Saturday, September 27, 2008

Old Rockin' Friends

(St. Louis, MO)- It was a great moment when Steve & I surprised our fellow ex-Clevelander friends Doug Enkler and Robert Griffin with our attendance, at a show in their hometown of St. Louis. Prisonshake played at a place called the Bluebird, in celebration of the release of their new double album, "Dirty Moons", that was some 15 years in the making. It was my guess that I hadn't seen either of them in at least that long.

Doug Enkler at center stage.

Robert Griffin playing the Les Paul. That was a new wrinkle. He played the same Stratocaster as he had in Cleveland all those years, but added the Les Paul for songs with a harder edge.

It was fascinating for me to hear Robert's guitar again. Although most of the songs were new to me, (They did play "Carthage Burns", and "It Seemed a Brilliant Idea") his intonation was distinctly his own. I really enjoyed hearing, and seeing, the guys once again.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Road Trip Denouement

(Omaha, NE)- As we wind down the trip and head towards home, we have an 'itinerary' light on stops, but big on miles. Stop 1: The Union Pacific RR Museum across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, IA. Stop 2: The Bluebird in St. Louis, to see Prisonshake- a band led by two ex-Clevelanders, Robert Griffin and Doug Enkler. Griffin runs Scat Records, an outfit Steve worked for, and I 'interned' (volunteered?) for, back in the early 90s.

Yesterday's stops included a small town barber shop/western store north of Omaha, in a town called Tekamah, NE. Steve had wanted to stop at some 'Floyd The Barber' kinda shop, and we found it. The northern two-thirds of the building had recently sustained heavy fire damage, and was closed off. As we walked in, we could see the western store as being the larger part of the store, with the barber just in the frontage. The western store folks all got real attentive, but then relaxed with disappointment when they saw that we were just there for ear-lowering.

Steve sat down for the #1 clipper, and engaged in the kind of small talk that got it known that we were just passing through on a road trip. Talk then got to agriculture. "Are they harvesting up north yet?" We talked about soybeans, corn, the absence of anything of any other crop, and the harvesting we had seen. Five minutes, and the buzz-cutting was done, and everybody had the farm report.

We had tried to drive parallel to the Missouri River as much as we could, in Iowa and Nebraska, but found that there was very little access. Dug the signs that said, 'No trespassing. You will be shot". Unlike the Mississippi, which has rails and byways running alongside it, the Missouri only has occasional runs of a mile or so beside it. These are 'Minimum Maintenance Roads', per the signs. In plain English, some have some gravel. Many are just topsoil roads, which are very soft. Steve wasn't happy about driving my Toyota in such conditions, and when he asked if it had front wheel or rear wheel drive, we knew it was time to switch.

We ended up in Omaha, which is the biggest city we've been in on the trip thus far. The suburban setting feels out of place, but with the end near, and more than 450 miles to St. Louis, the backroad action is likely done- at least for today.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Road Trip

(Sioux Falls, SD)- I'm on the road with my buddy Steve Wainstead, doing a circle tour of Iowa. Yes, I know how that sounds, but Steve's a New Yorker, and farm country is a great foil for him, a great un-city, and I just like it anyhow. Ame told me, back in April, "Get in one last trip. There won't be one for a while". I love being urged to take a road trip by my wife!

Highlight so far- The drive north along the Mississippi River, beginning at the Quad Cities, at Rock Island, up to Winona, MN. Here are some pics from Rock Island:

Lock & Dam #15. There is a packet of barges in the lock, as the water fills to bring it up to level. Rock Island is wholly a military installation. You stop at the gate and show ID. We got there at 4:50, and the tourist items close at 5pm. The guard looked at Steve's ID, saw his real Polish last name, commented on it and told us that he was German. Steve told him that he is one-quarter German. The man's eyes lit up, he crouched towards the car and told us to go right through, but don't tell anyone he said we could!

There is a Confederate cemetery on Rock Island, with more than 2,000 graves, almost all of which were low-ranking men.

This one was most intriguing. "Freeman"? Does this indicate a former slave who fought on the side of the Confederacy?
Some Thoughts

(Sioux Falls, SD)- OK, here's something I hadn't shared, that sits deep at the core of my discontent: Ame & I are having baby, due in early November.

Preparing for this baby is obviously my Number One Priority. But, we still have lives, and still do things that make us, hopefully, rounded human beings. Talking politics had been one of those things.

As the due date nears, I continually experience a cognitive dissonance. And some guilt. As I posted day after day, I kept showing how this country is going downhill. Day after day, post after post, I could only find bad news. Truly, I don't go looking for it. I made a point to post good news where I could find it. Trouble was, good news just wasn't forthcoming. 

So, what on earth am I doing bringing another child into this world? Have I no sense of decency? How could I?

So, maybe not looking at it would help. Or, at least not talking about it, or blogging it. 

When we get right down to it, politics affects us very little in many meaningful ways. I've moved freely between Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota in the past three days. Nobody said, "Your papers, sir". I listened to music, read books, pumped gas at $3.25 (yep, it's cheap in Iowa and SD).

Sure, the economics is where I am most affected, and it's why I rail on about it most. But even there, I take home a better percentage in 2008 than I did in 2002 or 1995. Well leaving Ohio helped a lot on that count. This bailout situation is at least making people look at economics for once. Too bad it takes a disaster, but better than not at all. We'll note that my having talked about economics for five years really hadn't helped make anyone aware of any looming problems.

So-we don't know whether the baby will be a girl or a boy. I like to tease Ame, saying that the day of birth isn't exciting enough- we need a surprise to liven the occasion. On that day, I will forget everything political, and all will be right with the world. I've just had a hard struggle as we've approached that day, because I just want to do right.