Ending the vacation and a little decompression

Always needed. And again, full photos over at Flickr, though I’m going to include some here and go back and edit some into the previous posts as well.

Boston

I had wrapped up my previous vacation post noting that there wasn’t much left of it to go — that evening the big Boston meetup with various friends went over a treat, with a one-two-three visit to Drink (a bar where there’s no set drink menu — you just describe something you’d like with the bartender and they get to it; that Tom Collins I had in response to my request for something light and lemony was perfect), the Good Life and Chau Chow City made for a memorable time. Even though I almost lost Dan and Joei’s spare keys along the way.

Bridgeport

The trip in to NYC last Thursday was rather eventful in its own way, thanks to the tornado or thundersquall or whatever it was that hit Bridgeport hard right as our train pulled into the city for a stop. The power on the train was knocked out and thankfully we were at least part way pulled into the platform or things would have gotten ugly — no a/c in that level of humidity outside was pretty painful there. Most of us grabbed a passing Acela for the rest of the ride in, and from there it was off to a low key dinner with Jason and Robin at Time Warner Center at Bouchon Bakery, thanks to a tip from Andy out here in California. That was one fine butternut squash sandwich.

Olive

After that, off to Jersey City to see friends Eve and Ef in their new place — very comfortable and cozy, with a fine garden — and with their new dog, the very sweet Olive. Much chat, drinks and more besides, and after that almost all that was left was a final wrap-up Friday. I caught up with Mark C. for lunch — a gentleman and a half, we had a great conversation over our halal truck meal in Central Park about music, life and more besides — then met up with Z. for drinks at Stout as I caught the last group game for the World Cup. She and I went over to Jersey City and dinner and drinks with Eve and Ef, followed by a small party at their place as I prepped for an early departure to JFK airport (yeah, I know, Newark would have made MUCH more sense, but I’d booked out of JFK half a year back and my plans to be in Brooklyn for that went awry!).

Ef and Eve's place

But Chris, a friend of Eve and Ef, offered to give me a ride over there early Saturday morning — very kind of him, thanks! — and after that it was all about chilling in the terminal, watching World Cup knockout matches for a bit, chatting with a music and soccer freak from Colombia and then hoping for my grand plan of watching the US/Ghana game on the JetBlue flight to play out. Except…well, it’s a LITTLE frustrating when the TV setup on the plane carried four ESPN channels plus all the major networks…except ABC itself, which was actually showing the game. Great. I had to rely on the ESPN updates to find out we were out, as did a bunch of us on the plane frantically flipping back and forth between channels.

After that it was just a matter of getting home, unpacking and the usual unwinding, which for me is still going on a bit. Getting back into the music writing swing and Not Just the Ticket will be reactivated soon, though probably after this weekend and the holiday fun to hand (been invited to two parties already this Saturday!), and of course there’s cooking and gardening and, well, life. But maybe I’m still drifting in the feeling of the vacation in the end, a busy but fun trip that took a lot of planning but all came together nicely. Looking forward to the next big one next year, wherever it may take me.

New York, Toronto, Montreal, Boston…

…it’s been a busy few days and all.

Photos are continuing to appear via my Flickr page and I still need to upload a slew more from Montreal. But for now here are some quick notes as to what’s been up:

Candles in Brooklyn

So as I half guessed I was late getting out of Charleston due to a delayed train — in this case due to an accident down in Florida, so a little perspective helped for me there. (It’s one thing to be a few hours late, quite another to simply no longer be here on this planet.) A bit of a slog getting up to NYC as a result but we all got through it; ended up making friends with my seatmate, who was heading out via a series of last-minute connections to see her boyfriend in Italy — hi there C.W.! — though I gather there were still more adventures to come. I hope her guy V. ended up making her the promised lasagna.

Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights

Hanging with Jesse and Dani in Brooklyn for a couple of days was a treat — some might remember my story of how I ended up at their wedding — and good conversations and rest had, not to mention the sheer beauty of seeing what the Brooklyn Heights could provide in terms of views over to Manhattan. As I told Jesse, I finally got a sense of the romance of the city after all these years, so that was a joy. Following a meeting of music writers for a soon-to-be-unveiled project, a small group of old and new friends got together for dinner one night which led to a lot of excellent conversation, catching up and all those things that I admit I kinda thrive on. Not to mention great food of course. Saju was the spot, if you’d like to check it out.

Manhattan itself

Toronto was next, a first time visit, done so I could finally catch up with a slew of friends in the area who I’ve known for many a year — in the case of one of them, almost a decade! — without actually having met them yet. That was a bit of delay on my part, I admit. Not much browsing time done in the city — it truly is a big suburban sprawl that’s weirdly fascinating in its flatness (in more senses than one) but it does have areas where more can be found than might be guessed. I have to highly recommend the Beguiling, easily one of the best comic book stores — hell, bookstores period — I’ve ever been in; I would have bought everything there and shipped it home if I could. I also had a chance to be interviewed by Scott Woods for a forthcoming project — but more on that later, I am sure. Staying with my friend (and sort of label boss) Chris P. was as ever a treat, and his housemates Heather and Morris equally fine folks.

Chilling in Toronto

Should also say at this point that I’ve been turning this whole vacation into the ‘watch the World Cup in an appropriate timezone’ deal, thanks to being on the East Coast and given where the games are being played. If a vacation is all about relaxing and enjoying, then I’ve been doing it plunked in front of a lot of TV screens — and you know, being able to do so that way or via ESPN’s internet radio feed instead of groggily getting up at 4:30 am and staring at a computer screen is a treat in and of itself.

Maurice in the dawn

I was busy listening to one of the games while taking the train on VIA from Toronto to Montreal — an experience I highly recommend, it’s a great ride — and as for Montreal itself, almost worth a post of its own, and I probably will do just that when I have a chance to work with all the photos. Seeing friends of long standing there was also its own treat, with the ever great Rrrobyn and her grand cats, especially Maurice, hosting me one night while I stayed at UQAM for the second. S1ocki, Alex, E. and J. and others kept it all going for what was a too short stay to wander a really vibrant, beautiful and complicated city, something not easily summed up. And for food alone, the full day I spent there easily rivalled my Charleston visit, top of the line stuff. (Though no poutine — I’ll have to save that for a beer-fueled visit next time, as my hosts all agreed on.)

Part of Lake Champlain

Monday I took the train from Montreal to Rhinecliff in New York, passing through the Adirondacks and stopping briefly at Saratoga Springs for a minute, strange given that I spent three years there in my youth. It was an echo of a past time returned very quickly, maybe it was enough. As for Rhinecliff, the stop there placed me near Bard University, where my cousin George is completing his MFA summer program this year. A wonderful night of catching up and meeting many classmates of his, including Fall fan Deitra (always a good sign), Andy Lambert and Ed and their great films, and, very randomly, Harrison of Les Savy Fav. And why not! A very personable guy.

George and the gypsy moth

Yesterday I made a connection in NYC to take the train route up to Boston, where I’m chilling right now — last night I hung with the Abunai! crew at the Burren in Davis Square, meeting up with a slew of friends tonight, and am being hosted by my friends Dan and Joei, still among the best folks I know. Tomorrow it’s back to NYC, staying with Eve and Ef again for a couple of days, hanging around with another last batch of folks and then flying home on Saturday. And I freely admit, much as I’ve enjoyed all this trip, I am looking forward to getting back, and having that whole Sunday to do nothing at all but, quite simply, decompress, relax and reflect.

But of course the World Cup will continue. Time for me to watch the first matches of today, in fact…

And a quick report from Charleston

For now! (Also, if you just want to check the photos, the rolling set will be here; having a little trouble linking some specific examples right now but I’ll edit them in later.)

The piazza, again

So two years ago I posted more detailed thoughts on the place — this time around, instead of being the place to relax after a busy start to a vacation, this was the busy start, at least for the first few days! This was because my cousin Andrew was — at last! — marrying Leigh, the love of his life.

Near the reception

It’s been a very, very hot few days here — I remember the humidity from last time, but this has had a couple of near blistering moments thanks to the heat and water and all. So I’ve spent a lot of time bouncing back and forth between wedding events, visits and hunkering down at where we’ve been staying watching the World Cup. (Good way to pass the time — and it’s handy to be on this coast given the time zone difference, it must be said.)

Near the lowcountry boil

Thursday night I came straight from the airport — after a connection in Atlanta which has now reminded me why I should never visit that airport again — to the first of three big wedding events, a lowcountry boil at Andrew’s uncle’s daughter’s place. (There’s a shorthand for that I’m sure.) The food was unsurprisingly wonderful and though I felt a bit bedraggled since I didn’t have the chance to quickly shower and clean up from the flights everything felt reasonably casual and the company was excellent.

The rehearsal dinner

Friday brought the rehearsal dinner, held like the boil and the wedding itself in Mt. Pleasant, where Leigh was raised and her parents still live. Held in the looks-old-but-is-new area of I’on — and yes, the apostrophe is part of the name — all I’ll say is: great scenery, great food and an open bar. And a few stories told about Andrew and Leigh, often to the former’s slight embarrassment. (Not as embarrassing as being iced, though — and that happened. Twice. I wasn’t surprised…)

At the reception

Saturday: the wedding itself, as picture perfect as one could want (though we were not asked to take photos, so — didn’t matter, I just wanted to watch it all and enjoy). The reception, held down on the water, was a nice revel…and yeah, once again, the food was exquisite. I could have stayed out at the oyster and other lowcountry eats bar on the lawn the whole time, except even after sundown I needed to go back and forth between that and the more formal events inside, where it was air-conditioned — a most important consideration.

