the shit with her and her friends till about 3am. I like the feeling that we restore a little youth to everyone we visit – allowing them to relive the college days of late night roommate conversations. It’s something that we all seem to miss, that sense of comeraderie. Apparently, having roommates just isn’t adult anymore, but it’s something we all regret losing, to some extent at least. I think the ideal marriage would have a lot of roommatish traits… 2am hour-long conversations held sitting in a doorjam because you’ve passed on the way to the bathroom.

Hehe – we just passed “The Lost Sock” laundromat…. and a “waterfowl impoundment area”. Don’t know about all that.

We’re travelling slowly down route 1 near the southern edge of North Carolina. Construction and detours have us lead astray, but not for long. We found my father along the road along the way.

Paintings and murals everywhere! When we go back through I'll make a more concerted effort to capture them, but I was all moody and not good about pulling my camera out.
Paintings and murals everywhere! When we go back through I’ll make a more concerted effort to capture them, but I was all moody and not good about pulling my camera out.
Heather playing to Alison at the Open Eye Cafe. She and her partner, Darren are in a band called Optic, and were turned on to us by our friend Russ at a drum circle. Darren eventually contacted me in an effort to learn Deep in the AM which involved a WHOLE lot of back and forth emails and IMs and even videos.
Heather playing to Alison at the Open Eye Cafe. She and her partner, Darren are in a band called Optic, and were turned on to us by our friend Russ at a drum circle. Darren eventually contacted me in an effort to learn Deep in the AM which involved a WHOLE lot of back and forth emails and IMs and even videos.

May 16th, 2005.

Sitting at Deanne’s house, watching the sun go by. She keeps it dim in here, and we struggle with blinds and drapes in an effort to let some of the outside world in. The dogs keep constant vigil at the door, waiting for their guardian, or perhaps for unwary joggers to bark at. Watching the surprised faces as they veer off their course would be a lot funnier if we set up something for them to whack into while their attention was diverted from their course… then we could let loose the dogs of… hair…. and Abby would bark and bark and bark and Jessie would… well, if they’d been running for long enough to be smelly, perhaps go and try to roll in them.

Ok – writing more. Heather’s mom just called and is scolding me. I’ve gotten some scolding from a couple of other fronts too, I’m WORKING on it!!!!

Saturday, Heather and I made a speed run from where we stayed with Jamie down to our first ever gig in South Carolina.

Now, I had no idea what to expect. Our friends Someone’s Sister had hooked us up with a woman who was “booking a bar called Kickstand’s” in Myrtle Beach… I think they had initially been booked for the night, and then when a conflict came up, they graciously handed the gig off to us… for that I am very grateful.

We've started up a new hobby - collecting pictures of signs with my Dad's name on them..
We’ve started up a new hobby – collecting pictures of signs with my Dad’s name on them..

Heather knew naught of the horror that is South of the Border. I don't think she was prepared to comprehend the tourist trap KING. This photograph would've been a lot funnier if I'd moved to the left a bit, given him some big ole spiky palm pubes... hehe... rosy palm pubes... oh god. I had totally thought he was on the border of Florida, or somewhere else further south, but I was really pleased to run across him... you know, for Heather's sake.
Heather knew naught of the horror that is South of the Border. I don’t think she was prepared to comprehend the tourist trap KING. This photograph would’ve been a lot funnier if I’d moved to the left a bit, given him some big ole spiky palm pubes… hehe… rosy palm pubes… oh god. I had totally thought he was on the border of Florida, or somewhere else further south, but I was really pleased to run across him… you know, for Heather’s sake.
Pedro. So sad. I'm sorry to make him that way, but he's still grinning, so it can't hurt THAT bad. The woman we stayed with on Saturday night remembered South of the Border from some 45 years ago or so. It amazes me that something like this could possibly survive and flourish so long.
Pedro. So sad. I’m sorry to make him that way, but he’s still grinning, so it can’t hurt THAT bad. The woman we stayed with on Saturday night remembered South of the Border from some 45 years ago or so. It amazes me that something like this could possibly survive and flourish so long.

So, bar in Myrtle Beach. I got in touch with Carrie Stone who was booking the event, told her my story – she’d seen us before and was really enthusiastic about us coming down. Hooked us up with a place to stay for the night, honoured us with the same contract terms as she’d given Someone’s Sister, and in general made it clear she was glad to have us.

The only issue was getting an address.

Now, normally there’s no problem. We ask for the address, generally it’s given to us. If that fails, we’ll google it and find their website and get the address from there. If that fails, there’s the Yellow Pages. This was the first time all of the above failed, and by Saturday afternoon, I was beginning to have misgivings about the gig.

Carrie, who was still unable to give me an address, sort of described the location – I asked her for cross-streets or landmarks, and she told me that, you know – there were a bunch of restaurants and things… there’d be a couple of tents… “oh, are we playing outside?” “You’re playing on the stage at Kickstands.” As if that answered my questions… she clearly thought there was no way I was going to miss the place, and I hoped she was right.

Oh, and she said it was across from the old “Suck Bang Blow”.

I’d also talked to Carrie a couple of months ago about booking in this block of time. Apparently it was biker week or something in Myrtle Beach, and she was always looking for good acts. However, this wasn’t Myrtle Beach, it was Murrell’s Inlet – though it was supposed to have a pretty good tourist market…

And so we travelled south and had many adventures. We encountered the frighteningly flamingoed South of the Border with their huge “S.O.B” water tank, and we faced the waterfowl impoundment. Slowly we approached Myrtle Beach, and slowly the presence of bikers on the road became steadily more apparent. The packs grew.

