Wes Lee. We disucssed a range of blues related topics and Wes told stories of his many years in the music business. After the podcast, Wes and I took turns playing a mix of originals and oldies for a great crowd. It was as near a perfect night as you could as for and a hell of a lot of fun. To top it all off, our friends at the Southland Music Line took some great shots and put together an article that really put the icing on the cake. You can view the article at the Southland website here. Be sure to check out the other works that their team has put together, including articles on the 2015 artist of the year, featuring the Mulligan Brothers, and a readers choice awards. I'll put a few of the photos up here, but be sure to check out that rest over at the Southland site. Thanks to Johnny Cole, Stephen Anderson, and Robbie Amonett for all their hard work.
I am the first of my friends to arrive at The Shed Blues and BBQ Joint in Ocean Springs for the Austin, Texas based blues duo, Bugaboo. Using looping drum tracks, the two guitarist/vocalist swapped leads and harmonies that reverberated with deep emotion and pounding, distant tones reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s, “When the Levee Breaks”. In two weeks, on the 13th of November, I will be on the same stage doing the first open to the public Coastal Noise Podcast with blues traditionalist and songwriter Wes Lee of Mobile, Alabama. After our conversation, we too will have the stage for a set honoring such greats as Robert Johnson, Son House, Fred McDowell, Skip James, and R.L. Burnside as well as perform original works of our own. It will be a night full of “firsts” for me and I’ve been excitedly awaiting the date’s arrival.
I am sitting in the back by myself for about twenty minutes, waiting for Lyle and Julia to show up, and considering what this night might have in store. On the interstate en route to The Shed, I saw a black streak of something that appeared to be running into the road. I put lite pressure on the breaks…but then realized there was nothing there. Whatever I thought I’d seen was apparently non-existent, a fluke of human vision. That’s just what I would have needed, I thought, to hit a black cat on the weekend of Halloween. I’ve never once hit anything with my car and it would be an awful bad sign to do so tonight. I made a quick stop by my family’s place before continuing on. Not five minutes down the road, another black streak just to my right shot through the dark heading directly in line with the front of my car. I was doing 30mph easily and, this time, it was no illusion. The black cat ran right into the street and there was no stopping what was coming next. I applied as much break as I could but there was no use. The cat went under my car in the blink of an eye but, instead of a gut wrenching bump, all I saw was the cat darting out from my car’s left side. It had gone under and missed every wheel completely.
I’m sitting at The Shed, considering if this incident is something to consider, when I hear a “how’s it goin” just behind me. I turn to find Stephen Anderson of the Southland Music Line taking a seat next to me. I great him with a smile and we strike up a conversation, talking about the events of the weekend and recent photography projects. We hang around for a few minutes sizing the scene and then, as if it had been planned it all along, got up in unison and began taking shots around the venue of the night’s artists.
A short while later, Lyle and Julia show up in full costume. I told them both I would be in costume myself and in fact encouraged Lyle to dress up for the night, but, after looking over the crowd at first arrival and seeing not a single person in costume, I decided to leave mine in the car. When you have a costume like mine, you tend to distract from what’s really going on, and this crowd was too small to pull any attention awa. Lyle (a gladiator) and Julia (a mime) both looked questioningly at me in my T-shirt and shorts. “Why are you guys dressed like that?” I asked accusingly.
In the mix of taking some shots, I caught up with photographer, music lover, and The Shed Digital Director Fred Salinas about me and Wes’s upcoming show and our photography plans for the weekend. He had put me hip to the other shows going on this Friday night down on Government Street and said he was hoping to get into The Hard Rock tomorrow night to shoot the Marilyn Manson show (which he did, you can see some of his shots on his website which I will post below). The set ended at ten and all of us hung around to chat with the Bugaboo players for a while before moving on to the downtown area. It was time to dawn the Slender Man.
At the Grocery, the bouncers take my ID as people sitting around at tables begin to murmur. Some gasp and speak its name, others only comment on its freakish appearance. Standing here now handing over my driver’s license, I begin to think it would have been a fantastic idea to get a fake ID with a white, blotted out face to hand to bouncers at the bars. I do my best to turn my back on the crowd as I confirm my features for the man sitting at the chair. He hands back my license and I quickly through my mask back on. Lyle comes out to great (and guide) me, showing me to their table inside. More gasps and pointing as I enter the building. Several people approach me and comment on my outfit. I only stare back in total silence until they walk away, either appreciative of my character dedication or more creeped out than before.
I realize at this point that taking pictures is damn near impossible and I have to rely largely on others to take shots of the band. I didn’t get any Sirius Face, an outfit that, as I understand, is finalizing a new album, but I enjoyed their performance a great deal and hope to catch them out again in the future. After a beer or two (I mean for my friends, beer and food were not an option for me) we decided to make our way down to The Juke Joint for Della Memoria. Don’t worry, I took my mask off to drive.
I parked my car across the street and made my way through the gravel lot. The lights from the Joint beamed down directly at me, reflecting off my white mask and practically blinding me. Ahead, I could hear two girls commenting on my slow, deliberate approach.
“It’s Slender Man,” one of them said aloud.
“Oh my God, that’s so creepy,” the other said.
I could hear them standing in the parking lot right in front of me, but I did nothing to change my course. Their voices rose up as I came closer and closer, until I came to a stop in front of them.
“That’s so freaky. You know that right?” The chattier of the two commented. I stared back at her with my dead, nothingness of a face.
“Do you talk?”
My voice was empty.
“Say something, you have to say something!”
She stepped closer to me. Even right before me I could not see a single detail of what she looked like. All I could tell was she was somewhat tall.
“I want you to talk to me. Just one word. If you say something…I’ll kiss you right now.”
I stood still not phased by her offer, but intrigued none the less. This was getting interesting.
“Come on,” she said in a hushed voice and put her face up against mine. I could feel her breath coming through my mask. She started caressing my body tight suit, moving her hands up and down my chest. “Just one word? Why don’t you just say…Pinocho?”
Pinocho? Jesus, females be trippin. If anything was growing here it wasn’t on my face.
Oh good, were counting now.
The tip of her nose is on mine.
Hands working overtime. She hesitates slightly in her count.
She says it more like a question, as if to say; will you really not just give me just one word?
She lingers for a second with her face all but pressing up against me.
“Fine,” she says and, just as she breaks away, I test her word with my own in a whisper so low I doubt the syllables even make it through the cloth. She gasps in delight and stops in her tracks. Next I know her hand is on the back of my neck and as she begins aggressively making out with me through my mask. A simple kiss turns into her attempting to get her tongue through the fabric between us, which is now becoming hot and wet and kinda gross feeling. I go ahead and pull her in closer. She’s skinny. A slender girl for a Slender Man. As quickly as it started, it ended, and the girl brushed right past me with her friend.
“Bye Slender Man,” she said from behind me.
I kept walking forward toward the bar, never looking back, as if nothing happened.
At the top of the stairs I sit down on the other side of the entrance opposite the bouncer.
“That’s awesome,” I hear someone else on the porch say. I wait for as few people to be around as possible before flashing my face and showing my ID, then creep into the bar. Everywhere I go, I sit or stand as motionless as possible. Hands by my side, I stare as long as I can in one fixed direction and occasionally turn my head to catch someone looking at me. If I find their gaze, I hold it until they look away. Other than that, music, contemplation, and intense observation are about the only things I can enjoy.
The Slender Man is really the best Halloween costume I’ve ever worn. My body type is perfect for the suit. I get to stand around, not having to talk to anyone if I don’t want to, just observing the goings on at places often filled with madness. In this way, I can detach from the craziness and just see it in action with only occasional input from a drunken patron or an admiring Slender Fan. I am the ultimate fly on the wall. A tall, freakishly faceless fly on the wall. On top of all that, the biggest thing I factor through all these barriers is the music. Where I lack in visual perception and communication, my sense of audio is heightened ever so slightly, and I can even close my eyes and just stand there listening to it without others looking at me funny…even though they are already looking at me funny. ..and sometimes I close my eyes just to doze a little bit, but that’s beside the point.
Just after one o’clock, I decide it’s time to make my way back home, but not before getting some totally awesome pictures thanks to Emily and Josh allowing me to creep over them onstage, immobile for several songs. They sounded even better from the performance space. After six hours of nothing to drink, eat, or able to go to the bathroom without it being a chore, it was time to go home.
My Saturday was already planned out in full. The bulk of the afternoon would be spent out in the country shooting guns and instructing a yoga session with family. It’s sentences like that make me proud to be an American. On top of that, we would all be watching Kung Fury for the first time, a short film I discovered that week and reserved to hold off on after seeing only the first five minutes. Its description of a 1980’s Miami cop who gets struck by lightning and bitten by a cobra (at the same time), develops ninja super powers, and goes back in time to kill Hitler, was as promising as it sounded.
That night, our group rallied together and took back down to the Grocery around 11 o’clock. Here we caught Rooster Blues performing a fire-y combo of drums and wildly progressive, fuzzy guitar arrangements. Some incredible talent to be seen here in this turbo geared two piece. After a few minutes of this fast paced noise, we retreated to the quieter outside patio for some easy conversation and drinks. I of course had very little of both. Before making our way to see The Tall Boys at the Flying Irishmen, I was encouraged back into the bar for a shot at the cash prize for best costume. Standing near the stage, the MC called each participant on stage and asked them who they were and, generally, why they should be voted for. When the final call came for any other male contestants, I slowly stepped onto the stage and did an about face to stare at the crowd, hands down at my sides.
“And what are you?” The MC put the microphone into my face. I do not move in the slightest. Silence.
The crowd started up in low laughter and, when I made no indication whatsoever to speak, more cheers came out from the people standing around. I stood around giving my death stare for a little longer before I was dismissed from the stage. I stepped down and turned at the front row to look back at the MC, hoping my gaze might influence he’s decision as to who to select. In the end, some guy who looked like he was dressed as a frat brother at a late night formal party won. Really?
Next, it was on to the Flying Irishmen where the Tall Boys were finishing their set. I hop on stage with the guys for a couple pictures and then sit back at the end table with my friends to remove my mask and enjoy the spectacle that only the Tall Boys can deliver.
From there it was back to the Juke Joint, where we had apparently missed Rosco’s last show. Bloody hell, how did it get so late? I was so looking forward to creeping on them from a corner of the outside stage too. Instead, I’ll I got to do was hang around the dance floor, that is, until a woman grabbed me for a slow dance that I was unable to refuse. I didn’t much make for good conversation, but she seemed to like me all the same and did most of the talking, which I was fine with. I merely nodded and made gestures in reply. Whether this satisfied her socially I neither know nor cared.
Close to two o’clock, it was time to return home again. It had been a good weekend with plenty of good music, and I had gotten the chance to live out one of the creepiest characters I’ve ever known…and people loved it. To be honest, I’ve never much cared for Halloween dress up, but this year has inspired me to find new heights for the years to come, now that I know what kind of costumes suit me. Hell, maybe I’ll take a cue from Owl Man and go as him next year.
That’s all for me this time and remember, consider the healthier options for Halloween. Ditch the candy and go downtown for music and beer. It’s better for you in the long run.
Come out to the Shed show on November 13th. We'd love to have you!
Click here to see Fred Salinas's Manson show photography
Announcements: I have two up coming shows as of this posting. Tomorrow night, Friday, October 23, I'll be opening at the Juke Joint in Ocean Springs. Expecting the music to begin around 9:45.
Show two is a special one indeed, as I'll be doing my first public podcast for an audience with first time guest Wes Lee at The Shed Blues & BBQ Joint in Ocean Springs (6-9pm). The topic of the night will be blues music as Wes Lee (like myself) is very much a fan of blues music and the history behind its birth and evolution. Afterwards, he and I will perform a side-by-side set of classic tunes and original material. We would love to see you all out for what is sure to be an interesting event! See music page for details.
On to the blog. See below for full screen gallery of pics.
I awake to the clutter of thunderstorms in the darkest hour after midnight. Strange, I thought, as not a hint of such weather was apparent the evening before. It was then, as I gained my senses that I realized it was just the sound generator by my nightstand. A pillow had somehow ended up over my head making the usual noise seem more distant and muffled, as if it were on the other side of my bedroom walls instead of here by my head. I had made a commitment to sleep early this night and was down before seven yesterday. Now, not half passed one in the morning, I found myself wide awake. My plane was not scheduled to depart till 6:30am, so I had more time than I had planned for. Not a bad thing in this case I supposed.
My bags were already packed and accommodations made. With not much else to do, I decided to sit in zazen for a time. Then, knowing a great deal of sitting was ahead of me, I began my morning ritual of stretching my unused muscles. A shower brought me fully too, and I put some hot water on to make a lite grey tea. As it steeped, I came to the conclusion that I might as well prepare a good breakfast. While drinking my beverage, I casually fixed a turkey, egg, and cheese burrito, warming the wrap in the skillet first before cooking my eggs and sliced meat. I topped it with sour cream and a little salsa for good measure. Next, I sliced bananas and unthawed some blueberries for their natural sugars which I believe to be essential for a healthy startup in the a.m.
Fast forward to my departure. I am boarding the plane and scanning the rows for my assigned seat. I find it between two other men. The older of the two sitting in the aisle seat moves away for me to take my place. The other man by the window, who appears to be in his mid-thirties, beams a greeting and asks how I am.
“Just fine,” I say and notice the book bag under his feet. “I have that same book bag. Same color and everything.” He made comment on his affection for it. I too was a fan of the style. Then I noticed his feet as I looked over the bag. “I have those same sandals,” I said, and lifted my own feet to prove it.
“Well look at that,” he said smiling. “But, now if you were to be wearing the same…”
“Underwear,” I said over him.
“That’s exactly what I was gonna say. We’d have a problem then.” We laughed and struck up a conversation. I told him I was headed to Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, with the intent of photographing and writing my first time experiences. David West, on the other hand, was heading to the Dominican Republic as Director of Operations for Global Effect, a non-profit organization that provides aid to people and places in need. He told me of his travels to places like Haiti and his experiences in these struggling third world countries.
“You would have thought the earthquakes had hit yesterday,” he said. “You’d be able to write a number of bluesy tunes down there.” Mr. West also told me about his active involvement with his church and, from there, we discussed various topics revolving around religion, spirituality, and how millennials interpret them. Being a very short flight to Atlanta airport, we continued to converse for the entire duration. Admiring his perseverance to help others, I told him I would write about our time together.
