Friday, June 26, 2009

A Zombie Tribute and Letter to Michael Jackson

Oh, Michael, Michael, Michael. I know I'm a few days late, but I have a few things to say to you and what "you" or the idea of you has meant to me. 

You were known as the King of Pop, whatever that means, but all I know is that you were such a little genius performer when you were a just a wee lad. What emotion, what moves! What a beautiful, little man. 

Growing up, we dressed like you. One halloween, my mother made herself a convincing twin. One sequined glove and her jheri curls; it was you! She always said that nobody dances like Michael, and that's the truth. Watching Bob Fosse in The Little Prince, it was obvious that you didn't originate all your moves on your own, but you were almost better than the best. 

When I was 4 and in our White Plains living room, I first witnessed the "Thriller" video. My parents laughed, because I was so scared that I screamed in fear, with all my strength, I climbed up my father to his head, like a cat up a tree. It was one of the single most frightening moments of my life. Thanks for that.

There was a time when I was like 6 and I debated the lyrics to "Beat It" with my mom. I claimed that, "Showin' How Funky Strong Is Your Fight" was actually "you know how to f*ck it, you know what's right." My mom beat me. Thanks again. 

In high school, I saw "The Jacksons: An American Dream" on VH1, and I loved it. Joe Jackson was about as vile as it gets. My favorite scene was when you boys were practicing dance moves and Marlon had to pirouette at one point, but he just kept screwing it up, so Joe makes him get a switch and he beats him relentlessly. There were a ton of tears all around.

I was in Amman, Jordan in '95 or '96 and the English station aired that fabulous mini-series. Again, that scene inspired me. When I was 21, my cat came to live with me. I had to christen him something good, so I named him Tito. And yes, he misses you, his brother, very much.  

I have to say that beside the fact that I live with a Jackson, a furry, grey Jackson, I am actually pretty shocked and saddened that you've moved to that great big Neverland Ranch in the sky (quoting Hutin/Miami, bro). I know you've had some rough times, but you knew how to entertain and inspire.  

The video up there was performed with the lovely artists Stephanie Hutin and Christy Gast. We were sipping Strongbow at Churchill's when the bartender got the news. It was us three, an obnoxious man who asked us to buy him a bag and a lovely, friendly prostitute named Bianca or Sugar Lips. Sugar Lips was the videographer, and the other girls were the masterminds. 

Mike, I hope you like it, and I hope that there is actually a better place for you after this one. It is sad the way things here are sometimes very painful and disappointing, and had been for you. Bon voyage.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

private party, bro

I don't know if y'all can read this flyer, but there's a party tonight, 8-11 at the Awarehouse hosted by Fader and Red Stripe. There's free beer and Jamaican music by Terry Lynn. I think it's RSVP only, but ask around, I'm sure if you're crafty enough, you can get on the list or at least get to the after-party at the Electric Pickle. 

Fader rarely throws parties down here, and magazine parties are the best! My old co-worker, Matthew Schnipper has a column with them, read it here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Power 90s Sex - yes

If I weren't going to my very good friends' wedding this Saturday, I'd be going here. Or maybe I'll hit this up after the wedding. Who the hell knows. Point is, bring your booty shorts and I'll see you there.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hoofin' it - Luckenbach!

On the way, or almost on the way between Fredericksburg and Austin is Luckenbach. Maybe you've heard of the place from the Waylon Jennings song, or because it's a Willie Nelson hangout spot. Last time we came through, the place was packed with leather chaps, cowboy hats and Harleys. This time it was pretty quiet, but we got a little, live show and had a Lone Star beer. 

This town is basically a shack or two in the middle of green rolling hills. There's a gift shop, a post office and a few stages where I'm sure there have been more than a few amazing shows performed and enjoyed. 

On the way out I almost drove us off the road. It was both frightening and funny. That's all I have to say about that. 

Hoofin' it around western Texas

Just south of Las Cruces was El Paso. One side of the road looked like Mexico and the other looked like America. This was possibly because they were actually Juarez and El Paso, respectively. It was funny how apparent it was which country was which. 

The second we passed El Paso, Jimmy got pulled over. The cops were swarming like flies over a carcass. It was unreal. They pulled over everyone. I almost shit myself in the backseat. I'm more than scared of Texas outside of Austin. Luckily he was a nice enough cop and we were on our way quickly. 

We then got stopped at a border crossing. Our car was packed to the brim, and the border patrol stopped us and asked Jimmy, "is there anyone in the back?" and he responded nervously, "only my sister." She rolled her eyes and waved us by. I think she wanted to know if we had 30 Mexicans in the trunk. Unfortunately for two other dudes we saw, they weren't waved by and were arrested on the side of the road and it kind of broke my heart. 

After a boring drive in the heat and rain, we were rewarded with a series of rainbows. Some were small but we caught a double rainbow that was so incredibly vivid that we had to pull over and take video and pictures. Check it out up there. 
We didn't make it all the way to Austin that day, so instead we stopped in Fredericksburg, an old German town in Hill Country. We lucked out because we found an open bar when we drove in, Silver Creek, with a beer selection fitting a real German town. 
I had actually been to Fredericksburg when I was on a road trip in my early 20s with my bff, Liza, and we were enchanted. I didn't remember it being so built up, but it's been about 7 years, so it figures. There's a main stretch with stores and restaurants, there's the National Museum of the Pacific War, located in the George H. W. Bush Gallery. Yeah. 

We ate at this restaurant housed in some 150 year old building, Der Lindenbaum. Our food was AMAZZZZZING. Even the coffee was good. We ate schnitzel and cukes in dill yogurt, sauerkraut, warm potato salad. I mean, I was in culinary heaven. 

Hoofin' it through New Mexico

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe. 
Those two posed for us, paranoid as to why we were taking their picture, yet posing all the same. 

Whereas Albuquerque was low key but charming, Santa Fe was intensely rich and touristy. I didn't mind so much because thanks to Jimmy's lovely and special lady, Leah, we visited a Japanese spa called 10,000 Waves. For $18 we got a relaxing dip in some hot water. I did the naked all ladies room and Jimmy went to the "clothing-optional" communal pool. It was really divine there. The weather was still a bit overcast and drizzling, and the small pools were outside in a Japanese garden setting. The mix of the cool rain and warm water was actually really relaxing. I think most things seem relaxing but aren't, but this was a place you could genuinely bring it down a level.  

Santa Fe is situated among red hills covered by fragrant pinon trees and decorated with public art. You know how some cities are just into public art, like Berlin or Reykjavik, Santa Fe is on that list. Instead of taking pictures of the artwork, I took a shot of this dog in a sidecar with sunglasses. That's art. 

We munched on street food, roasted corn with chili powder. The town square was packed with a Memorial Day crowd watching flamenco dancers and a little parade. We went into a Haagen Dazs where they served food to meet my ravenous appetite and the cute kids working there were playing Arcade Fire's Funeral. 

Basically, we booked it to Las Cruces which was a few hours south. Just out of Albuquerque I noticed a lush area with orchards and I was like - why the hell is it so green right here? Well, obviously it was because the Rio Grande ran through and made for good tree growing. 

As we drove I-25, there were signs to beware of sand storms, and before it started raining, the wind swept ribbons of sand across the road in front of us and I got a little nervous. We pulled over so the dudes could pee near Belen and also snagged a bottle of wine to give to our hosts. I asked the lady who worked there what to do in case there's a sand storm, she said to close the vents on your car, pull over and wait, in case you wanted to know. This frightening lady then came in after me, a regular with dirt smeared on her face and a torn Metallica tee. Luckily we didn't get any sand storms, because it was the wet season and raining... which should be a big obvious sign. We did see a beautiful sunset just north of Socorro, probably one of the most impressive I've ever seen.

We stayed with the wonderful Katie and her kind parents in Las Cruces. Her dad had The Dude and of Walter Sobchak dolls. Jealous?

Katie and her mom showed me this little alcove in the old town, dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. As someone who was obsessed with Young Guns II back in the day, I was excited that we were hanging on Billy the Kid's old stomping grounds. 

Hoofin' it in Albuquerque

We had to take I-40 back again past Holbrook to get to Albuquerque. Unfortunately for Chris, Jimmy and I can't see at night, so he had to drive through the torrential rain for hours. By the time we got to our destination, we were all exhausted beyond belief. We spent the night at the Hilton, which was quite a little charmer for an airport hotel. I think Hilton sheets are nice and their beds are comfy. I really am serious. 

I was certain we'd see a land of Native Americans the second we entered Oklahoma. I mean, isn't that where the Trail of Tears ended? I was proven very wrong though, the Natives all live in New Mexico. Not to sound like an ignorant slut, but it was really a pleasure to be around people that weren't white, black or Hispanic. I'm sort of over all of the rest of us. Maybe I should relocate to a reservation.  

