Song of the Week #3 (8/1/12)

Song of the Week, No. 3

This week’s Song of the Week installment, “How Dare You,” will also be on the forthcoming album, twoheartstwo. It is one of my most recent creations, a product of the “Truckee Sessions.”

“How Dare You”

Song of the Week #2 (7/25/12)

Song of the Week, No. 2

This week’s Song of the Week installment, “Saturday,” is an unmixed/unmastered version of a song that will be released next month on the album, twoheartstwo. The song is a late-night, post-going out musing about the people close to us and whether or not we’ve communicated our true feelings to them.


Song of the Week #1 (7/18/12)

Song of the Week, No. 1

I am starting this Song of the Week (SOTW) series off with a silly double-shot. I confess to having done a good bit of online dating. While I consider myself a very good looking man, I decided to whip up a song for a woman I thought was particularly special in order to increase my chances of getting a date. I wrote something based on info I had pulled from her profile and sent it to her in my first email:


She was hilarious. Her response was that “2” was much too easy a word to rhyme with, so she asked me what I would have written if her handle had been “orange.” Ha. So, I whipped up another song for her. Here’s that one:


I knew this was all quite a gamble, but I didn’t care. If nothing more, I would have some fun writing a couple of songs. In the end, that’s all it was, as we went on only one date. No real-life chemistry. Alas.


My First Trip to Turkey



After graduating from college, I worked for a year, saved up some money and then headed out for one of my greatest adventures so far: a 5-month trip that took me to see my brother and sister in Western Europe, down through many of the Eastern European countries and into the Middle East ending up in Egypt. The trip took place over 10 years ago now and was life shaping.

I spent a plurality of my time on that great trek in Turkey. I had wanted to travel there for a long time, ever since my brother went to Istanbul with a friend while in high school. (He ended up naming his band, Aya Sofia, after his experiences there. The Aya Sofia, or Hagia Sophia, is a famous church-come-mosque in Istanbul.) I arrived in Istanbul in the late summer of 1999, stayed there for a couple of days and asked around for a “nice town on the beach that wasn’t too touristy.” A couple of Turks recommended Akçay.

I took a bus there the next day, with a detour to climb Uludag – 40-some degrees and visibility of 10 feet at the top compared to 80 and clear skies at the bottom. (I hiked with a German guy who didn’t have a tent. He comically laid out a nice rug he had purchased in the bazaar in Istanbul on a rock and went to sleep. It started raining during the night, and, soon after, I heard a frantic un-zipping of my tent as he threw all of his stuff in on top of me and jumped in, as well. I was not excited about this even though I had a “2-person” tent. You always have to subtract about .75 persons from whatever they say on the label.) Upon arrival in Akçay, I walked around town for a few minutes, found a nice place to stay – a pansiyon – and booked a room there for one month at $150.

Live Music, Istanbul

Live Music, Istanbul

That moment in my life was really when I first contemplated pursuing music. The place I stayed at was run by a family who let me borrow a classical guitar. I played and wrote on most days, and compiled notes on the grand album I wanted to write, which was modeled after Richard Strauss’ “Death and Transfiguration.” (I was fascinated then – as I still am now – with the idea of a tone poem.)

I took notes on everything I saw there and as I continued to travel and thought extensively on how the new things I experienced fit in to what I was writing. While I continued to pursue this project, I lost steam – or belief – primarily because I simply couldn’t visualize the next step in writing a song and, therefore, let myself be distracted. The dream languished for about 4 years.

Bazaar, Istanbul

Bazaar, Istanbul

Tea, Istanbul

Çay (Tea) Istanbul

While in Turkey, I hitch-hiked for the first time and then extensively throughout the rest of the trip, which led me to meet a lot of interesting people. One couple picked me up with their 5-year-old son near the Troy historical site. (I think few people realize how many of the ancient Greek and Roman cities, including many places referenced in the Bible, were located in present-day Turkey, e.g., Sparta, Ephesus, Philadelphia) I ended up having dinner with them, staying the night and then joining them and their friends on a boat the next day. After the boat trip, we had a huge lunch outdoors followed by Turkish coffee. One of the older women in the group read my coffee grounds, a tradition in Turkey, and said that she saw a guitar and that I would end up making a living by playing it. I want to make her prophecy true.

