Monday, September 14, 2009

San Fransisker

We woke safe and sound from Steven King short story desert nightmare to our first and only day of real dry desert heat travel. I’ll take wet sweaty southeast humidity any day over dry crackly turn you to toast…the cross over to southern California brought more green but that place needed a big drink of water. La Quinta rules! No pet fees, dogs and kitties and ferrets runnin round the lobby. We got in anxious to get right back out again, thinking this would be our only night to explore the city….little did we know by the end of the night we’d be committed to staying till Friday to do a radio show! But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves here. We set out to find the nearest Bart station, passing a bumpin Pakistani place that we would eat in the next day and the next day and the next day (it’s called Kabana, if you are EVER in Berkley and you like food you must eat here!)

We meet a nice, pretty, landscaper on his way to Connecticut in the Bart, who tells us where to transfer and get off and we are in Frisker (David’s solution to being unable to decide which of the already established nicknames was least lame)!

So we get some recommendation from an out of town Marc Caswell which we follow. First stop Uptown where we compared the sizes of our uvulas (things-that-dangle-in-the-back-of-your-throat).

Erin has virtually none and she also got her tonsils out way young and we were discussing the effects the absence or presence of these arguably vestigial bits of flesh might have on the voice (we intend to explore this further and any opinions you’d like to offer would be appreciated).

Uptown was kind of dull (as you can see by the lack of expression on our faces in these first pictures) so we moved on to Benders, snagged a pool table, and the night took on a life of its own from there. The dudes we were playing pool with were wrapped up in some seriously sweet bromance. The one had flown all the way there just to play some billiards with his buddy for a few hours! Now that’s what I call man love, right Tom? They ruled and introduced us to the backroom where people were hangin out and smoking pot. Everyone everywhere in this city smokes pot, it is a fact of life as basic, maybe more basic than food. We decided that stoned people might be the perfect crowd to try out our stuff on. We were right. We rocked the backroom at Benders till closing time.

The videos should be up. We sold some CDS (we got yelled at by the bartender accusing us of soliciting), got asked to go on Pirate Cat Radio, made an awesome new friend/poet/writer of musical/ named Pam and charmed a metal head among other things. Then it was time to go home….the Bart was long closed, the bus ride through Oakland was daunting at best, and the cabs were all saying 35 bucks! Then we met Harry….he was on his way back to Berkley and said he’d take whatever we had so we gave him 20 bucks, sang him Secret Love and gave him a CD.

We get out of the cab, say goodbye and walk towards the hotel, Harry Doesn’t go anywhere and we hear our CD fade out of earshot as we walk up the hotel steps and David informs us that he saw Harry wiping tears from his face while we were tipsily singing all the way home. End of night 1.

I (Ashley) wake up too bloody early ready to play music and eat some good food. Kabana, the place mentioned above, was not just packed but packed with East Asians who always know where the tasty food is. I roamed around Berkley engaged in rigorous discussion about personal responsibility with Tom Grant then went back to see if Erin and David are up. They are and are almost as ravenous as me. So we get to the little hole in the wall, which is still bumpin in the middle of the day, and devour the complimentary cucumbers and red onions with spicy green dipping sauce while we decide what to order and look at the rave reviews on the wall. (You might not understand why we are spending so much time talking about this place but you will if and hopefully when you ever eat there). We got Channa masala, Palak Paneer, and Chicken Tikki Masala (special punjabi sauce). The first two were great, don’t get me wrong but it was the special Punjabi sauce that had us coming back. David was sad cause this first time it was on a meat dish that Erin and I were cooing over as we devoured it. Of course he didn’t complain but you could tell he was disappointed so we knew we were comin back. The guy who brought us our food with a vest of white patent leather (I am starting to like vests thanks to Chelsea Kamm and Carnes, Mooj, Mike Watson and this guy), seeing the instrument case, said he played guitar and I said it was a banjo not a guitar and he looked at me funny so I showed it to him. The banjo stayed out of the bag from then on and made us friends all along the way.
So then we busked at a couple Bart stations and sold some CDs and made a little money.
We called our new pal Pam, cause she had offered us a place to stay and we wanted to see if she had secured the radio thing for us. She had and told us to come out to a Bart station pow wow at 10 pm. In the mean time we met up with the back in town Marc Caswell right about the time I broke a first string. This resourceful young man called up his pal James who owns a music store and had us a new set of strings within 10 minutes (really good strings too, way better than the ones I’ve got on). Our Pakistani friends had done a good job sustaining us through the whole day but it was time for more sustenance. Falafel, the biggest, yummiest, cheapest falafel you ever did see. Hummus, eggplant, potato, tahini, tziki n more, rolled up in a whole lavash! So good! Erin and I split one and she barely finished half of her half. They even had a place for us to lie down and digest insert pictures here:

Time for a beer. The tall boys out here are like monster Big Show tallbros and only a buck 75.

