May 26th, 2005.

So, ok – where the stars FALL apparently.

For the last two nights we’ve been staying at India House -a beautiful hostel in New Orleans. Heather had found out about it from Ray – and I’m glad she did, though I don’t suppose I often seemed it.

the sculpture of Lovers in a fountain at Heather's favourite New Orleans bar, the candle-lit Lafitte's.
the sculpture of Lovers in a fountain at Heather’s favourite New Orleans bar, the candle-lit Lafitte’s.
Heather freaking Nefriteria out.
Heather freaking Nefriteria out.
the interior of India House is just a visual riot of photographs and collage and posters and maps. Pretty much the interior decorative equivelent of the inhabitants. They put our poster up to help advertise for our shows... (no-one came out - sigh) amazing place. Many thanks to Ray for suggesting it.
the interior of India House is just a visual riot of photographs and collage and posters and maps. Pretty much the interior decorative equivelent of the inhabitants. They put our poster up to help advertise for our shows… (no-one came out – sigh) amazing place. Many thanks to Ray for suggesting it.
the money wall, where there must be currency from fifty different countries at least.
the money wall, where there must be currency from fifty different countries at least.

I feel that ever since we left Virginia, I’ve slept in a dry bed like twice out of twenty nights or so. And that’s not random pets wetting the bed, that’s the ferocity of Southern humidity. It takes a toll on me, more than it should. The heat makes me weak, makes me irritable, and the general hideous moistness keeps from falling asleep.

But despite all that, New Orleans has been quite an experience.

Tuesday, Heather and I drove all day to get into the city at around 8.30pm or so. We checked into India House, got the tour, met the turtles, met the kitten, met the French, unpacked our stuff, and than pushed our way into the French Quarter.

Heather had visited the place once, six years ago – and I think she really Loves finally coming to a place where she’s got the tour-guide experience. And her memory, as always, was almost infallible. She took me on a wandering of dark, candle-lit bars, dimly glimpsed fortune-tellers working the streets, open-air performances of every type of music. From glass harmonicas to cover bands to the depths of wailing blues guitar. tapestries of noise blended from songs to screaming to the sultry pseudo-silence to be found in the alleys, occupied by rats, the omnipresent cats, and the echoes of the constant VIBRATION of the city.

Bourbon Street was packed with couples and stragglers and clumps of humanity wandering from bar to bar, sampling sounds and beers and whatever else they found. Men clustered on balconies showering beads on the women down below, and as we were eating red beans and rice and gumbo (of course!) at least once we saw a man stripped to his underwear, on whom the tables had been turned, haggling with the overhanging onlookers.

It was a little bit overwhelming. We were back to India House by midnight, local time, and Heather wandered out to the common room and hung out. I hit the bed and didn’t get up again till morning. Heather came back in at some point. I was so disoriented, waking out of a dream of half-remembered faces and old, dead friends, I don’t think I really knew where I was.

Yesterday morning, I got up early (for me) and took my semi-trusty Seagull out into the courtyard and replaced the string I broke in Atlanta. Watching the other inhabitants of the hostel, I didn’t really feel like I fit in. Mostly the grumpy morning rob speaking, I felt slightly uncomfortable in the mix of languages and styles that filtered through the space.

Actually – no. Not grumpy morning rob ness – I think a good deal of my discomfort came from the bathrooms. I’m such an anal bathroom connoisseur. Pun intended. I like private bathrooms. It’s what will keep us from ever truly making it in the bar scene. It’s a long story, but in any case, it was weird knowing that my every emanation would float out amongst the unfortunate listeners in the courtyard. Not that I did anything spectacular, mind you – New Orleans dishes agreed with me well. but. but I’m going to stop talking about that. Yes – Heather, I suppose that counts as ONE (since I haven’t made any verbal bathroom references today – ooooh, we’re on route 10 in Texas between a Jersey barrier and an 18-wheeler and it is very very cramped and I’m just going to look at the keyboard and I WISH HEATHER WOULDN’T CHEW HER NAILS WHILE PASSING THE TRUCKS AND I’m going to close my eyes now!)
//

Ahem. And then Ray showed up.

We were sitting in the common room working on our computers and thinking about our immediate future, when Ray popped up and claimed the ilyAIMY ite record for traveling the furthest to see us. He’d flown in that morning, was departing the next morning, but he arrived and made us comfortable just as some guy was deriding me for not knowing where the power outlets were.

Psh. I might not know where the power outlets are, buddy, but I don’t see anybody flying 1000+ miles to come see YOU.

So, it was back out on the town, this time with Ray in tow. Well, more properly, both Ray and Heather knew the city pretty well. I was the one in tow, though I tried to take control on occasion by ducking into shops and examining alligator skeletons and gumbo recipes, but I fear that if nothing had interested THEM there as well, they probably would’ve just wandered on.

