Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Southern California

As my plane descended into Palm Springs, I noted a stunning but bleak natural environment that eventually gave way to a small island of development with vibrant green golf courses. The city just did not seem to belong there. The plane landed, and I soon found myself roaming through a city without much history beyond the California celebrities who used to visit, evidenced by streets with names like "Frank Sinatra" and "Gene Autry." Palm Springs seemed to be a creature of a previous time that had perhaps had a glory day now seemingly eclipsed by summer heat and economic slowdown. I was not impressed.

So, I cruised the streets to kill some time before meeting Megan and high-tailing it to San Diego. Both of us were exhausted--Megan from a week of emotionally-exhausting training, and me from an excellent but very late night watching the Dedringers rock Dan's Silverleaf in Denton. Thus, when we cruised through San Diego's Gas Lamp District through throngs of elaborately costumed party-goers, we wondered if we'd made a smart decision. The lobby of our hotel, The Keating, offered a surreal scene. A man with a Mohawk sat down at the piano playing some jazz while his companion, also sporting a radical mane, danced frantically. Fairly certain that we had inadvertently wandered into party central, we stumbled upstairs and crashed.

The next day we wandered. We ate a beast of a breakfast at the rural Indiana-themed Hash House A Go Go. We strolled La Jolla's beaches, saw an stimulating Bruce Nauman exhibit, and received validation from a gallery owner that, yes, the Brandon Maldonado painting we purchased in Santa Fe was an excellent choice. We visited a wine bar at Ocean Beach before checking out its nightlife and then wandered back to the Gas Lamp District where we saw Common in concert for free.

Sunday offered the hipster neighborhood of Mission Hills where I purchased the so cool in SoCal hat pictured below. We visited Balboa Park to see an organ concert, where I jammed to Bach while rocking my trendy lid and holding a colorful umbrella. Word.

That evening we stumbled upon a last-second, cash only sale of tickets for the smash Broadway hit "Spring Awakening," which landed us on the front row of the balcony at the Balboa Theater. Fortunately we had just enough time beforehand to devour a California burrito (a steak burrito that someone brilliantly decided to augment with french fries).

Monday morning, we made a final visit to the Hash House before heading back through the desert and on toward home. I have yet to introduce my hat to Dallas, but I'm sure it will make an appearance . . . but maybe this town just isn't quite ready for it yet.

Okay, so let's get Megan with that crazy sculpture from La Jolla just one last time . . .

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Spanish Market: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Occasionally New Mexico lives up to its state motto, "Land of Enchantment." Maybe it didn't the time I found myself wandering through waste-deep snow somewhere vaguely below Wheeler Peak. It did not feel too enchanting the time I was running down a mountainside and tripped, sending hunks of high iron-content rock deep into my knee. And it was not so enchanting to be stuck on the highway for hours while waiting for the department of transportation to clear a mudslide.

But last weekend in Santa Fe, the state certainly provided enchantment. Megan and I joined Dad and Toni to head to Santa Fe on what has become a bi-annual pilgrimage to the city of art and artists, spas and ski slopes, meals and meanderings. In the winter time, we visit to shred the nar. This weekend we visited the Spanish Market.

Art and Artifact

The Spanish Market is a juried art event consisting of entries primarily from New Mexico. As the name suggests, most of the artists paint in styles reflecting the original Spanish settlement of the area with a heavy focus on statuary and retablos, small paintings of saints. The artists are often known as "santeros," or saint painters, and the work transports the viewer to another time. Other artists create furniture or jewelry in a similar vein. Many were kind enough to let me photograph their work.

Accompanying the traditional work are more innovative, contemporary works that celebrate the Spanish roots but often adapt the representation to the culture that emerged in the Southwest. The work featured at the top, by Arthur Lopez, shows the result of that cultural transformation by taking a traditional Spanish method of representation and transforming it into something mystical.