It was around this point that we heard an advertisement for Kickstand’s on the radio. Live music and beer for the 2005 Biker Rally, and they gave an address. We at least got to the right area, but at that point, normal conversation was being drowned out by the roar of engines. We found our place alright – parked and wandered in. No wonder there wasn’t a phone listing…. no wonder playing at Kickstands answers the question as to whether or not we were playing outside… no wonder Carrie figured we couldn’t miss it (and couldn’t give other landmarks). It was like someone had kicked over a woodpile and all the swarming ants beneath were belching smoke and dressed in chrome and leather.

Ah, Suck Bang Blow (we're told it's not what we think!) where bikini-clad women serve alcohol out of the windows of an old school bus. Apparently it's what a bike does (sucks the air in, makes a bang, and then blows the exhaust out) as opposed to what the bike BITCH does.  I was too shy to take too many pictures of the aforementioned ladies. Maybe I'll have a bit more of a wandering eye, an itchy trigger finger, and a lascivious nature when we go back on Friday and have some pictures to ... peruse for l... for the Journal.
Ah, Suck Bang Blow (we’re told it’s not what we think!) where bikini-clad women serve alcohol out of the windows of an old school bus. Apparently it’s what a bike does (sucks the air in, makes a bang, and then blows the exhaust out) as opposed to what the bike BITCH does.
I was too shy to take too many pictures of the aforementioned ladies. Maybe I’ll have a bit more of a wandering eye, an itchy trigger finger, and a lascivious nature when we go back on Friday and have some pictures to … peruse for l… for the Journal.
Surrounded.
Surrounded.

We had arrived, and now we REALLY didn’t know what we were in for. I had to call Amy just so someone else could witness the noise. I had to turn the radio up to hear it over the engines. All the local radio stations were playing their variations on the top 100 biker songs of rock… there were signs everywhere warning the bikers against carrying weapons, speeding, spitting, public drunkeness, and wearing gang colours. State police were everywhere. It was awesome.

The stage was a flatbed with flat tires set in front of a ramshackle construct built of 2x4s and apparently held together with beer advertisements. Men in wifebeaters and leather, women in chaps and leather, kids with leather caps and mullets. Familiar with goth counter-culture, this is a whole other animal. Every bit as fanciful in dress and posture, perhaps less subtle. A guy, upon seeing yet another sign to remind you it was illegal to be carrying weapons into the grounds remarked “What’re you talkin’ about pig? I AM a weapon!” Biceps rippled and skin glistend and bristled and in general, it was often hard to tell where the bike ended and the biker began. It’s not something I could ever be a part of, though not by choice, but physical size.

Rebecca and Angie of the Myrtle Beach Girls. Angie was the woman who really worked the audience best throughout the night - they really had a fantastic stage presence. Angie had one of those fierce, roughed-up female voices that makes me swoon. Well, makes me swoon, and then makes me duck. Rebecca, meanwhile, launched into careening fiddle solos - with wah pedal no less!
Rebecca and Angie of the Myrtle Beach Girls. Angie was the woman who really worked the audience best throughout the night – they really had a fantastic stage presence. Angie had one of those fierce, roughed-up female voices that makes me swoon. Well, makes me swoon, and then makes me duck. Rebecca, meanwhile, launched into careening fiddle solos – with wah pedal no less!
Rebecca and a spectacular chaps wearin' friend during the first night of 2005's Myrtle Beach Biker Rally.
Rebecca and a spectacular chaps wearin’ friend during the first night of 2005’s Myrtle Beach Biker Rally.
There were some weird cage moments throughout the night. Earlier I asked for the cage to be opened for dancing during our set - and it lead to chaos.
There were some weird cage moments throughout the night. Earlier I asked for the cage to be opened for dancing during our set – and it lead to chaos.
Sunday, before getting on the road, we got distracted by the presence of Myrtle Beach. I think this is the first time we've been to a beach in anything LIKE the beachy season - and so seeing PEOPLE on the beach was kind of a shock.
Sunday, before getting on the road, we got distracted by the presence of Myrtle Beach. I think this is the first time we’ve been to a beach in anything LIKE the beachy season – and so seeing PEOPLE on the beach was kind of a shock.

Tattoos and chrome and leather, putting to shame all of the pussy 80’s conventions that flaunted bikers as the ultimate evil.

Nancy, the woman running sound for the night was running late, and I’d like to think we were more a help than a hindrance when we showed up and offered to do what we could with the set-up. She was missing some cables and was running late but helping her lift amps was an excercise in chivalry rather than an effective assistance. She could’ve lifted me AND those speakers one-handed. I almost tipped backwards with a PA speaker off the stage onto someone’s bike, and she caught me and set me back on balance.

For all the chaos that went into setting it all up, things went pretty smoothly once they went. We ended up going on first, and going on again later, to massive response. I think no-one quite knew what to make of us at first, but we have a way of working harder when we’re unwanted, and sweating heavily under the stress of duress.

We rocked their leather-clad asses off in a performance that I’m pretty proud of.

Heather hunting shells on Myrtle Beach.
Heather hunting shells on Myrtle Beach.
Ok, I could fill the Journal with colourful biker characters. The streets are overrun, and there are signs everywhere, either welcoming the bikers or warning them against carrying weapons and displaying colours. This guy had a fantastic wind-whipped moustache... and I'm just too nervous to photograph people outright, despite my New Year's resolution. Maybe if I had a big-ass SLR I could feel like it was a badge of some sort - an official item to hide behind like my guitar.
Ok, I could fill the Journal with colourful biker characters. The streets are overrun, and there are signs everywhere, either welcoming the bikers or warning them against carrying weapons and displaying colours. This guy had a fantastic wind-whipped moustache… and I’m just too nervous to photograph people outright, despite my New Year’s resolution. Maybe if I had a big-ass SLR I could feel like it was a badge of some sort – an official item to hide behind like my guitar.
Ok - didn't get a really good shot of this car, but I'm hoping that this is enough for Justin to identify it... it looks like something out of Batman.
Ok – didn’t get a really good shot of this car, but I’m hoping that this is enough for Justin to identify it… it looks like something out of Batman.
Yessss.... feed the fish. Heather SO didn't know what she was getting in to. A common theme of this visit to the Carolinas. This is out back from the Ripley's Aquarium - and though there wasn't THAT much "Believe it or not" type shocker stuff, it was a really wonderful day, full of exploration and fishes.
Yessss…. feed the fish. Heather SO didn’t know what she was getting in to. A common theme of this visit to the Carolinas. This is out back from the Ripley’s Aquarium – and though there wasn’t THAT much “Believe it or not” type shocker stuff, it was a really wonderful day, full of exploration and fishes.