In Albuquerque, the overpasses are painted bright pink and turquoise. The downtown area features a huge Wells Fargo building (I think Wells Fargo owns the nation west of the Mississippi), and then a nice row of theaters and motels along Route 66 (Neko Case was performing there just days after we left!). Our favorite sight was the Library Bar & Grill, featured up there. Massive books featuring Lord of the Onion Rings, A Midsummer Night's Drink, Tequila Mockingbird? Awesome. We didn't go in or anything, but the outside was good enough. 

The old town was delightful, to use a Liptonian word. We visited three cities in New Mexico, and all three had old towns with city squares. Santa Fe's was the busiest and most touristy and the square in Las Cruces had the most rustic, desert feel, this one was a nice mix of the both. This is San Felipe de Neri Church which has been an active place of prayer since 1793. There was a baptism going on inside while we were there. 
We ate sopaipillas at La Hacienda which was housed in a building that's been occupied since 1706. These babies are delicious, they're like fry bread or chalupas. We poured honey on them for desert, and I swear I dreamt about eating one yesterday. If you know where I can get one in Miami, PLEASE let me know! Thanks.I held the waitress' tray while she acted as photographer. She was an amusing lady. 
Jim and I chipped in and bought my mom a birthday gift from Joe the Navajo; his name is stamped on the back of the ring. Most of those selling jewelry on the street are Navajo, Zuni or Hopi. They had so many beautiful pieces, I was actually very sad to be as broke as I was. I'm not a psycho consumer, but this was one of those moments I wanted more of these possessions. Maybe that's how the conquistadores felt? Bad joke. 
This guy and his wife, Shelley Morningsong, put on a performance for us. His costume was obviously outta this world, and Shelly was winner of the debut artist of the year at the Native American Music Awards. 

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What's going on on Tuesday? This.

I'm not sure if this will open up largely, but you should be able to get the idea here. There's an opening for one of my oldest pals, Venessa Monokian on Tuesday at the Viceroy at 6. Highly recommended. 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hoofin' it 'round the Grand Canyon

Ah, the Grand Canyon. These 2 pictures here were taken before the downpour, and the ones at the bottom were from after. 

Yes, it rained again. But thankfully, we were patient and spent some time buying little girls presents, much like these - a blinking owl and a scorpion puppet. What 2 year old isn't charmed by such a gentle creature as the scorpion.  

So after a short wait, we hoofed it back over to another point in the canyon, though offering the same view, simply because it's a freaking huge hole in the earth. But with the sun setting, the lighting shifted and the earth offered up more pastel colors for our eager eyes. It was definitely a sight. I mean, my goal was to get Graceland and the Grand Canyon into one trip, and it was deeply satisfying sitting on the edge of this massive indentation in the landscape mostly because I made it. I overheard a lady say, "they always tell you it's flat, flat, flat for miles before you get there. And it's true." I came in knowing nothing, expecting nothing other than to arrive, and we did arrive and we saw and it was powerful to feel powerlessly close to the edge.   
Jimmy was like, "boring!"
These pictures, once uploaded, do the canyon no justice!

At one point, my hat, which I had grown to adore, the Zion National Park Junior Ranger cap, flew off of my head in the strong wind and we all gasped! I almost cried, but luckily, the hat had only flown down onto a lower cliff. Chris was my hero that day and overcame his fear of heights to save my precious chapeau! 

Gracias, Chris!

Hoofin' it on Route 66

In order to stay in the wigwams, we had to backtrack a bit, which was good, because we got a taste of some Route 66 sights in the daytime. After the rainstorm in Sedona, we drove through Flagstaff, which looked a bit like an old coal mining town, it was dark and dreary, maybe just from the rain, but allow me to make a claim. The historic downtown actually more resembled a large train depot. We were impressed, but pressed for time. 

The day we headed to the Grand Canyon was divine - look at that sky! I hope that picture enlarges because these were the most cartoonish expanse of clouds I've ever seen. Then we all got to sit on the Jackrabbit.
Call me what you will, but I actually do like some Eagles songs. In fact I LOVE "Take it Easy" because I realized one day, many, many years ago that I knew all of the words to a song I'd never thought much about, but to which I related deeply. I've always got at least 7 women on my mind, four that want to own me, two that want to stone me and one that says she's a friend of mine. Granted I have difficulty "taking it easy." But that's not exactly what the song's about. It's more about 2 things, things I can relate to: 1. enjoying experiences in the moment since, you know, shit never happens twice, and 2. when getting all worked up about dudes or my million other problems, driving is a wonderful mind-clearing activity. 

Anyway, Jackson Browne and Glen Frey wrote into the lyrics of this song about a corner in Winslow, AZ, and that is where we stopped next. There's no building behind that wall, it's just a wall, and there's the stature of JB or GF. This town was sadly, sort of a ghetto, with a strong Native population and a few gift shops devoted to the song.  
I then needed to pick up a prescription, and Flagstaff is a mid-sized town, so we swung by the CVS. Then we ate in Williams at someplace called Goldie's Route 66 Diner. The diner was - oh, God, I hate to say it, but I must - a white trash haven. The town is cute and made for tourists, with it's Route 66 loop. We didn't have time, but I would have gotten very sauced in this joint, I can promise you that. 

Hoofin' it around Holbrook, Route 66 style

In its original form, this trip was a Route 66, LA to Arizona weeklong adventure I created maybe 2 years ago. Because of work, and because of marriages and visiting Eddie in London, it never happened. Route 66 was the vein of America for decades, bringing people westward. Since the drives were long, people needed neat motels to rest their heads at, and boring, people needed roadside attractions so they wouldn't go nuts. I like history. Wanted to be entertained and see some goofy statues. Though I knew I wasn't going to focus on Route 66 sights, I definitely wanted to visit some key attractions, the main one being the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook. 

We stayed inside one of these babies. It was a little claustrophobic, but really neat. There was a classic car parked in front of each, and Chris excitedly commented to the lady at the check-in, "looks pretty full!" and then we laughed at him for a bit after since the cars were just for show. But in all actuality, many of the rooms were occupied by bikers and young couples. 

That night we made a run to the Safeway across the street and I noticed there are a lot of east Indians living off of I-40, there were many the next day in the Grand Canyon, too. Anyway, we bought mixers and when we returned to the motel, some people were shooting off fireworks across the street. Good ones, too. A nice welcome to Holbrook, indeed.  
The next morning we decided to just eat in the hood at Joe and Aggie's Cafe. It was really neat inside with Route 66 memorabilia. The whole town was small, but had a shit ton of personality. 
This guy was just hanging out downtown. 
We ended up at the Rock Store which is reminiscent of a scene in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. It was divine. They sold pieces of petrified wood. We never made it to the Petrified Forest down the road, but I did buy a tiny piece of ancient history.  
Jimmy and I imitated the dinosaurs.

Hoofin' it and almost dying in Sedona

Sedona is known for being a spiritual vortex. It's a place of possibly unrivaled beauty, with its lush greenery and high pink, red and orange mountains. This place is like the Sophia Loren of landscapes. I mean, just hubba hubba, gorgeous. 

We, of course, caught nothing but rain throughout the arid southwest. As we neared a damp Sedona, we stopped off (again) at the park ranger welcome center. It was there that we met an elderly man with a crooked face. He instructed us to take a path down to the creek. He said, "it's not a marked trail, because it's technically in a flood zone." It was a half mile each way or maybe a half mile round trip, very short, beautiful, etc. So Chris, Jimmy and I headed down toward the trailhead. 

It was spectacular, even in the drizzling rain and light fog. After walking in a couple hundred feet though, it started to rain a little heavier and Chris turned back to the car. Jimmy and I forged ahead. Made it to the creek in only a few minutes, dawdling. I snapped a few pictures and as we turned to head back. Suddenly the skies opened and dumped upon us much rain. 

We decided to move quickly, following the path we came in on. In no more than 30 seconds, all of the trails turned to streams. Even the other trails that were leading to the one trail we came in on were starting to flood. 

I yelled to Jimmy, "do you know what a flash flood is?" 
He said, "I think it's when the creek floods." 

I think it's actually when the canyon fills with water and becomes a rushing, angry river.  

As Jimmy and I, wet as drowned persian cats, tried to navigate the rushing streams that were quickly joining forces and becoming a network of waterways, I seriously thought we might be totally, entirely, completely, absolutely fucked. 