Ray arrives and provides much needed shoulders and support for fatigued a ilyAIMY.
Ray arrives and provides much needed shoulders and support for fatigued a ilyAIMY.
A garden in New Orleans. The picture was taken by pushing my camera through vines and clinging overgrowth and through a beautiful wrought-iron fence.
A garden in New Orleans. The picture was taken by pushing my camera through vines and clinging overgrowth and through a beautiful wrought-iron fence.

We had spectacular food. Arguably the best I’ve had on the Trip. Is that true? I’m not sure. There are a couple of high points here and there. Deanne’s butterbeans, Kyle’s wife’s pork chops in Omaha, Nebraska, Jennie’s crème brouille in Colorado. and actually, Will’s chicken and vegetable dish in Rhode Island really places high on the list too. Mary’s ravioli and pan-fried basil, Del and George’s curries. We’ve had a LOT of great food – this was waay up there. Soft shell crab breaded and fried in some agonizingly savoury sauce, fresh green beans, and . I ordered alligator. Just to try it.

There’s no way to convey this in text. but. sort of like a long, juddering uhhhhhhhhh-h-uh with a little interruption for drool to pour forth from the corner of my mouth. I was in a daze of culinary orgasmic pleasure for several hours afterwards. Little did I know that it wasn’t to be my best meal of the day.

Of course, upon entry to its exquisite interior, that thought dissolves completely. The frescoes and gold leaf remind me that for all its flaws, the Catholic Church DOES manage to project the majesty of "holy" into its cathedrals
Of course, upon entry to its exquisite interior, that thought dissolves completely. The frescoes and gold leaf remind me that for all its flaws, the Catholic Church DOES manage to project the majesty of “holy” into its cathedrals
The Saint Louis Cathedral in the middle of Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana. The square itself is filled with street performers and fortune-tellers, day and night. I worked hard to get my empty-of-people picture. Postcard perfection, only slightly spoiled by the fact that I can't help but think of Disney World.
The Saint Louis Cathedral in the middle of Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana. The square itself is filled with street performers and fortune-tellers, day and night. I worked hard to get my empty-of-people picture. Postcard perfection, only slightly spoiled by the fact that I can’t help but think of Disney World.

First gig of the night – we navigated our way to Fair Grinds and set up on the front porch/sidewalk and performed to a small audience of people passing by and we petted lots of dogs. Not much to say about the show. It was warm, kind of drippy, I made a mess of the “finish” on my Seagull by dripping on it. If I’d had a funnel mounted near the sound hole, I could’ve let saltwater fishes Live inside of it.

Trombone player in Jackson Square who delighted in chasing kids around the place, playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at them and then hunting new blood.
Trombone player in Jackson Square who delighted in chasing kids around the place, playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at them and then hunting new blood.
A balcony in New Orleans.
A balcony in New Orleans.

A man in the audience asked if we’d play for sushi. We said yes. We broke down, walked down the street, and set up on the back porch of the Asian Pacific Café. Al, the owner, had decided that he liked us, and that we should play for him for another hour while he made us a sampling of some of the most exciting little fishy dishes I’ve ever had. He had an Hawaiian sushi chef who he’d encouraged to experiment. This is the first time, I feel, that I’ve had sushi that outstripped the stuff we’d discovered in Fort Collins, Colorado. See the above sound, except combined with the fact that the jubilant owner and the chef were standing over us, guiding us through the menu selections, making sure we’re going to get what our hearts truly desire.

An ATM for Whitney.
An ATM for Whitney.

As we played, a kid wandered down from the balcony to where our instruments were set up, and asked if he could play my Takamine. Figuring there was no harm in it, we let him have at it – and he played us some dinner music as we marveled at our meal. Colin treated us to a pretty decent show, singing some lyrics, his dad filling in any missed lyrics from the porch. Colin’s apparently been playing keyboards since the age of 2, performing since he was 6, and performed at the House of Blues with his dad’s band at age 10.

Then his father, Jim, came on down and treated us to a little stint of another couple of tunes. After his set, Heather and I decided it was time to show them what WE do. A good response followed.

Some dogs in New Orleans. I'm sure that if we'd stood still long enough, their owner would've asked us for money.
Some dogs in New Orleans. I’m sure that if we’d stood still long enough, their owner would’ve asked us for money.

The distant outline of Houston rears out of the mist in the distance. The air is pretty yellow and (not “a” pretty yellow) and we’re hearing numerous reports of accidents and traffic in alien areas of a city we don’t really know. Pretty dramatic, hey?