I hung with them and some of the people they introduced me to on multiple occasions during that trip and have maintained contact ever since. One of the hard lessons I learned while hanging with them was to be careful with raki, the Turkish version of Anise. On at least two occasions, I had to lay down and pray that I would fall asleep and the spinning would stop.

Early on during my stay in Turkey, I was on a bus about an hour east of Istanbul when I met a young girl, Gamze. She was extremely interested in learning about other places in the world, and while we were on the bus told me about where she lived, about Turkey, etc. At one of our stops, she also introduced me to ayran, a yogurt drink that is extremely popular in Turkey. The first was a bit odd, but I have since become a huge fan. During my latest trip in Turkey, I had 2 or more each day. According to all my friends there it is easy to make. Gamze and I stayed in touch via old school mail for a couple of years and then became Facebook friends.

In the run-up to planning my trip to Europe I found out that a) she was a part-time radio DJ at an extremely cool online radio station called Radiofil, (check out the beautiful artwork on their website) and b) flights to Turkey from Germany are less than $200. I floated the idea of organizing a show, and, with the help of her friend, Serkan, ended up being able to make this happen.

Turkey 2012

I booked my flight to Turkey for the weekend of June 15th before we had the show details worked out. Serkan, one of the creators of Radiofil, as well as a full-time musician, put in a lot of work for me and ended up setting up a gig in the super-cool Moda neighborhood on Istanbul’s Asian side. I’ll speak more about that in a second.

I arrived on a Friday and headed to a hostel I had booked in the very fun Taksim neighborhood on Istanbul’s European side. Before I could get out of the airport, however, I had a little snafu. As I was going through customs, the officer flipped through my passport a couple of times and then asked me why I didn’t have a visa. Oh, shit! I didn’t know you needed one. I guess I had forgotten that, or maybe the policy had changed for US citizens. At any rate, you thankfully can buy a visa at the airport for only US$20. This didn’t end up being a big deal, but it meant I had to go through a long visa line and then back through customs.


That Friday night I was blown away by how prevalent music was in Istanbul. I saw solo guitarist/vocalists playing at about ten different bars in Taksim. In addition to that, I could not tell you both how many stores around that area sold musical equipment and the number of people I saw walking by carrying a guitar, saz or other musical instrument. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a concentration of music, music stores and musicians anywhere. Another thing that I thought was cool was that all of the live musicians I saw were playing Turkish songs. Respect. So often when traveling abroad, I have heard local musicians playing English-language songs.

In addition to the heavy concentration of music, I was blown away by the sheer intensity of partying in the area. The entire city seemed to be one big party: people in bars, clubs and restaurants, spilling out into the streets, while others, having purchased alcohol from convenience stores, were hanging with friends on stoops of houses and shops. The streets were literally packed with humanity and stayed packed till well past the closing times of bars in Chicago.

That night, I went into one of the bars advertising live music. It was still early so there weren’t many people in the bar. I ended up meeting the bar manager and most of the people that were there, including the two guys playing music and their friends. I told them I was a musician and they asked me to come play a couple of songs. That was really fun. I left for a few hours and came back to catch the end of the show. The bar was much more crowded at that point. Again, I got to get up and play a few. I was psyched. I thought I played well and was very well-received. (In a previous post, I mentioned the prevalence of the Blues Brothers. This is one of those places! They have Jake and Elwood stenciled on the wall behind the performers. You can see it in the video above, at left.)