 

May 18th, 2005.

Rough gig tonight. The Soap Box treated us well, but our instruments did not. I broke two strings at inconvenient moments, moments where I simply couldn’t play it off. The people that came out to see us really Loved us, our worst nights are still pretty good, but I felt awful by the end of the night. Losing strings like that throws me, and when I get thrown I start losing lyrics, and I get uncomfortable, and I talk too much.

Another jellyfish tank. Heather's curvy form admiring their wispy forms.
Another jellyfish tank. Heather’s  admiring their wispy forms.
My new camera is awesome, and I got some really, really intense shots of these guys.
My new camera is awesome, and I got some really, really intense shots of these guys.

Sigh – so, rough night. It was made bearable by coming home to Deanne’s leftover curry – which was perfect and a Lovely burn after the embarassment of the gig. However, for dessert, I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I craved it, I needed it, I made it. I used the last of the peanut butter, which I should look into replacing on tomorrow – but I didn’t notice that the bread crust was mouldy until AFTER I’d done all the smearing. Damn damn damn damn.Stupid end to a stupid day. Well – the WHOLE day wasn’t stupid… I haven’t told you about the lizard.

Maybe later.

May 20th, 2005.

I know I put some pictures of these guys in earlier - but damn - leafy sea dragons are just about the coolest things there ever were!
I know I put some pictures of these guys in earlier – but damn – leafy sea dragons are just about the coolest things there ever were!
Leafy sea dragon at the Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Leafy sea dragon at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Ok, wait. What is this? It’s like… rush hour… but… in the morning…?

Oh yeah, I remember this shit.

We’re leaving Wilmington at the ungodly hour of 9am. I can hear you, dear reader, I can hear you sniggering. Please, keep in mind that for YOUR entertainment we play till 1am, and then stick around places cleaning up and wrapping cables and haggling with bar owners till 2am, and then wind down with reruns of Friends and Aqua Teen Hunger Force until 3. And we do it all for you. All for you. Man, I’d so be in bed at 9 ever night if it wasn’t for you guys.

Ok, so that’s a lie. My point is that we haven’t seen a 9 in the MORNING in weeks or months or longer, except for once when I stayed UP till then. This morning, when Deanne put her hand on my shoulder at 8am, I reacted in a panic and put nails down claw-style. I don’t think I actually did anything too forceful, but I reacted with defense reflexes and almost snarled.

I couldn’t fall asleep last night. My brain was too full of whirling images and fragments of songs and ideas and the panic tizzy of creativity. I haven’t gone back to my Little Black Book to see if anything that I went into the bathroom to record was worthwhile, and I haven’t looked to see if anything that I didn’t bother getting into the light to write is legible. I don’t think I want to know what my 5am brain was spitting out.

“Love Her Madly” by the Doors.

He yawned just for us and scared the shit out of us.
He yawned just for us and scared the shit out of us.
Heather admiring a saw-nosed shark.
Heather admiring a saw-nosed shark.

Tunnels and kids and people and creatures all sharing the same space at Ripley's Aquarium.
Tunnels and kids and people and creatures all sharing the same space at Ripley’s Aquarium.
And then, the unexpected high-point... the manta rays!
And then, the unexpected high-point… the manta rays!
A manta ray coming up to the surface and waving hello..
A manta ray coming up to the surface and waving hello..
The rays just popped up out of the water to be petted. It was Lovely. They felt like wet silk, slithering under your fingertips.
The rays just popped up out of the water to be petted. It was Lovely. They felt like wet silk, slithering under your fingertips.
At one point, one of the rays went after the diver's food bin and knocked it over. He KNEW he'd been bad and JETTED across the pool to the other end. I couldn't believe how fast the guy went! I think it's the same one as the guy I'm petting in the previous picture.
At one point, one of the rays went after the diver’s food bin and knocked it over. He KNEW he’d been bad and JETTED across the pool to the other end. I couldn’t believe how fast the guy went! I think it’s the same one as the guy I’m petting in the previous picture.

Thursday morning, 12.01am, Heather and I were sitting in our seats taking a Star Wars quiz stolen from a remarkably cute fellow fan who probably wasn’t old enough to have seen the originals. She made up for her age in rabidity and knew her shit pretty good. I think she might’ve given me a run for my money in a Star Wars Trivial Pursuit challenge, and might’ve even bested me in a more worthwhile challenge like some of the quiz-books that ask about about how blaster rifles work and what planet “Hammerhead” came from. Ah, if we hadn’t both been there with evident significant others, it could’ve been Love.

Padme and Anakin showed up for the opening night of Star Wars Episode III: the Revenge of the Sith.
Padme and Anakin showed up for the opening night of Star Wars Episode III: the Revenge of the Sith.

With all the newer theatres around, the older cinema we ended up at wasn’t even sold-out and we got decent seats. We only stood in line for an hour, and only sat in our seats playing dirty hangman for an hour and a half, and the movie only started 20 minutes late (to the almost riotous dismay of our fellow Star Wars fans). We’d already played an open mic and sold CDs to cover our tickets. We’d eaten an incredible dinner. We were ready for the wait.