We’re dramatic creatures.

**Heather would like to point out that she was making fun of this cliché depiction.**

***rob would like to point out that he KNEW that and only typed it when Heather said it out loud while he was typing something completely DIFFERENT!!!***

In any case – a good time at the Asian Pacific Café. We played well, and there were pretty women in the audience. We sold some CDs, made some friends, ate some incredible food. ended just in time to race over to the Fair Grounds Coffeehouse for our third and final gig of the night.

It was a long, long day, but well worth while.

The turtles of India House. If you stand near their pool they all swarm towards you. Unfortunately, I had no exciting turtle food pocketed from Alligator Adventure. A sad predicament indeed.
The turtles of India House. If you stand near their pool they all swarm towards you. Unfortunately, I had no exciting turtle food pocketed from Alligator Adventure. A sad predicament indeed.
Playin’ for sushi. Playing out back from the Asian Pacific Cafe in New Orleans. The family off to the right of the photograph came in just as we started playing and were some of our most enthusiastic hollerers. Ah, there were Beautiful People out in force that night. Sigh.
The Neutral Ground Cafe. I believe this to be Tengwar rather than a more genuine runic language. I don’t remember enough to translate it – anyone out there? This was written over one of the doorways at Neutral Grounds Coffee.
The bathrooms at Neutral Grounds Coffeehouse in New Orleans, LA.
The bathrooms at Neutral Grounds Coffeehouse in New Orleans, LA.
The Neutral Ground Cafe.
Matching poses.
Matching poses.
Heather and I agree that the vending machine says everything about our stay at India House... inside it you find chips and Cheetos, trail mix and Tide, a wide selection of Ramen noodles, cigarettes and chocolate.
Heather and I agree that the vending machine says everything about our stay at India House… inside it you find chips and Cheetos, trail mix and Tide, a wide selection of Ramen noodles, cigarettes and chocolate.

So, that brings us vaguely and incompletely to…..

May 27th , 2005.

Tomorrow I compete at Kerrville Folk Festival, in what has got to be one of the more important performances I’ve ever had to make. Last night, we crashed with my brother and his fiancé, Del, and their charming beast Pica. A good, relaxing way to spend the night before heading out on route 10 again, soon leaving Houston as nothing but a memory of traffic, a bad smell, and a lingering haze in the rearview mirror.

After New Orleans, we drove to Houston, TX to visit with my brother before heading out to Kerrville. George and Delina, I'm afraid, have the cutest dog we've met on all of our travels. I was hard-pressed to believe it... but... Pica's just SOOOOO sweet!
After New Orleans, we drove to Houston, TX to visit with my brother before heading out to Kerrville. George and Delina, I’m afraid, have the cutest dog we’ve met on all of our travels. I was hard-pressed to believe it… but… Pica’s just SOOOOO sweet!

The travel on 10 is something I wish we could do for another couple hundred miles past Kerrville. The land just changes so dramatically, from East-cost almost-jungle to the bayous of Louisiana, where Interstate 10 is nothing but platforms of concrete and steel floated on the surface of swamp and mud. I’d never seen anything like that – highway with no trace of solid ground in sight. Dark stains on the concrete pylons show almost frightening levels of high water from the not-too-distant past, and Del tells us that during some of the hurricanes last year, water came up high enough that some of the highway platforms got inundated and simply floated off their supports. A section of 10 in downtown New Orleans is still being repaired. If we could travel another couple of hundred miles past Kerrville, perhaps we’d see places where they can’t even imagine of such a problem. Heather’s never seen the desert.

Later that night, George took Pica and Del and Heather and I out to see some art. This is a building that's getting torn down, but in the process, it got arted up.... the siding was stripped from the house and instead rebuilt into a crazy funnel that swoops in through the house and out the other side.
Later that night, George took Pica and Del and Heather and I out to see some art. This is a building that’s getting torn down, but in the process, it got arted up…. the siding was stripped from the house and instead rebuilt into a crazy funnel that swoops in through the house and out the other side.
Photographed from across the street, it's bizarre and wonderful.
Photographed from across the street, it’s bizarre and wonderful.
Pica even found me a toad and chased it up Heather's pants.
Pica even found me a toad and chased it up Heather’s pants.

Between earthquakes and tsunami and flooding and famine, it’s a wonderful we’ve managed to cover the world as effectively as we have.

More Houston art - a mural on the side of a gay bar... not what I normally associate with Texas. Not at all
More Houston art – a mural on the side of a gay bar… not what I normally associate with Texas. Not at all

Interstate 10 on Memorial Day Weekend is an unending stream of campers and out-of-state license plates. The sun is merciless in its attempts to undo our air conditioners, and the Saturn pushes Westward through air that I’m almost afraid to sample. We’ve heard reports of thunderstorms at Kerrville, inviting mosquitoes and chiggers into the air, but hopefully cooling the air to a bearable 65 degrees. No sign of that here (midway between Houston and Austin) where vegetation still thrives under a coating of dust, and cows cluster in the shelter of the shade.