Some quick props for Turkey: Yes, this is Istanbul, and, therefore, not an accurate portrayal of the entire country. Nonetheless, I wish more Americans would experience this city and this Muslim country. Turkey – its cities, food, incredible beaches, hospitality and wide variety of historical sites – would alter their perceptions of the Middle East, I have no doubt. Some other places you should consider for the trip you will now be planing 🙂 : Cappadocia (Flinstone-like rock dwellings), Efes (one of best Roman sites), Bodrum (sick beaches), Marmaris (more beaches and nightlife), Nemrut Dag (amazing Hittite ruins), Pamukkale (hot springs)…


Arkaoda, Kadiköy, Istanbul

Arkaoda’s beer garden, Istanbul

The rest of the weekend I was is in Kadiköy, the Asian side of Istanbul, hanging out with Gamze, Serkan and friends. We primarily hung out near Sunday night’s venue, Dunia (the Guardian voted it one of Istanbul’s top ten bars), which is located on a street filled with bars and restaurants not too different than Taksim, although with much more of an indie feel. Once again, I was blown away by the amount of partying. That Saturday night, the streets were again choked with humanity living it up. We went to a number of bars, but primarily drank at a place called Arkaoda, in their back beer garden and front patio. Really gorgeous place with a hipster vibe, also with live music. I could see both this bar AND all of my Turkish friends being easily dropped into the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago. The Turks I know would absolutely blend in there, with their similarities in style, dress, hairstyles and proclivities – chain smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, for one.

After partying that night till the wee hours, we headed back to one of the guy’s places and kept the beat going. I petered out early, but a few of them went on till after 7am, all the while smoking those hand-rolled cigarettes.

The next day we got up and a handful of my friends made a beautiful Turkish breakfast – coffee, tea, bread with cream and honey, börek, an onion and egg quiche-like dish, cucumbers and tomatoes in balsamic vinegar, etc., etc. – a great spread. I wish I had a pic for you but my phone had died and I had left my charger, along with all of my bags, at Sunday’s venue. Afterward, we went out to a park along the sea. Just beautiful. High 70s, clear skies, light breeze, shooting the shit and drinking some beers along with hundreds of others interspersed throughout the miles-long coastal park.

Dunia, Kadikoy, Istanbul

Dunia, Kadiköy, Istanbul

Live at Dunia

Live at Dunia

At around 7pm, we left the park and headed to Dunia, where I was set to play at 9pm that night. Dunia is a three-floor bar located across the street from Arkaoda. The bottom two floors feature chairs and small balconies at the back of the building and are where most people hang out. The top floor was fairly new and reserved for live shows. While the space was beautiful, I wish they would have done the show on the first floor, which would have captured a lot more street traffic and Dunia’s natural crowd.

Turkish friends after gig

Turkish friends after gig

Turkish friends after gig

More Turkish friends

That night, I kept my experimenting going. I played guitar and harmonica, piano – I borrowed a microKORG from Serkan (which was definitely micro – tiny keys) and used sequencing on two new songs, Amiens and Saturday, both of which will be twoheartstwo, coming out soon. I had peeked in at a show at Arkaoda previously that night. The room was packed, and everyone was seated on the floor – I’ve never seen that in the States. At my show, everyone sat on the floor, as well. The show was very good and well-received. I don’t usually talk a ton between songs, but, I think because I knew everyone’s English wasn’t quite up to what it would be at a US show (which I realize is a lame reason), I was very chatty and explained the origin’s of just about every song.

The most interesting conversation I’ve had while on tour: After the show, we did a near repeat of the previous night, hanging out on one of the balconies at Dunia till the wee hours. At some point during our conversation, we started talking about pornography, which is banned by the Turkish government. If you try to look up a porn site there, you will get an error message – just like you might see at your office. Two of my girl friends told me, nonetheless, that they like to look at porn. “You know every woman looks at it, even if they say they don’t.” I told them that, while I am sure there are many women who are not fully honest about their interest in porn, I actually don’t believe that most American women do. Maybe I’m wrong?