The detritus of those who’d gone before us: plush divan chairs, discarded Mountain Dews, McDonalds wrappers and pizza boxes.

When all was said in done, we got back to Deanne’s house at 3 in the morning, extremely pleased with that galaxy far, far away. I could be nitpicky. I could pick it apart. Empire it wasn’t. But what could be? Somewhere in his old age, George Lucus discarded any semblance of subtlety and replaced it with a child’s glee of “isn’t this cool?!?”-ness. There’s something to be said for someone’s who’s so fascinated and in Love with their medium that they really do push it to extremes. George Lucus created the eyecandy genre to a certain extent, and I don’t begrudge him the opportunity to cavort in the playground he’s created.

He’s earned the right to do so. I do wish that his attention to detail was a LITTLE more even-handed, and I certainly wish he hadn’t discarded that beautiful subtle humour that made the original trilogy so personable.

But it was passionate, it was playful, there wasn’t anything too excrebly cuddly, and it deserved it’s PG-13 with a whole lot of child-killing and burning flesh. The flick delivered, and I had a good time with it.

Thursday afternoon (after getting up at a perfectly reasonable 11am), Heather and I got out and about and wandered Front Street down in Wilmington. We bought strings and settled down in the front window of a Port City Java, plugged ourselves in and answered emails till the sun went down.

Deanne has come a long way since we first met her last August. She hadn’t touched a guitar in 20 years before she brought us home. Heather transcribed a couple of songs for her and we didn’t think too much of it. We left her playing a G-chord here and there, and singing along with CDs.

Thursday night, Deanne hosted her first singer/songwriter showcase at Costello’s. She played a mix of originals and covers for the first hour, and then turned things over to her first guests, the fabulous and eclectic ilyAIMY.

Deanne and her smelly, smelly beagle, Jessie.
Deanne and her smelly, smelly beagle, Jessie.

We’re always cautious with Costello’s. Though the owner, George, Loves us and keeps inviting us back – we’re always wary of the clientele, who always seem kind of plus or minus about us. The clientele is also always different. For an elegant male gay bar, there are nights when it’s mostly women, or nights where there are mostly families, or nights where the clientele is entirely made up of well-manicured older men with neatly trimmed and greying hair, other nights when it’s young and hip and flaming and requesting for us to leave so that they can listen to thumping dance music. Oh, and our first experience with it was that the clientele simply wasn’t there.

A couple of much-needed and well-met newly-made and often-hyphenated new friends at our gig at the Soapbox Laundrolounge. I don’t wear my glasses on stage, so I was guessing when I thought to myself “hey, our audience looks like it might be a bunch of hot chicks!” But I was RIGHT! I screwed up a lot of lyrics that night. Heather says that apparently they found it endearing. Hrm.

Last night we had a mix of just about all of the above (including starting out empty). We had aimed for a mellow set, relieved to only play for an hour (since we knew we were waking up this morning at heinous hateful huit), and the audience was in it’s take us or leave us mindframe, indifferent to our existance, and semi-determined to trample our heart-felt performance with their conversation.

Later, I caught a lizard. And by caught I mean a three-legged lizard fell out of a tree, nearly onto Heather's head. It was stunned by the fall and I took advantage of it's condition.
Later, I caught a lizard. And by caught I mean a three-legged lizard fell out of a tree, nearly onto Heather’s head. It was stunned by the fall and I took advantage of it’s condition.
Heather and I built a castle on Wrightsville Beach. It ended up looking like the lower mandible to Hell, and the door was formerly a raft. But it was still pretty cool. I have discovered that I like to dig. I have a blister to show for my trouble.
Heather and I built a castle on Wrightsville Beach. It ended up looking like the lower mandible to Hell, and the door was formerly a raft. But it was still pretty cool. I have discovered that I like to dig. I have a blister to show for my trouble.

And then Liz walked in. We’d met her a couple of months ago at the Reel Cafe and she’d apparently been lamenting our departure ever since. She walked into Costello’s on a whim and looked up, recognized us… “Oh my GOD it’s ilyAIMY!!!!” was a heart-felt yell invigourating enough to push us through a driving extra half-hour. She’d brought a table-full of friends and called for more on her phone, and we had the place howling for more by the time we were done. A good night.

You should’ve heard the bar singing along to Heather’s version of “Sorry I Am”. A good night indeed.

At the Myrtle Beach Biker Rally, we had to take intermissions so that bikers could jump OVER the stage!
At the Myrtle Beach Biker Rally, we had to take intermissions so that bikers could jump OVER the stage!
More cage dancing at the Bike Rally. Why doesn't this happen at the REST of our shows? I have a LIST of people I'd like to see in something like this...
More cage dancing at the Bike Rally. Why doesn’t this happen at the REST of our shows? I have a LIST of people I’d like to see in something like this…
She didn't quite fit.... hehe.
She didn’t quite fit…. hehe.
The incoming storm off Myrtle Beach.
The incoming storm off Myrtle Beach.

Rob getting molested by a wet dog. Chauncy was.... exuberant.
Rob getting molested by a wet dog. Chauncy was…. exuberant.

So, back to 10.15am and morning rush hour, which has petered out and left us with a thinner but steady stream of rusting South Carolina plates as we head towards Myrtle Beach. The bikers are getting thicker on the ground, and the signs erected in their honour (“Loud Pipes Illegal”, “Speed Limits Strictly Enforced”, and “All Weapons Prohibited”) are getting almost as frequent as the omnipresent (and increasingly exotic) mini-golf fields. We’re playing our second of two Kickstand’s shows, worried about the weather. A hurricane of the coast is throwing a more-than-hint of thunderstorms in our direction and the skies are indecisive. Sunny enough to abuse our tired eyes, and grey enough to make the frequent red-lights stand out in stark contrast.