I’m sneezing steadily, and I’m nervously eating oatmeal cookies. Exit 637..150 exits to go.

And Houston wishes us luck as we depart for the Kerrville Folk Festival.

June 1st, 2005.

Joe preparing for the Watermelon Sacrifice. He had to go back to his car for the machette.
Joe preparing for the Watermelon Sacrifice. He had to go back to his car for the machette.
Getting the blood up for the Watermelon Sacrifice - this is sort of a Watermelon Non-Eye View of the moment. He's sort of a scary man... and yet, so composed when playing Joni Mitchell covers and CCR.
Getting the blood up for the Watermelon Sacrifice – this is sort of a Watermelon Non-Eye View of the moment. He’s sort of a scary man… and yet, so composed when playing Joni Mitchell covers and CCR.

The night before last we left Kerrville – we would’ve only been able to stick around until noon the next day anyway, and I was tired of always being too hot or too wet and sleeping in puddles and panicking about the state of the outhouses. (though the last day a guy had been hanging around them all afternoon playing saxaphone, providing for a pretty nice diversion). We got into Houston that night and have been staying with my brother for the past few nights.

Marching, stomping and singing - picking up followers in passage to the Sacrificial grounds.
Marching, stomping and singing – picking up followers in passage to the Sacrificial grounds.

It’s wonderful how much more familial we are now than when we were kids. We never got along then – and now… well, he’s done amazingly. A wonderful fiance (Del is a very, very good match), a wonderful dog (Pica is a very, very good dog), a wonderful apartment. His photographs grace the walls, I’d forgotten how good his eye for composition was, and I keep forgetting to ask if any of the shots are recent.

The slaughter.
The slaughter.

Last night we all went out to Cosmo’s Cafe to play our first Texan open mic, and it sort of conformed to that Blues Brother’s idea (they had both kinds of music – country AND western) plus/minus a couple of players. It was on okay night, a couple of other people that I really enjoyed – we came back and watched Hero on DVD before turning in. I’ve been sleeping GOOD here, my subconscious apparently unaware that I’m in the midst of an ultra-red state and allowing me the best rest I’ve had since Atlanta.

On our way back from the Watermelon Sacrifice we encountered the Recyclers... they did a grand chant and dance, slamming metal bowls together and demanding trash.
On our way back from the Watermelon Sacrifice we encountered the Recyclers… they did a grand chant and dance, slamming metal bowls together and demanding trash.
On our way out of the festival, this guy had just caught a little friend...
On our way out of the festival, this guy had just caught a little friend…

June 5th, 2005.

MUD! Oh my GOD! Heather, fortunately demonstrated admirable (mad) driving skillz and got our Saturn out and over the mire.
MUD! Oh my GOD! Heather, fortunately demonstrated admirable (mad) driving skillz and got our Saturn out and over the mire.
Heather gets out and displays the hills of Texas.
Heather gets out and displays the hills of Texas.
We had pulled over to check out our first armadillo encounter. (we didn't kill it!) I'm a little weirded out by how all its extremities stick out. I'm glad his tongue didn't do the same.
We had pulled over to check out our first armadillo encounter. (we didn’t kill it!) I’m a little weirded out by how all its extremities stick out. I’m glad his tongue didn’t do the same.

Still in Houston. I like it here. Well, I like it indoors here. We’ve been to a couple of open mics, met some interesting people, but mostly I’ve just sort of been enjoying visiting with my brother and Del.

Last Wednesday we headed out to the Vintage Bar, which was officially the most unpopulated open mic I’ve ever been to. During our set we performed to the host, my brother, his fiance, the bartender, and the one man act that had just gotten off the stage.

The saving grace of the place came when a two man act wandered in on our second to last song – Simple and Hammer went up after us and did something we hadn’t seen in a long while – i.e. – something DIFFERENT. Pete Simple has a pretty nice voice and one of those outline-only travel guitars, and his partner, Hammer (what WAS his first name?) was a beat-boxing bass player, which, as I said, was at least something DIFFERENT. Good bass player, too. We haven’t seen any beat-boxing since leaving Maryland, and it was a refreshing blast after so many straight-forward acoustic performances at Kerrville.

Well, we hit it off pretty well, and they offered us a couple of gigs for this upcoming week.

Thursday night we ALMOST went to an open mic, but then we decided to be slackers.