Anyway, they were adamant about liking porn, “I like anal,” one of them said to me. Wow! I didn’t expect to hear any of this in a Muslim country. I inquired as to how they were able to look at porn online if it were blocked, and all of the girls told me how easy it was to change their computer settings to bypass the government firewall. I told them how shocking this news was to me, and they just laughed. When the bar closed, we headed back to the apartment and some of the hard core ones drank and smoked till after 5am (only).

Breakfast in Istanbul

Breakfast in Istanbul, Coffee and börek

The next morning, I sadly got up early and trudged down to the ferry, where I had to take a boat and then a taxi to get to the airport. Before I caught the boat, I had a nice breakfast of Turkish coffee and börek, a Turkish pastry of which I am a big fan. I have seen it sold at a couple of places in Chicago. One I know is on Lawrence just west of Ravenswood.


Last year one of my best friends had a bachelor party in Amsterdam, and prior to coming into town for it I was able to set up a show at the CC Muziekcafe in De Pijp. That night I performed with a female violinist, Femke Ravensbergen, (check out her music here: Bird in a Glasshouse) and was also joined halfway through the set by a traditional Balkan drummer and mandolin player, who had played in a Balkan band that played before me. It was great night, the place was packed. Bizarrely, the Dutch idol winner happened to be in the bar along with a guy who is truly amazing, called Kyteman. Kyteman is a wicked trumpet player who pulls together eclectic groups of musicians for recordings and shows, including a lot of hip-hop artists. He has won numerous Dutch grammys.

Tree House

Amsterdam Lodging


Vondelpark, Amsterdam

Cheese Shop

My favorite cheese shop

Canal Boat

I want a boat like this

I was able to book another show there this summer. A week before the show, I met with Femke again to jam and work on some songs. We met at her place, which was a few tram stops south of the city center. Femke’s directions had me walking past some “white buildings, the prison, and then my place is 30m down on the right.” It turned out that, though she and her friends had been trying to make the complex legit, they had been squatting in the building the past few years. That situation permitted them to do crazy things, such as build the treehouse above from some pallets. Femke and I ended up having dinner and jamming for several hours – I had proposed trying to start a duo with her.

We were joined at dinner by a fascinating guy, Kenneth, of the Kenyan acrobatic troupe,Nafsi Afrika Acrobats, who was crashing with one of Femke’s friends in the complex. His troupe does ridiculous acrobatic routines and seeks to promote peace, in general, and to bridge the gaps between Kenya’s tribes. The group has been doing tours throughout Europe for the past several years. Check out one of their videos here. When you meet someone like Kenneth, who is doing something so creative and bold with limited resources, you realize how lucky our own buying power alone makes us. If I were not from the US or a country with similar resources, it would be very difficult for me to pull off this several-month trip I’ve been on.

After jamming for a while, Femke and I were joined by two of her girlfriends. The four of us went up to the treehouse and talked, played music and drank nearly an entire bottle of Bailey’s until the wee hours. Then I stayed up there and went to sleep. There was a decent mattress inside the treehouse, and I slept like a baby.

Tour, Days 33-34 – Vancouver


View from outside the Backstage Lounge

I moved everything out of the space in Seattle and was on the road to Vancouver a little after lunch. Getting to cross a province off my list today – first time to British Columbia. The venue I’m playing at is called the Backstage Lounge and is located on the very attractive Granville Island, which is just south of downtown Vancouver. My phone was inoperable as soon as I crossed the border, so I was thanking god that somehow the GPS continued to work and the map images I had looked at prior to leaving Washington stayed in my cache. I otherwise would have been stopping at every turn to ask directions…like the olden days.