Seven miles from Murrell’s Inlet. I’m wondering how the threat of rain will effect the show. My brain is slowly approaching something like normal rob-speed, though it’s being dulled back down by the steady drizzel of drivel from the radio. There are a couple of gems mixed in. Some old Garbage on the radio. We saw an interview with her last night and I was shocked to hear her speaking voice and her thick, thick, thick Irish accent.

I should really stop typing at this point as I’ve run out of things to say, though I could bitch about how the Velvet Revolver singles all have a spectacular intro, and then devolve swiftly into inane, simplistic riffs. The mindless power chords of Nirvana without the creativity, passion, or teen spirit. I wonder how much of that is the fault of the band though, as it seems that modern production values really are focused on the mechanical precision of click tracks, the cold grind of digital distortion, and the dynamic-less, unchanging levels of for-the-radio compression.

And now, Hanson. Yeah, we shut THAT off.

May 22th, 2005.

Back from the Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival and leaving for the second leg of the trip today.

The contest went well. I never expected to win anything, but I wanted to make a good showing and really feel like I belonged there and did not stick out as the weakest link, which is a complex I frequently have. I think I’ve figured it out: I’m the singer-songwriter equivalent of an anorexic. I look into my musical mirror and see a fat girl no matter how fit my body of work, and despite the compliments and earnest reassurances of others.

Steve Key and Pat Klink and other people I really respect said afterwards that they and other people felt I sounded the best they had ever heard me, and to some extent, I would agree and actually embrace the compliment.

Well, we were driving to Portsmouth, NH - and we saw this bridge, and we thought it looked pretty cool so we decided to cross it... and that's how we ended up in Maine.
Well, we were driving to Portsmouth, NH – and we saw this bridge, and we thought it looked pretty cool so we decided to cross it… and that’s how we ended up in Maine.

Portsmouth, NH is spectacularly picturesque. This is Dan Blakeslee's home town.
Portsmouth, NH is spectacularly picturesque. This is Dan Blakeslee’s home town.

Rob took third, and Zoe Mulford won, both exactly as I predicted and really hoped. Her songs are some of the best crafted around, and she truly deserved to win based on those merits. I was really proud of rob. My disappointment was minimal, but I felt good about the contest, and accomplished what I set out to.

Rob opted to duck out early and take a couple days off to breathe and have a vacation. So I stuck around to play some song circles, which were pretty good. The main stage performers even wandered down to these things and played with the average joes like me. It was a little intimidating, I gotta admit. But I heard some great people, and I got to hear Brian Gundersdorf do “Amen.” “I always have the grilled cheese, but I always have the crisis,” indeed.

A PHONE booth!!! These guys are just so rare that I figure they are worth noting. I patted it on the head and told it I was sorry that it was a dying breed. Verr sad. My friend Chris Shenk first got me on the idea of photographing phone booths. Unfortunately, most of them really are quite boring. Hopefully the legislation that's floating around in an effort to bring them back will also demand that they're fancy, like this one sitting outside the Portsmouth, NH public library. This one ALMOST looks like it could double as a TARDIS.
A PHONE booth!!! These guys are just so rare that I figure they are worth noting. I patted it on the head and told it I was sorry that it was a dying breed. Verr sad. My friend Chris Shenk first got me on the idea of photographing phone booths. Unfortunately, most of them really are quite boring. Hopefully the legislation that’s floating around in an effort to bring them back will also demand that they’re fancy, like this one sitting outside the Portsmouth, NH public library. This one ALMOST looks like it could double as a TARDIS.
The high-energy not-quite-crazed antics of Dan Blakeslee. He took us on a beautiful wandering tour of Portsmouth, NH.
The high-energy not-quite-crazed antics of Dan Blakeslee. He took us on a beautiful wandering tour of Portsmouth, NH.
There are visible signs of Dan everywhere in this tiny town. Literally, as we walked around, people popped out of nowhere saying "Daaan!!!", and on our hour-and-a-half walk we got stopped by or stopped about 7 different people. People come out of nowhere and mimic Dan greetings. He should run for mayor.
There are visible signs of Dan everywhere in this tiny town. Literally, as we walked around, people popped out of nowhere saying “Daaan!!!”, and on our hour-and-a-half walk we got stopped by or stopped about 7 different people. People come out of nowhere and mimic Dan greetings. He should run for mayor.
We couldn't even pass store-fronts without the kid inside vacuuming the floor whipping up his vacuum cleaner and playing air guitar, imitating Mr. Dan Blakeslee. It was like being inside a musical or something.
We couldn’t even pass store-fronts without the kid inside vacuuming the floor whipping up his vacuum cleaner and playing air guitar, imitating Mr. Dan Blakeslee. It was like being inside a musical or something.
Crazy spiral fire-escapes seem like a bad plan.
Crazy spiral fire-escapes seem like a bad plan.
In high school, in preparation for the first Batman movie, a friend of Dan's climbed many of the local buildings and painted the bat symbol on them in celebration. Most of the buildings have been repainted, but there are at least two bats left, hanging about, perhaps in the hope of calling the Dark Knight.
In high school, in preparation for the first Batman movie, a friend of Dan’s climbed many of the local buildings and painted the bat symbol on them in celebration. Most of the buildings have been repainted, but there are at least two bats left, hanging about, perhaps in the hope of calling the Dark Knight.

I also previewed a new song, still in progress … a sort of present to Ray for sticking around and carrying my stuff and making sure that I found the cabin in the dark okay, the batteries to my flashlight having died minutes after my parents’ departure with rob in tow. An interesting side note on the flashlight – it was the maglight that was left in my mother’s trunk exactly one year ago when we shifted all the gear from my destroyed car to hers the day of the accident. And we took it out a year later at the festival we were trying to get to all along in the first place.