The interior of Valhalla is pretty eclectic, but with everything Texan, it seems there's got to be a moose head or two.
The interior of Valhalla is pretty eclectic, but with everything Texan, it seems there’s got to be a moose head or two.
Heather and I outside at Rice University. Thank goodness for huge, all-embracing trees!
Heather and I outside at Rice University. Thank goodness for huge, all-embracing trees!

Friday night Del hooked us up to play outside a very cool bar on the campus of Rice University, where she works. We set up our amplifier under a big tree and played for a couple of hours to passer-bys and friends of George and Del. We sold a couple of CDs, but were busking more than anything else, and we’re still a little shy for that, embarassingly enough. I’m not quite sure where we expect to get in Life if we’re too shy to stick our tip cup in people’s way… but…

Sandcastles stretching forever on East Beach in Galveston, TX - a name I'd only known previously to be associated with a big, fluffy rabbit.
Sandcastles stretching forever on East Beach in Galveston, TX – a name I’d only known previously to be associated with a big, fluffy rabbit.

I don’t know, I came home from that a little bit depressed, feeling the need to practice a bit more (which I haven’t done) and feeling the need to remember a couple of new songs (which I haven’t done) and REALLY feeling the need to write some new material (which I STILL haven’t done). I feel like my entire Life is taken up by maps and email and booking and… well, writing in this Journal (though I LOVE writing in the Journal) and upDating the website and all that stuff, and I’m perhaps using that as a way to escape from my REAL chosen profession.

Worry… worry… worry.

Heh, and Saturday night we were GOING to go to TWO open mics, but decided not to. George and Del found a sandcastle festival to go to instead, and that sounded like a lot more fun than staying home, so we wandered out to Galveston and stood amazed at the base of the sandcreations (not often actual castles) that towered over us.

It was a long day on the beach, and I have some burns to show for it. The sun in Texas is unrelenting, and the South constantly reminds me that if there’s one thing I’ve never dealt well with, it’s heat and humidity. Nothing else screws me up so bad, makes me play sloppier, makes me sing poorer, saps my energy and my personality, not to mention my will to Live.

The sun in Texas in unforgiving, and I’ve got stripes to prove it. If I had a blue shirt, I could be quite the patriot.

A LOT of Star Wars references, also Simpsons (sometimes combined) and CSI.
A LOT of Star Wars references, also Simpsons (sometimes combined) and CSI.
The winner of the Golden Shovel and the “best traditional sandcastle”. It was incredible, down to a galleon in the foreground and cannon on the walls.

Hrm, this one surprised me - it was titled "Bringing Love to Uranus".
Hrm, this one surprised me – it was titled “Bringing Love to Uranus”.
On the way back from Galveston, we passed the frighteningly sprawling oil refinery centre known as Texas City.
On the way back from Galveston, we passed the frighteningly sprawling oil refinery centre known as Texas City.
My arm after Kerrville tanned the lower-half, sunscreen saved the middle, and lack thereof doomed the shoulder.
My arm after Kerrville tanned the lower-half, sunscreen saved the middle, and lack thereof doomed the shoulder.

d

June 6th, 2005.

18 days til Maryland.

Last night Heather and I had a gig at a place called “Dean’s” that we’d picked up from Pete Simple at the Vintage Bar a couple of nights ago. Main Street Houston – I had no idea what to expect… it’s a Sunday night.

It amazes me that the place is such a ghost town – the streets are empty of cars and crowds, and you can stand in the centre of the street and wait a while before dodging anything.

Our show was at an exquisitely unique spot – Dean’s Credit Clothing. Manekins on the walls, they even sell some retro clothing, a very cool bar with video screens and a nice sound system. I’m eager to check out it’s “big brother” Clark’s, next door.

A good gig – made especially so because I liked the other performers so much. I’ve really been over-saturated with the FOLK WORLD recently, and I think if I hear any more clever metaphors put to hauntingly angsty chords I might just slit my wrists.

Okay, Heather technically put a ban on any more photographs of Pica in the Journal, but the creature is shockingly charismatic, and horrifyingly photogenic.
Okay, Heather technically put a ban on any more photographs of Pica in the Journal, but the creature is shockingly charismatic, and horrifyingly photogenic.

Last night we discovered Camino – a Houston acoustic trio that got increasingly fierce as the night wore on, and Je’Reece – an incredible vocalist who looks like his guitar style might be looking to develop into something sort of like mine. It was a great night, meeting a lot of good people. I think we’re finally finding a niche in the Houston scene that would make it worthwhile to return, which is good, cause I want to come visit George and Del and Pica again.