Naturally, Megan and I could not leave the market without a few treasures. Our first find was by Michael Vargas, a supermarket manager turned santero. Megan was initially drawn to his booth by a painting of the holy trinity. I entered the booth to give my opinion, but, as we both turned to our right, we found ourselves mesmerized by a painting called "Santo Nino," a portrayal of Christ as a boy. The work was in pastels on clayboard. Below Megan and Michael Vargas show off the work.

Our second purchase came shortly before departure. We had spotted the work of Brandon Maldonado from a distance, but his booth was always too crowded. Finally, we found an empty booth Sunday morning and wandered inside. We looked at his more shocking works, works portraying deep pain in a unique, surreal style. We pined over some of the works and eventually settled on a book of his paintings themed loosely on the Dia De Los Muertos. The book was a consolation, we thought, until Megan dropped her coffee. This forced us to apologize for the mess and take a longer look at a painting we had barely noticed on our way in. Inspired directly by an Ingres painting of the same name, "The Bather" revealed Maldonado's historical inspiration while transforming that work with his unique style. The painting took Ingres' bather and warped her for a dynamic world while removing her from a comfortable setting, replacing it with a vague void. Below, Megan and I pose for a picture with the painting and the artist. He has a blindingly bright future ahead of him.

Food, Clothing, Shelter

The trip to Santa Fe was not entirely about art . . . it was also about getting some much needed rest while celebrating Dad and Toni's anniversary (just look at the celebration occurring above . . . merriment abounds). We stayed at a cozy bed and breakfast with an excellent daily happy hour called the Water Street Inn. An attentive owner made our stay a delight.

Beyond sleeping, we ate, and we ate well. Tradition sent us to Pasqual's for brunch upon arrival, but we also tried some new spots. Aqua Santa offers sumptuous dishes with some of the more complicated but impressive flavors I have ever tried. These dishes were complemented by an excellent brew, Monk's Ale, from a monastery in Abiquiu. The beer was modeled after Belgian Trappist ales, but surpasses its Belgian cousins. The second night we gnoshed on a smattering of exquisite seafood dishes at Geronimo's on Canyon Road.

All in all, it was a great trip . . . interesting sights, delicious food, and just enough time sitting on a balcony with a glass of wine. Now we are back in Dallas wondering if ski season could come just a bit earlier this year.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The End of Bonnaroo

"I walked and walked and walked . . . until I finally came to the end of Bonnaroo. And there were no more tents."

Megan and I overheard these comments while waiting in line to splash ourselves with sulphur-scented spring water before heading out to a day of rocking. The comments were obviously the results of some serious drug. After all, we had been at Bonnaroo just over twelve hours, but we already knew it was all-encompassing. It had no end, only middle places that wrapped you in constant stimulus and unending sensory adventures. And the tents did not end--there were tens of thousands of them. But, as it turns out, Bonnaroo did come to an end, and that gives us the chance to share the experience and hopefully keep it alive, at least a bit, for a while. The pictures tell the story, so I'll keep my commentary to a minimum (Mastodon!).


Our rag-tag crew of Bonnaroo rockers gathered in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. There we could stock up on last-minute necessities before departing civilization as we knew it.

Our group was a great conglomeration. We had a car full of folks arriving from Austin, some flying in from Austin and Amarillo, a bunch from Dallas, and other drivers arriving from Louisville and Ashville. We had 11 people, and when the weekend began, there was no single person in the group who knew everyone else--the prospect of meeting new folks only added to the excitement. We all arrived planning to make friends, and nothing prompts unity like constant sweat and a shared cooler (or three) of cold beer. With the crew assembled, I turned over the starter on my sweet Kia minivan, and we prepared to rock. Below you can see the eager anticipation of my passengers.


Our early experience with Bonnaroo consisted of lines. Our high speed departure from the Murfreesboro Wal-Mart quickly slowed as we queued in a 13 mile line on the shoulder of I-24. The line took about four-and-a-half hours, but entertainment was plentiful. We had the joys of watching passengers attempt to find secluded spots in which to urinate, and we enjoyed debating the festival schedule while listening to the Bonnaroo radio station.

