Friday, September 23, 2016

J. Fred MocLegoman

For the past two months, I have been working on creating a Lego mini figure ("minifig") of myself for the purpose of... well... there really is no purpose. I wanted to. That's why I did it. I named him J. Fred MocLegoman. (MOC, in Lego fan lingo, stands for My Own Creation).

I started out by ordering a custom head and torso from www.minifigs.me. I designed the face by photoshopping two Lego heads that I found on the internet (one with glasses that looked like mine and one with a beard that closely resembled mine). I sent the photoshopped picture along with a picture of my plaid shirt to minifigs.me and, a few weeks later, received this:

The face and plaid shirt are perfect. Of course, in order to make the minifig a perfect miniature of myself, I needed hats. Lego makes a few different hats that are almost, but not quite, perfect. I tried out a few options and the biggest problem was that the brims on all of the hats were huge. I tend to wear fedoras with smaller ("stingy") brims. Also, the color options weren't going to work. So, I bought an x-acto knife and some toy paint.

(and a guitar, of course!)

I started out by cutting down the brims on the fedoras with the x-acto knife and then smoothing the brims out with sand paper.

Besides the fedoras, I also bought a cab driver's cap (I don't know the technical name for this style of hat, but I think you know what I mean).

I did a lot of research on how to paint toys and discovered that there's a lot of conflicting information out there. For example:"Always use acrylic paints." "Never use acrylic paints." "Sealer is basically primer, so put it on first." "Sealer goes on last."

It seems that anything that you do is right in the eyes of some and wrong in the eyes of other.

I ran some sand paper over the hats to "rough up" the surface to help the paint adhere better. Then, I primed each of the hats using acrylic sealer. After that, I painted them with acrylic paints.

Painting was a whole lot of trial and error. The grays were initially too dark and I had a lot of trouble getting the color of the cab driver's hat just right.

First, it was too green. Then, it was too yellow.


I ended up buying a khaki color, because my attempts at getting the right color by mixing were pretty bad.


Painting the black band and the black trim around the edge of the brim was a real challenge. The hats are so tiny and the brushes so dainty. One small tremor of the hand and there is a black streak across the entire hat. It took days just to put one coat on the band, because I could only work on it for about ten minutes at a time before my hand would get shaky

But, I was determined to get it right because I wanted it to match my hat perfectly.


And I think I succeeded.


I finished up the hats with a few coats of matte varnish.

The light tan fedora became my straw hat. To get the impression of a straw hat, I used the x-acto knife to gouge and slice it up. I think it came out really well.

The dark tan fedora became my favorite, even though, I don't own a dark tan fedora. Perhaps, I shall -- one day -- own one.



I took my minifig out one day to play around with some iPhone photography (iPhontography?). I downloaded the Camera+ app for the macro feature, which is great for taking pictures of small things and for getting a lot of detail. It's also what makes the landscape in the distance blurry while the subject up close is very clear. (*NOTE: I'm just a beginner when it comes to photography and I'm learning through trial and error, so if I sound as if I don't know what I'm talking about, that's because I really don't know very much about what I'm talking about.)



I found a fishing lure organizer to use as a way to protect my minifig and accessories when I'm going places with them. Because of the detail paint job, I didn't want to just carry this guy around in my pocket where the paint could rub off or otherwise be damaged. I glued some foam to the lure organizer to further protect my minifig.


I still have some work to do on the cab driver's cap. The one I wear is old and torn up in a couple places. I'm going to try and replicate that on the Lego version. I also have to make some modifications on the way it sits on the minifig's head to better match the way I wear mine.

J. Fred MocLegoman has been posting some pictures on instagram. He (and I) went to Daytona Beach for a week and had a relaxing time on the beach and by the pool. I took some great pictures and will be blogging about the whole trip sometime soon.






Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Fare Thee Well

June 12, 2003: I was sitting at a picnic table in Saratoga Springs, strumming my guitar and "singing." (I use quotes because I didn't know how to sing at the time). I was terrified and could barely keep my fingers from shaking as they attempted to form chords on the fret board. In between singing, I took deep breaths in feeble attempts to calm my nerves.

A few weeks previous to that evening, I passed through a set of "ragged, wooden double doors,"* walked the length of a cramped hallway, and ascended the steps of the legendary Caffe Lena for the first time.