Miles: 141
States/Provinces: Washington, British Columbia
Lodging: HI Jericho Beach, Vancouver, BC

The border crossing took a little longer than I had anticipated so I ended up getting there about an hour before I was supposed to play. It didn’t end up mattering because the venue was behind schedule, and the sound checks for the band after me took a while. As I mentioned in the last post, I had planned to try a lot of new things at this show, so my set-up was much more complicated than previously. I ended up having to set up and sound check in about 20 minutes – which is way too short – and was stressing a bit because of it.

Backstage Lounge

Check out 3 June

The venue itself was very nice, very open. Out back was a gorgeous view of the water and the downtown area. This definitely is the most beautiful setting I have played in so far. And the show was very good. As a follow-up to my comments in the last post about wanting/needing to re-tool my set, I definitely have more songs on the chill/sombre end and feel like I need to write a few more upbeat tunes. I don’t know why, but that is hard for me. Anyway, I played very well this show. I really went for it and brought the passion and intensity as well as I ever have. I tried out the new piano song, “Little Bird,” and it went well. I was thrilled to play it, which got me thinking about the prospect of finishing off all of these travels to work on some new songs. A new song like a new woman is always exciting.

Violet Height

Violet Height

AJ Minor

AJ Minor

The headliner that night was AJ Minor, a former professional skateboarder who played acoustic guitar and sang along with a lot of old-school beats. He was a super positive and cool guy. I would not be surprised if you see him again in a much wider context than this.

During any show, I love being able to look out into the crowd and find a couple of people who I can tell are into the music. It encourages me and helps me stay focused. During this show, a very cute blonde and her boyfriend were really feeling it on almost every song. I loved it. Afterward they approached me and bought a couple of albums. They were from Finland, spending a week or so on vacation in British Columbia. I ended up joining them for several beers, as we listened to the other performers.

On another positive note – and I’m not really sure how – my draw for the show was a third of AJ’s and almost equal to the amount of the Vancouver-based band that played after me. Weird. (Writing this a couple of weeks later, after just getting an invite to play somewhere else in Vancouver, I’m wondering if I need to relocate.)

Safeway and Hostelling

After the night was done, I was a bit at a loss for where I would stay that night. It was after midnight, I would have to drive a long ways to find a campsite and I did not want to pay for a hotel, as I am heading to Europe for a couple of weeks soon and will be dropping way too much cash there. I decided to find a park that was not lit and to sleep in my car. I was heading down one of the main streets heading west, figuring I would run into the water and find a good spot. That’s when I got pulled over for the second time this trip. Bad.

The streets were so well-lit that I apparently had not turned my lights on. I had to get out and blow again. Below the limit. The cop was pretty nice and gave me a warning. We had a chat about music and he asked where I was going. I stretched the truth and said I was looking for a hotel. He told me I was heading in the wrong direction and to go back the other way. This was all providential. I turned around and then pulled over next to a Safeway I happened across.

Quick aside about Safeway: I am someone who prides himself on finding one-of-a-kind places of whatever type, non-chains with personality. That said, I love Safeway. In Chicago, I go to Dominick’s (anyone who worked with me at Cushman & Wakefield knows how much I love their soups); while I was in Texas, I went to Tom Thumb and all over the west coast, including Canada, I’ve been frequenting Safeway, who owns them all. They all have fresh bagels in the morning, great soups starting around 10:30/11am, good sandwiches, their prices are reasonable, etc., etc. You can always count on a similar layout and great food.

Safeway also has free WiFi. I was needing WiFi in this moment. It turned out that I was about a mile from a hostel, the HI right on Jericho Beach – beautiful setting in a park, on the water and right across the street from a wicked beautiful turf soccer field, which I indulged in later. I arrive well after midnight. The guy behind the counter told me that since I arrived so late, my bed would be good for two nights for the price of one. Sweet – $25 for 2 nights. (That is cheaper, by the way, than camping at just about any state or national park I’ve seen anywhere on this trip.)

Next day I do all of the fun stuff: laundry, chat with the Lithuanian and English girls who work at the hostel, pay bills, do some work, etc. The next day I am flying to Europe for a nearly three week trip. Psyched!