Before our Sunday evening gig at Dean's Credit Clothing, George and Del took us out to get the best Texan barbecue they knew of. Across the street from the amazing barbecue with this frightening effigee of all that is Texan and armadilloish and... covered in mirrors. And its eyes light up red.
Before our Sunday evening gig at Dean’s Credit Clothing, George and Del took us out to get the best Texan barbecue they knew of. Across the street from the amazing barbecue with this frightening effigee of all that is Texan and armadilloish and… covered in mirrors. And its eyes light up red.
In hopes of keeping my youth intact, I suppose, I was drawn - like a moth to a flame - to Dave's World... but in keeping with my current mindset, it was closed.
In hopes of keeping my youth intact, I suppose, I was drawn – like a moth to a flame – to Dave’s World… but in keeping with my current mindset, it was closed.
Heather meets Dino antiquing in Houston, TX.
Heather meets Dino antiquing in Houston, TX.
We passed cool antique stores on the way to the barbecue place, so we HAD to go back and check THEM out. Tonnes of them, specializing in a very different brand of antiques than the New England stuff we've become accustomed to.
We passed cool antique stores on the way to the barbecue place, so we HAD to go back and check THEM out. Tonnes of them, specializing in a very different brand of antiques than the New England stuff we’ve become accustomed to.
Deans Credit Clothing in Houston, TX.
Deans Credit Clothing in Houston, TX.
Heather sound checking at, and George climbing on Dean's Discount Clothing.
Heather sound checking at, and George climbing on Dean’s Discount Clothing.

June 8th, 2005.

The bathroom at the Mucky Duck. Normally, I wouldn't approach a bathroom at a place witht eh word Muck in the title, but this seemed safe enough - until I noticed HIM watching in sheer amazement.
The bathroom at the Mucky Duck. Normally, I wouldn’t approach a bathroom at a place witht eh word Muck in the title, but this seemed safe enough – until I noticed HIM watching in sheer amazement.

I-10 on the way back East. It means that with our generally evening-oriented approach to travel, we’re finally not forced to stare the sun down into our destination. We’re listening to a collection of grinding R&B beats that Heather put together last night, and I’m grateful to NOT be listening to acoustic guitar…

Passing the spires of Louisiana trees at speed.
Passing the spires of Louisiana trees at speed.

And Brennan, thanks for your contribution to that too. I have a Megadeth mix of my own waiting to go into the CD player, and then maybe a BBC production of the “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” that I got from Will in Rhode Island.

So, I-10 hasn’t been friendly this morning, coagulating into slow moving clots of traffic here and there on the border between Texas and Louisiana, I’m worried about getting to the gig on time. We’ve got a couple of hundred miles to go yet, and we’ve got two shows to play

tonight.

Last night, we played another show passed onto us by Pete Simple – this one at Dean’s Discount Clothing’s neighbouring venue, Clark’s. We discovered that contrary to Sunday nights, Houston isn’t COMPLETELY dead on Tuesday nights, and we actually had a pretty decent collection of people listening pretty hard, and showing appreciation pretty hard as well. It was a good night, and I was proud to rock out in front of my brother. I DO have to figure out how to get my feedback buster out of my guitar a little faster, because I think it’d be cool to end a song with nasty, moaning feedback.

Hrm, and speaking of nasty moaning, on with Heather’s mix…

The clouds are piling up like 18-wheelers on ice. Nothing threatening, just layers of white on white on white like an incredibly light yet still fattening dessert. I’ve just finished my book, and the ones that Ray brought for me in New Orleans are hunkered in the trunk, safe from my perusal. Nothing to do but type to yoooou.

If I could plug MY computer in, I could write more personally, sending emails to people, but my machine blows the fuses on Heather’s car. Sigh. If it’s not one thing, it’s so much another.

And we move on to a typically robbish mix – from 50 Cent to the Mountain Goats and back again. The clouds have changed in character, and the trees are greener, crossing the bayous and swamps of Louisiana, it looks like we’ve narrowly missed some pretty heavy rain. Still running late but making good speed, the sunlight’s dying and raindrops are flying and I’m worried for our evening outdoor gig.

Limbs broken and shattered
We’re passing through the aftermath
Of a wandering armegeddon
Worthy of our Lord our Saviour
Whoever else had so much anger
As a Father scorned

By 4 thousand million children
Throwing stones
Lightning crashes from behind
Cutting the scene in half.
Rainbow cutting through it all. 18 wheelers hunting through the thunder
Rainbow cutting through it all.

The storm’s picking up just as a half-visible billboard declares “welcome to America’s wetland”. Water’s just coming down in sheets and I suddenly have a half-legitimate fear of hitting catfish on the highway. The storm really hits us as we’re crossing the Mississippi. Lightning picks at the bridge, as does the wind, and we almost hold our breath till we reach the shores near Baton Rouge.