My flight into Charleston was an equally quick one. From my vantage point just below the clouds, I expected to see some traces of the damage received from last week’s passing hurricane, but, eyeing the landscape through my lens, the worst seemed to be over. Pictured here are areas where water seemed to be at its greatest concentration, at least in the area I surveyed.
Upon landing, I was met by my friend Kayla and her dog Aldous (named after Aldous Huxley of course) or, Aldie, as his owners lovingly referred to him. Our first order of business was taking Aldie to the James Island dog park, where other canine loving humans let their animals run free over open land or play fetch by the park’s lake.
We returned Aldie to his home in West Ashley where Kayla and her boyfriend Aaron reside. Despite all my travels for the day, it was still only just after noon, and there was plenty to see in the area of Charleston, which was a short 20 minute drive away. We made our way to downtown Charleston, stopping first at the Battery, a defense artillery post on the south end of the peninsula, now converted to a park and promenade to accompany the historic remnants of war. We then walked up the eastern side overlooking the Atlantic, with Mt. Pleasant, Daniel and Sullivan Island in the distance.
Having seen a good number of sites, we made our way inland down Vendue Range where we stumbled into Belgian Gelato. A sucker for ice cream treats (see my last Colorado blog with Glacier Ice Cream), I had to see what was in store here. Taken away was a coffee flavored gelato. Very good, as reported by Kayla, and the girls working the front where chipper as could be. Do people still use that word? Chipper? Anyway, they were really nice.
Still roaming somewhat aimlessly, we came to a cross roads at East Bay Street, where Southend Brewery and Smokehouse towered over the other businesses nearby. This large multi-storied building, equipped with a glass elevator, has an atrium that reaches up all three floors and houses large cooper and stainless steel brewing tanks used to craft a variety of beers. An exhibition kitchen runs the length of the restaurant, extending into a large wood burning oven. The restaurant offers causal fine dining, live entertainment, event space and, of course, plenty of drink selections. According to their website, the building which has been around since the late 80’s has been featured in many local ghost tours for its haunted history. Fine by me, as long as there aren’t any ghosts peeing in my food.
I was feeling like a beer so we took a seat at the bar for a fast drink. Unfortunately, they were out of the first brew that caught my eye, a chamomile IPA with orange slice. We instead ordered a Love Me Two Times Blonde and a Watch It Grow Wheat, both good.
Heading up further north, we stopped in at Charleston Tabaco and Wine. The outside caught my attention and after talking with David West about the quality of cigars in the Dominican Republic, I decided to take a quick look around. I’ve never tried a cigar before, but, like coffee, I’ve always enjoyed the aromas and imagery associated with them (the being wealthy part, not the lung cancer part). The selection appeared top notch and the double joined rooms made for plenty of cozy spaces to sit around with friends, talk, and enjoy a quality stogie.
Walking down the rest of the French Quarter, we reached Market Street. Here, a series of long, shotgun style buildings connect to house dozens of vendors who sell everything from candles, paintings, pottery, soaps, clothing and foods. It was a bustling scene, although I always find myself wondering how some of these vendors can make any money when so many other competitors offer the same types of products, such as the popular reed roses and baskets that are most prominent among sellers and street merchants throughout the city.
After the market, we proceeded down King Street, renowned for its blocks of beautiful French homes. I imagine this is the kind of place where doctors and lawyers move to acquire house notes that take decades to pay off. We walked the entire length of the street, returning back to the Battery Park’s west side, wrapping around to the edge of the water and making our way back to the car. Having spent a good amount of time walking, we decided now was the perfect time to introduce me to some of Charleston’s finer culinary experiences. Charleston is well known for its food and Kayla’s first suggestion was a spot called Edmund’s Oast, a brew pub whose history dates back to the mid 1700’s when Englishmen Edmund Egan moved to the Charleston area.
We sat down outside at a long wooden table with a staffed, carved in bar not far from us. A few patrons were gathered around, drinking and conversing in the early evening hours. Our menu was a simple, folded one page sheet bound to a wooden plank with fanciful writing fonts. I must admit, many of the menu items were foreign to me, but I trusted in Kayla and Aaron’s past experiences to guide me in my decision making. From the menu, three dishes were picked to try. The first, Pickled Shrimp with Root Baking Company Rye Bread, was my favorite. This entailed pickled shrimp, red and yellow onions, and celery loaded with fresh dill and parsley over bread sliced into eighths and a honey mustard spread. I don’t have much experience with pickled anything, so I wasn’t sure how I would take to the appetizer, but after one bite I was sold. The crunch from the pickled toppings worked very well with the soft, delicious rye bread, and the herbs used to top it all tasted like they were home grown and prepared right before coming out to the table. The vinegar, oils, and mustard spread worked together perfectly and made me a new fan of pickled foods. I could see why it was a favorite among patrons.
Then things got a little weirder as Kayla suggested I try the Beef Tartar. This was a new word to me. Tartar, simply put, is raw beef or, dare I say it, horsemeat. The dish is typically served with onions, capers, egg yolk and seasonings such as pepper or Worcesteriche sauce. Like the pickled shrimp, this tartar was served with rye bread as well. Having never tasted beef tartar before, I was skeptical, but not cautious in any sense. When the plate came out, I looked it over briefly and then took a hardy bite of the cold, raw meat. The texture was a little…brainy…It didn’t take long for me to decide that I wouldn’t be perusing it much in my course, but I took another bite or two for good measure.
The third dish felt a bite more traditional, but was none the less a risky choice for me as it was labeled a “porridge” dish. Despite my reservations, I picked the Chicken and Carolina Gold Rice Porridge with pickled shiitake mushrooms, blue crab meat, and scallions. Initially, this was the least interesting of the three dishes for me. I felt the porridge was a little too bland and the portion too big. The shiitake mushrooms, with their pickled flavor did wonders for it, but there were only about three slices in the whole bowl, and the crab meat was little too. It made for a somewhat plain dish that I thought could really benefit from more salt, pepper, and a fresh squeeze of lemon juice. When I told our waiter, Harry, my thoughts on the entrée, he kindly insisted he allow me to take the dish back so that it could be fixed to my liking.
“Whether you come here for a full course or to have crackers and beer, I want your experience with us to be the best it can be,” he stated. A philosophy I greatly appreciated and admired. He whisked the plate back inside and, to my surprise, came back with not just a spiced up dish, but an entirely fresh plate with all my recommended additions. The gesture impressed me and I felt the dish was much improved after being tweaked.
The next morning I awoke before my hosts and looked around for some kill time. I found a DVD collection and, for the next two hours, made my first sit through of “Gangs of New York”. A little later, once the house began to stir, we went down to the Charleston Coffee Exchange for two pick me ups, one for Kayla and the other for Aaron. I eyed the selections but passed for the day, making sure to come back on my departing day for a Banana Nut Bread muffin.
Aaron would be joining us today for Jail Break Festival which, due to possible weather the day before, was moved to Sunday. It worked out for us as we were now all able to travel to the event together. Before going down to the festival, we went for brunch at the Butcher & Bee which has been featured in such magazines as the New York Times, GQ, and Bon Appetit. I got the chance to try two entrées here, the first being the Hot Brown, a turkey croquette with cheddar mornay, bacon gravy, roasted tomato, and gem lettuce. Once again, this was another dish I had never tried before but was thoroughly pleased with. The other was the breakfast tostada which consisted of chorizo, black beans, cubed butternut squash, fried eggs, scallions, cilantro and hot sauce. It was every bit as good as it sounds. Overall, a very positive brunch sit down, and the girl behind the register was cute enough to marry. Would make for a good excuse to live in such a nice city with exceptional food.
An hour later we had parked and walked down to where Jail Break Festival was taking place at the Old City Jail just south of the College of Charleston. At the front gate, I took this shot of the security guard next to this drawing that I felt complimented his demeanor.
A little bit about the history of this old jail. The jail, located on four acres of land, was operational from 1802 until 1942. In 1680, as the city of Charleston was being laid out, this location was designated for public use. Through time a hospital, poor house, a workhouse for runaway slaves, and the Jail itself were built on the square. A few of the notable inmates include:
Inside the jail were various paintings, drawings, sculptures, and artworks, from weird to serene, hung on the walls and inner recesses of old cells. Outside, in the rear grounds, food trucks, craft beers, and merchandise were being sold. Two separate stages were set to hold revolving acts of rock bands on one and dance performers on the other. Inside, a dedicated room ran comedy showcases throughout the day. I tried two craft beers while hanging around outdoors, including a Hi-Wire Pumpkin Spice and their Oktoberfest, just as a dance performance came on with that creepy song from Insidious, “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” (complete with little girls wearing sheep masks) which then turned into Rob Zombie’s “Dragula”.
We left the festival around four and took to the streets again to make two more visits before night fell. The first was Blue Bicycle Books which boasts an impressive collection of over 50,000 available volumes of works. Aaron and I spoke for several hours in my time in Charleston about our aspirations for writing, the difficulties of creating compelling fictional works, and authors we had read over the years. I just so happened to be on a Haruki Murakami kick. Murakami is a world renowned Japanese writer of imaginative, mind-bending fiction (See Kafka on the Shore and Hard Boiled Wonderland). I told him I was currently reading “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and he said I was the second person that week to mention the title to him. We stopped in and he bought a copy. Checking out, the cashier engaged us in a brief discussion on the disturbing nature of Cormac McCarthy’s “Child of God”.
Only a block or two north of Blue Bicycle was the Belmont, a long bar tucked away from most passing by tourists that provides a safe haven for sophisticated drinkers looking for skillfully crafted cocktails. The mood is hushed with dim lighting and old black and white films play on a wall at the far end of the bar. The wall behind the counter is stocked with a wide range of alcoholic beverages to choose from and the lone bartender causally takes on the orders of a small group sitting nearby. For myself, I order one Bird’s of a Feather which contained rum, Fernet, Campari, and pineapple. The menus description: “Bitter, sweet, and fucking delicious”. Taking an initial taste, the drink very much has a spicy kick to it, but with a few squeezes of a lime, the drink’s sweeter subtleties come to the surface and mellow out, making for an excellent beverage to sip on. Next, I sampled the Paper Tiger, gin, yellow Chartreuse, Becherovka, and a squeeze of lemon. Considerably smoother than my BoaF and a good change of pace. I enjoyed both drinks and it was fun to watch the bartender go through the motions to create the concoctions with pizazz.
To close out our night, we visited Three Matadors in West Ashley, for a traditional Mexican style dinner of beef burrito bowls, quesadillas, chips and queso dip. It was a jam packed day and my solo trip to Savannah would prove to be just as eventful.
I arrived in Savannah just after eleven o’clock, coming in from the north eastern corner of the Georgia-South Carolina boarder. I found parking in no time at the Savannah Civic Center (50 cents an hour!). I stopped into the first shop I saw, The Coffee Roasters, to find some water and a bathroom, but was impressed by the shop’s atmosphere. Students were all about, working on laptops, jotting notes, or killing time with friends. I looked through the glass panels that held all the delicious looking bagels, muffins, and desserts. Menus hanging over head described different sandwiches and coffee flavors. When I discovered the shop was out of the bacon, egg, and cheese croissants I wanted, I opted to move along to find another spot, but I enjoyed the people and the style present in Coffee Roasters and plan on stopping in again in the future.
I walked ten minutes south, weaving in and out of several small, but very beautiful park spaces abundant with giant Live Oaks covered in Spanish Moss, the most prominent trees in the area. Much like Charleston or the finer streets of New Orleans, the houses of Savannah are incredible to look at with their French style influences. I was stopped in the street by a guy handing out free orange smoothie samples. I made some fast chat with him to get some information about the area. After talking with him a while, I stepped inside the shop and was surprised to find cashiers and food preppers inside a double decker bus taking orders. Very cool.
Next, I made for Forsyth Park. At 30 acres, it is the largest park in the Savannah Historic District and contains an amphitheater, play gyms, a confederate monument, and a large fountain that draws people to it with its serene, steady flow.
I made my way to the south end of Forsyth Park to visit the Sentient Bean, a coffee and food shop that serves up vegetarian dishes to patrons, located right next store to Brighter Day Natural Foods. In the Sentient Bean, I had a hard time choosing from a number of fantastic sounding dishes. In the end, I went with the Greek Tacos: Hummus, feta, spinach, tomato, Kalamata olives, and tzatziki on warm tortillas. As an appetizer, I ordered up a yogurt parfait loaded with blueberries and granola. I loved both, but would really encourage trying their Chai Lemongrass Soup. With a long list of tasty ingredients (fresh ginger, turmeric, jalapenos, carrots, garlic, onions, scallions, kale, tomatoes, lemongrass stock, rice vinegar, tofu, lime, and more) it sounds too good to not experience.
I made my way back through the park and started to drift towards the west side of town, making my way up to River Street, which is a major tourist attraction. Before getting there, I made a mid-way stop to investigate the Savannah College of Art and Design with a quick walk through the school’s art museum.
On River Street is where I found the highest concentration of pedestrians in one area. Off to my left was Savannah River which was currently carrying a large freighter towards the opening of the Atlantic. I stopped in at two different sweet shops. The first, River Street Sweets, boasted a colorful display of candies, fudges, pralines, and more. A few minutes more up the street and I found The Savannah Praline, where I picked up a double scoop of homemade chocolate chip cookie dough and cookies and crème ice cream. I would have plenty of time to walk it off before I picked my next restaurant for dinner.
Along the street, I heard a three different guitarist picking away the cool fall day. At another point, I found a street merchant selling a crafted reed to a tourist woman. There was no shortage of things to see and do on this small strip.
I was only around four o’clock at this point. I had covered a large section of Savannah in only three or four hours of walking. It was too early to head back home but I wasn’t quite ready to eat yet either. I decided now would be the ideal time to make a trip out to Thunderbolt, Georgia, a few minutes east of Savannah, to see the legendary Bonaventure Cemetery, famed for its depiction in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Though there was a great deal to see, I didn’t find much of a desire in photographing the area. The scope of these burial grounds is best understood by walking through them on foot. When it comes to taking pictures, there are just too many oak trees to see very far in any direction. I put my camera away and resorted to walking among the tombs in the last hour before closing, just as a breeze began to pick up and hinted at a pleasant, fair weathered evening.
I drove back into Savannah from the west side. I would be eating at the Pirates House near River Street at the recommendation of a family member. This former inn for seafarers now containing 15 separate dining rooms, has been around since 1753 and believed by some to be the oldest standing building in the state of Georgia. I took my seat at a corner table and looked over the menu, settling quickly on the Pecan Crusted Trout served with a honey creol sauce, mashed sweet potatoes (I opted for regular garlic potatoes) and mixed vegetables. Cornbread is served on the side to all diners. I love a good fish with a well prepared crust and this trout proved its reputation as one of the top restaurant picks.
I am waking up back in Charleston. It’s still early and my only concrete plans are to make sure I board my flight on time at 6:30. I started some laundry and then went back down to the Charleston Coffee Exchange to pick up one of the Bananas Nut Muffins I had seen a few days ago. I came back to the townhouse and enjoyed it while finishing up on the last of the newest Kurt Cobain HBO documentary “Montage of Heck”. I finish my muffin, the documentary, and my laundry and then take Audie out for a game of fetch at the enclosed tennis courts nearby. After eleven, I drive down Sullivan Island, not knowing at all what I’ll do or what there is to see. I locate two points of interest. One is a place called Fort Moultrie on the southwestern point of the island and, the other, a restaurant I’ve found with good reviews online called “Poe’s Tavern”. Now, I’m thinking “poe” as in southern slang for “poor”. I’m envisioning simple, but delicious, homemade food made from scratch. It isn’t until I’m going down Sullivan Island's main strip, Middle Street, that I discover this is in fact a restaurant dedicated to Edgar Allen Poe.
I walk up the steps of the building and find there is no hostess despite the almost full to capacity seating. A large crowd, I think, for a Tuesday afternoon. I’m told to sit where ever I’d like and take a high seat overlooking the street from outside. I receive a menu and look over the options. Here at Poe’s, burgers are the main selling point, with most of the entrées having names like the Tell-Tale Heart, the Annabell Lee, the Pitt and Pendulum, and so on. All of the meat is ground in house at the tavern. I settle on the Sleeper (Roasted Garlic Bleu Cheese and Buffalo Fried Shrimp). The menu tells the story of how, after a brief stint at the University of Virginia, Poe enlisted in the military under an altered name and was stationed at Fort Moultrie for 13 months beginning in November 13th, of 1827. It was his stay here that supposedly inspired his work “The Gold Bug.” In the bathroom, I hear the low ramblings of a man in one of the stales, until I realize the walls are nearly completely covered with various Poe compositions, and the man speaking is actually a recording overhead of Poe reciting these works. The effect is both interesting and creepy. With so many good looking burgers on the menu and the bustling community that flocks to the establishment, this is one food joint I wouldn’t mind returning to.
I walked back up Middle Street to return to my car, noticing all the other little businesses along the way. Now that I had a connection with the nearby Fort Moultrie, I was all the more ready to see it. I made it there in five minutes, as the island is relatively small, began reading historic posts, and taking pictures. Most notable was the display of cannon arsenal that went from World War II back down to the fort’s inception around the end of the 1700’s. One of the more interesting stories was the disappearance of the Mobile, Alabama built H.L. Hunley, a small civil war submarine that proved a testimony to the advantages and the dangers of underwater warfare. Upon further investigation, I discovered the submarines unfortunate history of, not one, but three separate occasions of a sinking. The first occurred on a test run in August of 1863, in which five crew members perished. Then, she sank again not a month later killing all eight of her crew. Both times the Hunley was raised from the sea and returned to service. Over a year later it was the first combat submarine to sink a warship, but it, along with all its crew, were lost to the sea. This time, it appeared to be for good. Three decades later, in 1995, the Hunley was rediscovered and raised in 2000 for transfer to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center to be studied and displayed. After some time of observation, it is now believed that the submarine was potentially as close as twenty feet to its target, the Housatonic, when the torpedo that sunk the warship exploded. The finding of the Hunley is regarded by many as one of the greatest US Naval finds of the century.
The beach was just beyond the sand dunes near the fort, and I thought it would be a shame to be so close and not walk a single beach in Charleston, so I began looking for an opening. I found it by following a couple making their way out with fishing poles and an ice chest in tow. They cut across the fort grounds down a grassy path that others had obviously used many times before. In my sandals, I thought I could bypass a muddy section of the path by going around as the couple had down. I had no luck and the mushy ground gave under me with the reeds sinking in with my feet. Stated simply, it stuck like crazy. Once on the beach I looked both directions to the eastern Atlantic and the not so distant Charleston to the west. The beach from this opening appeared large and the wind was driving hard this afternoon. The waves crashed with authority against the shore and sail boats took advantage of the natural propellant. I didn’t have my phone on me, but I knew it was getting time to begin my way to the airport soon. I couldn’t leave without seeing more of the beach though. I mostly wanted to get a better shot towards Charleston, but needed to get to a point down a ways.
I resolved to abandon my muddy sandals and took off in a full sprint, holding my camera securely, down the beach. After a minute or two, I came to my angle and got some shots of a local fishing along the water’s edge. I back tracked running towards my original entry point, but, once I had made the return, felt I should do the same in the other direction. The corner to the beach was a quarter mile away it seemed, and if I overtook it, who knew what kind of view I could be treated to. I left my shoes again and continued sprinting, this time, closer to the water itself. I ran for another minute or two and saw the corner was much wider than I expected. I continued on for a while before I eventually gave in on the attempt. The distance appeared too great and I still didn’t know the time. To go further would mean a longer time there and back.
Once I had my sandals back on, with their caked filth now baked on from the direct sun, I started back down the grassy path. This time I took another route that appeared drier. No such luck. My feet sank so deep that my footwear gave a distinct sucking noise every time I took a step to free them from the Earth’s muddy grip. Little did I know that the whole time small amounts of mud where getting flung up from behind me, covering my shorts, shirt, and camera bag. Bloody hell.
When I got back to the car, I quickly changed out my clothes. Thank goodness I had just washed everything this morning and it was all here ready for departure. I opened the two side doors of the car and changed everything right there. I then ran down to one of the canals closer to the fort and washed off my feet and shoes in the water that smelled somewhat like the mud I was trying to rid myself of. Still, it was better than nothing.
I met Kayla at her work on Daniel Island. She gave me a tour of her building and introduced me to her lovely, all girl team of over a dozen young women. Then we made a quick drive around the island before taking for the airport. Charleston’s airport is a small one and I managed to get through and relax with my book propped up on my duffle bag, awaiting my departure from all the great places I had seen over the last couple days. Flying over the same rural areas I had seen on my way in, I thought back to a drifter that had stopped me in the streets of Savannah, not far from Forsyth Park. I had my camera around my neck and was on the lookout for anything worth shooting. “Can I make suggestion,” he had said. I told him he could. “Take a picture of something you love,” he advised, “because the memories you’ll have will last you forever.” My seat was by the window and Charleston was fading in the distance. I gave it a long look but kept my camera in its case down by my feet. No need to capture this moment. I had plenty more to choose from already and I liked the idea of this scene being my own. The last look at yet another city that was no longer a stranger to me.
This concludes my travelogue of Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Please like, share, or comment if you enjoyed what you read or saw. I really appreciate those of you who keep coming back to see my travels and support my passions. Thanks!!
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It was set to be a busy weekend. During the week, getting in practices for the following Wednesday’s show at the Juke Joint in Ocean Springs (September 23rd) was my top priority. It would mark my band’s first original set and preparations were in full swing. Musician and current drummer Eddie Dixon was busy playing up in Chicago and would be returning down today to rejoin me for the performance. Besides this, enjoying the events of the weekend was next on the agenda, and there was no shortage of activities to be had.
Thursday night, The Weeks of Jackson, Mississippi, who are currently signed under Kings of Leon’s record label, Serpents and Snakes, performed at The Government Street Grocery in Downtown Ocean Springs. Employees of the venue confirmed a great performance, a display of showmanship that I would hope to see that Saturday night when they would play again at the Thirsty Hippo in Hattiesburg. On the Coast, the highlight of the weekend was the annual Mississippi Songwriters Festival which ran from Thursday to Sunday night. In this event, songwriters from all over the south rotate among close to a dozen venues and take turns showcasing original music while regional judges watch from the crowd. I would get my first taste of the festival Friday night. You can see the full lineup for the festival here.
I parked behind the Beer House in Ocean Springs around eight o’clock, with no plans to be anywhere specific. I had several friends coming to meet me later, but I was wandering rogue for the time being. Moonhawk, a local band I had not seen yet, was playing at the Grocery later that night, but, for now, finding the nearest venue for festival musicians was my goal. I had not even left out of the parking lot when I heard an MC introducing a group of musicians. I followed the sounds and came to stand at the east back patio of Salvetti’s, where three men with acoustic guitars were perched on stools in front of a full house of patrons and music lovers alike. I walked around the side of the building to come in from the front entrance. I was given the only remaining table toward the back, a high standing four top. I ordered a drink and waited for the first round of songs to begin.
One of the musicians, I believe it was Sean Gasaway, was ending his first number when I noticed two women standing behind me, peering over the crowd to see the performers. I offered two of my remaining seats. They said they knew two of the songwriters, one being local native Brandon Green of Ocean Springs, a young man who was currently singing his second song. As luck would have it, a group of people at the forefront table were making their exit early in the performances and we managed to move up to be directly in front of the action. An hour later the music had conclude for the rotation at Salvetti’s. This group would go on to Boots and Spurs across the street and a new set of three would come to the restaurant to continue.
“Let us introduce you to some of the musicians,” one of the women said.
I shook hands with Brandon Green who looked to be in his mid to late twenties. I asked him a little about his roots to the coast and what he thought of Nashville, a city I have yet to visit but have been actively seeking more information on in preparation for my future travels. He gave positive testimony to his experiences and thanked us for coming out. Next, I spoke with songwriter veteran, and one of my favorite performers of the night, Greg Crowe. Crowe, a native of the Mississippi Delta, has lived in Nashville for over 25 years, producing, recording, and performing a blend of blues, rock and country music. With mileage like that, it was a clear indicator that the city was worth closer examination for an aspiring musician. I also met with a fellow promoting the 2nd annual Gulf Coast Songwriters Shootout, an organization that boasts being one of the largest of its kind in the area, and is set to feature 50 artists in competition over the course of several days in the fall. This year, the contest will take place at The Hot Spot Music & Grub at the The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Leaving Salvetti’s, I took for the Grocery to see what was happening there. I passed the Beer House which was full, but no sign of a familiar face in passing. At the Grocery, I got insider information about some of the details for Moonhawk's performance later that night. From the street corner, I could see a group of people gathering at the entrance to Murky Water’s Blues and BBQ joint. I walked over and examined the scene. Like Salvetti’s, Murky Water’s was also apart of the festivities and three more artists were seated on the small outdoors stage. Just then I was met by my friends Eddie and Kate who joined me just in time to hear the first round of songs. We decided to then head for Boots and Spurs to hear the previous three performers again. The atmosphere was a little more “in-swing” here, as B&S is one of the larger venues on the Government strip, and provided for a different listening experience.
Once the trio had finished, it was back to the Government Street Grocery where the three of us sat down for beer and food. We had just settled in when Moonhawk took to the stage for their second half, opening with a jam-y rendition of Jack White’s “I Fought Piranhas”. The group of three proved able and kept the crowd grooving with a series of what sounded like original tunes. If you go to their Facebook page, you might just snag the 100th like for this up and coming indie rock group from Gulfport. Be sure to check out their sweet logo while your there.
Next, we connected with Lyle Stephens and Julia Reyes, who joined me on our recent trip to Colorado. Julia was putting together an artist hike that weekend in Desoto National Forrest and I set my calendar to be a part of the action. The songwriters festival was done for the night and Lyle and Julia were looking to score some chow, so we decided to make a move for the Juke Joint where we were bound to find another band playing. Departing with Eddie and Kate, I made for the Joint and took a seat at the bar. Party At The Moon Tower was in full swing with a heavy set that showed no mercy to the late hour of one o’clock. We enjoyed the music long enough for food to be consumed and then, seeing it would be 2am before long, called it a night.
Back home, I didn’t find sleep till after five o’clock when my alarm system suddenly went on the fritz. At least, that’s what our friend, returning with my roommate from Ocean Springs also, claimed. In any case, it was only a night of about four hours of sleep for me, but that didn’t stop me from making a champions breakfast of bacon, egg and cheese burritos in the morning. Despite trying to nap several times during the day, I found no rest as darkness began to fall again and I would soon be on the road to Hattiesburg with my cousin to see The Weeks. We originally seemed to have a potential group on our hands to make the journey, but now conditions reflected just the two of us making the journey, which was fine by us. The band was set to play at 10pm. We were on the road by eight. An hour and half and many of “The Simpsons” Ralph impersonations later, we were parked outside the Thirsty Hippo.
We were super un-stoked to discover that the building was running at full capacity and we would be unable to enter to see the show. What the heck! Even after a clever scheme in which we pretended to be applying for jobs (this had no chance) we were told we could wait until others left in order to have a spot inside. All around us, others appeared to be waiting as well. Worse yet, there was no waitress to order a drink with while we sat around. Weighing our options, we decided it would be unlikely that we would get our chance to go in anytime soon. Instead, we chose to head to the Keg and Barrel, a favorite spot of mine and many other USM students who prefer a chiller social scene.
As luck would have it, we ran into some friends at the Keg and had a good time eating and drinking at our table which grew to close to a dozen people. Around midnight, we moved to The End Zone to shoot pool. I was facing off with the group veteran who gave me a pretty easy game by providing me with his insight and tips on his methods of play. In the end, I was given the chance to sink the eight for the win, and flopped with a scratch. I doubt I would have even made it that far if my opponent had really decided to play to his full ability, but I learned a lot in the match and had a good time playing the game of physics. Back home on the coast, it was already three o’clock. I climbed into bed and reached for my phone.
“No guarantee I will be making this hike tomorrow morning. It’s already three and I only got four hours last night. Setting my alarm for 9 o’clock but who knows if I’ll actually get out of bed.”
I woke up on my own that morning, but was surprised to see my phone read 9:40. I had forgotten to set my alarm for the A.M. I called Lyle to find the statues of the group. They were in route to Desoto just then, so I jumped up for a shower, threw some food in a lunch box, grabbed my notebook and guitar and headed out toward Highway 67. The group met up just off of 420 Road near Bethel. The parking area had a large, scenic lake with a trail leading into the woods. Having just come back from excellent hiking spots in Colorado, I figured this would make for a great substitute.
We didn’t travel far before reaching a little beach clearing along a cool stream; the perfect spot for the artists to lounge and invoke the creative muse for the day. The two dogs that were accompanying us, a 120lb lab and a lab, pit-bull mix, had it made with two rubber balls and a shallow enough area to spend hours fetching. Looking over the group, I saw some drawing sketches in small notebooks, while another woman painted on a series of blank sheets. Others looked around searching for stones, arrowheads, insects, skins, multi-colored clays for potter, and all other beauties that filled the stretch of water. For the most part, I just enjoyed conversing with the group of new faces, and occasionally jotted notes down in my book about the weekend’s adventures. At the end of the day, we all parted ways, going our different directions to exit the forest, I myself taking my time to enjoy a long, slow cruise home, admiring all the beauty Desoto had to offer.
That’s all from me this weekend. A special congratulations to Della Memoria’s Emily Sholes and Josh Smith on their engagement. Band mates for life! Be sure to check out some of the upcoming events in our area such as The Landing Festival in New Orleans this coming weekend. I’m looking into the Mighty Mississippi Festival in Greensville the weekend of 2nd of October along with Delta State’s yearly Oktoberfest which is bound to be a good time. My next out of state trip is looking to be to Charleston, North Carolina with a day trip to Savannah if all goes according to plan. Be sure to check back with me, as I will have more travelogues and photography detailing my adventures to the above mentioned.
YOLO! (pending the validity of reincarnation)
"A name is just a label for the sum of your actions"
Announcements: I’ll be playing an original set at the Juke Joint in Ocean Springs next Wednesday, the 23rd of September, @ 8pm with drum machine Eddie Dixon. Please come out if your in the area. See the Music page for new demo tracks and date information. Latest podcast with Board of Supervisors candidate John William Faulkner IV is up on the Podcast page. Please like, share, or leave a comment if you enjoyed this post!
I've inserted pictures to help this piece flow. To see all the pictures in full screen, see the bottom of the post for complete gallery.
We were in route to the New Orleans airport. We decided to enter the city from the North, going over the Lake Pontratrain Bridge, a first for me and no doubt the best entry point considering the information that was just relied to me. Lyle Stephens and Julia Reyes were sitting up front.
“New Orleans is hosting the annual gay pride parade,” Lyle said. “We’ll probably have better luck from this route. “
We had made good time in getting to the airport, only being slowed down briefly by the parking lot that was too full to house another vehicle. We were in line with two other cars, debating whether or not we should find another lot. The woman at the booth said all the neighboring lots would be filled, and claimed even the airport parking was slammed. The convoy waited by, hoping a few returning passengers would come back to retrieve their vehicles and free up some space. Sure enough, our patience paid off just as we were about to pull away. We made it into the airport with two hours left till departure. Caring only back packs, and having already checked in online, we moved directly to TSA and made it to our gate with time to spare. We sat down for a quick bite at a Copeland’s close by to where our plane would be coming in. Just as I finished my Catfish Po-Boy, our zone was called for boarding. As I stepped on the plane I noticed a picture of a raccoon looking down from a snow covered tree. The caption read: “You are flying with Rudy today”.
“Please don’t tell me the pilot is a raccoon,” I told the young flight attended as we boarded.
“No, that’s just a sign. We have a human pilot flying us today.”
The plane ride was a brief one at two and a half hours. I had just finished the book I was reading that day, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, and had nothing else to read. I instead resolved to silent contemplation as the passenger next to me looked more interested in napping than conversing. About half way through the flight, I pulled out my iPod to pass the remaining time with Hendrix being my primary listen before switching to a podcast about life coaching. It was around 10pm Mountain Time when we touched down in Denver.
We were met by Ryan Vanskiver in the lobby and made for his vehicle with midnight not too far off. Crossing the Denver city, I could see many of the landmarks that were becoming increasingly familiar to me from my previous Colorado experiences. Not wasting any time, we threw our bags into the apartment where we’d be staying and made for the Lakewood downtown area. We stopped into the Baker Street Pub and Grill to grab some food and listen to some live music. Among the foods tried: Chicken Nachos and Shepherd’s Pie. Later that night, we walked out to exam the large center area of downtown, which had chairs and tables everywhere, but, in the winter season, converts to a skating rink for the residents of Lakewood to enjoy. No doubt a great way for kids to pass the time while parents make their purchases in the surrounding shopping district.
When we woke in the morning, everyone but me took for the shower and changed their clothes. I remained in the clothes I left New Orleans in, which was also my sleeping attire: A pair of Express jeans and a casual blue button down. I laughed and vowed to not shower until the situation truly called for it. Equipped with only what I could fit in my book bag, I decided I was here to rough it out. After bagels and coffee the next morning at Einstein’s, we set our course for Denver’s downtown area. We walked about 16th street for a time, soaking in all that the city had to offer. One notices fairly quickly that there are no benches or seats along 16th, no doubt to keep pedestrian traffic flowing, and as a clever way to get people into stores to make purchases. The Coloradoans, who are some of the healthiest, most active people in the country, don’t seem to mind the extra demand to be in motion.
Julia suggested we stop into some local galleries to see some art. We visited several establishments, including the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art. Here are a few pics. Check out the cool egg huts we found on the roof level of the DMCA. Lined with grass on the interior, these bubbles are designed to block out sound and create a sense of isolation. Perfect for reading or napping in the city. Reminds me a little bit of isolation tanks!
We took back for our home base in Lakewood to revitalize ourselves. We ate and rested for an hour or two while planning our course for the night. Back in Denver, A Taste of Colorado was in full swing. This is a yearly festival that showcases great music, food, craft beers, artwork and more. It was a highly recommended event, both in the press and among residents, so we decided to go back later that night to take part in the festivities. But first, I suggested a sun down walk through a nearby park that I had discovered in my last visit. We gathered a few supplies for a quick trek and got out the door around six. Leaving the grounds from the appartments, we followed a dedicated path made for pedestrans, dogs, and even the occasional horse rider. We followed the path as it lead us under a bridge and out into the opening of the park. The wind was blowing pleasantly and a slight overcast made for a peaceful setting. We enjoyed conversing and taking pictures in the evening of our first Colorado sun set. Near the entrance of the park, we observed some of the old historic buildings and pieces that were dedicated to the park. One of these buildings was a small diner with a neon sign that read: “The White Way”.
Taking an alternative route to exit, we came across a small enclosed garden that was full of vegetation, located just a little ways from a library. I looked among the plants, identifying what I could. Radishes, cucumbers, carrots, and lettuce were among the harvest. An older woman seemed to come out of nowhere and stood next to me.
“Do you like carrots?” She asked.
“I love carrots.”
She waved me aside from the gate I had been positioned next to, opened the latch, and stepped inside. I followed behind her.
“I’m one of the volunteers who helps with the park, particularly this garden. We plant all kinds of things here as the seasons change.” She pointed out all of the vegetables and told me what each one was. Bending over, she pulled out a small carrot from the ground and handed it to me. I thanked her, admiring my new ediable souvenior. She produced another three more. “For your friends,” she said. I thanked her again and we stepped out of the garden. I had just been considering a day trip to either Colorado Springs or Fort Collins in my brief stay, both locations being a little over an hour away, Colorado Springs due south of Denver, and Fort Collins to the north. I questioned the woman as to which she would recommend. Colorado Springs being a more conservative, military based town, and the woman being a little older in her years, I expected her to suggest this location. When I put the question to her, she gave me a look and said, “Well, you know Fort Collins is a college town right?” I confirmed I did know. She nodded and simply said, “That’s where I’d go.”
Back at the apartment, I cleaned my carrots best I could and set them aside for later. Julia had picked an assortment of flowers in the park and, having no vase to put them in, resorted to an empty Coors bottle and placed it on the fireplace mantel. We relaxed for a short time and then began preparing to return to Denver’s downtown. Some of the party wanted to shower up before going out. Despite the hours of walking, the pleasant Colorado weather had not taken a toll on my sanitary factor…in my opinion. I sat by in the living room in my jeans and blue shirt, waiting for the rest of the group.
We decided to experience the Light Rail Service, which ran from Lakewood to Union Station downtown. A short drive put us in the Lakewood parking station for pick up. We became confused trying to make out the train’s maps, and resorted to asking a passerby what we should do. He appeared to be of Sicilian decent, his lively manner of communicating seemed to reflect the assumption. He wore a book bag and a black hat, appearing to be an accustomed pedestrian of the Denver area. He showed us the ticket vendor and instructed us on where to get off and what bus to take once we arrived to get to the festival. We later caught up with him while waiting around for the train on the upper platform. He stated he was from Chicago and had moved to the Denver area a few years ago. When the train pulled up we piled in and I could see the man taking a seat not far behind us. A few minutes later, when a man sitting across from us exited the Light Rail, the Sicilian man moved up to take his place as he finished up a phone conversation. When he was done I turned to him once again to confirm our route, as we were still struggling to remember the details.
He waved his hand and explained it was easy, repeating the steps once more. We talked for a few more minutes and shared our experiences thus far in the city. He agreed that Colorado was a place like nowhere else and expressed his content in being there. At one point, he stopped mid-sentence and looked at me directly.
“You smoke bud,” he asked.
He held up a finger and then plunged it into his book bag. He produced a small green container and handed it to me. An ink pen marked a white label as “Chemical Cookies”. I opened the lid to find a perfectly pre-rolled stick inside.
“That’s the highest strain of THC you can get here. It’s the only thing I buy. Really good stuff.”
“You don’t say. Interesting.”
I began to hand the green tube back to him.
“Nah, you keep that,” he said shaking his head. “I got another one for myself.”
“Oh. Well that’s very kind of you.” Within another minute he stepped off the train and disappeared into the night, his book bag over his shoulders.
We made the next stop at Union Station. We followed the crowd and began walking toward were we thought the buses would shuttle us to the festival. I stopped along the way to take a picture of a water pad that dozens of people were playing around. However, when I began taking shots, the result became a jumble of multi-colored lights across each picture that suggested my phone’s sensors were faulty. This bothered me, as I still had two more days for taking pictures, and my phone was a crucial device for getting the job done. Luckily, I had a secondary Canon Powershot, which I kept in my pocket. It would be my primary for the rest of the night…or so I thought.
We eventually found our way into the festival which had only an hour left. We began walking the street lined with vendors. A diverse crowd of children, teenagers, and adults moved lesiruely along the various pathways, taking in the last of the night’s major atractions. Not far off, on one of the larger green spaces, a band was playing their closer.
At one point, I hiked up some stairs that overlooked the area, stopping short of the top where a group of almost a dozen people stood around. I snapped a few shots with my Powershot and turned to go up the rest of the way. I bound up the dimly lit stairs with a spring in my step to cut through the middle of the group that was standing around chatting…not realizing that there was in fact one more step to take notice of. In my sandals, I slammed my right toe directly into the hard concrete of the final, slightly smaller step. My camera dropped from my hands and I took several unbalanced, half jog steps forward as I tried to recover from a near face plant. I could hear the group of men silent behind me. The pain was instantanoues and I swore aloud as I turned to face them.
“Man, that shit stings,” I said as casually as I could.
“You alright there,” one of the men asked with his hands tucked away in his pockets.
“Ya,” I said coming back to them and bending over to pick up my camera. “You think you got’em all and then that last one comes out of nowhere.”
“You sure you’re okay?”
“Ya, it’s all good man.” I can feel a warm, sticky sensation running down between my toes and my sandals. “I can guarantee you that won’t happen next time.”
I made my way back down, not sure whether I should be focusing on my toe now covered in blood or my camera that was now no longer functional. My attention went to the camera. When I realized it would no longer be serving me for the remainder of the trip, I began to look over my foot. Under a vendor’s street light, I could see my toe nail didn’t look so much bent back as it did shattered at the tip. A dark purple patch had formed under the very center of the nail. Blood was seaping from the front and all down the right side.I felt a slight pressure when I used the foot to step with. A vendor produced two napkins and I pressed it against my toe. The rest of the group was grabbing food, so we agreed to sit down under a tent with benches for a while. Lyle graciously gave me two tacos, which I ate with one hand while the other remained pressed against my toe. After eating, I looked around for something to wipe my hand with.
“Does anyone have a napkin,” I began to ask before remembering my situation. “Oh wait, never mind.” I wiped my hand on the exposed ends of the two napkins at the end of my right foot and said no more. Standing up from the table, I could feel that walking on the foot proved to be easy enough, as long as I took my time. I left it to the group to find a bar. Somehow we ended up diverging from 16th street which had buses shuttling back and forth; to a bar that was several blocks away. It was a slow, somewhat demanding walk but the blood seemed to have stopped, so I had little to be bothered by besides an occasional soar pressure sensation.
We eventually took rest at Scruffy Murphy’s where a music and beer was abondent . I took a water and a seat, happy to be sitting down somewhere. After a few minutes we agreed pizza was a good idea and Lyle disappeared into the streets, coming back shortly with four large slices of thin, greasy pizza that we quickly devoured. At just around midnight, we made our way back to 16th street where we hoped to catch one of the many buses shuttling people to Union Station. I was not entirely shocked to discover that the many buses had now become one lone bus that was causually moving down the street in the opposite direction, making rounds for every block. It would likely be over a half hour before we got back to the station.
As if sensing our predicament, a man on a bike pulling a two seater cart stopped next to us, facing the direction of our destination.
“Need a ride?”
We explained our situation and he confirmed my thoughts on the bus. At this point he looked to be our fastest extraction. He quoted us a price and the group agreed to board with him. The only problem was the seating arrangement. Julia had no problems sitting in Lyle’s lap. That just left me and Ryan.
“There’s gotta be a way we can make this work without looking ridiculous,” I said from the side walk as Ryan climbed up and took his seat next to them, leaving no room for anyone else. He gave his knee a slap and began to sing, “People let me tell you bout my beeest friend.” Before I knew it, we were riding through downtown Denver, Julia and I perched up high over Ryan and Lyle. One by one we took turns commenting on how stupid this spectacule must appear. Our joking was only cut short when a car from our three o’clock suddenly pulled out at an intersection, heading directly at us. Being on the high side of cart it was bound to collide with, I had a front row seat at our potential demise. Our voices rose up in unisen as we saw the car coming closer with no intention of stopping. Without a word or air of concern, our driver made a sharp turn that spun us to the left in a large 360 degree, the car just going past our right side. We all continued laughing, though with a more nervous air. We were safe within another minute as the cart pulled up just outside Union Station. We would live to walk the city streets another day.
I woke up in a particularly unattractive state. My clothes, still on from Friday’s departure, were in noticeably bad shape. The hair on the right side of my head was sticking up wildly in the air while the other side showed it had undoubtedly been under a hat for many hours. I smelled. I rubbed the hair on my face as I stirred and gave a low grumble at the thought of going another day like this. Lyle, Julia, and Ryan came into the living room where I was getting up.
“We’re probably gonna take a quick shower and then head downtown to meet some friends for brunch,” Lyle said. I intentionally slurred my words while coming out of sleep, sounding a little like a drunken person when I jokingly shamed them for their practical hygiene rituals.
“You tourists and your damn showers!”
“Stefan man, what are you trying to prove?”
I turned to Ryan with still waking eyes. “I’m starting to think I should ride this train out just so I can keep this cool new hairdo.”
Ryan looked at me a little dumbfounded. “Stefan…take a shower.”
We laughed but my condition was getting pretty serious considering these people had to share a temporary space with me. I hung my head in mock sorrow.
“Okay you guys.”
Fifteen minutes later I was standing in the living room again with a new shirt and a pair of jeans.
“See, now doesn’t that feel better,” Lyle asked.
“I don’t like it! I feel like a poser!” I retorted. In secret, since I am very much a cleanly person, I did appreciate that fact that I no longer smelled funny.
I had decided Sunday would be a day of solo hiking for me. I had been scanning over various trails that lay to the west of Lakewood near the Rockies. I picked a point on the map: Morrison. It appeared to be the closest and would surely have a number of trails to keep me occupied for the day. Ryan was due for work from noon till after sun down. I figured I could stick it out around the mountains until he returned for me. Lyle and Julie, on the other hand, took for the city to meet up with friends for brunch. Just as I was about to walk out the apartment I decided I should take a weapon of some kind. Ryan appeared to have no practical blade, so I went to the kitchen and opened the first utility drawer I saw. Among the tools inside, I found half a handle and the blade to a pair of scissors. Who knows why it was still there, but I supposed it would do nicely for a temporary shank. I pocketed it and walked out into the late morning.
As we pulled into Morrison, I was not entirely shocked to see Red Rocks Amphitheatre was right in the area where I had planned to begin my journey. I had visited the spot once before, two years ago when I had done my first bit of real traveling around the city of Denver. I checked my backpack. I had three apples, two bananas, a few granola bars, my canteen, and a few miscallneous items. I had hoped to bring some water bottles but this was all I had for the time being. This I would have to make last for the whole day. We pulled into the south end parking lot. Dozens of other people could be seen getting out of cars to hike the trails and go up into Red Rocks themselves. I opened the door and took note of the growing heat as I scanned the high grounds. It was 10:30.
“I imagine I will be around this area most of the day,” I told Ryan. “If I do go any further, it will most likely be north of Morrison, toward Golden. I will try to keep you posted as best I can.” We talked for a minute more and then he pulled away. I made my way up the stairs to the theatre’s main stage. It was a lively scene with many people there to run the stairs and see the legendary grounds. A cleanup crew was near the stage preparing for the show that would take place that night. Only a few hours ago, comedian Brian Regan had been here for a Saturday night showing. I pulled out my camera and took some shots. I began to consider my battery life as my phone would be my only means of communicating, navigating and taking pictures. My current reading was 80%, but I knew it would drain quickly if not used conservatively. Sure would be nice if my Powershot was still working, I thought. I made my way down the other end of the main stage and found the Trading Post. This was a merchandise spot with restrooms and a water fountain. I used both, taking care to drink more water than I wanted at the water fountain and cleaning all three of my apples in the bathroom sink, since I had neglected to do so earlier before heading out. When I was ready, I began walking north along the road to the trail openings.
One would think following the trails would be an easy affair if there is only a few options to choose from, but the mountain side proved confusing to me at first as I took down one path only to turn around to find my true course. Then I had to stand atop a rock near the road side to locate the start of a path that I could clearly see running through the brush, but no entry point. Twice already I had to turn my GPS on to investigate my map. Again, to take a video and a few pictures. My battery was a little over 60% and I had barely started my hike.
About a half hour later I was looking at a distant view of Golden. The path then cut into a small valley into the mountains where I temporarly lost sight of the road, the mountains closer than ever on both sides. I became acutely more aware to the fewer number of people around me as I got further from Rock Rocks Amphitheatre. The trail became hushed between the landforms that rose up around me and the brush became more prominent. I removed the one scissor blade from my backpack, loosened the strap on my left shoulder, tucked the blade between it, and fastened it tight so the handle faced me. The broken tool’s edge was barely visible from the other side of the strap. At first I had positioned it downward, but when I realized the blade was in direct line with the basilic vein of my bicep, I quickly adjusted it to avoid an unfortunate accident. I took a few more pictures and continued on until a found a split in the path. I took to the right on Morrison Trail which came up sharply to a more elevated plateau. From here, I found a diveriging path that went around the side of the mountain face to look back over the town of Morrison. That’s where I found these left behind man made markers.
I continued along the east side of the trail. I had been sipping water here and there the whole way but hadn’t snacked since I left the Red Rocks area. I could feel the noon heat picking up to its worst and my exposed neck and arms were beginning to burn without sunscreen. My lips were becoming parched from the wind and dry air. I decided I had put off lunch long enough and began to seek a viewpoint. I found it at the edge of a large, somewhat flat rock which slanted down over the mountain’s edge. I sat down just as 1 o’clock was ticking by and ate a granola bar and an apple. I then helped myself to more water, as I was starting to feel the effects of dehydration. Behind me, the occasional hikers would pass by, sometimes with their dogs following behind.
I figured if I was getting tired it would be best to continue on so that I would not be caught on the mountain side without any supplies. I still had two apples left, which would suffice if I ran out of water, which was fast approaching as my canteen had only about a quarter left. In the back of my mind, I was hoping I might find a rest area up ahead and a water fountain. I kept going, the path was turning inward and edging toward the northern most point of the mountain. As I understand it, I was now close to the beginning of what was known as Matthew’s Winter Park. At one point, the trail became very tight with chest high brush that closed in on the path. Visibility became tough and I slowed my pace to listen to the environment around me. I heard no people, but there was a great deal of rustling among the growth. As I walked, I practiced drawing my shank a few times to make sure I had the motion down. I would reach my right hand up and rest it over my left pectorial, the middle finger looped inside the handle, with the rest of my fingers slightly spread like a spider. With one swift movement I could flick the blade from its holding and have it tucked under my palm in reverse grip with little effort. The thick brush subsided quickly and the path came out to look over the same trail further down, running north, deeper into Matthew’s Park. I was about to come to the spot where Red Rocks Trail meets Morrison and runs back south, up the mountain to its peak, and back down the other side to head back in the direction of the Amphitheatre. Two men were about to pass me by going the direction I had just come. I asked them if it was far to the top. They told me it was not. I was feeling tired and my water was down to just a few sips to keep my mouth wet. I ate another apple but it didn’t do as much for me as I’d hoped. The day was at its hottest and there was very few places to hide from the sun. Taking the mountain’s peak would be a fair and final challenge, as the trail elevated quickly. I examined it once more from the bottom, then looked at the trail running into Matthew’s Park. Just a short time ago, I had thought I would spend a few hours exploring this trail as well to pass the time. Now, I was standing at rest, panting slightly, wondering how I would ever manage such a walk at this time of day with what little supplies I still had. Even with the mountain peak so close, I was beginning to contemplate turning around the way I came to backtrack, where I knew the path would be easier.
After thinking it over a few minutes, I started up the steep side of the trail to the top. Within the first couple minutes I was out of breath and twice my hand wanted to reach for my water, but I knew I would be out if I did so. I tried to recall what my map looked like when I viewed the aerial shot from before, but couldn’t recall. I had no idea how many times this trail would wind back and forth to make its way to the peak. A few minutes later, I came to a stop and looked back down the way I came, then again to the path running deeper into Matthew’s. I wondered if there was a parking lot and rest area in that direction. I looked back up to the mountain’s top, in the direction where the sun was currently positioned, a giant foe that sought to deny me its seat. Its rays seemed unfiltered as they beamed down from me with the intensity of a broiling oven. I was out of my element in this kind of dry heat. In Mississippi, I imagined what I would be experiencing in similar a situation. Dying of dehydration or exhaustion in the south’s unforgiving humidity, covered in sweet as it is pulled from the body. Here, I envisioned it feeling much more like an extreme hangover in which I would be found dried up and baked out. If I keep going like this, we’re going to have a problem, I thought. I came to the mountains to be at the mercy of mother nature, and I would honor its many faces. I turned my gaze away from the peek I would not see on this particular trek and made my way back down the path I had come.
When I got back to the split path, I observed the northern path into Matthew’s. Just then, the two men I had just spoke to were coming back from the trail I had come in on.
“Second thoughts,” the first man said.
“I think I’ve gone far enough for one day. I’m not use to the terrain and I’m out of water. I still have a long way to go and I don’t want to get caught out here without supplies.” I pointed to the northern path which had a few hikers going around its bend. “Does that trial lead to a parking lot or a rest area? Maybe a water fountain?” The man shook his head. “There’s a lot, but no water.” I made a small noise of acknowledgement. I would have to take my original path back all the way to the Trading Post for water.
“Here, why don’t you take mine,” the man said removing his backpack bladder. I put up my hand in protest, “No, no, that’s okay, I don’t want to leave you in a rough position.” He shook his head, “It’s nothing. We are actually over prepared and have more than we will need. Our hike is almost done for the day. I’d rather it go to good use.” This was a gesture I greatly appreciated. The man was juggling his own canteen and trying to remove his backpack at the same time. He reached out with his bottle to the other man who was standing just behind me. “Can you hold this for me babe?” The other man, who I had not looked at directly till just now, was certainly not the man’s son as I had thought might be the case before. This other man now spoke to me for the first time as the other began pouring water into my canteen.
“You’ve come a long way for a Mississippi boy.”
“Oh yes,” I said, keeping my attention on the flowing water in front of me, not wanting a single drop to go wasted from missing its target, “this is all new territory to me.”
When the first man finished pouring, he slung his pack over his shoulders again. “Well, at least now you won’t die of dehydration.” I thanked them again and took off back down my path. As we parted, the man commented on the hours left till sundown, no doubt to make sure I didn’t find myself in another equally bad position in which cold, frigid winds from the Rockies would likely find me, showing me yet another dangerous face of the mountains character.
My battery was showing about 25%. I had left it on for a time in between taking pictures. It had drained considerably, especially from use of the GPS which I had been using earlier to find my exact location and route. I hiked back with my canteen in hand for the first fifteen minutes, drinking regularly. I was not even half way back before I had almost emptied it again. I drank it to the bottom, not worried about running out at this point. I would be at the Trading Post in a little over an hour if I did not stop. This required a little will power to press forward, as previous hiking around the city from the last two nights and most of yesterday had taken its toll. When I finally arrived back at the North end parking lot, I had about 15% and my water was depleted. I recalled the woman at the register in the store saying the show tonight would call for a shut off of the roads around Red Rocks. Only concert goers would have access. I made my way down to the trading post, where, in the back yard behind the building, a wedding was in progress. Bystanders peered on as the bride and groom made their commitments in the heart of Red Rocks.
I looked at my clock. It was a little after three. I knew Ryan had a second shift at 4:30, but I thought it might be worth a shot to see if he was free at the moment. I sent him a text saying I was done for the day and if he happened to have any free time, I would be ready to go. “I’m on my way,” came the response. I put my phone away and sat by. After a minute, I remembered the situation of access and called Ryan directly. I asked him if he wanted to pick me up at the Trading Post or down in the south end lot where he dropped me off. He said he didn’t know where the trading post was, so I told him I would go down to the south end. After I hung up, I realized the trail I had taken up this morning to the south end was closed off. There was another trail and I hoped that it would connect to the same path that led to the parking area. I text Ryan again saying I would try to get down. He would be arriving in approximately twenty minutes.
I started off down the new trail, my legs feeling a little sore to walk again after having rested for a while. About five minutes into the walk, I realized if this path didn’t lead to the south end, I would have to back track all this way, a situation I did not want to find myself in, as this would undoubtedly put Ryan late for work. I began to jog down the path and could feel my shoulders becoming tired from carrying my book bag all these days. A few minutes later, it became evident that this new trail was not leading to the south parking lot. I had asked two other hikers along the way, but neither seemed to know what I meant when I inquired about the lot. Okay, I thought, they must not be locals. Now, I realized I was the one who looked like a tourist. I gave a grunt, spun around, and started jogging in the opposite direction, my pace quickening. I pulled out my phone and squinted under my cap to see the screen. Less than 10% battery. I called Ryan again while still running. “Listen, your going to have to locate the Trading Post on your GPS or something. This path doesn’t go to the parking lot and I have to back track to get to where I was originally. How are we on time? Are you okay with work?” I could hear the uncertainty in Ryan’s voice. He was very close by and commented on the traffic coming from the mountain. Just as I was about to tell Ryan to leave me and come back after his shift at nine, he pulled up to blocked gate with a posted attendant. “Hold on, let me talk to this guy.” I slowed my pace for a moment to catch my breath. Ryan came back on, “Okay, he’s letting me through. I’m getting closer.”
“Good, I’m gonna let you go because I gotta keep running. It’s gonna take me another five minutes to get back there.”
I hung up and started running again. I passed one of the hikers I had spoken to earlier. “Not the right way,” she asked. “Not for me,” I said without stopping. The trail went up and I began to climb a set of stairs. When I reached the top, the trail cut across the road briefly to continue on to the Trading Post. Preparing to cross the road, I was almost hit by Ryan’s car as he came around the corner. I threw my hands up and he pulled over to the side, traffic still behind him. I climbed in and we backtracked down the mountain. My adventure for the day was complete.
Our last day in Colorado would be spent in Boulder. The plan was to go down to a breakfast and lunch restuarnat called Dot’s Diner On The Hill that I had been exposed to the last time I was in Colorado almost a year ago. After that, we would make a brief visit in with Will Lammons (see Coastal Noise Podcast #50 ) who had just moved to the Boulder area a month ago. Just the day before, I had called Will to see if he’d be interested in going on a hike with us up into one of the nearby mountains. I was shocked to discover that since I had last talked to him that Saturday, Will had been in an accident involving a motorist while riding his bike. A woman at an intersection hit him from the side, sending him flying, with his bike going under the vehicle completely. Boulder is notorious for a higher number of cyclist accidents, as the town has a very active community. From the looks of his condition, Will was fortunate to have walked away sustaining only what injuries he had.
We drove up the western side of Denver, making our way through Morrison and Golden. We reached Boulder in under an hour and seated ourselves in Dot’s before ten o’clock. Most everyone ordered some form of eggs, biscuits, meats, and hashbrowns, with Julie opting for a bowl of delicious looking granola cereal and Ryan upping the ante with banana pancakes on top of his main order, which he shared among the group. Organic coffee and crème was served to all. We happily ate with the rest of the patrons who filled most of the diner’s inside and outside seating. Business had not slowed down for Dot’s since I had last visited.
Stepping outside, we witnessed a flock of sorority girls running down the street, no doubt engaged in some sorority silliness. I was reminded of one of my favorite aspects of Boulder. No matter where you go, you will never find a shortage of stunning looking chicks in this town. On a pricey, nationally revered college campus known for its active lifestyle with tons of surrounding outdoors appeal, you can be hard pressed finding an out of shape girl. Boulder is like heaven for a boy out of Mississippi, but with an average median home price of close to half a million dollars, you pay for the sights.
We stopped in with Will to see how he was fairing and to talk about his experiences in town. He had made a big jump in coming out here and seemed to be rushing to catch up with school, housing, and social affairs, but overall was in good, positive spirits as always. From his living room, a large window facing out to the south displayed a scenic view of the mountains. He wore two casts on both forearms from his collision yesterday, but seemed to be in functional shape otherwise. He was reading through various texts when we arrived. Lite music played from a speaker on the floor next to his sofa. We talked for half an hour or so and then bid him farewell so we would have plenty of time to take to the mountains and see more of the area.
Our main attraction for the day was Mt. Sanitas on the lower west side of Boulder, recommended to us by a local Denver transplant and home state connection, Kenton Norris. As we made our way up to the parking lot, we passed a gated pathway that looked very familiar to me. After parking and looking at the area map, I realized that the mountain we were about to ascend was the first mountain I had ever ventured up in Colorado almost four years ago. I was excited to revisit it, reconnect with old memories, and share the mountains tucked away views with my friends. The hike was much more pleasant at first than my expereicne yesterday, mostly due to the calm, breezy weather and abundant shade coverage, thanks to the many trees that lined the trail. We weren’t without our difficulties however. Ryan was forcing himself to work extra hard having only brought one 12oz bottle of water and no additional supplies. Julia on the other hand, was attempting to climb the mountain with the only shoes she had, a pair of Converse All Stars. In the end, the mountain would make us all pay our dues in some form. We began hiking up before noon, sharing the trail with a good number of people. At first, the way was a series of high step ups, then a period of smoother, steady inclines. Before long we were met with the mountain’s most difficult part. A section which was a particularly steep ascent with less footing on the smooth, red rock surface. It’s areas like this that often forced us to use our hands against the ground to balance and make the climb more manageable. A wrong misstep could have you sliding or create a scenario for a twisted ankle. We made several stops along the way up, but it was after this section in particular that we were most grateful for the shade and a fallen tree for sitting, pointed out to us by a seasoned local. From this angle, we could see off into the western mountain line a little better. Clouds gathered around their distant tips and an advancing breeze cooled us down as we worked to regain our breath. After a few pictures of our progress, we continued on with the peek not far away. Within another twenty minutes we had reached the top. A small crowd, dogs, and the occasional wild chipmunk crowded the small clearing. From this vantage point, we could see clearly down over all of Boulder, its distant northeastern neighbor Gunbarrel, and all the way to the barely visible outline of the city. It was a grand sight, just as I had remembered it four years ago in the slightly colder conditions of October, but it was the view from behind us that stole our attention. Gathering like an ominous sign, dark rain clouds blocked out the blue skies from the west as the wind picked up to its strongest gust yet. A forbidding breeze that seemed to single us out as it rushed passed us on Sanitas secluded peek. We would have no time to enjoy our victory up there on the Mt. Sanitas secluded clearing.
We began out descent in haste. All around us people were moving up and down the mountain, those in flow of our direction moving with a greater since of urgency. Many trail goers were equipped with rain coats and other useful accessories to fair the weather. We had nothing to make the trip more bareable in that regards. Going down was a great deal easier for all of us besides Julia, who had to take extra care going down the steeper sections with her grip-less, flat bottomed shoes. At one point she took a spill that left one of her knees badly scraped. Half way down, the rains started on us. Despite what was coming, we were shocked to see a steady stream of people hiking up toward the top. I took comfort in thinking they surely must have investigated the weather before coming out and deemed the conditions manageable. Still a ways from the bottom, the wind and rain continued to pick up noticeable. Ryan and I huddled against a large boulder, which blocked the downpour sufficiently, while we waited for Julia and Lyle to catch up. Out of humor, I snuck around the face of the boulder and peered in the direction of the coming storm. I was hit by a fierce gust and my glasses were sprayed with hard rain. I yelled back into the beast and then ran back to Ryan so he could hear me over the noise.
“Don’t stare directly into it!”
This made for two days in a row I had gone seeking adventure and had gotten a bit more than I bargained for, but I felt no desire to wish for a lesser experience.
Before long we had reached the bottom…just in time for the storm to cease completely. At the base of the trail we found a gazebo where we took a moment to rest and stretch are tired legs. We made our way back down to the car with the sun finding its way through the clouds, beginning to drink up the soiled Earth. On the road back to town, I made the motion for a celbratory lunch at the best Mexican restaurant we could find. Boulder, aside from its stellar women, is also well regarded for its fantastic food selection, with many ingredients being sourced locally to the wide variety of independent businesses.
A made a quick call to Will for his opinion, and he pointed us in the direction of Sancho’s, a small eatery inside one of Boulder’s malls that boasts fresh from scratch authentic Mexican style food. I went with two traditional tacos, one steak and the other a vegetarian style wrap. Lyle and Julia split an entrée of beans, rice, and selfmade tacos with their choice of meat. Ryan won this round with his discovery of a New York buritto that was stuffed with beans, meats, fillings and, the most impressive feature, French fries. Well played Sancho’s.
After the Mexican food, I insisted on treating ourselves to some well deserved ice cream. Last year, due to time, we had missed out on an opportunity to score some of the great ice cream that I knew was bound to exist in Boulder. A quick Google search showed me the Glacier Homemade Ice Cream was one of the top dogs in the area and fairly close by to our current location. I am convienced this was the highlight of my eating explorations on this trip. I generally don’t keep ice cream at home, but the trip to Glacier has tempted me every day after to make a special trip to the grocery story to purchase any number of flavors for personal consumption. Upon entering, ice cream fiends have their choice of dozen flavors, several which were created by the members who run the store. Julia went with the first sample we tried, a Jamaican white chocolate blend. I came close to picking this flavor too, but I had only had three scoops to choose for my ice cream cup and unfortunately the Jamaican chocolate, as incredible as it was, was down the line of so many other fantastic options. In the end I went with a base of traiditional, loaded cookie dough (my personal favorite), with a scoop of salted caramel cookies and crème (Lyle took three scoopes of this), topped with chocolate fudge, caramel cookie dough swirl (this blew my mind). We sat contentedly eating our desserts while making small talk with the owner. He had moved from his home in one of the states to the east, in love with Boulder’s abundant selection of independent businesses and small town, community feel. He abandoned his old job and started up his own ice cream store with his family, never once looking back. He gave some great advice for potential movers as well, citing particular areas that were less expensive but fairly accessible to both city life and Boulder itself.
We left Boulder the way we came in and, for the third time in my life, I watched one of my favorite places in the country fade from view, quietly nestled against the foothills of the Colorado Rockies.
The night after our travels through Boulder, we spent the evening relaxing at the apartment, watching a show that we were all sufficiently hooked on called Narcos. After the second episode, I deemed it the programming that would fill the whole in my heart that Breaking Bad left behind. As I am finishing up this travelogue on the 14th of September, I am already eight episodes deep and still watching. The next morning we made for our 12:20 flight out of DIA. Driving closer to the airport, we all took special care to observe the unusual facility. I am now conveinced more than ever that DIA is a preimer location for the conversion of a military complex. I could rant on and on about why I think this is, but all the information is already avalible online for those who seek it. It is the second largest airport in the world, it contains huge underground complexes, miles of open roads to cover before accessing the building itself, large man-made geographical structures and mounds for strategic positioning, international accessibility to and from, a large natural barrier in the form of the Rockies themselves to protect from nuclear blasts or invasion from our unprotected western coast, a large number of solar panels for plenty of backup power, apocalyptic artwork and free mason symbols in the terminals, the red eyed horse of revelations out front…the list goes on and on. Seriously, go check it out. I’ve looked into it here and there over the course of several years. The more one looks, the more it all makes sense. Fortunately, we got on our plane without any sign of empending nuclear distruction. We would arrive back in the south with little issue.
Once back in New Orleans, we made east for Mississippi. It was close to rush hour, so we made quick to get out of the city. Once across the bridge and into Slidell, we began considering options for dinner. Our time in Colorado had passed, but that didn’t mean we had to slump back into the mondane of typical fast foods. Another Google search showed all the restaurants in the area with ratings. I found a spot called The Southside Café with favorable reviews. We pulled in to the parking lot, only a five minute detour from our original path. Inside we were treated to an elaborate atmosphere of WWII memorobila and snappy bar accessories (A sign above the center bar read simply: Shut up and eat). We spotted an M1 Garand and an AK47 hanging from the rafters, as well as two individual newspaper clippings, signaling the beginning and end of the war. Model planes and pictures of military personal hang all around. A look over the menu proved making a dinner deicison would be difficult.
I’ve never been one for Reubens, but this one claimed to be “famous”, so I thought, what the heck, I’m here for the unordianary. As a failsafe, I also order a cup of Southside Café’s French Onion Soup with crutons and mozerlla cheese. As an additional failsafe, I also order an Oktoberfest speciality beer from Abita. The French onion soup was the top dish in my book and made the Reuben, which I was only partial to, that much better when dipped. The fact that the soup came with a tray of four different kinds of assorted crackers gave flair to a dish that could have otherwise be seen as typical. We polished off our beers, took some pictures to document the encounter, and piled into Lyle’s car to make the last stretch home to Mississippi.
This concludes my travelogue to Colorado. Thanks for reading. I hope my accounts have provided you with a glimpse into places you have yet to visit or given you insight into new possibilities for the familiar. Follow me online and lets continue discovering together.
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A few days after I posted the last Weekend Music Roundup, "Weekend at Birdie's", I got a
message online from local photographer, Fred Salinas, giving me the heads up
on some blues music coming to The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint that Friday
and Saturday night. The Friday night slot was going to harp player Rockin
Jake, followed by Nick and The Ovorols the night after. Though I would have
liked to have been out Friday, I had a follow-up podcast with Will Lammons
which we ran as our first live episode.
Saturday night. Eight o'clock is approaching and the radar is saying a serve
weather storm is pushing down from the north. I'm pretty tired. As much as
I'd like to say forget about it and retreat to the comforts of home, I
decide to see what the weather has in store for me. The Shed is a fairly
airy place, so I'm not sure what would happen if, say, a tornado appeared
out of nowhere. I figure I could use a little excitement and my rain jacket
hasn't seen any action in the last couple months, so I grab my things and
take on down the road. The plan is to do some solo shooting at the Shed and
then head down to the Government Street Grocery where Black Water Brass (a
much hyped group by Will Lammons) and a few friends will be. In attempts to
beat my early night grogginess, I stopped in at a gas station in hopes of
finding some late night fuel. I got it in the form of a Starbucks
Frappuccino, but then, I thought, why stop there? I saw a Mike's Hard
Cranberry Lemonade and thought of the scene from The Departed in which
Leonard DiCaprio orders a cranberry vodka and then proceeds to smash it over
the head of a mouthy bar dweller. The fact that it was probably loaded with
both sugar and alcohol had me thinking it might come in handy at some point.
I however didn't drink it (or the bag of potato chips I bought along with
it) until the next day while lounging around the river. For the best,
considering how unhealthy the whole purchase was.
The radar was showing streaks of red all about the sizeable storm that was
fast approaching. I drove with a slight haste as bolts of lightning gathered
in the northern sky. When I arrived at The Shed, the rains had yet to begin,
but the music was in full swing. Before entering the main music stage, I
stopped in at the bar for a quick drink. The half bottle of Frappuccino I
drank along the way had given me a nice boost and I was curious to try
something new. I found a "Curlee's Coconut" porter and resisted the urge to
purchase one of the delicious sounding Mississippi Mud desserts made with
ice cream sourced from local shop "Quakers". I think I had acquired enough
sweet stuff in the last hour to hold me over for the next few days.
I took a seat at a table behind the front row. I listened to a song or two
and then began shooting. Nick and The Ovorals, a Chicago group, proved to be
a trio powerhouse of blues music, with recognizable tunes from the Cream and
Hendrix eras being prominent show cases. Though I detected the nasty storm,
which was just beginning, had kept many at home, the performance still
captivated the audience in attendance, most of whom were there well before I
was and stuck through till the very end. After the show, I approached Nick
to inquire about his travels. He expressed his liking of the coast and I
assured him that if his group came back, I would do my best to promote their
future performances. We shook hands and I departed for The Government Street
Grocery just as the rain was letting up. A quick check of the radar showed
the eastern perimeter of the storm had just brushed passed my current
location and the rest of the night promised to be dry from what I could
Down at the Grocery, Black Water Bass was in full swing. Unbeknownst to me,
fellow musicians Jackson Weldon and Zach Fellman were in the mix of other
members delivering a spirited mix of heavy instrumental jams that proved
quit danceable. Familiar tunes were transformed into big band style numbers
with horns, keys, guitars, bass, conga, drums and more. At one point, I
counted nine musicians crammed on the stage as a large crowd gathered around
to groove with the high energy performance. After the show, I caught up with
Jason Sanford and Robby Amonett who were also in attendance. I told them I
was looking for another group to photograph to complete the roundup and
Robby suggested I look into Enjoy The Weather who was currently headlining
at The Juke Joint (with an earlier performance by Future Primitives).
Down at the Juke Joint, I stood by with the crowd and listened to a few of
the fast driven, heavy hitting songs that Enjoy The Weather was cranking
out. Their light display was particularly noteworthy and went well with
their intense presence. Shortly thereafter, I reunited with my friends who
had migrated from The Grocery, as well as awesome bartender and lover of
psychedelic cats, Brittney Coblentz. Brittney had just returned from a
weeklong stay in the great state of Colorado, and I was eager to hear of her
travels, as the Rocky Mountains usually draw me to them at least once a
year. In fact, I think I am about due for a return soon. Maybe, on my next
go around, I can find some local podcasters to sit in with.
This concludes this edition of the Weekend Music Roundup. I will be posting
the latest Coastal Noise Podcast within a day or two of this article being
published. It is likely that we will do more live podcasts in the future, so
please follow along on FB, Twitter, and Instagram to see notifications and
links to the live audio feeds when they go up. Thanks for reading and feel
free to reach out if you have a place of interest for me to visit, music to
hear, or a potential podcast guest recommendation.
The weekend looked to be an eventful one. Early in the week, friend and fellow musician Eddie Dixon asked me to help out setting up for his Friday night set at Ben Kaufmen’s Irish Coast Pub in Gulfport. I gave an affirmative response and asked for the start time and inquired as to who he was opening for.
“Poclock is when the show starts,” the message read. I spent some time trying to decode this. Was he pulling my leg? Was this a reference to something? Was I thinking too much into this? I got so wrapped up in those few seconds trying to figure out his meaning that I completely missed who he said he was opening for. I’m not sure at what point we agreed on this next plan, but Eddie stated he wanted to get together on Sunday to do some finishing work on a 5 track EP we’d been working on for the last few months.
A day or so later, I received another message online, this one from Southland Music Line’s Johnny Cole. He said he and longtime photographer and friend, Stephen Anderson, were heading to Louisiana that Saturday night to a joint I had never heard before to see some rootsy blues music in the form of The Jericho Road Show. He asked if I would like to join in on the travels to which I enthusiastically agreed. I had never heard The Jericho Road Show in action, but a reputation had been established in my mind from previous discussions I’d had with Johnny and Andy. I was most certainly ready to hear them out. Still better yet, we would go on to discuss making a stop at the Irish Coast Pub again that Saturday night around midnight to catch the end of Rosco Bandana who was set to play with Moonhawk.
Between Eddie’s set Friday, our travels for Saturday night, and the recording work on Sunday afternoon, my weekend was pleasantly packed for an array of musical endeavors. I was still jazzed from my first ever trip to the Delta, where I explored the Cleveland area around Delta State University, looking for blues music, photography and good food. What better way to chronicle this coming weekend’s activities than with another photography blog.
I took some time mid-week to look over some of the most recent posts at The Southland Music Line to see what my comrades in journalistic affairs had been up to since we last spoke. Some of the articles I read included groups Delta Reign, Rosco Bandana, and a man labeled a “blues traditionalist” named Wes Lee (see article link below). This is the article that most caught my attention, as I am always looking for local musicians in tuned with the more fundamental elements of this genre. I made a mental note to inquire about these readings with Johnny later that weekend.
Friday night. I sling my camera over my shoulder and head down the road listening to SOAD’s double album which I had just discovered had been sitting on my external hard drive instead of in my music library. For shame. At the show, I sit at the currently uncrowded bar, order a beer, and make small talk with Ben Kaufmen. I don’t believe I’ve been to the Irish Coast Pub in almost two months, since I last played with the guys at the weekly Monday night jam.
I ask Ben who the headliner is for tonight.
“Wes Lee,” he replies. I am both surprised and tickled. It is funny how quickly the universe will bring such occurrences to your door without your knowing.
Eddie arrives and we tote his equipment and artwork to the front of the building. I’m tasked with taping up a display board and arranging an assortment of pictures and albums. The music begins and I hover about getting some shots and speaking to familiar faces here and there. About half way through the set, I am standing in the back where the music and scope of the bar is optimal. I see Wes Lee come around to the bar’s end. I introduce myself and we spark up a conversation about blues music. It takes me very little time to deduce Wes’s connection to one of the oldest forms of American music. It was a discussion worthy of a podcast, which lead us to look into future possibilities in the fall for a dedicated recording. I will post more details on this as it develops.
Just after nine, Wes Lee took to the stage with his own stomp box style floor board and a series of resonator guitars. His opening tracks confirmed my previous belief that he was a true disciple of traditional blues music. His slide work was most notable, as he tapped away in his boots atop the wooden floor board before him. Belting out a variety of originals and classics by greats such as Son House, he proved he had thoroughly developed his skills as a seasoned guitarist, making the complexities of such a powerful art form look effortless as he transitioned from one song to another. I took a series of shots, faster than usual, and took a seat at one of the front row tables to observe an impressive display of old school blues.
In our conversation prior, Wes had made mention that is always interesting how individuals of like-minded interest and intentions find one another in their respective journeys to know more about any one given subject. The statement was no more self-evident than when I sat by watching this set, a performance that showed years of attention to detail in understanding some of the oldest principles of American blues music.
Little did I know are paths would be more entwined than I expected. I had told Wes I would be travelling into Louisiana tomorrow night to experience more blues music in the company of the Southland Music Line. He asked the name of the joint I was going to. I confessed I did not know for sure. “Is it Birdie’s Roadhouse?” He asked, but I couldn’t recall, admitting that I had pretty much just jumped at the chance to go somewhere interesting. After his first set, Wes stepped out to break and talk to patrons. Just as I was about to retire for the night, Johnny Cole arrived on the scene. I found him talking to Wes out back and approached him to say hello and get details for our trip out of town the following day. I asked him what the name of the establishment we were going to was called. Birdie’s Roadhouse was the reply.
I turned to Wes Lee. “Isn’t that the place you said earlier?”
“Maybe,” he returned with a grin.
Saturday evening came quickly. I had all the needed travel essentials on hand and was looking forward to another night of music. At four thirty me, Johnny, and Andy were on the road for an area just north from Bogalusa, Louisiana, between the towns of Varnado and Angie. This is where we found this lovely sign.
Only a few minutes later did we arrive at Birdie’s Roadhouse. A bar that appeared to be a house at one time, sitting along the side of the road not far off from the thick of the woods. The outside’s simple design of white walls with a medium size work of art painted on the buildings west side gave little hint as to what to expect of its interior. I took a few shots and then followed Johnny and Andy up the old steps and entered through the main door.
Once you step into Birdie’s itself, you feel like an old, handed down secret is being reviled to you. Whereas the outside is plain and unassuming, the inside is rich with history, preserved through the many pictures and artworks that adorn the walls. The framed pictures were the most noticeable. On both sides of the wall, the pictures were positioned from floor to ceiling at some points. On the right, musicians took up all the space. On the left, an assortment of random pictures. I couldn’t help but notice among the predominately faded or all together colorless photos was an exceptionally beautiful young girl in purple, smiling to all those in passing. This photo would prove relevant in the future. Gazing up to the ceiling, one can see names engraved into the wood with various colors of chalk. I’m told a ladder is required to do so. Besides this, all kinds of décor filled the bar, as can be seen in the included photos.
On top of all this, Wes Lee smiles from the stage as he sets up his equipment for the night’s performance in The Jericho Road Show.
“You did say Birdie’s Roadhouse didn’t you?” I asked in jest.
“Yeah, I guess I did.”
In our first few minutes of being there, I was introduced to the additional two musicians who would be performing tonight, both of whom I had been told about in past conversations with Johnny Cole. Libby Rae Watson and Rambling Steve Gardner were beaming as they prepared their own equipment alongside Lee, as the three converged to make the Jericho Road Show outfit.
While the band prepared, we decided to step into the back room, just passed the narrow bar, to a small dining area where food from the back kitchen was served. Fried green tomatoes topped with gulf shrimp and house sauce appeared to be the top seller, but I had my eye on the baked potato soup with cracker toast (a term I made up) and fruit on the side (a pineapple slice with cherries on top). I placed my order in with Mrs. Sandy, the daughter of the original Birdie. She proclaimed the soup was indeed worth the order and sold me with its description. Within minutes, we were dinning in the main room next to the stage and all very happy about it.
The show began and so did the stories, friendly banter, and comical exchanges. Combined, the three put out an array of old timey blues and folk numbers, switching instruments between tunes, along with roles as to who would take lead or sing on the next song. The small crowd attentively watched as Andy and I moved about looking for shots. I had a particularly difficult time working out the lighting in the building, which was on the dimmer side, making shots without a flash more challenging. The windows are blocked off, no doubt to keep the old house cooler, and what light does exist emits from multi colored Christmas lights, neon signs, and the like.
As we sat listening, Johnny pointed out a young woman behind the bar who had not been around until just recently it seemed. He told me she was Mrs. Sandy’s daughter, the granddaughter of Birdie, who carried on the same nickname. After a few songs, I approached Birdie to pick her brain on the history of the establishment. She told me a little bit about her family’s history and how she now helps her mother run the bar following a temporary shutdown a few years previously. She claimed Birdie’s Roadhouse was a New Orleans style bar for the Angie and Varnado areas. A place where people can come to be themselves and enjoy good music, friends, and food. The music, a major staple here, goes from Thursday to Saturday nights with the opening mic kicking off on Thursday. This has been talked about as a special night as famous musicians in the past have dropped in unannounced to perform in this special bar.
She pointed to the two separate walls covered with photography. “That’s the wall of fame and the other one is the wall of shame,” she stated with a laugh. The famed wall was the one consisting of all the musicians, many of which had performed at Birdie’s themselves. A large picture of Buddy Guy in particular caught my attention. My mind went back to the girl in purple on the opposite wall. Now talking to Birdie face-to-face, I realized it could only be her. I pointed to the picture and asked if it was her. She confirmed my assumption. “You’re on the wall of shame?” I asked jokingly. “What’s up with that?”
As we talked, a crowd seemed to develop out of nowhere. Suddenly, the small house seemed even smaller as the narrow walkway between the wall and the bar became swamped with patrons, some sitting, others standing. I was told later that this was a golf group of some kind, all piling in from the day’s outdoor activities. From my view point, I could see my seat up near the front by Johnny was being eyed by newcomers, my equipment still resting on the table. I decided it was time to make my way back. Though it was only ten feet away, it took me almost a minute to get there. Seated comfortably again, I watched the remainder of the set before the group took another break. Our trio decided to move along to catch the Rosco Bandana midnight showing at the Irish Coast Pub. It was already past eleven, so we would only be able to catch the last few minutes with any luck. We all collected together to talk for a time before saying our farewells and departing. Johnny, Andy, and I made our way back to the bar register to square away or tabs. Me being last, I thanked Mrs. Sandy for the soup recommendation and the chance to experience such an interesting place. I told her I looked forward to coming back someday and Mrs. Sandy, sweetheart that she was, kissed me on the cheek, gave a warm hug and bid me safe travels.
Within no time at all, we were back in Gulfport at The Irish Coast Pub. Rosco Bandana was nearing the end of their set, so Stephen Anderson and I began shooting away. After the set, I caught up with a few members of the band, including Zach Fellman, Jackson Weldon, and Jason Sanford. It was already after one in the morning, so we decided to call it quits for the night. Back home, I fell asleep in no time.
The next day proved to be an equally good one. I spent time catching up with family and friends before heading out to meet up with Eddie Dixon. Over the course of several hours, we worked out some final touches to tracks “Keep Me Outta Touch” and “Baby You Gotta Be” before breaking for the evening. While I was there, he gave me a listen to a song he had produced in collaboration with Jason Sanford only a few days ago. A soulful tune that felt like a nice departure from other works I’d heard by Sanford, but still retaining key elements that make his songs unique to him.
Meanwhile, in Ocean Springs, the second annual “Feed the Need Fish Fry” was taking place at the Government Street Grocery, featuring music by Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes, Cary Hudson, Blackwater Brass, Jason Sanford and Jackson Weldon, and Paul Kirkland. This was an all-day charity event to raise money for local soup kitchens in the area. Johnny Cole reported Feed the Need as success, with a strong turnout and solid performances by all artists present. Hopefully, the event will see continued success in the years to come and be afforded the chance to help more of those in need. Will definitely try to make it out next year!
This concludes my Weekend Music Roundup for July 31. I have a lot of gratitude to give for my activities these last few days. Thanks to Johnny Cole and Stephen Anderson for including me in the trip to Birdies. Thanks to Birdies for keeping great music alive and being such a nice group of people to hang with.
Thanks to Wes Lee for talking blues with me and performing, along with Libby Raw Watson and Rambling Steve Gardner, who also deserve praise for preserving blues heritage. Special thanks to my pal Eddie Dixon, who is as talented as a musician as he is a producer, and has always made our work together enjoyable and fun. Most importantly, he is a hell of a good friend. Lastly, thanks to everyone who helped out or performed at the Feed the Need event. Although I was not present at the time, I commend the positive actions that undoubtedly lead to a great deal of good being produced.
A new podcast is coming soon. In fact, plans are being worked out for a recording this weekend of August 7th. In the meantime, feel free to give CNP #50 with Will Lammons a listen if you haven’t already. It was a great recording and made for the perfect two year anniversary of The Coastal Noise Podcast. If you enjoyed this article, consider checking out my first delta trip photography blog. Please support the show by giving a like or sharing with others. If you have a travel suggestion for me, I’m always looking for somewhere else to take pictures and write about. The tracks me and Eddie have been working on will most likely be posted in the music page soon. Its almost time to get rid of those old, raw home recordings that have been hanging around for a year now. Feedback of these would be hugely appreciated, and if we get some shows rolling in the near future, we would love to have you. To stay up to date on all things new at Coastal Noise, be sure to follow along with me or the website on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. Until next time.
The Southland Music Line
Wes Lee: A True Disciple of the Blues – A Homecoming to a Listening Crowd
Just this past Friday, I released my first trip to the Mississippi Delta in the form of a photography blog detailing my experiences of blues history, good food, and more. Within a few hours of publishing the story, a friend of mine tagged me and many others in a video created by an organization called Represent.us, which showed a brief, five minute animated clip showing exactly how our system of government works against the people it is meant to represent, in order for large corporations (who actually run our country) to keep power and profit.
And who do they profit from?
You. You, your family, your children, your friends, and all the people who work hard every day in order to enjoy the sovereignty of self that this great country was originally intended to provide. This is why, only a day after releasing what I consider a big article for me, I am immediately writing up this post to take the lead in my content stream. It is that important to me.
I could tell you why this video is so impacting, but it's best you just watch it yourself. Trust me, you will benefit from it. Then, after you watch the "Problem" video, you can view the even shorter "Solution" video.
Basically, the solution premise is to rally city to city votes to make laws that do not allow for corruption (big corporations funding political puppets, bribery, and the like) and then to eventually move up to entire states to make these laws. Once a few states enact these laws, others will soon follow and Washington will have no choice but to change. It's the same premise with Gay Marriage or the Legalization of Cannabis. Congress wouldn't change it, so PEOPLE rallied to change things slowly over time until the entire country had to adopt, just as we saw with the recent supreme court ruling on same sex marriage.
And here's the best part: This plan is already working! In the south for that matter!
On Nov. 4th, 2014, voters in Tallahassee, Florida made history by approving the first city Anti-Corruption Act in the United States by an overwhelming 2 – 1 margin.
Please watch the videos below and invite others to do the same. The biggest factor in making a movement like this go is the collaboration of the people that make up our country.
Lets take it back people. Learn more at: https://represent.us/
My afternoon departure, a solo drive to my friends place at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, was off to a slow start. A stomach bug had been creeping on me all day. I barely ate anything for the morning and skipped lunch altogether, instead, opting out for a combination of cold kombucha ginger tea and a Bing vitamin drink (which are produced in Colorado and are pretty fantastic).
If you ever read my 2013 Denver Travel Blog, you can guess what is about to go down next. I hit the road only to discover the first 15 steps in my printed directions were AWOL. Not a problem I thought. I’ll just check my GPS later when I get to Exit 59 where I turn off. As I approach the destination, I then decide that the use of GPS is silly for such an easy drive and I probably don’t need to check it. As I’m going around the western outskirts of the city, traffic is so bad that I have at least two "holy shit" moments, brought on by congested lanes and bad driving. By the time I break out of the chaos, I am so relieved and happy to be on open road that I completely forget about checking my navigation.
An hour later I am in Meridian about two hours off course to the east. My life man.
But, before that, there was a particularly cool scene that I came across. It was a few miles outside the Burg. Fields opened up on both sides of the highway. To the left, a strong population of lush, green trees with dark trunks dotted the area. All save for one that had a dull, white trunk that stood alone amongst all the others, but positioned just in the middle of the other two dozen or so trees. It was a powerful scene, made even more so by the next observation: On the field floor, right near the base of the dull tree, lay another tree with the same colored trunk as its isolated brother, compromised by an entanglement of vines and moss. I have a thing for some trees, especially the tree of life, which I see in different places. I never know where it will be but I always recognize it when I see it, so this scene made a particular impression on me. I’m thinking it might make for a good painting one day. Of course, I lack in the art department, so will have to work it out with the local talent.
Back to Meridian. I’m slapping my forehead and calling myself all kinds of dumb things when I do check my GPS and see how far off course I am. Total road fail. I have a laugh, get my bearings, touch base with my connection, and take off on a new route. I’ve got the sun going down. That’s not good. I’ve got four tires that are way overdue for a change out and I need to do close to 90 to make up for lost time. That’s not good. I’m jacked on kombucha and Bing on a still relatively empty stomach...which isn't so bad.
Where it does start getting sketchy is when I realize I have only 25% battery and no back, which means I won’t have any GPS (which obviously I need because I'm incompetent) and I won’t be able to communicate with my one connection at the University. Fun fact, my friend's phone is having its own problems and we can’t actually talk, only text. When you’re speeding down the highway at 85, texting is usually not an option.
A good two hours later, the sun is down and I have switched from total silence to the chatter of a Joe Rogan Experience (#663-Dominic Monaghan of Lord of the Rings and Lost, check it out). I turn my phone on and off at least three times to gather as much intel as I can. Phone numbers, directions, locations, names, and trying to get it memorized. The road is getting stark and lonely. Three weeks ago I refilled my empty wind shield wiper fluid. I’ve used it a handful of times since then, but when I go to clear up my line of sight, only a short stream hits the glass before dying off completely.
Okay, I think, of all that could occur, this is probably the absolute least terrible thing that could happen.
I am moving through Greenwood with no plans to stop for food or anything else. I pull onto 49E going north. The small town of Greenwood fades away almost at once as darkness consumes what appears to be miles of empty land. Within a mile of the turn off, my windshield is bombarded with one large insect after another. What are the odds of this right now? Ten minutes later, my tired eyes force me to lean forward to see through the darkness and insect goo.
Finally, I arrive at my destination and sleep soundly till 8:14am sharp. We talk about doing a cross fit class to start the day but decide for breakfast at a local coffee joint instead.
Me and our crew, three in total, take for the Mississippi Grinder, where I score a fantastic hot chai spiced tea served at the perfect temperature for immediate consumption and a half English muffin covered in a creamy blend of cheese, bacon and egg pieces. One thing that really stands out here is the decor which you can see in the pics below. It’s a cozy spot with plenty of comfy coughs sofas and easy chairs.
After breakfast we move through the downtown area, seeing the sites and taking notice of that other worldly vibe you get in places that are just "out there". Back in podcast #46 with Chris Hartfield, I talked about the power nature can have over you when your deep out in places of nature and that feeling was alive most of the day as we roamed around the towns quant shops and beautiful school buildings. You really get that sense that this whole town has no barriers just beyond its outskirts. The "air" around us doesn’t feel cluttered with jumbled energy, sounds of people or technology.
One of the more interesting places we stop in at, after chatting with some vendors at a small farmer's market, is Bill Perry's Pawn Shop, which had a huge selection of goods, as well as an assortment of exotic animals. Yes, exotic animals. Lemurs, chinchillas, bunnies, an anaconda, a variety of parrots, and a baby kangaroo, hanging out in a baby's crib rigged with a small, hammock like bag.
Oh ya. Shit was cute.
The lemur and I got along pretty well. He enjoyed licking and nibbling my fingers, jumping rhythmically back and forth across his cage, and chasing my hand as I slowly moved it about. I ran my index across his toes and hands to feel the dark black skin there. It felt a lot like the bottoms of my Vibram toe shoes, which are still one of the best foot investments I’ve made when it comes to active on the go throw ons. I wonder if they made those things by studying lemur feet...
I browsed some old guitars, books, and movies. "I come here sometimes and treat it like a Redbox," my friend said. "Its two dollars for a dvd but you just keep it afterwards." I questioned their playability but she said it was never an issue for her. Cute animals and good movies? What a spot.
A little while later, we sat down at Hey Joe's, a great restaurant where blues, rock, and pop culture memorabilia abound. Table tops have music news clippings and pictures from various sources under the glass table tops. A stage seats customers during the day and converts to a performance space for musicians at night. Double multicolored chalk boards display daily events and activities. Vinyl records from all eras are for sale on the walls. Even the menu is designed to resemble an album cover. Inside, special items are named with pop culture references like, the Kevin Bacon and the Nirvana, which is what I went with. The burger, which contends with the house’s top seller, the Joe Burger (comes with fried egg on it), is just about what I'd call a perfect burger. Loaded with sautéed onions, mushrooms, bacon, cheese, pickles, fresh tomatoes and lettuce, with the special Hey Joe sauce and even a "fighting" okra, pinned with a toothpick, to the top of the bun. It even came with a generous side salad that I dressed with an Italian-Sriracha mix.
A big factor in what made this meal so enjoyable was the perfect size of the portion. Normally when I order a burger or other meat entrees at a restaurant, I get a huge portion that stuffs me but still leaves some left for a take home box, which I generally don’t want to deal with. I was able to chow down hard on this meal without hesitation (remember my lack of food from the day before?) and only felt full right at the end as I finished, but never feeling so loaded that I didn’t want to go walking around afterwards.
We were able to sit around casually and talk about the place a little more. The group told me about Terrible Tuesdays where exceptionally bad movies are played on a projector outside which is then followed by exceptionally cheap alcoholic beverages being served at the bar inside. I, of course, humbly suggested that The Room be played in rotation to really show people what a phenomenal good-bad movie is like. The word was passed along to the staff and backed up by another patron.
Once again, the décor was a big factor here. Hey Joe's has an assortment of weird but cool pieces all around the restaurant.
We went on to The Delta Diary for a post lunch frozen yogurt dessert. The diary used in the yogurt here is managed at Honey Hills farm, which congers up pleasant images of green, open fields and simple wood houses with long front porches.
Now it was time for a speedy drive down to Po Monkeys, a now legendary landmark bar on the iconic blues trail that has been in operation since 1961. The Mississippi Blues Commission placed a historic marker at the Po Monkey's Lounge in 2009 designating it as a site on the Mississippi Blues Trail for its contribution to the development of the blues (and one of the few authentic juke joints that is still operating today). I took a few shots and read the posted signs hanging from the very, very small one room house. "NO LOUD MUSIC. NO DOPE SMOKING. NO RAP MUSIC." The sign out front reads. This is my kind of place. I make a mental note to try to come back later that night to see what kind of action takes place, being sure to bring my small guitar that I have brought for the trip.
(Post Edit: I later found out that Po Monkeys is only open one day a week. Thursdays. Maybe next time.)
Afterwards, we stop in a small but spacious park where ducks and geese co- exist with people who throw them bread crumbs and, in my case, try to take some pictures that have some artistic value to them. We decide to beat the heat and take a break indoors for a few hours to recharge our internal batteries. I stretch out and begin typing my experiences up to this point, while selecting my old blues playlist to accompany the Delta vibe. Muddy Waters “Mannish Boy”, Lightnin Hopkins “Grandma Told Grandpa”, T-Bone Walker’s “You Don’t Understand” and other antique tunes play through my headphones. I put in my time and then, grabbing my old yoga mat, stretch out the travel kinks from driving and walking around. A much needed breather for a man in motion.
Eight o’clock rolls around and the sun is setting over the delta plains. We drive to Marigold, just outside of Cleveland, to dine at Crawdad’s, a 30 year old establishment designed as a large wooden cabinet geared toward the hunt. Next to food, taxidermy is the center piece here. Mounted animals of all kinds, deer, large cats, warthogs, antelope, moose, and more are mounted to the walls. A giant chandelier of antlers hangs over the waiting room. Hallways lined with pictures of hunters with their kill lead to various dining areas that are either tucked away in cozy seclusion or open to large groups. There is almost a maze like feeling to the whole place, as my company tells me about other rooms that I didn’t even get to see in my time there. The main area where we dine has a stage at the back where the band is set up. A bar off to the right has a glass room above it with a scene recreated out of nature with a large bobcat lurking over drinking patrons.
All of the food options look great, but the house special Goat Cheese Salad, catches my attention. I was also told earlier that day that the shrimp crawfish pasta called “Shrimp Sultana” is a big hit. Not one to skip on the chance to eat many different kinds of good food, I order both, along with two drinks to enjoy the Victor Wainwright Band, a four piece who play a wide range of tunes that keep the crowd captivated. Their cover of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is a particular favorite that has most of us in a singalong as soon as the first lines begin. I had the chance to speak with Wainwright briefly in between breaks and he told me the group was feeling experimental that night and were trying a range of different numbers that they don’t normally do since the diner was running a little slow in the early hours of the night. I encouraged them to keep up the good work and asked if I could stand by for some pictures, to which they happily agreed.
Back at the table, our food is served quickly. The salad, decorated with roasted pecans, plump cherries tomatoes, and a peach vinaigrette sauce, is a winner. The first bite I notice the creamy texture it has, thanks to the goat cheese. The second bite with a pecan in the mix takes the dish to the next level, with a cherry tomato giving an extra juicy addition to the knock out combination. This may be my new favorite salad. Simple, but very effective.
Later that week I made my own variation inspired by this dish, but with Tuscan chicken, feta, and red wine vinaigrette. You can see it on my Instagram.
The Shrimp Sultana makes for a perfect main entrée. Served with sautéed Gulf shrimp, crawfish, onions, peppers, and garlic in a Cajun cream sauce with breadsticks, this dish is a powerhouse for someone looking to chow down. I’m fairly certain I could not have picked a better combination to dine on. On top of that, our waitress was way cute and super helpful! I even scored another sweet T-shirt to remember the good times by.
A big, red truck limousine hybrid (yes, you read it correctly) is parked outside Crawdad’s. Apparently, some of the delta’s wealthy elite (farmers) decided to stop in for a good time. A waiting driver is posted as the men drink at the inside bar. Hoping to find some action at Po Monkey’s, we head down the roads of Marigold to the small shack as ten o’clock creeps by. My GPS takes us to a dirt road that trails on for a mile or so, feeling much longer as there are virtually no street lights and I have to drive slower on the rocky road. When we finally arrive back at the shack, the parking lot is empty. Not a sound can be heard around us. Off in the distant, a few lights from Cleveland reach us across the miles of farmland. There is no telling why Po Monkey’s isn’t happening tonight, but despite the small juke joint being closed, we are still treated to one of the most impressive features of Delta nights. Overhead, the stars shine on a clear sky, unobstructed by a single cloud, brighter than usual it seems due to the lack of light pollution in the area. I take a few pictures from atop my car, but omit them in the end. Some things can’t be captured by a camera.
Sunday morning I prepare my equipment and spare luggage for departure. We grab breakfast at the Desert Inn, which is serving up a pretty standard morning buffet of eggs, bacon, diced potatoes, and biscuits with gravy. Shortly after, I am parting ways with my company and hitting the road (the right road) back home. My mp3 on shuffle plays Eagles of Death Metal, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and a cool Portishead number with French lyrics that I’ve never heard before. Just as the landscape opens up and the country side takes on its full beauty, Stairway to Heaven begins to play. Well played rock and roll gods. Well played.
The delta fades away and I find my route heading down 49 South, no scoping pictures with my camera along the way. It’s easy to say that my first time in the heart of Mississippi farmland was a success. I left feeling a strong connection to Cleveland and the surrounding area’s sense of small, but involved community. Wide open spaces that drag on for miles may not hold much appeal to some, but, for me, it was a lifestyle that I appreciated away from the busy commotion of larger towns. There was so much more to see than what I imagined. More sounds to hear besides just country or blues. This area of the Delta displayed a healthy mix of young college enthusiasm mixed with ole time-y tradition. Simplicity with variety if you will.
When I got to the city limits of Gulfport, I was met with a sense of irony. The whole time I was in Cleveland it was sunny and hot. Typical of mid-July. The bugs, dirt roads, and long highways took a fair toll on my vehicle, which was quiet filthy at this point. But, as I approached my hometown, a great thunderstorm pummeled the area, washing my car clean and providing a metaphorical cleansing of the mind. When I get home, I’ll check to see how my garden has been fairing with all this good rain. I’m no farmer, but I did stay in the Delta last night.
This is the middle segment of me and Will's conversation that we lost on the main mixer do to a power surge. This version was captured with backup equipment and is about 40 minutes long. Topics include: Movies and Directors, Passages from "The War of Art", The Supreme Courts Ruling on Same Sex Marriage, and the federal government allowing for more accessible cannabis research nationwide. Enjoy.