Deus ex Machina

Up until last week, my plan had been to go up to New York on Tuesday, making my way up at a leisurely pace, staying with friends, and arriving somewhere around the 11th. A couple of things happened last weekend to prevent this:

  1. Chris in Memphis called and said his dad was in the hospital in Searcy. I had intended to spend the first couple days of my trip in Memphis with Chris, so that put the kibosh on that.
  2. I talked to Arika, my friend in Brooklyn with whom I was planning on staying for a few days while I looked for a place, and she recently had her second child. She has developed some blood clots and will have to have surgery in the next week or so. So my presence would add an extra degree of complexity to their lives and I’d rather not do that. I had to find a new place to stay.

So for a time there was the potential for panic. Item 2 was resolved shortly after I sent out an email to my NY peeps, and Tom offered his place for me to hang for a few days, although he won’t be home from the Debbie Harry tour until the 10th or 11th.

Also, one hour after I sent the same email, I got a forward from Elizabeth from a friend of a friend looking for a roommate. I’ve been talking back and forth for the last few days with her, and it looks like I have a place lined up! It’s in the Carroll Gardens/Gowanus area of Brooklyn. The room is furnished, so I don’t have to worry about getting a bed. More details when I get up there, and here’s the new plan: I leave tomorrow with my stuff (guitars, clothes, etc), going directly up there via Nashville, Roanoke and DC. I’ll install myself, stay a few days, then hit the road for part 2 of the Road Trip where I’ll spend more time leisurely exploring the Eastern United States on my way back to Arkansas for Christmas. I’ll probably stay in Arkansas from Christmas to New Year’s.

It’s really kinda spooky how many things have just fallen into place. It’s almost enough to make me believe in The Secret. I’ll settle for the Power of Intention, though.

Mental Alarm Clocks and Post-It Notes

The human brain has so many applications of which most of us aren’t even aware. Video playback machine, audio receiver, computer, calculator…these are the applications with which most people are familiar. But did you know that the brain can also function as an alarm clock and Post-It note pad?

We hear a lot about the internal clock, but it has an alarm feature and snooze function if you know how to operate it. I remember as a child my grandmother would take naps and always wake up at 4PM because that’s what she would tell her brain to do. She would just focus on that particular hour and she would always wake up at that time. I’ve learned that you can even teach your brain to snooze in as little as 15 minute increments. Sometimes at the office during lunch I would take naps in the workout room and I wouldn’t let myself sleep longer than 15-20 minutes. Most of the time, it worked.

Recently I’ve also discovered the wonders of the Post-It note capacity. If you have a task that you need to accomplish at some point in the future, you can associate it in your mind with some other non-unique coinciding task. For example, the other day as I was going to bed I knew I needed to email my friend Robin, so I focused on my morning routine of opening the laptop, and I attached her name to that task. Or last month when I was leaving Heath’s place I knew that I’d be getting into my car to leave at some point, so I associated the word “pizza” to that task to remind myself not to leave my pizza in Heath’s fridge.

Try these on your own and let me know how it goes.


Last week Katherine and I were perusing the wares of Freebee’s in North Little Rock (she having just purchased a house in Park Hill, I was showing her the neighborhood). As we were on our way out, the lady who works there asked me, “do you have a blog?”

I think this is the first time I’ve been recognized for my blog in public by a stranger. Turns out she had Googled “Frostop” (Freebee’s and nearby Frostop are under the same ownership) and found this page in my photoblog, and surfed around enough to find a picture of me, I guess.

So that was a pleasantly random surprise.

Sad Realization

Today it occurred to me that I could make a mix CD of my all-time favorite pieces of music and I don’t know anyone who would want to listen to it more than once. I’ve always known that there is no one person who really likes what I like, but the distillation of that fact into the idea that my ultimate mix CD would appeal to no one is pretty depressing.