But lines became a common experience. There were lines for the bathrooms, lines for the drinks, lines to twist one's head underneath a spigot to steal some sulphur-scented water . . . which is the experience captured below. That said, the frigid spring water was delightfully refreshing and allowed us to keep the grime down.


Our campsite was the refuge, stocked with beer, guitars, plenty of snacks, and bountiful shade--I treasured the time hanging around camp. Some images . . . (and yes, that is the incredible Kia Mastodon in the background)


The festival itself was stimulus overload. The music varied from genre to genre, as I found myself listening to bluegrass, rock, heavy metal, hip-hop and country--often within the period of hours. Festivals reward folks who are receptive to new types of music. I enjoyed obvious favorites, like Jack Johnson, Ben Folds, Sigur Ros, and Pearl Jam. But the most surprising joy came from acts I did not even think I would hear: M.I.A., Ghostland Observatory, Gogol Bordello, Ladytron, Abigail Washburn . . . and it goes on. Below, Jeff took particular enjoyment watching Jack Johnson and Eddie Vedder play "Constellations."

Music was a small part of the festival experience. I also enjoyed people-watching and spontaneous naptime. Thus, a people-watching/ naptime montage:

Bonnaroo also presents monumental art as outrageous as the musical acts:

The End of Bonnaroo

Eventually, Preston played taps on the bugle (or kazoogle), and we lowered the Texas flag and Jolly Roger--the flags that allowed us to find home base in the city of tents. We came to the end of Bonnaroo . . . but there were still tents.

(as you may tell from this one, Mark Everett did not wait in line to bathe . . . compare his hair in this photo to his hair in the van on the ride in . . . we're glad he had his own tent)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Countdown to Bonnaroo

I am excited.  Probably more than excited--I'm actually thrilled.  We are now in the countdown to the final days (hours? . . . no, still days) to the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

It is an inaugural visit for Megan and me.  We have loved our Austin City Limits festivals, but those are drastically different.  After all, each night after ACL featured a bed and a shower and a large meal. 
Bonnaroo involves camping, in tents, in the heat.  The showers are hoses, and the food comes from vendors.  The shows do not end promptly at 10:30 PM but instead range through the night.  It is a different sort of experience and one that will likely bring the crowd closer together.
So here we are, on the brink.  We currently have the tent airing out in the media room, clothing piled on the guest bed, snack stuff and various tarps on the dining room table, and a few final supplies on order overnight from REI.  We are darn near ready.  Updates and photos to come . . . . first comes the music.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Musical Month: Bon Jovi, Poison Cherry, and Steve Earle