Long & McQuade

Last comment: Before I left Vancouver, I was looking to buy a battery-powered amp. If you are ever in Canada and are looking for the Canadian Guitar Center, go to Long & McQuade, which is better and much less creepy in my opinion. Very helpful staff. I checked out an amp, wasn’t sure I should get it, went to get a coffee to think on it and came back resolved to drop the cash, only to find out the store was closed. I caught one of the employees, however, who was nice enough to unlock the doors and go back in and look for it. Who would do that at a big chain in the US??? He wasn’t able to find the one I wanted with a box, etc. so I didn’t end up getting it. This was probably good because I would no way have been able to manage carrying it in addition to everything else.

Tour, Day 32 – Seattle Practice Space

Back to the Music

Seattle Practice Space

I think that’s Bob Marley on the back wall

Two of my goals for this tour were to become a better performer and to get a sense for how compelling my music is. I have absolutely been able to learn a lot in both of these areas. One of the challenges, however, due to so much driving and cramming so many shows into such a short time, has been putting what I’ve learned into practice. For weeks, I’ve wanted to lock myself in a room and make some revisions to how I’m playing some of the songs that I think are strong, add in some new songs and try new instruments and arrangements. As I drove through Oregon and Washington, I made calls to several band rehearsal studios in Seattle and finally found one that had a room free at a reasonable rate for a two-day rental. The prospect of actually being able to set up all of my equipment in one place got me very excited as I pulled into Seattle.

That said, the building was a complete shit hole, as many band rehearsal buildings are. It reminded me of a less clean version of the space my Radio Mango band mates and I shared at Superior Street Studios in Chicago, though the common areas in this building were much worse. My actual room was quite filthy and still had drum sticks jutting out of the walls in various places where the previous tenants had jammed them into the drywall (WTF?). The rooms weren’t sound-proofed so you could hear endless drum soloing coming from two rooms down adjacent hallways and you could hear – and feel – the sludge/black metal band on the other side of the floor bringing the hate full on.

Nonetheless, it was still great to be able to make my own noise. That first day I stayed there 12 hours straight. Since the tour began, I had worked harmonica into my repertoire. While in the space, I worked on incorporating the loop pedal I had recently bought, my keyboard and some electronic track sequencing. I hoped to use all of these in the final North American show in Vancouver on Sunday night. I also was able to write a new piano-based song titled, “Little Bird.” I’m very excited about it and will post it to the site as soon as I make a demo.

Ultimate FrisbeeThat night, I got to hang out with a college friend, Cam Caldwell, who has been living in Seattle for about 6 years. I hadn’t seen Cam in 10 years or so. He happened to also be at the wedding in Maui, so we ended up seeing each other twice in one week after such a long hiatus. I had a few beers with him and his friends next to a fire pit in one of his friend’s backyards, which was great. Chilly at night here, even in the summer. We talked a bunch about the weather – how the eastern half of Washington is hot and dry almost all the time while the western half is cool and wet – and ultimate frisbee, which they all played together. They told me about some big UF tournament, where a team played quasi-naked. I have to go to one of these events sometimes. The people that play UF seriously sound half-bent.

Tour, Days 30-31 (No 2) – Drive-Thru Coffee

One of my favorite things about being in Oregon and Washington are the drive-thru coffee shops. They are excellent and they are everywhere! Ever since I lived in Bologna, I have been a fiend for coffee, consuming 2-4 (or more) shots per day of espresso. My typical drink is a doppio macchiato: two shots of espresso topped with a spoonful or two of foam (macchiato means “tinged” in Italian; those fancy caramel macchiato things they have at Starbucks have nothing to do with the real macchiato). (FYI, it’s one of the cheapest things at Starbucks next to drip coffee, good caffeine to dollar ratio.)