Man, and the rain is just fearless in its kamikaze assault on the ground, and we’re pretty fearless as we continue our hurtle into New Orleans. Alligators could swim up to the car and worry the tires. There looks to be some light up ahead, but I figure that either means the rain has just passed through and our venue is going to be very, very wet. or it’s GOING to pass through which means our venue is going to get very, very wet.

Sigh – I wish we could’ve seen Houston in the rain.

On Monday, Heather and I walked down to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see their Lord of the Rings exhibit. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures, but it was VERY cool to round a corner and come face to face with a cave troll (well, face to belly), and then later stare up at Sauron himself (an evil lord who is not at all recognized by my spell check). Despite our excruciatingly detailed perusal of the extra features on every LotR DVD, it was still really, really cool to see the stuff up close – to see just how much detail went into every link of armour, and to play act some orcishness to green-screen backgrounds, having our movements translated into Uruk-hai fearsomeness.

I was disappointed at the lack of technical detail – the whole museum was sort of uneven on that front. Incredible density of detail on the formation and chemical structure of gems, and the programming that went into creating individual “autonomous agents” in the LotR movies or the feeding patterns of dinosaurs, but very light on information about so much other stuff. I could go into greater lengths about my angst on that, but –

But the butterfly house!

Ah, the ricepaper butterfly isn’t put off by my scratchy unshaven FILTHY face!

Now, originally we weren’t going to bother going in – Heather’s comment was that “well, we’ve BEEN to a butterfly house”, and though I’m not sure I completely agreed with that comment, enough money had been spent on museums for the day, and Houston in general had been a bit of a pit for our cash, and it wasn’t rolling back in, either.

The roaches in Houston were heinous. There was a time, departing the Mucky Duck when I THOUGHT there was a lot of mulch in front of us, and then we turned on our headlights, and the mulch stampeded.
The roaches in Houston were heinous. There was a time, departing the Mucky Duck when I THOUGHT there was a lot of mulch in front of us, and then we turned on our headlights, and the mulch stampeded.
The entrance to the Butterfly House.
The entrance to the Butterfly House.

The Butterfly House - attached to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Houston, TX. Heather thinks this guy is a lacewing, but we're not sure about that... Amy?
The Butterfly House – attached to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Houston, TX. Heather thinks this guy is a lacewing, but we’re not sure about that… Amy?
Nothing quite like a butterfly house to get one's mind back on the stable course of optimism. Having winged jewels flutter around you for an hour-and-a-half just can't help but make Life a bit better. This is a zebrawing - we got a little poster to carry around with us and Heather had a great time spotting and identifying them.
Nothing quite like a butterfly house to get one’s mind back on the stable course of optimism. Having winged jewels flutter around you for an hour-and-a-half just can’t help but make Life a bit better. This is a zebrawing – we got a little poster to carry around with us and Heather had a great time spotting and identifying them.
This iguana was there to say goodbye to us - we sat and watched him eat for a good long time, wondering what he made of all the attention. I have a mixed past with iguanas - miss mine terrible - Snippy was only a couple of months old when my parents' cat ate him... on the other hand, Fred (at the Maryland Science Centre) whipped a hole in my jeans with his tail. I won't go into the fact that I sort of deserved it... spilling liquid nitrogen on him and all... poor guy.
This iguana was there to say goodbye to us – we sat and watched him eat for a good long time, wondering what he made of all the attention. I have a mixed past with iguanas – miss mine terrible – Snippy was only a couple of months old when my parents’ cat ate him… on the other hand, Fred (at the Maryland Science Centre) whipped a hole in my jeans with his tail. I won’t go into the fact that I sort of deserved it… spilling liquid nitrogen on him and all… poor guy.

But then, after completing our wanderings through the Dinosaur Hall, and the Gems and Minerals, the Lord of the Rings, the Kids Hall with its simple machines and optical tricks, and after we were done with their respective gift shops we stopped at a window to peer in at the HMNS Butterfly House. and we saw that it was great, and we saw that it was vast, and there were HUGE winged BEASTS sitting on the pane, gesturing to us.

I went back and bought two tickets.


At the moment, we’re passing over Louisiana swamp on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain and I’m cursing the existence of guardrails. not that I’d feel completely comfortable riding so

close to the brackish waters without some form of barrier, but I’d kill to be getting good photographs of the local scenery. I miss my Volkswagon terribly somedays. sometimes because I miss the bed, other times because I miss the space and feeling of HOME. Right now it’s because it would get me p and over these guardrails so that I could capture the endless plains of green and grey, the moving mountains of grey and white shifting above them, and the omnipresent spires of seemingly dead trees, trunks with spare branches splintered and hollowed and grey and dangling with strands of moss.