The Press Room, a "genuine European pub" in the heart of Portsmouth New Hampshire.
The Press Room, a “genuine European pub” in the heart of Portsmouth New Hampshire.
Tired rob, catching a moment before hitting the stage at the Press Room.
Tired rob, catching a moment before hitting the stage at the Press Room.

After a Friday night spent in a freezing-cold cabin (which was so bitter I could not fall asleep until the temperature crept up come morning and allowed me to unfurl out of my tightly packed fetus position and stiffening joints), I got up early the next day to see Ember Swift’s set. I loved watching her do her thing for the folkies. I saw all kinds of new people, too.

Here is the lesson I learned about folk festivals: Everyone looks anonymous. Even with noteriety, our names aren’t always recognizable. It’s our songs that are our faces, our reputations. I stood in line next to a guy who has won every contest around, a couple of times apiece, and had no idea until I saw him on the main stage later that day. The major acts from Saturday night got off-stage and sat down next to me and behind me. I got introduced to Dar Williams and shook her hand while I walked some of my stuff out to my car, and she was just this girl. I could have sat next to her in a college class.

Some of the audience at the Press Room. I've got a mud wrestling date with one of them in July.
Some of the audience at the Press Room. I’ve got a mud wrestling date with one of them in July.
The MICA table at the Press Room. Will Schaff and Sonny Roelle showed up by surprise to watch us and Dan Blakeslee.
The MICA table at the Press Room. Will Schaff and Sonny Roelle showed up by surprise to watch us and Dan Blakeslee.

And right now she is probably playing with one of my picks. She got up on stage and lost her pick after one of the first songs. She was a little flustered because she said she knew she was going to do something like that knowing she only had one. Someone pointed out to her that she was in a room full of guitar players, but she said she used a specific kind – skinny red ones with a grip thing – and sure enough, I reached into my bag and the first one I pulled out fit the bill. I walked up to the front and handed it to David Jacobs-Strain, this amazing (and impossibly cute) 20-year-old guitar player who played earlier. He looked it over, agreed it was the right kind and asked the stage manager if he could take it up to her, which he did. So yay for my subtle involvement in Dar Williams’ set.

And though most of Dar’s set really didn’t do anything for me, when she sang the song “February,” I was a mess. Crying along with the Dar die-hards sitting next to me who cried at EVERYTHING.

My find of the day was a woman named Kristina Olsen (www.kristinaolsen.net). After two days of acoustic guitar and singer-songwriters, her wit and slightly raunchy sexuality shocked me into complete attention. She was just this typical older woman, but she was so sensual … every song was laced with it. She hooked me when she began, in a slightly husky voice, telling the story of her brief foray into the college world and a nude drawing class that she took. She said it was weeks and weeks of women, of all shapes and sizes, all entering the room in silken chinese robes they would slip off. And she said whether these women were round, or bony, or muscular, each of them shared the uncanny ability to sit still for three hours while they were being drawn. And she said they were all beautiful in their own way.

And so the parade of women continued for weeks until finally, a man came in.

The way she told the story was so lush and seductive and loving of male sexuality, as she described him, dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a beaten-to-hell white t-shirt. And he slipped off the t-shirt, and she stared, gaping waiting, and he started to unzip his blue jeans …. and she had never in her life ever seen anyone undress … so …. slowly.

And just at that moment, the fire alarm went off and they all had to evacuate the building!

And there were never any more men. The parade of women began again. And she sat next to me when she got done with her set, and I told her how she had taken me in unlike anyone else I’d seen that day.

I had a good time. The cold maybe the only thing that made me unhappy. I wrote a LOT, felt lyrically inspired, but definitely was feeling the pain on the guitar skills. I have work to do – THAT’S what I felt when I drove home early Sunday morning to wish my mother a happy day.

Now it’s on to a month and a half of travel, my brief reprieve at home not a break as much as a refueling and resupplying stop, which I am a little bitter about. But there is beautiful country ahead of me, and as Emily Saliers says, there’s something ’bout the southland in the springtime.

rob and Zoey and Nick.
ilyAIMY at Susquehanna.

May 23rd, 2005.

It’s been a fantastic week, hopping between Myrtle Beach, SC and Wilmington, NC. And yeah, I’m using the same damned adjective – but it really has been fantastic. Hey, my Life is pretty full of fantasy…. 3,683 miles and 31 days until Maryland.

That part. Not so hot.


The week really has been pretty amazing. Friday morning we got up early and headed back to Myrtle Beach for our second round with the Bike Rally. This time we were prepared, and we pretty much rendered ass. Which is like kicking it, except with the kicking of ass the most you can hope for is reducing it to a quivering mass of pulped flesh, where as rendering the ass, we could have drunk it by the time we were done… not to mention separating it into its constituent chemical parts.

A bizarre beastial frog for Amy.
A bizarre beastial frog for Amy.
Feeding the alligator mob at Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Feeding the alligator mob at Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Rendered Biker Ass Smoothie, anyone? No, perhaps not. Not even if we provided a sieve straw for the hairs.

We had arrived early, worried about the promised thunderstorms, and we baked in the intermittent sun, watching the other bands play between intermissions of jumping motorcycles and some sort of revving activity who’s apparent purpose was to create a smoke screen of burnt rubber around the participant. There was a lot of cheering over that.

We picked up our mandatory bike shirts and a new wallet chain (all with discounts cause the guy liked our music) and generally enjoyed the day. The Myrtle Beach Girls were back in force, with a bass player and a drummer, and ripped through an energetic set of stylized fiddle-oriented covers – we really need to get them doing THEIR version of “All Along the Watchtower” next to the Dreamscapes Project doing THEIR version with the cello. It’d be a pretty cool stringed-thing comparison. We were sandwiched between them and Carrie Stone and HER band – and it was the realization of one of my greatest fears – being the Acoustic Folk Duo between two full bands.