These drive-thrus are everywhere: big towns, small towns, out in the country…Zippy Java, Fast Lane Coffee, Human Bean, Dutch Brothers, Scooter’s, Bouncin’ Betty’s, Lighthouse Coffee, Mojo Coffee, Yellow Dog Espresso, Grabajava Espresso, Cuppa Joe, Lovely Lady Lattes…just to name a few that I saw…and I couldn’t help but stop every time I saw one. See my mini-gallery below – which does not come close to doing them justice.

In addition to their ubiquity, these drive-thrus tend to be very cheap compared to the coffee shops I’m familiar with in Chicago. I usually ordered the double espresso with a little foam I described above and got out of there at $1 sometimes and never more than $2. I tried to ask people why these places were so common, but the best answer I received was hypothesizing about the long winter and the need to stay awake. Is that it? Why is extreme coffee drinking so prevalent out here?

Dutch Brothers

Dutch Brothers

Bouncin' Betty's

Bouncin’ Betty’s

Mojo Coffee

Mojo Coffee

C&L Burgers and Espresso

C&L Burgers & Espresso

Grabajava Espresso

Grabajava Espresso

Cuppa Joe

Cuppa Joe

Human Bean

Human Bean

Bouncin’ Betty’s

As I rolled in to Bouncin’ Betty’s, in Roseburg, Oregon, for my 7th coffee of the day, I noticed a sign that said “bikini crossing” at the start of the drive-thru lane. There was what looked like an older gentleman ahead of me in a large pick-up truck taking forever with his order. Naive me saw why when I rolled up to have my order taken by a early-20s-ish, very busty woman in a hot pink triangle bikini. (I wanted to post a picture, but photography was severely prohibited…although I did find the great video below on YouTube.) This stop happened to result in one of my $1 drinks. I’m not sure she charged me correctly, though she didn’t seem too worried. After Betty’s, I noticed that these places are everywhere, though none of the others were quite as exciting as my first time.

Unique Effort to Fight Alcohol Addiction

Free Coffee

Free coffee to support AA

One final coffee-related item: I was up at the crack of dawn the night after I camped out in the state park in Central Washington. After driving for a few minutes, I saw an official highway sign pointing to a rest area with free coffee. I pulled over to check it out. It was not yet 7am and a local AA chapter was at the rest area giving out coffee, cookies and muffins to drivers to raise donations to help fight alcohol addiction. I thought this was an extremely admirable initiative at a very well-chosen venue.

Tour, Days 30-31 (No 1) – the Northwest

Shelley and Zander

Shelley and a squirmy Zander

So, I’m back in California and heading north. I arrived late last night from Hawai’i, picked up my car and drove to a Redwood forest state park north of Oakland. This morning I visited my cousin, Shelley, and got to meet her beautiful son, Zander, for the first time. Getting to catch up with friends and family that I haven’t seen for a while has been a great part of this tour. I hung out with Shelley and Zander for an hour or so then hit the road with a goal for today of reaching Portland.

Miles: 830 (over 2 days)
States: California, Oregon, Washington
Lodging: Valley of the Rogue State Park, near Grants Pass, OR; Seaquest State Park, Silver Lake, WA

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

It was remarkable how quickly the temperature rose after leaving the Bay Area. This morning it was in the low 70s, beautiful weather. Within an hour drive, it was in the high 90s. I drove toward Sacramento and then up Interstate 5 toward Ashland, Oregon. I stopped at Lake Shasta and jumped in the water for a minute. It’s definitely wonderful to be around water – in fact, it makes the whole experience better – when it is this hot. I didn’t end up making it quite as far as I’d hoped because of all my stopping and screwing around, jumping in lakes and taking pictures. Instead, I camped about an hour north of Ashland, Oregon. (By the way, I’m up to 48 states now!)