Ashley's Note - Erin resumes blog here and is going to rush through events in order to catch up to the present.

So we went to this public space open mic at a Bart station where spoken word and music found its way into the streets of the city. Our friend Pam did a spoken word piece called, “Where do I go potty?” which is a children’s story she wrote. It was awesome. We played two tunes and people really seemed to like it. Here's one of them ->

They act as if they’ve never seen a banjo or heard girls sing semi-country music. The people in this city eat it up. Everytime we walked down the street, every three persons would say, “Is that a banjo?” with excited child eyes. At the open mic, the coolest thing happened. Let’s say there are like 3,000 cab drivers in this city right? Well, while at the open mic, Ashley all of the sudden heard our music coming from the street. Low and behold, it was Harry (Haresh) listening to our cd in his cab! Here's proof!

He pulled over and we all said hello. What are the odds? Next , we went to a bar with our new friend Pam, and had to stay the night at her place in the city because we missed the last train to Berkeley.

The next morning we had to check out of our hotel so David and I got up early to get a train to our hotel and pick up our kitties (whom had made themselves quite comfortable there.) Any place we are in for more than a day, they think is their new home. By the time we made it back to Berkley we realized that we probably would not have time to pack all of our stuff and get back to the city in enough time for the radio show. We decided to just keep the room another night and I rush back to the city to make it to the station before 3:30. I got off the train at 3:30 still 15 blocks from the place so I hailed a cab and hauled ass to Pirate Cat because I thought Ashley would be incredibly pissed if I was not there on time. David decided to bring his bike into the city so he rode around on that all day. And of course when I got there Ashley was not there yet and everyone was running late. There we met the DJ, Diamond Dave. He was a red dude. Probably seventy years old, dreadlocks, and sweet as can be. He said he had been to Gainesville and said to me, “See, there’s the common thread!,” which everyone says here. I guess the cab driver incident was also “finding the common thread, man.” I love this town, it is full of hippies whom manifest good things for themselves. Everyone in this city has been SOOO nice, I can’t believe it. And nice, not in a southern way. It’s different. These people are trusting of everyone, no matter what you look like. The concept of just “being human” thrives in this city.

So, we waited our turn and played on the station. Ashley was a little nervous, I think because she took a shot of mystery liquor beforehand that she found in Pam’s apartment. Who knows what that could’ve been. My mic was too quiet but you can listen to it online. Just Google Pirate Cat Radio and look under “The Common Thread” with Diamond Dave on September 11, 2009.

After the radio show, we met up with Mike Watson in Haight-Ashbury and went to an old timey folk jam with him. It was so awesome. This woman Faith had turned her entire, beautiful home into a Folk Center. There were several jams going on. When you first walked in there was singing room, which I must say looked very dull. It was like twenty old people sitting around singing church songs. In the basement was a fiddle jam where no one wanted to do anything but that. So, finally we found the perfect jam where they greeted us with smiles and aid it was a free for all.

There we met Linda.

Explain Linda-

Feisty, feisty older woman, gray hair, played a mean guitar, pounded it like nobody’s business. At one point, David asked what kind of finger pick she was using, but it was just her nail. She picked on me and Ashley all night and said that we were “Hilarious.” We got a kick out of that since “hilarious” is a description of the Damsels that I don’t think we have heard yet. At the end of the night she apologized for picking on us and said that young girls “fluff her dander” and offered us a hand grown joint in amendment which we politely turned down. I’m telling you, everyone smokes in this town, young and old alike!!!

San Francisco was a blast. David and I love it and may apply for jobs here when I am done with school. I love it I think, mostly because of all the nice people, and the fact that this was the first time we really have gotten to play any music on the trip. And it really was appreciated which gave us a new glimmer of hope about what we do. We slept soundly and took off for the Redwoods in the morning. More to come.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Way...out in arizona..."

This blog is pretty much after the fact cause we have been in SF for three days now, but I will catch everyone up as soon as I get a chance. SF has been amazing, so you should read the next blog. Also, this blog is pretty wacky cause we don't have time to make it look good. Too much going on. Palying on the radio today in SF. Pirate Cat. It airs in LA, Berlin, San Fran, and San Diego. I'm excited. As I said, more info to come! :)

The last few days have been pretty intense. We left Albuquerque around 6pm after stuffing ourselves with Labor Day BBQ. The kitties were not ready to leave the cold tile floors at our friends place. Prochenko passed out on his back like a little baby that day. I don’t think he had slept in six days. L We then headed into Flagstaff, Arizona. It was dark but we could still see the huge red rocks hugging the road. They were lit up by a heat lightning storm. It was incredible. By the time we got to Flagstaff, which is right outside the Grand Canyon, we were ready to rip each other’s heads off. David threw down the USED kitty litter and it went all over my feet. That’s when I lost it! Biggest argument so far, which is pretty good for coming 2,000 miles already.

"Way out in arizona in a town they call winona..."

Poor creepy wild dog got in a fight with a porcupine. David said "wouldn't it be messed up if this sign was missing an s?" keep in mind we were already delerious from driving in the desert all day. :)

look out on the rock, can you see ashley?

We went to the Grand Canyon the next day and OMG, it is unbelievable. I believe that it is America’s beautiful va-j-j. It really does take your breath away. I believe I saw a tear in David’s eye and he’s hard to crack. J These pictures do not do it any justice. I highly recommend that everyone see it at least once in your lifetime.

“No language can fully describe, no artist paint the beauty, grandeur, immensity, and sublimity, of this most wonderful production of natures great architect. The Grand Canyon must be seen to be appreciated.” –quote on the information board at the Grand Canyon

Ashley kept walking out as far as she could and there were several instances when I thought for sure she would fall in and we would have to watch her fall for like ten minutes. UGH! She’s a risk taker. Me, I stayed safely five feet from the edge, and even there my legs were jelly. Ashley hiked out to a narrow extended precipice where she sang Rocky Top (see video). People were saying things like, “that’s why so many people die here every year,” and “Ahhh, look at that girl way over there.” A man told her a joke from the top of the canyon. “How do you tell one banjo tune from another?”…” They have different titles.” This joke insinuates that every banjo tune sounds the same, but once she started singing all the tourists listened up. They were smiling and laughing. The man next to me said she must be a Carolina girl. I proudly turned to him and said “Nope, we are from Florida!” She received a hearty round of applause.

At the next lookout point, we sat together and sang Do Right Woman as an offering to the canyon. A man pulled up in his motorcycle. The type that read Jack Kerouac back in the day and just never got off the road. He listened to the song and then said, “I guess that’s why I’m on the road!” Cause the song is about being a do right man. He was not.

“I remember saying something like, “I feel a bit light headed, maybe you should drive” and suddenly the whole sky was full of what looked like huge bats! Which were all screeching and swooping around the car, going a hundred miles an hour with the top down headed to Las Vegas.” –Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the late great Hunter S. Thompson

We left the canyon and were headed to Bakersfield, CA. We did not make it. We stopped in Barstow which is in the middle of the Mojave Desert. David was tired of driving and wanted to sleep. BTW, he is doing great job of driving. He has driven the whole way without complaining. It’s not that we won’t drive; I think he’s too afraid to relinquish control. However, I really wanted to make it to Bakersfield, because I really wanted to make it to San Francisco early on Wednesday so we could go to Golden Gate Park, see some hippies, and hang out in the daytime. I figured I’d be cool because I drove a car with a trailer attached with Amanda all the way to Chicago, and even some in the snow. I thought for sure I could handle it. So, I attempted to drive the U-haul and was fine until we got on a two lane highway with only semi trucks which nearly blow you off the road, honking at us for delaying their deliveries, riding our ass because we could only get to like forty miles an hour, being big jerks. I panicked. My shoulders tensed up immediately, my skin felt like pins and needles, and all the lights of the road began to blur. I mean really panicked, tears and all. So, I pulled over and David took over. I got in the back seat. And then the real horror story started! My anxiety was not lessened by being out of the driver’s seat; I was already too amped up and had a real impending sense of doom. I took a valium, prescribed! and tried to relax, but truckers started to downright antagonize us, riding our bumper, and holding down their mighty horns as they passed. A train was heading towards us on the other side of the road, creating psychedelic light show, which further spiraled me into a fit. All I saw was the great white light and for sure thought I was dying and going to heaven. I kept asking aloud, “Am I still alive guys?” Anxiety attacks put you into a very bizarre headspace. I was terrified and began to see things that were not there. And to top it all off, in the middle of this, like a beast ripping itself from the depths of hell, Margot’s head broke out of kitty jail. I’m not sure if she was trying to commit suicide or what, but she had wrapped the zipper strap around her neck in a way that was choking her to death. Her eyes were beginning to bulge out of her head. I screamed, cried and struggled to get her head out. As soon as she was freed, I collapsed into tears. I was so scared I was going to watch Margot choke herself to death and that I was not going to be able to save her. She’s fine though. The topper is that while this was going on we almost ran over a coyote that was taking a leisurely stroll across the highway. David stayed as cool as a cucumber throughout all of this. I think he’s magic. Or maybe all those years of meditation really helped him be a sound human. He never loses his cool. Maybe you had to be here, but this was all very intense. We are in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night. I insisted that we get off the road and get some sleep, but there is nowhere to sleep in the middle of the desert. We finally found a town called Boron with a tiny little motel. You know the type, only thing for miles, flashing sign, and inbred counter clerk. The place where horror films begin. I just knew I’d see a silhouette of a woman in a rocking chair as in Bates motel. Needless to say, I did not take a shower. Luckily, we made it through the night and are now headed to San Francisco. There is even still more desert to cross. Chelsea told me that the desert would make you crazy, but I never imagined it would make me hallucinate and panic like this. Note-Don’t drive through the desert alone ever and only do it if you are mentally stable. I keep looking at the map and cannot believe how far we have come. I’m a long way from home now! Day seven-2,644 miles. More to come. Gonna’ go get some San Francisco treats.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Let me outta this car!

New Orleans was easy to blog about because it was exciting. I’m afraid this blog does not have as much Cajun spice folks. As soon as you get out of Cajun country, things get worse, much, much, worse. Texas was the most awful thing we have ever experienced. The most exciting thing to photograph in the whole damn state was some sort of farm building behind a Dairy Queen and a weird, scary army vehicle (Armored Personnel Carrier). What else, oh we met a little dog in Texas. And yes, that is the extent of excitement in Texas. After two days of driving through it we began to laugh deliriously. Everything is funny when you have been in the car for twenty-four hours. I mispronounced U-haul and we laughed for half an hour, so we decided to stop for the night before we got too kooky to make it to Albuquerque. While daunting, at least we were laughing and not killing each other. Texas is ugly, hot, and huge. I spoke with Tyler and he said, “You are halfway there.” I replied with, “not really, we are not even halfway there.” He then said, “Well, mentally you are, and it’s a beautiful adventure the rest of the way.” Let’s hope he’s right! :) I think we have finally gotten past the rough and ugly parts of the trip. I was beginning to fear that this whole country was made up of poor little ugly towns and praying that Olympia would be different. I know it will be.

David says that Texans have a separatist movement. We fully support that. They can have it. Go ahead Texas, secede from the union. See if we care! We ate tacos and burritos for two days straight all the way into New Mexico which wasn’t so good for car travel if you know what I mean. J Today we are stopping by an old friend’s house in Albuquerque. Unfortunately, I’m sure there will be more tacos to follow. After this trip, it will be at least a year before I crave a taco.

Ashley and I tried to stop and busk in Amarillo, Texas, but those people are soul-less. They avoided eye-contact at all cost, but we did it. We overcame our fear of rejection.

New Mexico is beautiful, we saw a Tarantula. A wild Tarantula that died of natural causes in our hotel parking lot! Each side of the road is hugged by steep red rocks, green and white mountains and canyons as far as the eye can see. I still miss my Gainesville though. I spoke with Amanda last night and she said that you take home with you wherever you go. I hope she’s right, but that does not seem right to me. Home seems to me, to be wherever your friends and family are. I wish I could’ve packed you all up and taken you with me. I hope that you will all come and check out the NW, fall in love, and move here. That’s my plan. I’m going to try and call it into existence.

We got into Albuquerque this afternoon, got drunk, ate ribs, and played Rockband all night. I giggled like a child while playing Rockband cause it turns at I'm actually really good at fake guitar. I’m writing this in bed while David continues to rock out on a plastic guitar. I tried to find some fun facts about this city but there weren’t many, only serious facts. I did find out that:

Bugs Bunny shorts where Bugs is traveling underground and does not end up where he thought he was going, while consulting a map, he would often say, "I knew I should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque."

In an episode of The Simpsons, Krusty states that the presidential candidates have more hot air than the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Bill Gates, Mike Judge (writer of Office Space) Steve-O, and The Shins are from here.

Colorful characters are what make travel journals/blogs good, and since we’ve been stuck in the car, we have not met anyone. Hopefully we’ll meet some more folks like Conan and Doctor Love. Going to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. Gonna’ throw something biodegradable in it and see how long I can watch it fall. Is that a bad idea? Bye guys!