The USPS Is Doomed

Via a series of MySpace messages, I said to one of my old students the other day: “send me your address and i’ll mail you a box of blah busting materials.” She replied, “my mailing address is [whatever]” Then I said, “I meant your snail mail address.” And she said, “snail mail? [whatever] is the only other email I have. Other than my Zune one and one I use for MSN messenger.”

So I sent her this MySpace comment:

“Snail mail” is a system whereby a guy in a little truck drives or walks from house to house delivering actual, physical messages inside things called “envelopes” or “packages.” He has a little office where he sells things called “stamps” that you affix to whatever you’re sending. Outdated and quaint, yes, but far more handy a system for delivering three dimensional objects than conventional internet protocols allow.

Gender and Class Divisions in the Toy Department

Experiencing the toy department in Dalhart’s Alco reminded me that, particularly when I was growing up, there were always the same divisions among the toy aisles. The Baby aisle, the Girl aisle, the Boy aisle, and…the Motorhead aisle. Technically also a Boy aisle, the Motorhead aisle is filled entirely with cars of various sorts. From what I recall as a youngster, the denizens of the Motorhead aisle were from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. What does it say about that demographic that their toys are entirely based on real-life objects? The Boy Aisle contains spacemen, pirates, talking animals, Lords of Rings, robots…all these fantasy characters. And these toys are more expensive. I guess it’s just another way that lower class kids are cut off from dreams and things larger than the day-to-day grind by lack of access. Not to say that they’re entirely prevented from having an imagination, there’s just no commercial support from toy companies. And Hasbro with its $8 Star Wars figures isn’t helping any lower-income parents. Of course having no money for toys certainly can force some kids to make their own fun and be more creative, but I’d wager that’s a much smaller portion of the total audience than those who just end up playing with cars and not using their imagination.

Yes I know this blog entry is rambling and thesis-free, but these are just thoughts running through my head that I’ve attempted and failed to organize and you’re the beneficiary of my failure.

Public Service Announcement

It has been brought to my attention that I have entirely omitted mention of Jessica and Josh Ebert, Our People in Tacoma. They accompanied me to the Space Needle (forewarning me of the photographic troll planted at the entry, with whom I regrettably tangled) and the EMP/Sci-Fi Museum. Sadly I only got to hang out with them for that one afternoon, but this should not in any way diminish the intense significance of Jessica in my larger existence. I also neglected to take any pictures of them[1], further establishing my status as foppish churl and itinerant mountebank. I hereby apologize unreservedly.

1.) Taking pictures of people is something I have to really work hard to remember to do. In fact, after having dinner with Odie and Mona in Arlington, we said our goodbyes, and I had made it almost to the edge of their neighborhood when I realized I didn’t get a picture of them, so I turned around and went back to snap this shot. Here is a list of people I neglected to photograph on this trip:

  • Heath and Mary Beth in Oklahoma City
  • Kevin, Michelle and Chris in Kansas City
  • Cousin David in Los Angeles

The little mechanism in my brain that says “ooh grab the camera” is so attuned to the strange and unusual that I forget that my own friends need to be photographed for purposes of personal reflection and posterity. So I try to remember to do it.

Debbie Harry Eats Spiraling

So my friend Tom, frontman for Spiraling, got hired as Debbie Harry’s music director and keyboard player awhile back. He brought in his drummer Paul, and when I saw them on The Today Show last month[1], I noticed they had no bass player. But now I see by this picture at New York Magazine that bassist Bob has joined the group, thus making 3/4 of Spiraling into Debbie’s backing band.

These are the guys who make me want to move to NYC. Here are pics of them jamming in my music room last year.

1.) That was particularly freaky to watch, since I kept reminding myself, “these guys have slept on my living room floor. Now they’re on my living room TV.”

Dalhart, Texas

It has come to my attention that “The Texas Panhandle” is the northern rectangular protrusion, rather than the pointy western protrusion. I had always assumed it to be the latter, given that, if one were to make a pan in the shape of Texas, one would probably prefer to grip it by the El Paso end rather than the blocky, cumbersome Dalhart end. But people don’t name state panhandles by application, as so few people even bother to make pans in the shape of states. So it’s the top part, the part I had been referring to as “The Texas Stovepipe.” I think that’s a better metaphor anyway, but then it only causes confusion.

On Friday I drove from Laramie to Dalhart, Texas. Dalhart is by far the smallest of my various destinations, with only 7,000 or so souls in town. My mother’s family lived there in the late 1950’s. My grandfather was a civil engineer who worked on a reservoir and park south of town, so there is a street named after him. I wanted to take a picture of the street sign, and I thought it would make a nice diversion into smalltown America.

I stayed the night in a motel, and ate breakfast at the 50-year old Sands Restaurant. I had the ultimate greasy-spoon diner breakfast of my life here. I could not believe how great the coffee was – I asked the waitress and she just said it was Cain’s Coffee (a restaurant supplier so generic I couldn’t find a website for them). So I’m forced to assume there is a rich, dark, chocolatey magic in their mugs and carafes. I dare even say it was the second best cup of coffee of my trip. And the hash browns were fluffy. Fluffy! The eggs and toast were great as well. I set off to explore the town and found an Alco. Much like my A&W experience in Oregon, this was a trip back in time. Alco in Harrison closed around 1992 I think. It even smelled the same! I could’ve written Proustian volumes of the memories this place triggered in me. Even the price tags were the same. I really wanted to find something in the toy department to buy just to have something with the price tag. I couldn’t find anything worth buying though, although I did find some bargains in the music bins – for $4 each I got Spies Like Us on DVD, the remastered Police albums Outlandos d’Amour and Reggatta de Blanc as well as a lesser-known gem, Traffic’s Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.

I set out in search of John Todd Drive, to no avail. I asked three people, including a cop, who informed me that I was essentially standing on it. He pointed me toward the street sign, and theorized that it had most likely been removed for re-painting. Had I not experienced the joys of Alco and The Sands breakfast, I would have been greatly dismayed at having driven 8 hours to find a blank sign frame.

Laughing quietly in the face of misfortune, I set out toward Amarillo on some very rural north Texas roads – the kind of lonesome stretches of highway where the telephone poles blur into a low sine wave over the long rolling hills, and the towns you pass through only have one cash-only gas station if they have one at all. I actually enjoyed this a bit more than the Interstate at Amarillo. From there to Oklahoma City you can trace the route of the old Route 66, in a far less romantic fashion. I took a picture of this leaning water tower, which I later discovered makes an appearance in Wikipedia’s Route 66 entry.

I arrived in Oklahoma City on Saturday evening to hang out with fellow Pointed Stick founder Heath and his wife Mary Beth. Oklahoma City’s street plan, it’s worth noting, is a marvelously convenient grid, but its freeways make no damn sense at all. On top of that, I got stuck in a Heller-ish limbo[1] wherein I could not get back on the freeway after accidentally exiting, so I went to down to the next on-ramp, which also prevented me from going the direction I wanted.

Today I’m in a coffee shop in Kansas City’s Westport district. I’m staying with my old high school chum Kevin, and hanging out with fellow HHS grad Michelle as well. I have to get back to Little Rock for Superflux rehearsals on Thursday (I’ll be playing my last gig with them in Stuttgart on the 24th), so I think I’m heading back to Arkansas tomorrow, stopping off in Harrison tomorrow night. That will conclude the larger portion of this trip, which will resume the weekend after Thanksgiving, when I set out for New York with various stops along the way.

1.) I apologize for making two literary-figure adjectives in one blog post, but seriously I-40 in southwest Oklahoma City was a damned Catch 22 for me around the Portland exit. Plus there was a dead cow blocking traffic. Click here for a funny bit of Heller trivia I just read.