God’s Country

One of my friends in Georgia used to wax poetic about how Southern Georgia was “god’s country.” I can still hear his voice, “The smell of the pine trees, the warm summer nights, the sand between your toes…” I think he must have been on something. Since then, I’ve heard a lot of people claim various places as being “god’s country.” While there are many that surely can claim that title, I’m putting my vote in for Oregon. It is absolutely beautiful: green, green, green and mountains and hills and trees everywhere, not too many people to get in the way… I feel at home here.

I arrived in Ashland – the hometown of my friend, Kacy Curtis, of San Francisco Put Her to Bed fame – in the early evening and strolled through town. The day was magical – warm and clear and sunny – which no doubt influenced how I was feeling about the state. It was a Thursday evening and people were everywhere around town – at restaurants, walking slowly past shop-filled streets and in the many large and beautiful parks near the downtown area. The biggest crowds were heading to the Angus Bowmer Theatre, where White Snake, a play adapted from a Chinese Fable was being presented. (It turns out that one of my friends from Chicago, Ronnie Malley, oud player in the band Lamajamal (Nice site, huh? Yeah, I built it!), was actually working on this production.) Ashland is huge into theater and the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Theater references are all over town.

The next morning I continued to head north. The rest of the way up to Seattle was a blur. I drove north through Eugene and then took a left through Corvallis, in route to the coast. I have always heard that the Oregon coast was cliff-filled and dramatic – much different than the Southeastern coast, with which I am most familiar – and I just had to see it. I stopped in Corvallis to get some lunch and ended up eating at a taco joint where the Oregon State University Women’s Rugby Club was doing one of those car wash fundraisers. I told them that they didn’t need to dry my car off if they could work on getting off some of the millions of bugs I had accumulated during the past 5,000 miles. They did a great job!

Captain Dan's

Something for everyone

Oregon Coast

Don’t try swimming here

The weather changes so much in the space of 100 miles up here. I headed to the coast where the weather was misty and gray. The cliffs were dramatic and the sea was rowdy. I got out of my car and walked around in Lincoln City. If you were to try to swim out from the (very rocky) coast directly in front of the main shopping area, you would be in some serious trouble. The waves were rocking the crags along the shore. On a softer note, I forgot to mention that I stopped a few miles earlier, in Newport, and got a chocolate malt from Flashbacks Fountain & Grill, a ’50s style diner. It was sweet.

This is lame but I ended up goofing around for so long along the coast that I ended up skirting Portland – necessitating future trip up here this summer – and heading into Washington. (49 states!) I camped in a beautiful forest near Mount St. Helens – Seaquest State Park – and then drove to Seattle the next morning.

Tour, Day 25 – Put Her to Bed

Kacy and Meme Curtis

Kacy and Meme Curtis

Second day hanging in San Francisco with Kacy and Meme. No show, but, oh, there is some music! Kacy, who I forgot to mention in my last post is a novelist and gifted wordsmith – you can check out some of his work here (and check out this hilarious old bio) – had written some lyrics to a song he titled, “Put Her to Bed,” a couple weeks back.

Today the three of us spent most of the day coming up with some music for the words and then recording the song. The title of the song is a pool reference to calling out a little bump against the rail or another ball as you sink the 8 ball. You can see the random-ass video I made for it below, which is made of images from Kacy’s Facebook page and others that I pulled from doing a Google image search for “playing pool.” I love the images that pop up that have nothing to do with your key words. (You will see a lot of those in the video.)

Miles: No driving for me today!
States: California
Lodging: With my friends Kacy and Meme Curtis in San Francisco, CA

We did most of the recording in the middle of the day, then made a quick jaunt out to Oakland to see one of Kacy’s good friend’s nephews play in an AAU basketball tournament. Talk about a mishmash of a day. After the game, we had a nice dinner with the whole fam at a nice Italian restaurant called Paisan, in Berkeley, and then listened to some live jazz at a small gelateria/cafe a block down called Caffe Trieste. We then headed back to SF and put the final touches on the song, which included creating percussion instruments by putting large necklaces in brass pots and beating on other random household items. Check out the video here: