Author Archives: michael

Cary Revisited…

Ha! I was reading this online article this morning from the Cary Citizen (Cary, North Carolina, that is) and stumbled across this crowd photo with yours truly (see my green cap in the red circle). It echoed a quote used earlier in this summer’s blog: “I found my head one day, when I wasn’t even tryin’.” (Cat Stevens, On the Road to Find Out)

 

Can you tell I’m smiling?

Home

Yep…made it back to Eagan from where I make this final post, sitting at my desk chair which never seemed so comfortable. Sincere thanks to anyone who tuned in for the postings. Special thanks to Chad for sharing the second half of the tour and for being an all around good road companion. As I gradually nurse myself back to health in time for work Monday, I’ll carry this sentiment for a spell until I acquire the time, energy, money and permission to saddle up for the next ride: “…back home – sit down and patch my bones and get back Truckin’ on…” (Robert Hunter).

Blurry image of Valparaiso Memorial Opera House, from the base of the stage. The venue was charming, intimate and completely captivated by Todd’s performance. Chad and I had seats on the floor.

 

Valparaiso

I am now- finally- at journey’s end. I scored a window poster for my ‘side trips’ archive advertising Todd Snider’s Opera House performance tonight in Valparaiso. It has been a tiring 6000 mile journey from Michigan to Georgia, Chicago to New York, and many points between. I’m beat up (ankle, back, other old man ailments) but thrilled with another great run of shows and new friends met along the way. While the show in Philly (Mann Center) turned out to be my favorite, the following is a list of my top choices for individual song performances across the tour:

  • Jackstraw (Pawtucket)
  • Scarlet -> Eyes of the World (Canandaigua)
  • China Cat Sunflower-> I Know You Rider -> Dark Star -> Caution -> St. Stephen (Philly)
  • Help on the Way -> Slipknot -> Passenger -> Slipknot -> Franklin’s Tower (Columbia)
  • He’s Gone (Alpharetta)
  • Foolish Heart (Cary)
  • New Potato Caboose (Brooklyn)
  • Cold Rain and Snow -> Two Djinn (Bethel)
  • Morning Dew (Chicago)
  • The Weight (Rochester Hills)

Todd’s poster, photographed by a Valparaiso shop window ghost.

Same ghost, different window. Shop keeper dialing 911.

 

Bethel -> Chicago -> Detroit

Short post catching up from a Starbucks between Ann Arbor and Detroit. In the past few days, Chad and I have seen two of the three best shows of the tour- Bethel and Chicago, the later being very strong, though it was probably 95+ degrees throughout the duration of the show. Tonight is the final Dead show of the summer tour…they pick up again late September. Our campground the past few nights has been great and is approximately centrally located between Chicago Detroit and  Valparaiso, the location of the final show of this trip (Todd Snider).

Dinner at Fort Custer…cheers.

I rarely buy merch from Shakedown Street, but I’d never seen these before…bought them off the artist.

The Road

Frequently asked question: “Why are you doing this?” I have several canned responses each which is true but offers increasingly more information. “I like the dead quite a bit….” is my elevator pitch and the least helpful, since most people already assumed as much.  A second, more complete response, is that I love American history, literature and culture, all of which can be enjoyed in surprising ways on a trip like this. But my ‘full monte’ reply is that living on ‘the road’ is nothing less than the quintessential US American experience. Lewis and Clark, Huck Finn and Jack Keroac created the wake I’m following. The idea is that there’s land a’plenty out there and we must see it.  This sentiment is reflected in hundreds of years of American letters, but here two modern examples in song: “When I found myself in possession of these car keys, I just naturally assumed I could drive” (Big Finish, Todd Snider).  “…going where the climate suits my clothes…” (Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad, Traditional).

Last night we saw our second show in Brooklyn. Chad slightly favored the first, I slightly favored the second, but both shows were great fun and we approached them differently. Whereas we hung out at the venue much of day 1, for day 2 we went hiking in the state park where we’d been camping and then drove into Brooklyn to the home of some new friends and rode the subway/train together to the venue. So far, the trip has definitely been  relaxing, stress free, simple.

Next stop: Bethel, NY, the site of the original ‘Woodstock’ festival. They’ve built a state of the art outdoor venue that also features an on site museum of the 60s, Woodstock, etc. I saw a show there last year exactly 365 days ago. Last year’s show was a great one, hope to get the same tonight!

‘The Road’ as viewed from the passenger seat in a 2007 Nissan Quest.

Pocket inventory on the streets of Brooklyn. “You never know when you’re going to need to jam.” (Ally Sheedy’s character, The Breakfast Club)

 

Subway stroll with new friends.

Brooklyn show #2. Note the high density of bald spots and gray on the stage and in the crowd.

Brooklyn

Picked up Chad in a precision rendevous at the Philly airport- luckily, he had located a local watering hole and had made efficient use of it- they signed over custody to me.  We’re set up at a state park that is a bit like “urban camping” where instead of birds singing you hear camp neighbors ‘MF’in’ each other on all sides. After our first night there we headed to the first of the two Brooklyn shows at the minor league ballpark home of the Cyclones (Coney Island). The first show (last night) was wonderful- a bit warm but musically strong. Tonight we’re heading to a pre-party in Brooklyn hosted by Phil and Matt- two brothers I met at the Philly show. The plan is to park near their place and take the train into the show.

Chad emerging unscathed from a night of camping in New York.

Coney Island from the pier. A nice place as far as urban beaches go.

Full concentration required for the mother of all playlists.

 

Recent observations from the road:

On three different occasions I’ve awoken at New England rest areas to find the same man living out of his pick-up with a small camper shell. At first I assumed he was a deadhead following the summer tour- but when I saw him scrounging cigarette butts from the parking lot in one of them, I realized he was simply homeless. I don’t know how he manages gas money.

At a gas station somewhere in the south I was enjoined to contribute gas money to a couple with 3 kids in tow who were literally going car-to-car begging for gas money. I won’t soon forget the look of their oldest boy (5, 6?).

“A psychic will lead dogs to your corpse” (small town newspaper columnist- attributed to a fortune cookie).

Alpharetta -> Cary -> Philly

Seven down, 5 shows to go, 4200 miles on the van so far. I stopped at the shop below to ask for a good oil change place in Grinder, GA. I told them I was a deeply devoted customer but that I harbor grave concerns about their market research strategy. They were working up an open letter to corporate when I left the shop, so keep your eyes open for that, Mag.

Advance Auto Parts, Grinder GA

The shows in Georgia and North Carolina were fun, lively and the crowds noticeably more polite and cordial than the folks at new england shows. At the Georgia show, several nice couples from Atlanta sat next to me and we chatted for a bit- Ruth & Miles and everyone else- thanks again for the great southern welcome to your area. It rained hard before the show, though in retrospect the post-show storm was what really soaked everyone thoroughly. I packed up a wet tent the next morning for NC.

Heads running for cover before Alpharetta.

This downpour accompanied the long walk back to the lot…no one stayed dry.

The below caught my attention.

Does the name affect Justin’s business?

Next up- heading back to Philly to pick up Chad. On the way, I’ll stop in Dumfries, VA to pick up my notebook I left behind in their grocery store cart. I called from the number of the receipt after I was a state or two away and they confirmed they had it, whew…

Catch-up

So my last post was from the Steamtown Mall in Scranton, PA on Saturday. Its now Tuesday afternoon and I’m sitting in a Starbucks near Grinder, GA, not far from my campsite. On Saturday I spent time with Emily and some of her friends in Phily,

 

Emily back in Philly

and contemplated harvesting a few clusters from the below vines growing in a vacant lot in (very) urban Philly.

Chateau Parking Lot 2012

Since then I’ve seen two more shows (Philly, Columbia Maryland) and passed the 2500 mile mark driving. The heat I avoided earlier finally caught up with me (show time temps in the high 90s) but it sounds like relief is coming today. I arrived late last night at my camp site and set up my tent in the dark just before a thunderstorm hit.