Fingers of lightning are worrying our chosen horizon, and things don’t look promising.


And back to the butterflies.

After the air-conditioned interior of the Museum, entering the Butterfly House hits you with a fist of head and humidity. unwelcome, but probably still not as fierce as actually stepping outside – and we are cycled through a tunnel that opens out almost directly underneath a waterfall glimpsed through hanging moss and vines and illuminating by a blinding shaft of sunlight. It’s a complete assault on the senses and it’s beautiful.

I don’t think that one can get sick of visiting these butterfly utopias – so much effort has gone into creating multi-tiered, beautifully layered environments, so that within a few hundred square feet of garden greenhouse you can wander for hours watching bejeweled, flitting forms.

It was a pretty perfect day.

Tuesday we even got to go with George and Del to go see Star Wars III on IMAX, which was pretty bad-ass, though it merely amplified my main complaint, which was that the only place a lightsaber seemed to throw light was onto the faces of computer-generated characters. That’s what I’m talking about when I’m saying uneven attention to detail… sheesh…

May 10th, 2006.

Rowan’s Dad’s gun rack. How Southern is THAT?!!? No, really? How Southern?

Woke up at Rowan’s after a long, restless night of tossing and turning. Didn’t get up with my alarm because I figured – Hell, I’ve been tossing and turning… My head’s been in a weird space for a while, very depressed, very moody – very ultra-rob, I suppose. Things sort of levelled out on Monday. Funny how I’d felt as if I hadn’t played a gig in forever, and yet we played two earlier in the weekend. Maybe Monday night was just more satisfying because I played something newer (Crazy As a Good Thing) and so maybe that was more pertinent to my head. The whole band went out to College Perk last night, played hard. On second thought, I kind of wish we’d played “Speaking Louder Now” because we’ve been practicing it and I’d like to show it off, but with the number of string breaks, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t. I ended up playing John’s guitar again, halfway through the first song. That’s getting old. Got to do some bridge sanding. Rowan’s offered to do it for me, but I fear if he looks too closely at my guitar he’ll realize what I’ve done to it. (i.e. that while in Boston I glued it back together with carpenter’s glue. Elmer’s, to be exact… he’s going to scold me when he finds out).

While in Texas for my brother’s wedding, I got to make corsages and boot.. but… b… bootineers (?) for everybody with Leena. Her family runs a flower shop and she was very knowledgable about the poking of wire in the flower and wrapping it with the thing and the stuff. I spent a lot of time poking my finger with some wire and getting really sticky, but she eventually proved me teachable and I was proud of the end endeavour. I had a GREAT time and ended up smelling really nice. Not pictured – we’re surrounded by bunsen burners and test tubes, as we were working in Del’s lab where there was plenty of table space, refrigerators, and radioactive chemicals.

Ah, Leena emailed me “boutonnaires”. Good lord was a I WRONG about that!

The men of the wedding. My brother, his best man Mark, and me. I’m actually in the tuxedo my Dad wore for my parents’ wedding, massively retailored to fit me.

May 11th, 2006.

The new happy family. Del, George and Pica.

George presents to me the horror that is a crawfish. As a Marylander, I feel quite at home dismembering a crab. This creature, however, I display very little talent for.

To the right, my brother sitting in front of a portrait of Gunther von Hagen, the inventor of plastination, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s presentation of the travelling exhibit Bodyworlds”. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the exhibit – though it was certainly fascinating, Gunther was definitely presenting himself as an artiste with both an educational and aesthetic agenda – and though I thought the ability to look inside our innards was pretty fascinating, I think his aesthetic was… unaesthetic and his sense of morbid humour wasn’t very funny. The slips of religious philosophy also were something that rubbed me slightly the wrong way. I guess I liked it from an educational stand-point, but trying to take it that one step further, the aesthetic didn’t Live up to the physicality of the medium.

Man, for as well as we did last year, this year I’m getting awfully, awfully familiar with a particular letter that goes something like “thank you for your submission to our festival. Competition was especially stiff this year and though we’ve seen a lot of great submissions and you guys are awesome n stuff, I’m afraid we simply can’t accomodate all the fantastic musicians…” blah blah blah. Getting tired of getting turned down. If you’re reading this Journal, it’s probably because you think we rock and think these people must be insane. Oh My GOD. Wish us luck at Susquehanna Music and Arts!

Coming home from Texas, flying over native Maryland’s waters and glisteny glisteny groundstuffs. Though I Love hanging out with my brother and I was excited for my mom, who was driving home – I was really glad to just have a three hour flight and an in-the-air snack between me and Charm City.