My blogging has become worse than sporadic . . . after producing material at a fairly regular (albeit irregular) pace I have fallen into posting almost monthly, which isn't going to cut it.  If we ever plan to make this blog our ticket to a career as an elite husband-and-wife duo on the Travel Channel (I will take recommendations for the name of our show), I better start blogging more regularly . . . and about more than just trips to flea markets, even if they are markets of apocalyptic proportions.
Last month was a very musical month for us.  First, my father-in-law kicked of his career as a blogger by opening a fascinating blog about the blues that I highly recommend visiting (  Perhaps inspired by his content, I decided it was time for a music post here as well. 
We kicked off the month with Bon Jovi, live and in concert.  Our expectations were mixed--I assumed it would be entertaining, and Megan could not quite remember what Bon Jovi sang (of course she knew the songs, but they weren't permanently fixed with the man himself).  The concert exceeded expectations as I became embarrassingly excited as the words "Shot through the heart . . . " echoed across the American Airlines Center.  The show had plenty of cheesy stage antics (my favorite was Bon Jovi's gestures which suggested that Bon Jovi was somehow directing the ethereal rock pouring from Richie Sambora's ax).  Megan seemed disappointed at Bon Jovi's conservative attire as the show began, but he quickly ditched the leather jacket to reveal a low-cut leather vest.  Later, he donned a black leather jacket featuring the name of his new album on the back--"Lost Highway."  A friend who attended with us noted that the words looked more like "Love Machine," and we decided that would have been more appropriate anyway.  We left quite pleased, but not as pleased as the drunken middle-aged lady to our left who moaned, "That's my song," as each verse began.  I am pretty sure she had a better time.
Not willing to release the 80s, we later found ourselves at the Lakewood Bar & Grill to watch Poison Cherry perform.  Poison Cherry is a big-haired, immaculately-costumed band that seems to exist in some strange bend in space and time, the 80s living, loud, and quite healthy today.  Such is the force of their time warp, that many of the bar's patrons also seemed to have stepped foot into the concert directly from another era.  None of that really mattered, though, because Poison Cherry simply rocks in the most grandiose and obnoxious ways possible.  The guitarist sported red tights with tiger stripes, and not to be outshown by his righteous garb, he managed to strum the guitar with his tongue shortly before smashing it to the stage.  Once again, we found ourselves rocking to Bon Jovi but in a more intimate and somehow much more exciting way.  We were baffled upon entering the bar to see the number of diehard Poison Cherry fans, and, as I watched Megan shouting the lyrics to "Bad Medicine," I realized Poison Cherry had won two more.
Finally, we wrapped up the month with a Steve Earle concert at Lakewood Theater.  The show began wonderfully with Steve playing acoustic guitar and harmonica to some of his great songs.  And then a DJ walked out on stage and approached a turntable.  I wasn't sure what to expect at this point, but, needless to say, the show just got weird from there.  The DJ was spinning beats to Steve Earle's tunes, and the compositions seemed disjointed and cacophonous.  He broke up the set with a great performance of "Galway Girl" on mandolin, but then the DJ returned and the strangeness continued.  As he left the stage, I felt terribly disappointed and confused.
Fortunately, his encore salvaged the entire experience.  He walked out and began playing the tune to "Rex's Blues" while telling stories of his times with Townes Van Zandt.  That alone would have been worth the ticket price for me.  Then he launched into "Rex's Blues" followed by "Fort Worth Blues," and I have never heard those songs the way I heard them that evening.  I never got the chance to see Townes Van Zandt in concert, but Steve Earle managed to connect us to that experience, if only a little bit, that night.
The live music will continue.  We are now a bit over a month away from the Bonnaroo Music Festival.  While my college friends are now veterans of the festival, Megan and I look forward to our first experience.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll manage to craft an entry or two between now and then.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Canton Revisited: Story in Photos

I am assuming that my last post about Canton Trade Days was a huge hit and widely read by most of the world's webgoers. Tipped off to the threat of imminent apocalypse, the kind ladies from the First Baptist Church appeared to monitor the situation . . . this woman seemed vigilant.

The last post captured the feeling of the place in words, but this time I decided to carry the camera along. This allowed me to capture the piles of random post-consumerist litter that will constitute our economy should the folks from the First Baptist Church fail to stave off total economic destruction. Without further delay, bring on the fiesta-ware, duck decoys, and strange bear head . . .

We also found plenty of colorful options for food and beverage . . .

In my last post, I mentioned the odd assemblage of vehicles, automotive homes from a bygone era.

The favorite vehicle was the psychedelic creation below. I took a number of photos before being noticed by the van's owner. He approached me, and I commented on the beauty of the work. He replied, "Yeah, I painted all of this, and I smoke the chronic." I was taken aback and looked at his face for a clue on how to react--his expression suggested that he had just shared the secret of his artistic skill. He pointed out each detail and what variety of marijuana he had smoked before painting it. The mural on the back (the second photo below) was modeled after "that painting that was stolen with the screaming guy . . . except the chronic suggested to me that I should add a cactus and a palm tree . . . you can only do this sort of work with the help of the chronic." So in case the reader wonders at how to achieve this level of artistic genius, apparently it can be nurtured with an "illegal smile," to quote John Prine.

While we were fascinated by all of this visual excitement, the vendors seemed bored . . . just another weekend at the flea market.

We headed back to the car content from our day's wanderings. We left Canton the proud owners of a firepit while Megan's folks found a part of a windmill to take home. Not a bad haul . . . would have been a bit better if Megan's brother had purchased these stylish spectacles, but there is always next month.

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