As far as shows go, I wasn’t expecting big things in Philly, having seen a mediocre one last year at the Mann (same venue), so I was caught off guard by what was one of the 2-3 best I’ve ever seen. The following evening at Merriweather Post (4th show in 4 nights) was also strong. I’m en route to another show in a couple of hours, then one more tomorrow night, before picking up Chad in Philadelphia [authorities up and down the Eastern Seaboard have been placed on red alert].

This sign caught my eye the other day…

Of course it is

This lonely American Legion Hall seems frozen in time.

Knocked on the door to say hi and there sat Jay and Murph at the bar!

Canandaigua -> Scranton

Fun town with a cool name. Here’s a bad picture of Shakedown Street (the travelling vendor lane/freakshow that has been a dead show staple for 30+ years. Local heads dust off the old regalia to show support for the latest round of tomfoolery.

Shakedown Street (click here for history- search the linked page for ‘shakedown’)

The show was strong, especially the second set with several of my favorites (your basic 90 minute full-on jam…):

Estimated Prophet>
Colors of The Rain (new Phil song!)
Scarlet Begonias>
Eyes of The World>
The Eleven>
Let It Grow>
Comes A Time>
Viola Lee Blues`

Phil making new music at 72 is a happy thought.

On a less pleasant note, its been days since I’ve showered: the metamorphosis/devolution to primitive is more or less complete. And if I find myself short on shrinkwrapped food, the glow of this monolith reminds me how to feed myself.

Silence, please.

Now en route to Philly to meet Emily and her friends. Mann center tonight- same venue as last year- decent sound. Am posting from the Steamtown Mall Starbucks. If that sounds vaugely familiar, perhaps this picture will bring it home.

Scrantonites love their profanity. Both sets of Starbucks neighbors can’t stop dropping f-bombs.

Best from sights and sounds on the road today:

“A lot of water under the bridge- a lot of other stuff too.” (Bob Dylan, Things Have Changed)

“I found my head one day,  when I wasn’t even tryin’.” (Cat Stevens, On the Road to Find Out)

“…text message? Is that different from a voice mail?” (Starbucks, f-bombing geezers at the next table over)

One from the Road

First 1700 hundred miles and Pawtucket show behind me [sidebar: the show was good, not great, but chalk it up to first of the tour and my 24 hours of driving that concluded 90 minutes before the show started…musically, my favorites of the night were Pocky Way and Dear Mr. Fantasy, but my personal highlight was a wandering hippie chick that made me her dance buddy for part of 2nd set. In my role representing Minnesota I felt it important to be friendly and comply]. From here out, all posts will be brought to you by Emily’s recycled Linux netbook + rest area free wireless.

I left early a.m. July 4th instead of the night before, but other than that everything has gone well. I always make a big deal of choosing the first song for a trip…this year, I backed out of the driveway listening to “Tomorrow Never Knows” (Beatles): “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream…” (it seemed like a modest and appropriate goal for this kind of trip). Other than the scroching heat during day one, the rest has been fair weather. Two comfortable evenings sleeping in the van and actually needed my sleeping bag for cover last night.

Seeing 105 on the thermometer for day 1 had me worried…

Welcome, cooling fog on early morning day two, Pennsylvania.

My little sister asked about the shows, order, etc. I’ve added a link to a file on page right (or click here) that gives venues, calendar, etc. But only click the link if you are Melissa…the internet will know.

Best from sights and sounds on the road today:

I might have been born yesterday, but I was up all night.” (Todd Snider, Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables)

“…and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.” (Henry David Thoreau, Walden)

“Cupid’s Adult Novelties and Bakery.” (Billboard in Wisconsin- ’nuff said)

And so on…

So that’s how it’ll go…a photo here, a comment there, a stray bit of cynicism, a dead lyric fragment, camp recipe, anectdote from the road. Ideally, some will enjoy enough to comment. Others might send crates of money. In anticipation, Michael

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

The worst post…

…of most blogs is the first one. It being not an easy thing to start from scratch, let’s get this one out of the way with something short and technical.

Endpoints of a 6000 mile summer journey furthur.