I had read about the Caffe in a newspaper article that I probably should have missed. Typically, you see, we didn't get the Schenectady Gazette. For some reason, one was delivered to my dad's house, where I lived, and was sitting on the dining room table. One of the middle sections was slightly out of sync with the rest of the paper and part of the headline was visible: Open Mic.

Around that time, I had just started writing my first real song and I had every intention of seeking out a place to play it in front of people. I knew such places existed, but had never ever been to one before and I didn't know where too look for one. Caffe Lena seemed to find me.

The article described Caffe Lena's open mic as a place where seasoned performers tried out new songs and where new musicians came to play for a welcoming and appreciative audience. There was a picture of the brick wall behind the stage and a microphone stand set up under the spot lights. It seemed like the type of place that I was hoping to find.

Having never played for anyone other than close friends and family, I didn't know if I was passable as a musician. Having never been to an open mic, I didn't know if I would fit in. Would people dislike me because I don't know very much about music theory? Would I get laughed at because I'm not a very good singer? Is my song awful?

The biggest fear that I had, however, was that I just wasn't cool enough to hang out with musicians. And that's the truth.

I decided not to bring my guitar to Caffe Lena the first time I went. I figured that I would be nervous enough going to a new place with lots of new people and I needed to scope it out before I played. You see, I have a little bit of a social anxiety thing going on that was much worse back then and I was terrified of meeting new people.

I remember walking past the Caffe more than once before I finally built up the courage to go in.

As I slowly walked up the darkened staircase, I saw a man sitting at a little table right at the top of the stairs. I'll never forget that moment. He had curly, jet black hair and wore a black beret. His wire-rimmed glasses, goatee, and black clothing rounded out the beatnik look. He smiled a gentle smile and gave me the peace sign. And I thought, "Okay. This place is gonna be cool."

I stayed to the end, watching a variety of performers play original music, old songs, and new songs. Poets read spoken word. Some performers were incredible, with crystal clear voices and practiced playing. Some made mistakes and joked about it. Others were awkward. One guy played a song that mentioned Gloversville, where my girlfriend at the time lived. The song was about where his pants were made. It was hilarious, but made an excellent point about America and how many things are no longer made in this country.

When the lights came on at the end of the night, the man who sang about his pants came around with a plate of cookies and offered one to anyone who had stayed all the way to the end. I took one and started to leave. The doorman, who had also played that night, struck up a conversation with me, asking if I played. He said he could tell that I probably had some songs to play. I told him that I did and explained that my guitar happened to be the exact same model of the one he had played that night. It was an instrumental (Ha! See what I did there?) moment in getting me to where I am today. With the social anxiety, I really struggled in social situations, not ever really knowing what to say. Since we had the same guitar, which happened to be a somewhat unique model, I had something to talk about that we both related to. A bond formed and I felt that I could bring my guitar and play my songs and people would appreciate that.

The doorman told me he was looking forward to hearing me play next week. I didn't go the next week. Or the week after. I just didn't feel like I was ready. On June 12, I was ready... ish...

There's a video somewhere of my first performance ever. I played "Crayons," which is the first real song that I wrote and an early version of "Saving the World," which is the second real song that I wrote. I was so nervous that I played them faster than they are supposed to be played. The following week, I played the same two songs, except that I switched the order and played them at the right tempos.

Over the following 11 years, I developed as a songwriter, guitar player, and performer. More importantly, however, is that I developed as a person/human/thing. I became very comfortable being in social situations, which -- if you had asked me back then -- didn't seem like something that was going to be possible. I sort of discovered,if you will, myself -- and myself turned out to be a songwriter. I became "cool" in the eyes of some, but more importantly, I became comfortable with being "not cool" in my own eyes. Without those 11 years of open mics at Caffe Lena, I don't know who I would be today.

I attended most of the Thursday open mics at Caffe Lena over the years. I got to know the different hosts very well and when one of them needed to relinquish their hosting duties, I was asked to fill in.

I was the "substitute" host for a period of time before being asked to become a full-time host. It was quite an honor and a privilege to be asked and I took great pride in being one of the main faces of Caffe Lena's open mic. As host, I was the center of attention, which further boosted my confidence being around people.