And so we turned up the djembe and worked harder, played harder, faster – like little bionic bunnies, we worked our fingers to the bone and rendered the above-mentioned ass. All in all, very pleased. Sold a lot of CDs, had a lot of people asking when we’d back. We even had to go back to the car to get MORE CDs.

And then the show ended just as the thunderstorms moved in. We sat on the beach and watched the black clouds roll in, and then retreated to the car to watch the storm hit the ocean, and then retreated again back to Karen’s house for the night.

We had arrived early, worried about the promised thunderstorms, and we baked in the intermittent sun, watching the other bands play between intermissions of jumping motorcycles and some sort of revving activity who’s apparent purpose was to create a smoke screen of burnt rubber around the participant. There was a lot of cheering over that.

We picked up our mandatory bike shirts and a new wallet chain (all with discounts cause the guy liked our music) and generally enjoyed the day. The Myrtle Beach Girls were back in force, with a bass player and a drummer, and ripped through an energetic set of stylized fiddle-oriented covers – we really need to get them doing THEIR version of “All Along the Watchtower” next to the Dreamscapes Project doing THEIR version with the cello. It’d be a pretty cool stringed-thing comparison. We were sandwiched between them and Carrie Stone and HER band – and it was the realization of one of my greatest fears – being the Acoustic Folk Duo between two full bands.

And so we turned up the djembe and worked harder, played harder, faster – like little bionic bunnies, we worked our fingers to the bone and rendered the above-mentioned ass. All in all, very pleased. Sold a lot of CDs, had a lot of people asking when we’d back. We even had to go back to the car to get MORE CDs.

And then the show ended just as the thunderstorms moved in. We sat on the beach and watched the black clouds roll in, and then retreated to the car to watch the storm hit the ocean, and then retreated again back to Karen’s house for the night.

Heather and the tortoise.
Heather and the tortoise.
The scariest creature ever. Heather says the eyes are brown, but I saw them as a bright red. We were looking at him, thinking he was sleeping, and then his eyes popped open like something out of a horror movie - he SHOULD'VE had a music sting with it.
The scariest creature ever. Heather says the eyes are brown, but I saw them as a bright red. We were looking at him, thinking he was sleeping, and then his eyes popped open like something out of a horror movie – he SHOULD’VE had a music sting with it.

The woman that Carrie Stone hooked us up to stay with in Myrtle Beach is a … I’ve tried a bunch of different words out on my tongue, but the adjective really IS “Lovely” …. Karen’s a Lovely woman. A lot of good conversations that went long into the night (I was so glad to be staying with a night person!) and two dogs – one insane and the other calm and more the demeanour of his owner (back to “Lovely”).

The insane one, Chauncy, knows that socks are often hid in the treasure caves that are boots, and rootled around in Heather’s boot for a second or two before retreating with his prize. Heather probably won’t tell the story, so I’m going to have to be the one to let everyone know about my heroic actions retrieving her footwear. After Karen told me that he wasn’t going to drop it, and Heather assuring me that I shouldn’t stretch her sock, Karen advised me that I was going to have to “go in his mouth and get it!” Slime-laden and covered in dog-hair, I returned with Heather’s dripping sock and proceeded to wrassle the dog for prolonged ownership.

A creature at the Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach, SC. I was afeared that he was being fed tom something else at first, and was relieved to find that he had his own plaque on the wall - He's a Patagonian Covy. You know... one of them? I want one.
A creature at the Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach, SC. I was afeared that he was being fed tom something else at first, and was relieved to find that he had his own plaque on the wall – He’s a Patagonian Covy. You know… one of them? I want one.
I don't remember his name just off the top of my head, and I couldn't get a photograph of much MORE than his head - but this is the largest Alligator kept in captivity in the United States. He's 46 years old and about 20 feet long. He weighs more than my old Volkswagon Bus and he was frightening to behold.
I don’t remember his name just off the top of my head, and I couldn’t get a photograph of much MORE than his head – but this is the largest Alligator kept in captivity in the United States. He’s 46 years old and about 20 feet long. He weighs more than my old Volkswagon Bus and he was frightening to behold.

I enjoyed myself profusely, and I think Chauncy eventually learned his place (sort of on top of me, but definately not WINNING).

Saturday afternoon we got up and out to Alligator Adventure – another great tourist spot in Myrtle Beach… (spot? trap?). Well worth the money, some 15 acres of alligators. Awesome. Simply awesome.

We got to pet gators, turtles, snakes, tortoises. I had a bird land on me briefly. I think that’s one of the best parts of the whole Trip – pettin stuff. Pettin all SORTS of stuff.

After our show at the Front Street Brewery, we ended up out on said street for several hours jamming with Jeff and Brian, looking at girls and playing and flirting and eating hotdogs.
After our show at the Front Street Brewery, we ended up out on said street for several hours jamming with Jeff and Brian, looking at girls and playing and flirting and eating hotdogs.
A gift for Will - found along the Cape Fear river. This week we've mailed this spine, an alligator tooth, and a foot.
A gift for Will – found along the Cape Fear river. This week we’ve mailed this spine, an alligator tooth, and a foot.

Saturday night got even better. Playing the Front Street Brewery was a lot of fun – this is the gig where the owner emailed me and asked “why aren’t you playing MY venue?”, and so first off, that was a great intro, and we went in with a really good feeling. Then, a little ways into the set, Lisa confided that we were one of the best acts that she’d ever booked, and after that – well, we had the energy and confidence to do ANYTHING. My solos were awesome, our voices were ON, and we even talked well without too much frighteningly psychotic babble – though we DID mention that whole “razorblade dispenser” idea, which always seems to leave the audience a little divided.