Andrew, Leigh and their cake

Yesterday involved meeting old friends from our family’s Saratoga Springs days, the Rigots, who now live in Georgia and came up for a fine lunch, while today was a trip over to the South Carolina Aquarium to see various critters, a nice little trip — and again, air-conditioned. Have I mentioned that?

At the aquarium

In all seriousness this has been a great way to simply decompress from a hectic work year, attend a long-planned family event and, simply, relax. Turns out I won’t be entirely relaxing tonight — my train on the Silver Meteor/Palmetto line is, perhaps true to form, running late, and I might not leave until 1 am or so tonight (or heaven help me, later!). But I’m still due to arrive tomorrow afternoon in NYC for a quick couple of days, and if my sleep on the train might be fitful, my sleep tomorrow night will be plenty sound!

Jellyfish

And at the least, I’ll be able to listen to tomorrow’s games via my phone, so hey.

More in a few days!

Not Just the Ticket on pause…

…due to my upcoming vacation! (And also what turned out to be a hugely busy end of the quarter.) Keep an eye out for a variety of random blogs about relatives’ weddings, good food up and down the East Coast and an Xenakis exhibit among other things!

Frogs!

Tomato frog!

And oodles of them.

Story is here is that a friend who likes to organize ‘expeditions’ as she calls them got together a small group of people to go see this exhibit at the Muzeo over in Anaheim. So after a good Original Pancake House breakfast off we went — had a great time! My full set of photos is up but in the meantime, enjoy some samples!
Chinese gliding frogs
African bullfrog
Ornate horned frog
Waxy monkey frog
Dart poison frogs
Dart poison frog faceoff!

Some early June AMG reviews…

Onward and along through the year!

The garden on June 4, 2010

And so it continues — but this will be the last full garden update for a month due to my various travels and plans for June! So enjoy where we’re at here with this video:

And as ever the Flickr set contains more updates:

Society garlic
Edamame
Shisho
Squash

Not Just the Ticket — a ticketless entry on Ween, May/June 1992

Then-current album — not really Pure Guava as that was a few months away but they played a lot of stuff from it

Opening act — honestly not sure if there was one

Part of the problem of strictly relying on my ticket stubs to remember shows is that, inevitably, I almost forget a few things that I didn’t have tickets for. I never did do a full entry on the New Fast Automatic Daffodils show from 1991 I caught, a real pity since that was a stellar set — maybe one day I’ll dig something up further from the memory banks on it. Meantime, I’d almost forgotten this show until a couple of weeks ago — a bit funny since for the longest time I had the set list on my wall.

Ween were (and are) special, as perfectly great and ridiculous an American band as one could want, they’re even on Rounder Records now or were — my sister’s favorite band to this day, I think, she has brought them hot meals and danced on stage to their “Shockadelica” cover and all. In a weird but true way a kind of progenitor — less in intent, more as retrospective example — for a lot of things yet to come, and not just in music. For instance, thinking of two guys kicking back in relaxed fashions with happily juvenile senses of humor mixed with a lot of not-always-immediately-apparent skill, hell, that’s foreseeing a duo like Trey Parker and Matt Stone right there (no surprise that Ween played Chef Aid) as much as it’s channeling Frank Zappa. The skill part is key, actually — I think it was the Trouser Press Record Guide that identified Ween’s secret weapon as being their ‘poorly disguised musical skills.’ Rather than showing off in the yank-em/crank-em post-Berklee/Guitar Center visions of hell at that time, or even just dressing it up a bit differently (as Billy Corgan will admit to), they applied it to the home-recording approach that had yet to be fully codified as ‘lo-fi,’ while tackling everything from dreamy ballads to utter and complete noisefests. If they had just home released everything on tape I think that line of descent would be clearer, as it is they scored a left-field hit of sorts with “Push th’ Little Daisies” the following year without changing anything about their approach.

Like the best of bands in general they didn’t stop there either — country albums, smoothly perverse seriousness and more were to follow, and there are some future shows to talk about in this series. At this stage of the game, though, Ween had their cachet among my fellow disc jockeys at KLA thanks to our fearless leader and general manager Eric J. Lawrence, who had fallen completely in love with God Ween Satan when it had come out and pretty much singlehandedly converted the rest of us to it. (Somewhere…buried…is a ridiculous joke poem I wrote about Eric and his Ween obsession. It should probably stay buried.) By the time The Pod surfaced — and a brilliant album that is and remains — there was a good core of us who just finally wanted to see these guys live and also to see Eric go insane with happiness. Or at least go and have a good time.

The show was held at Jabberjaw, specifically at its original location on 3711 West Pico Boulevard. This turned out to be the only time I ever went there, more’s the pity given all the bands that ended up playing there over the years, but one is better than none, especially with a great band like Ween and all playing. Now, though I don’t have a ticket I do know pretty well when this show had to have happened for a very simple — and pretty sad — reason.

As you can see via some of the descriptions in that link and in various other stories about Jabberjaw, the location of the club, or more accurately the state of the neighborhood, was as classic a reflection of what Tim London of Soho, in his recent kind comment on his entry in this series, identified as LA’s mixture of “vacuum, hedonism and apartheid…where actual poverty and poverty of experience sat right next to brazen wealth.” On the one hand that explained why the shows were always so cheap, but on the other hand this was a classic case of the kind of tension that ranged from the perception of slumming to, simply put, outright danger — as a story in the link says, “Now let’s talk about when that dude was killed outside during the Jesus Lizard show…”

The reason why this show had to have happened in May or June of 1992 was because it was after the Rodney King verdicts and everything that followed, when that mix Tim identified finally overspilled thanks to one series of idiotic steps too far courtesy of a warped LAPD and a clueless Simi Valley jury. (Though you could easily exchange the adjectives there.) While the club was not in the area of the most damage, it was impossible not to notice a number of burnt-out buildings in the area, the sense of unease. I don’t know what those I was with though, but I hadn’t had to worry about anything like that where I was living. Reality checks, as previously mentioned, are all too necessary sometimes.

With this as the lead-in, if the show itself had been something pedestrian then maybe that would have been enough, but it remains one of the most entertaining small sets — hell, sets in general — I’ve ever seen. If there were openers it’s skipped my mind, I almost have a vague sense of someone or other doing a small bit, but otherwise there was a lot of talk inside the small and cramped venue and outside in the little patio area as such out back as we waited on the band’s performance. I remember at one point talking to a friend of a friend who had KXLU connections mentioning that he was coordinating a Young Marble Giants tribute release; I had recently heard Colossal Youth and loved it very much so I was interested to learn more — and very surprised to find out he’d been able to get Nirvana to promise to do a cover of “Credit in the Straight World” for it. (When Hole’s version came out a couple of years later, I admit I had to wonder.)

And then, Ween. Just two guys, their instruments, drum machines and that was all — and that was damn fun. Another obvious (to my mind at least) descendant of the band was, I’d be willing to bet, somewhere in that audience, in that Jack Black and/or Kyle Gass seem to have gotten a sense of how to be a huge rock star duo on a small stage from Ween at some point. Dean and Gene weren’t doing comedy bits per se but they were introducing various songs as needed, sometimes perfectly so — at one point, referring to another Pod classic, “Demon Sweat,” they noted its similarities to early eighties Phil Collins ballads and asked us to imagine “the huge bald head of Phil Collins rising behind us onstage.”

Besides familiar stuff they were breaking out all kinds of songs that would appear later in the year on Pure Guava — “Reggaejunkyjew” went over well, accompanied by a story about how it was written about some clown back home that they hated, but the hands-down winner of the new ones was “Don’t Get 2 Close 2 My Fantasy.” Again, nobody had heard this before and nobody knew what to expect, so when they first got into the huge ridiculously uplifting (and ridiculously worded) chorus that was pretty amazing right there.

It’s when they reached the conclusion that we all almost collapsed — if you hear the recorded version, the music cuts out and there’s a massed overdubbed singalong of the chorus one last time, their own “Bohemian Rhapsody” of sorts. But words can’t capture what this was like live when they stopped playing their guitars and sang to the audience, hands reaching out in arena-rabble-rousing exaltation, as pure a celebration and a mockery and a combined outright love for it all as I’d ever seen up until that point. I think by then some of us were singing along through the giggles and the cheers at the end were huge.

After it was all over, I snagged one of the setlists as mentioned and talked briefly to Gene Ween — friendly fellow! — and our bunch either went home or went to get something to eat or the like, the usual stuff. As noted I never returned to Jabberjaw — honestly not sure if I’ve ever been to that exact area of town again (had I been a Das Bunker devotee that would be a different story by now) — and pretending I went through a series of profound life-changing decisions as a result would be a lie, but obviously something hit and lingered as I wouldn’t remember the surrounding details as much as I do. Perhaps a solitary visit meant something was more vivid in the memory.

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