In the eleven years that I was a part of Caffe Lena's open mic, my personal life took some twists and turns. I finished college with a masters degree. I failed to find fulfillment in my work field. I took a few different jobs that I didn't love, but would allow me the time I needed outside of work to continue to be a songwriter. I got married. I bought a house. I got divorced. I sold the house.

People at the open mic came and went. Familiar faces attended less and less. New folks came along and some stuck around. Things change. We know that.

This past year was a rather difficult one. I got very sick with a stomach issue, for lack of a better term, and the treatment involved cutting back on three major things in my life: Pain killers, alcohol, and stress. Two of the three were a direct result of that last one.

In order to cut back on stress, I desperately needed to leave my job. It was literally killing me.

I started my new job, which shall remain unnamed for confidentiality purposes, two weeks ago. So far, things are much less stressful. Even though, I'm learning new things, the new things aren't nearly as confrontational as the every day things in my previous job. Tasks are less ambiguous. Supervisors are less intense. This is just what I needed.

The shift, however, that I was hired for is unfortunate. Once training is completed, and I start my regular shift, I'll be working Thursday nights, which means I will not be able to attend Caffe Lena's open mic.

A week ago I sent an email to the other hosts, letting them know that I will be resigning my post as host... (host post?) before my next scheduled night. It was not an easy email to write, much like this blog is not an easy blog to write.

There is no telling when I'll be back. I suppose I can take a Thursday night off, once I pass probation, and stop in to say "hi" and play some songs. There's also a chance that I can switch to a different shift, but there is no guarantee as to when that option will become available.

It's really hard to say "good-bye." It's also really hard to end a blog post or an email that is about saying "good-bye."

I hope to attend a few more open mic nights at Caffe Lena before I start my night shift. I'm certain that the last one will be emotional and I'll probably end up in the back room bawling my eyes out. The truth is, I don't wanna leave.

I did some research to see if there are any other open mics that fall on my nights off. There are. I'm somewhat interested in checking them out. Sometimes, a change in scenery is good. It's a bittersweet sort of thing. I'm sure I'll meet new people and make new friends. Perhaps, I'll even find some new inspiration.









*Gary Moon, an incredible local song-writer, penned the description of Caffe Lena's doors in a song about the Caffe Lena. "A Thousand Dreams Call it Home" is available on his album Orion via this link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/garymoon

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Time. Specifically, There Isn't Really Enough of It.

I have barely touched my guitar in two weeks. Last night, I played six or so songs in a row and that was the most action the six strings have seen in a while. I just don't have the time.

Tomorrow, I am leaving the job that I worked at for six years to pursue other adventures. The new adventure (job) is outside of Albany, which would make my commute from where I currently live to be about an hour and five minutes. So, I'm looking at apartments in Albany and the surrounding areas.

Apartment hunting has been tedious and I've only just started. I've also cleaned my current apartment from top to bottom to take some pictures for my landlord, so he can put up an ad and get someone moved in.

So, I'm spending my time looking at apartment ads, contacting apartment people, and going out and looking at apartments. There are some really crappy places out there with high rent prices. There are also some really nice places for affordable rents. Finding the latter is complicated by the process of weeding out the former.

The whole uncertainty of where I'm going to be living next month is terrifying. Add to that the anxiety of starting a new job, with new people, new job duties, new environment, etc.

However, what's really tearing at my emotions right now is leaving my old job. Not the job itself, mind you -- that's wonderful in many, many ways. Rather, I'm torn up about saying goodbye to so many people who have been in my life for so many years.

When you are in any given place for as many as 35 hours a week, you tend to develop a comfortable relationship with many of the people who are also in that place. And you don't really realize how important they are until you have to leave them.

I've already been close to tears three or four times in the last two days. Tomorrow is the last time that I will see many of my co-workers. Some of them, will remain friends on social media. A few of them are close friends and we'll continue to get together. There is already talk of a Mexican restaurant night to celebrate. And some of my coworkers can't wait to use my new place (when I get a new place) as a "crash pad." Hopefully, I find something big enough...

Lastly, I only have a rough idea of what I'm going to be taking home at this new job. Taxes and health insurance and union dues and retirement contributions are all things that cut down that salary that you are initially quoted. I am very unsure about what I'm going to be able to afford in the coming months.

And that's pretty scary.

Monday, September 29, 2014

For the Worse

I came across an old blog entry that I had written while searching for an entry about a concert I supposedly attended some time ago. I usually write about all the concerts that I attend and I save tickets, photographs, and other artifacts in scrap books. Someone asked me who opened for Train at the Palace. I couldn't find the answer and I'm not sure which is is more disturbing to me: That I don't have a ticket or blog entry about the concert or that at one time I liked Train.

Anyways, the blog entry I'm talking about is this one here. A brief summary would be: A whole bunch of women that I had been in contact with at one point or another all disappeared from the earth.

I read this blog entry, as I often do when some time has gone by, as if I hadn't written it. And I laughed because I'm hysterical sometimes.

I recalled my mindset around the time that I wrote it. I was fresh in the dating scene after a long hiatus and was really, seriously surprised at how rude women (calm down. I say "women" here because I wasn't dating any guys and so I can't attest to their behavior) can be.

I had not gone on many, compared to now, first dates at that point and I was still figuring out how it all went down. What I learned is that when you don't want anything to do with the other person for whatever reason, you simply disappear. You don't return calls. You don't return texts. You don't acknowledge them if you see them in person.

Now, this may not sound like that shocking of a thing, but coming from someone who prides himself on integrity and politeness, I was floored. Seriously. You.Just.Stop.Responding. You don't say, "Hey. I had a nice time, but I didn't feel the spark that I'm looking for. If you ever want to hang out as friends, look me up." You.Just.Stop.Responding.

I learned this because of all the women who stopped responding when I asked them out for second dates or third dates or, geeze, even some first dates. I was doing some internet dating sites at the time and I'd exchange messages on the site with women and then we'd exchange phone numbers and then they wouldn't return a call or a text.

There were some dates that I went on that went really well, but there was no real spark. So, I'd write a text message: "Hey. I had a nice time, but I didn't feel the spark that I'm looking for. If you ever want to hang out as friends, look me up."

Some of my friends agreed with this practice (well, because it's polite to be honest with someone in a tactful way) and some thought it was mean. My argument is that it's meanER to just ignore a message.

I don't remember the exact time that I turned over to the dark side... but I did. I'm sure I had received a follow up text from someone who obviously felt something that I didn't. "I had a really nice time last night. I'm looking forward to seeing you again ;)."

And I just didn't respond.

I know. I'm a hypocrite. Where's the integrity that I so often say I have? Gone.

You see, we learn from others. We are taught to do things because of how others behave. I developed into a person who Just.Stops.Responding. because I was conditioned to do so. My defenses (commitment to integrity) has been beaten down and eaten away. The enemy has advanced and has taken over the community that I had vowed at one point to protect.

It's not just the responding to people that I went out with. It's many, many things. There are some shitty people out there and they continue to blast me with their behavior. The walls are worn down and I'm tired out. So, I blast back.

There are an infinite number of shitty things that folks have done or said to me in the past that I find myself doing or saying. It's like a disease. Once you catch it from someone else, it's hard to flush out of your system. Maybe there's a cure... A pill? Counseling?

Sometimes, I catch myself before saying or doing something that I consider to be shitty (Oh yes, I know that the thing that I'm about to say or do is "shitty") and I keep it in. I "pick my battles," so to speak. Many times, however, I just let it go, sans filter.

Of course, there are nice people out there. Lots of 'em. I like them. I really do and I recall times when I was more like them. The niceness, like shittiness, is something that can be caught like a disease and/or used to fight through defenses like an army. Sometimes, I feel super good when someone does something nice for me and I pass it on (pay it forward?). For example, the amount of money that I leave for tips at restaurants has increased steadily over the past five years. It's nice and it makes me feel good to not leave society's bare-minimum/acceptable tip amount.

Still, I find myself ignoring texts or phone calls or messages. I'm doing the very thing to others that has upset me in the past when it was done to me. Essentially, I've changed for the worse.

After all, we are what we eat (or what we're fed, right?) and if you've been surviving on a diet of rude shittiness for most of your life, then -- following the saying -- you are rude shittiness.

I suspect I'm not the only person who feels this way. Perhaps, the women in my past who Just.Stopped.Responding. did so because they thought, "eh, dudes Just.Stop.Responding. to me all the time. Since that's what I've been taught, that's what I'm gonna do. Or, rather, not do. Ha!" And they have a blog and write about and move on.

It's kind of an epidemic of indifference. It's spreading... We.Must.Fight.Back. Or not.















Wednesday, September 10, 2014

But, Some Are. (RE: "Not All Who Wander Are Lost") Part IV

By the time you read this, I am most likely in Virginia Beach with some friends. This trip was more planned than my Hard Rock Cafe road trip. There are four of us and we are riding in a car together. Four. Of. Us. I really enjoy being on the road with nothing but my thoughts and a great playlist. When you travel with three other people, however, you have three other brains coming up with thoughts and three other playlists, leading to a lot of arguments over whose music choices are the least tolerable. The upside is that you have others to take over driving duties from time to time and, if you brought ear plugs, you can attempt to nap through intolerable playlists.

I suppose I'll write about VA Beach when I get back, but let me move on to the exciting conclusion to the Hard Rock Cafe road trip.

This posting is a continuation of earlier postings. Read those first:
Part I
Part II
Part III

(The itinerary)

Sixth Leg: Cleveland, OH to Pittsburgh, PA. 134 Miles. 2 Hours.

By now, the iced over water bottles in my little cooler weren't even cold. There was enough lunch meat left for another sandwich, but it was warm and so I threw it out. Then, I got back on the road.

I followed the GPS directions to Northfield Park, OH, which was just about 25 minutes outside of Cleveland, to the Northfield Park Rocksino (Rock + Casino).





I didn't stay very long. Basically, I parked, went inside, found the Rock Shop, bought my pins and left. The people working at the Rock Shop were kinda cool, but on the low end of that. They were far from being super ool. They asked me if I collected the pins, which opened up an entire conversation about my random road trip. I told them about each cafe that I had been to and how much money I've spent on pins. They didn't really seem very impressed and after thanking them I thought about how crazy they must think I am. I'm sure Hard Rock employees aren't nearly as enamored by their pins as I am.

I got back on the road and headed for Pittsburgh.

(A Honda Fit with the license plate: MIZZ FIT)

(Back into mountainous regions)

Since I had slept in my car the night before, I decided to get a hotel. Mostly, I wanted to take a shower. I don't know how hippies do it... ya know? Not showering.

I used Priceline and ended up in a real cheap Motel 6 just outside of Pittsburgh. It had a shower and an incredibly uncomfortable bed. I probably would have slept better in my car...

Anyways, by the time I showered and changed it was 8 o'clock and I was starving. My plan was to go downtown and eat at the Hard Rock. I'd sit at the bar and hang out. Then I'd check out Pittsburgh's other nightlife. Sort of like what I did in Detroit.

My plans did not happen quite like that.

Pittsburgh's Hard Rock Cafe isn't exactly downtown. It's across the river from downtown in what was advertised as a happening spot with restaurants and shops called Station Square. Cool, I thought. I went there seeking out stuff and happenings. It was completely dead.

Granted, it was Sunday... but Monday was Labor Day. If this was Saratoga, it would be popping. There were very few people walking around. I parked in a parking garage that was a block away from Hard Rock. The garage advertised $2.50 for each hour with a limit of $10.00. Which seems to be pretty much the norm for city parking. At that point, I didn't think I'd be sticking around the area very long, so I didn't even bother looking for a cheaper place to leave my car.

I walked to the Hard Rock Cafe, passing two restaurant/bars that were closed... at 8:30pm... "so, this is going to be an exciting night," I thought. At Hard Rock, I asked if I could sit at the bar. I was asked if I was there for the band. I said, no. They said it's a $15 dollar cover to sit at the bar because they had a reggae band tonight. Being a musician, I'm cool with cover charges for venues that aren't also restaurants. I mean, if I want to go see a band, I'm prepared to pay for a ticket to see a band. If I want to eat, I am not prepared to pay for a ticket to see a band. I asked if I could listen and then decide if I wanted to stay for the band or not. They said I could not and offered to give me a table outside on the patio. It would be a 20 minute wait. There were two people at the bar and one out of about twenty tables that had people at it inside where the band was NOT YET playing. So... six people paid 15 dollars, ate, and bought drinks and that is more money than if you filled up all 20 tables and the seats at the bar with people who would eat and buy drinks? Sure...

They took my phone number to text me when my table was ready. I went to the Rock Shop and the employee there complimented my fedora. I bought two pins and went off to find a bar to eat at. I walked around the strip. There was a Houlihans that was completely deserted and a pizza place. I was starving and wanted more of a meal than a slice of pizza. There were two very upscale restaurants -- so upscale that they even had valet parking services -- however, I was under dressed for those places, despite wearing a very classy hat.


When I got my text, I went back to Hard Rock. I was led through the restaurant to get to the patio. There were no more people inside than there had been 20 minutes ago and the band was still setting up. I probably could have eaten and had a couple drinks before the band even went on. Oh well.

The patio, which was behind Hard Rock, was pretty cool and I was shocked to find that there were actually people there.




The fountain was really cool. It was going regularly with white lights, but every once in a while, the lights would go down and the fountain would stop. Music was playing and it would stop as well. Then a new song would play, and the fountain would start up again with different colors. The fountain, colors and all, was synchronized to the music, like this:





I made friends with two women who were celebrating the one's birthday. They were wasted. But, I took some pictures of them and they took one of me. Then, they started texting and stumbled off.



I had asked my server where the cool places in Pittsburgh are. She said that on a holiday weekend, people wouldn't be out. After I had my fill of the fountain, I walked a block over where there was a huge incline and a train (?) thing that went up and down the incline to move people up and down. A gondola? Maybe? I don't know. I rode it up and down just to get a view of the city.





I didn't see anything that told me, "come here!" So, when I got back down, I went to my car. I decided to drive to two other areas of Pittsburgh that I had read about online. East Carson St. was, as advertised, about five blocks of nothing but bars and clubs. It was sort of like a dirty Caroline St. (Saratoga). Nothing but skanks and bros, looking barely 21 (many looked under 18!).

This was far from my scene, and adequately resembled what can only be referred to as a "Shit Show," so I headed to Downtown Pittsburgh. While I was driving in that direction, I missed an exit and took a wrong turn that took me back towards my hotel. The GPS was slow redirecting me and I missed two more exits that I could have taken to get Downtown. At this point, I was closer to my hotel and wasn't really excited anymore about being "out," so I changed my destination to the Motel 6 and called it a night.

Last Leg: Pittsburgh, PA to Broadalbin, NY. 473 Miles. 7 Hours.

I woke up around 9 o'clock, packed up the Honda Fit, and headed for Broadalbin.

(Welcome to NY)

I took I-90 North, which ran right along Lake Erie. Around lunch time, I decided to get off the highway and look for food near the lake. I figured there would be some quaint little diner or something on the lake. I found Dunkirk and "The Smallest Irish Pub in the United States," where I grabbed a sandwich for lunch.




When I reached Broadalbin, I took this picture of myself. I had realized some time before I had stopped for lunch that I wasn't happy. I had been happy for the whole trip, but at that point, I wasn't. The math was pretty simple. I was happy when I was going... going to new places with new cities and things and neon lights at night. When you're going, there are endless possibilities. I was unhappy as soon as I started driving to Broadalbin. (*Note: I'm no longer able to lie to myself and others. Broadalbin is "the place where I live;" it is not "home.") The only reason why I live in this particular place is because I work nearby. So, my job is why I live where I do. (True, I have family and friends nearby and that's great, but they all have their places that feel like home to them and whatever is making those places feel like home to them is not doing the same for me.)


(Sobering thought selfie)

On Tuesday I returned to work, where the possibilities are very much the opposite of endless. "Work, the world of finite possibilities." I did not find any instruments or rock memorabilia there. There were no ferris wheels or gondola trains. There were no waterfalls and no lakes. No random buskers and no neon lights.

There was, however, a note I had left to my coworkers:


I don't really know where home is. Part of me felt at home in my car with my thoughts. There is a romantic dream that I have of driving around and playing guitar at various places. Is that home? I don't know.

All I know is that I won't be doing any road trips like this for a while. Between this one, the Virginia Beach trip, and being out of work for almost two months back in April and May, I'm pretty broke...

Final Stats:

974 miles traveled. On average, 31 miles per gallon. 4 Days. 6 Cities. 7 Hard Rock Cafes. 15 Pins.

Food: $92.39
Gas: $186.11
Tolls: $34.85
Lodging: $205.71
Parking: $27.50
Fun Things: $69.78
Pins: $156.31
Rock Hall Gift Shop
(shirts for my niece and nephew plus 1 pin for me): $37.77
Total: $810.42

Kind of a lot of money spent. I know I could have saved by not staying in a hotel in Niagara Falls. I could have gotten away with not buying some of the pins. I could probably have shaved 200 dollars off if I had been more frugal. Even so, I'm glad I splurged where I did. I really enjoyed myself overall.

(The City Pins, 7)

(The Dr. Who set from Toronto)

(Other City pins)

There are no Hard Rock Cafes in VA Beach.

The End.



PS -- Don't forget to swing over to my store and get your FREE download of Count on Me (for Rain)! Click here now.

Monday, September 08, 2014

But, Some Are. (RE: "Not All Who Wander Are Lost") Part III

My evenings, lately, have been sitting quietly in my apartment listening to the two Jackson Browne, solo, acoustic, live albums that exist. Man... this guy has melancholy down pat! Fountain of Sorrow? Listen to that without getting sad. I dare ya!

Anyways, there is also a tribute album that was recently released in which a bunch of different musicians cover some of Jackson Browne's greatest songs. One of the best covers, and best songs, is Running on Empty. I'm sure most people are familiar with the original, but have you heard the cover by Bob Schneider? It's wonderful and even more melancholy than Jackson's version.

Loving both versions, I noticed something in the lyrics. Schneider changed two things. In the original version, Jackson sings, "In sixty-five, I was seventeen..." and "In sixty-nine, I was twenty-one..." I don't know without googling, if Jackson really was those ages in those years, but Schneider sings, "In eighty-five, I was seventeen..." and "In eighty-nine, I was twenty-one..." Obviously Schneider is younger than Jackson, but -- again -- I don't know without googling, how old Schneider is. As I came to the realization that the change existed, I did some fast math. As it turns out, I was seventeen in ninety-five and twenty-one in ninety-nine.

I could make the lyric change, too, if I ever sang it. In those years, I wasn't living the way that Jackson says he was in the song, but over the past few years I have certainly grown more in that direction.

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind


This post is a continuation from here. Part I is here.

Fifth Leg: Detroit, MI to Cleveland, OH. 170 Miles. 2 Hours, 30 Minutes.

As I drove out of Detroit and reached the highways, I was pleasantly surprised to see speed limit signs A) that were in Miles Per Hour (because all the Canadian signs were Kilometers Per Hour) and B) that the limit was 70mph.

I stopped about halfway between Detroit and Cleveland at a rest stop. It was nearly one in the morning. There wasn’t much traffic at this time of night, but it was a good time and place to stop and sleep. I had learned a lot from sleeping in my car on that last road trip I took. This time, I had extra blankets for cushioning, a sheet instead of a blanket to sleep under, and two battery operated fans to hang by the windows.

I set up my “bed” in the back of the Honda Fit and hung one of the fans, directing it at where I would be sleeping. I had trouble hanging the other one and just set it next to me. I was cool and slept really well through the night.

I woke up at 7:30, stretched, and looked around. There were cars parked near me that were there last night and some that had not been there. I got out of my car and brushed my teeth right there in the parking lot. A few parking spaces away, was a red SUV. A woman exited the back of the SUV and was wearing pajama pants. She noticed me, brushing away and wearing pajama pants, at the same time that I noticed her. She smiled and stretched. I nodded my head to her.

When I finished brushing... yeah, I just spit right there in the parking lot... I hopped back in my car and changed into clothes. Then, I freshened up in the restroom, returned to my car, and hit the road again.

(More of this flatness on the way to Cleveland)



(Stadium)

(Other stadium)

I reached the city center of Cleveland and started looking for a place to park. Working my way toward the coast of Lake Erie, I saw signs for "Event All Day Parking." One parking garage was charging ten dollars and when I realized I would need to park four blocks further away in order to get a better parking deal, ten dollars didn't seem too bad.

After parking, I walked down towards the lake to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


(The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)



The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was always part of the road trip from the beginning of the planning stages. It was about twenty dollars for an all day pass. I was there right at 10am when they opened, hoping that I wouldn't be spending all day there, but definitely wanting to see everything. The building is an interesting work of architecture. Once inside, you see escalators going up and down. You can see the second and third floors and parts of floors that are above those. It was quite a maze, in fact.

While I was waiting in line, I overheard a couple talking about the Sex Pistols. Sid and Nancy, in particular. The woman asked the man, "Do you know any Sex Pistols songs?" He said, "No." She said, "Nobody does. No one knows any of their songs and wouldn't know one if they heard it. They are only famous because Sid murdered Nancy." And I thought, I wonder how my album sales would be effected if I murdered someone... Then, I thought, maybe I should think of other ideas to increase sales...

(Telecaster prototype)

(Johnny Cash)

("Rick James, BITCH!)

(What do ya know! Jackson Browne's guitar and handwritten lyrics!)


(Janis Joplin, including the envelope which held an invite to her funeral)


(Joni Mitchell artifacts)


A few years ago, I fell in love with an electric guitar. It's a sexy thing with a beautiful voice. I bought it. It's a Fender Telecaster Thinline '72 Reissue. Walking through the Hall of Fame, I did a double take when this caught my eye:


Not a '72, but a '69 Thinline Tele. It looks very much like my '72 reissue. I'm so in love with this guitar's style... Dayum. I wonder what our kids would look like...


Tom Petty is one of my favorite songwriters. Here is a jacket of his and a Rickenbacker guitar. He loves Rickenbackers. I'm really not a fan.




(Springsteen)

(Springsteen)

(Springsteen)

(Springsteen)

(Springsteen)

(Springsteen)

(Bowie)

(The Stones)


(Conor Oberst, who I just saw live a couple weeks ago)

(Mellencamp)

(Wilco)

The Rock Hall is basically a museum of Rock and Roll memorabilia. There are also films and video exhibits. One large, movie theater sized room and screen was showing the 25 Year Anniversary concert. I watched part of this, left and had some lunch at their snack bar, and returned to watch some more.

All of the walking that I had been doing on the trip was starting to get to me. I had developed a blister on my right foot, which made me favor it when I walked, causing a blister on my left foot. Sitting down for a little bit felt good.

One exhibit, was a video of this year's inductees, with highlights of their performances and their acceptance speeches. I got a little emotional watching the Nirvana performance and speeches. Dave Grohl made an amazing speech. He said something about musicians on posters and how you shouldn't look at them and think that you can't one day be that. It was very inspirational. Dave Grohl says a lot of great things.





(Cat Stevens)




I stopped in the gift shop before leaving and bought a shirt for my niece and one for my nephew. It's really great to have kids to buy things for. I wouldn't wear a shirt that says, "Future Rock Star," but it's cute as hell and needs to be worn by someone!

(I was given free picks for filling out a survey)

(Rock & Roll Blvd.)


I left the Rock Hall and walked back to my car. Then went off to explore the city. There were crowds of people near the harbor area looking... up. I heard some loud noises coming from the sky and realized that there were fighter jets flying by. Apparently, it was an air show, which was the "event" that parking garages were charging so much for. It was cool seeing planes flying in between skyscrapers. I couldn't get a picture of them near the buildings and I really just wanted to see the Hard Rock Cafe... not planes.




Cleveland felt like a ghost town. After being on a few busy Detroit streets, I was surprised to find so few people around. This was Sunday, which could have been a contributing factor. Who knows.


(Cool church)

(Sports arena)

I made my way through the city to the Hard Rock Cafe. I used the GPS map app on my phone and followed it around blocks of buildings. What I didn't realize was that there was an underground mall that would have cut my walking distance in half. Hard Rock was on the ground level, but there were three more floors beneath it with fountains and stores and subways and stuff.




(Guitar art -- guitart?)

There wasn't much else that caught my interest in Cleveland. There was one street leading away from a center square that seemed to have restaurants and shops, but the bus pulled up and I decided to take that back to my car. It was four-thirty by the time I reached the parking garage.

(To be continued...)

Part IV is coming soon! In the meantime, you made it this far and deserve a treat! If you don't own my album yet, I'm offering a free download of Count on Me (for Rain) for a limited time. Visit this link to snag it!