Attractive audience, which also helps – if I can flirt a little with people in the audience, that can help a lot – and since Missy and Mike were back in town (from the Rusty Nail), there was a lot of that kind of energy in the room. No space for dancing, but a whole lot of seat wiggling went on.

After finally getting our boat ride in with Deanne, we raced over to Water Street in Wilmington, NC to play croquet with the bartended from the previous night. Camille's fiance whipped us all quite badly, though I think I'm not alone when I state that the game might go differently when they purchase their new mallets.
After finally getting our boat ride in with Deanne, we raced over to Water Street in Wilmington, NC to play croquet with the bartended from the previous night. Camille’s fiance whipped us all quite badly, though I think I’m not alone when I state that the game might go differently when they purchase their new mallets.

By the end of the night, I really felt like we’d found a home. It’s funny, the Soap Box, just down the street, really IS the place to see Live music. Their upstairs space especially has an incredible stage, a beautifully massive sound system – the whole place is eclectic and artistic.

By comparison, the Front Street Brewery is a much more typical “bar” environment with low lighting and just a clear patch of floor for a stage. We even improvised our “PA” with a mixer and two acoustic amps (worked really nice, though). But the energy there is sooo kind. I Loved hanging out afterwards with Lisa and Camille (the owner and bartender), the audience enjoyed us, and though there wasn’t a “dance floor” and space for that kind of movement, it was an intimate enough space that I could step over and talk to people while we were playing.

I mean, of course what it really comes down to is that the staff and audience really made us feel welcome, and it’s almost impossible to express how much of an effect that has on our performance. I felt WANTED, and responded with my voice and my guitar. It’s like arching your back into a good scritchin. You make it easier for the Lover to do the Loving.

After the show, I asked Camille to mix me up something “citrusy and sweet. you’d probably call it a ‘girly drink'”. I’d asked something similar of George at Costello’s a couple of nights ago – he turned up something called “Sex on the Beach with George” which I enjoyed profusely, but I wasn’t about to ask for sex on the beach with another man from this fine woman, so I let her have her way with my drink. she turned out something wonderful and pineapple-esque. She warned me belatedly that it packed quite a punch, and I fear I may have had my first flirtatiousness with tipsiness in the wee early hours of Sunday morning.

The night still wasn’t over at that point, as the Life of Front Street lasts well into the morning, and at 2.30am, when Lisa and Camille had finally finished cleaning up and closed out the Front Street, they found us still outside on the sidewalk with a couple of new friends just jamming in front of the local hot dog shop, continuing our flirting.

The eye-candy in Wilmington is like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else. I could sit and watch the people pass by for hours and be happy for the rest of my Life.

Yesterday found us finally getting out on the boat with Deanne. I was afraid that it wasn’t going to happen this time round, and I was glad that indigestion had gotten my up at 10am, because it allowed us to get out on the Cape Fear River at a reasonable time and motor around. I have a secret affection for maritime sunshine, especially when you’re moving at a pretty good clip. Everything’s just so crystalline.

Sunday night we played the Sweet and Savoury Café which was a little rough – a complete lack of an audience hurt my confidence badly, and I spent most of the time in the corner sulking and playing mediocre guitar solos. The food was both sweet and savoury, and what few audience members were there enjoyed us, but mostly kept their distance. It was a nice, easy end to the week, allowing us to go home and watch some crap television before turning in for the night. I was REALLY pleased that Heather remembered that it was Sunday, and she surprised me with some Aqua Teen Hunger Force and a new episode of Robot Chicken.

Life soldiers on.

Which brings us, in a rough and ready kind of way, to Interstate 20 in South Carolina, heading West at 70 somethin miles an hour. The highways here are white and concrete and poorly patched, and surrounded by haze and aggressively verdant vegetation. A while back we passed an old greenhouse that had collapsed, grown through and through with trees and vines, busily reminding us that we and all of our constructions are pretty impermanent and rapidly replaceable. The moment we let our guard down, the Ents will send their soldiers through.

The sky is that weirdly grey clear blue that results from heat-haze and humidity, and my sinuses are reminding me that the reason I like being out on a boat is because every time I’m out and about on shore I sneeze. We’re listening to disco and 80’s dance music, singing, jamming, enjoying the freedom of cruise control and a distant horizon. Clear roads and few curves, billboards that have been scoured clean by the elements and nothing much else. 140 miles to Georgia. We’ve already heard a couple of songs referencing the Georgia shoreline, Atlanta, and Satan’s various gambling activities in regard to our destination. 280 miles to our next turn.

*sneeze*

Ugh.

Heh, it’s funny. We pulled off on Route 1 to get gas, and it occurred to me that if we just hopped on that and kept on driving, we’d be at College Perk in a couple of hours. We won’t see such a familiar and direct route home for a while.

Tonight we’re playing Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA. I’m semi-intimidated by its reputation (though less so, perhaps, since our experience with Club Passim). As an open mic, it’s kind of funny (yeah, we’re just playing the open mic – don’t get TOO excited!) as we called about a month ago to get a slot, and have to call again in a couple of hours to reconfirm. Knowing for a month that one has a 9.20pm slot in an open mic booked from a kitchen as far from it as we are now from our destination in Kerrville, Texas. Distance is an amazing thing.

When we finally get to Kerrville, we’ll have to look at driving a little bit past it. Its distance from home is almost identical to that of Estes Park, in Colorado – which at 1,712 miles from home, was our previous furthest-from-home spot. Kerrville only comes in at 1,707 miles. Maybe we can find a gig in Ingram, TX, just to play a show a little further away.