I suggested we might stay close to the canyon wall, since we're both decent climbers and where we both could get above the water if a deluge came through with too much speed and force. But Jimmy found another trail which led us to a sort of clearing. It didn't look familiar, so he wanted to turn back, but all I saw was dry land. We followed it for a bit and found barbed wire fences and private property signs. At this point, we were 20 minutes out, lost in the rain and more than ready to risk being shot by a one toothed country person in order to avoid drowning. These houses are worth millions, so I was sure they'd at least let us use the phone before they shot us. 

It turned out there was a road and it led to our car, the most beautiful sight of the day. 

Once we made it in the vehicle, about 4 miles of dirt road dipped into rushing waterways, which we forded in order to eat in an overpriced restaurant and to change our clothes. 

Sedona is a city for wealthy people which I envisioned being filled with new age hippies, Birkenstocks and crystals. I think they had a Williams Sonoma there at a fancy adobe looking strip mall. Definitely, I saw a Gap. If I learned nothing else this trip, I learned that wealth will buy you the prettiest part of the state. 

I was pretty traumatized, and things managed to stay crappy because as we left town, our gas light went on, and though we were under 30 miles from Flagstaff, it was 30 miles of winding mountains at 15-30 miles an hour. The thing that most sucked was that the scenery bordering the highway was possibly the most spectacular I've ever witnessed or could imagine. The red mountains, half covered with pines and fog, resembled Middle Earth, or maybe they just looked like heaven on this earth. I thought my pictures could do justice. Couldn't. There were camp grounds along the highway. If I ever go back, I'd camp there, elevated and in the midst of the majestic mountains.

Above was our trail before the rain storm, and below was the trail after.
Middle Earth

Hoofin' it around Phoenix or Scottsdale

Front of Valley Ho

On our way into Arizona, Jimmy decided that he wanted to alter my agenda and add a day in New Mexico. I gave in and added it, but that meant that we had to make some adjustments. As we drove toward Phoenix, dodging slow-moving tractor trailers. I desperately tried to figure out where to stay in this sprawling yet very uncool metropolis. I decided on a really cute looking hotel in Scottsdale called Valley Ho. It turned out to be a very well put together boutique hotel with nice sized pool area, great foliage, well decorated rooms and sweet-smelling cleaning products from Red Flower. Since I did no research on the area, we wandered around looking for something to do that night after a commendable feast at the hotel restaurant. We ended up at a 7-11, which actually sold booze! I guess this is common outside of Florida because bottles of rum and vodka popped up in a ton of western convenience stores. There were signs that night that Scottsdale is probably a gay part of town. By morning, our drive through the "downtown" or "arts district" proved my suspicions. There were many galleries, furniture stores and design shops. It was cute but boring.

The next morning, we tried to go to this breakfast place featured on the Food Network, but it had a line out the door. Instead we wandered around angrily and found a cute Jamaican place called Breadfruit. It was there that I drank my first cup of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, one of the most expensive coffees in the WORLD, in the UNIVERSE. I know I shouldn't have splurged, but I had to. Just that once. It was divine and they gave me coconut milk to add. Oh yes. Yes, yes. We were all pleased with our Caribbean meal, a thousand miles from the ocean blue. 

Hoofin' it to Joshua Tree Inn and Pioneertown

Possibly one of my favorite musicians of all time is Gram Parsons. Let me tell you why. Gram had a certain emotionality in his voice and added a soft innocence to the music he performed, which I find to be generally rare amongst. Also, Return of the Grievous Angel is one of the best songs ever and is best road trip songs ever. That's my claim. I mean, it's disputable, but whatever, my blog.

If you don't know about poor Gram Parsons, he played with the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and sang with Emmylou Harris as the Fallen Angels. His widespread fame comes largely from being country and being best buddies with Keith Richards. Also, because after he died in the desert at 26, his friends later stole his body and burned it out in Joshua Tree. The tale is a rock legend, and you can read about it elsewhere. 

Though we didn't get to stay at the Joshua Tree Inn, where Parson's life came to an end, we stopped by for a picture. The sign in the window says, "The Home of Gram Parsons Spirit."  
After running normal vacation errands, like buying a soccer ball, we went over to Pioneertown for lunch. A few miles off the beaten track is this old western town built for Hollywood. It's a neat place, with artwork spotting the area, like this garden piece below. 
We ate at Pappy and Harriet's, a great bar with good food where many great musicians have performed and where Peaches is scheduled to perform this month. Peaches. 
On the animal front, I saw hummingbirds feasting on the back porch which was drenched with honeysuckle. 
I had to throw this in here, bro. For real, bro.