October 19, 2014

TN: Johnny Cash & Nashville

nashville roadtrip

One of my favorite shows on television right now is Nashville. Admittedly, this show influenced a few choices in the process of planning this trip. I was looking forward to all the bright lights and country songs. Plus I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. My Ji-chan (grandpa in Japanese) loved Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. Bowerbird was raised on the Grand Ole Opry. The Music City was a pretty big destination for us. But lodging for our first night there, the 9th, was not planned.  At the recommendation of some people we met at Muscle Shoals Sound, we went to a Bed and Breakfast owned by their friend. They had even given the B&B a call to see if we could get a discounted room. Unfortunately once we got there it seemed to be deserted. Thank modern technology for Airbnb, because at 9pm we were able to find beautiful lodging for an insanely reasonable price. It was under $100.

The Airbnb place was really close to the B&B, so close when I looked at the address I thought it was only 4 houses down from the bed and breakfast. When I called the Airbnb host to clarify what house was his, because we couldn’t find the driveway he indicated in the arrival details. He informed us we were ten blocks north of his home. Same street, but instead of 612 it was 1612 – doh! After a day on the road, I swear you lose a few brain cells.

Located in East Nashville, a trendy part of town that is comparable to Soho or Los Feliz. We couldn’t have lucked out anymore, this place was gorgeous.  In the morning we decided to go “running”, and I put running in quotations because it’s more of a fast paced walk in full workout clothes. Seriously, we packed running shoes and have only used them once. Regardless I’m so glad we took the time to “exercise”, because with the tree lined streets and turn of the century homes, East Nashville could easily be the neighborhood Mr. Rodgers was always singing about.

Next we dived straight into tourist central, downtown Nashville. We ended up spending nearly 2 hours in the Johnny Cash museum. Not a very big museum, but we read every caption under the photos. It even includes a poem written by Johnny after June’s funeral. I dare the toughest guy to read that and not tear up a little. I love their love story. I don’t endorse how Johnny handled his relationship with his first wife Vivian, but you can’t deny that J.R and June’s love ran deep. Watching videos of the two performing, you see this puppy dog love in Johnny Cash’s eyes that makes a girl weak in the knees and pray for the same devotion.

Being a fan of country from a far, but far from a historian the Ryman and Opry history always confused me. So when we came across the Ryman I was excited to purchase tickets to the backstage tour in order to get my facts straight. The original home of the Opry, the floors are the same wooden panels from the 1800’s when it was a church. The dressing rooms are themed based on the famous faces that had sung on its stage. We learned the history of those kicked out of the Ryman and the backdoor they used to drink at the bar next door.

When we were in the Ryman a friend of mine texted me to get ahold of Bowerbird. Knowing we were in Nashville, he tried to contact his friend, Ikey Owens, a member of Jack White’s band to give us a tour of Third Man Records, but unfortunately he was on tour. Ikey passed away a few days later. Not knowing him personally, we couldn’t help but be shocked and saddened at the eerily close timing to both incidents. My Facebook feed was full of his mutual friends sharing stories and out pours of love. I don’t live far from Long Beach, and he had lived there for years before moving to Nashville only six months prior. I’m happy my friend was able to text and have a conversation with Ikey, before his untimely passing, even if it were brief. While on the road you can’t help but reflect on life and purpose. You feel more appreciative of the friendships you have, a comfortable bed, the potential in every new day. Ikey Owens impacted a lot of lives. Like I said, my Facebook feed was filled with friends sharing their memories and mourning of the loss of their friend. I didn’t get the opportunity to meet him, but he seemed to live a life full of creative passion and love. I’ll continue to strive to live a life with the same intention, and wanted to give a little respect to this fantastic friend to my friends.

On that note, I’ll end this post here. Later that night we went to Prince’s Hot Chicken and saw Johnny Cash’s home, but more on that another day. Our hotel tomorrow has Wifi so unless I get wasted on Bourbon street, I should be able to post more in the coming days.

B, Bekka

October 17, 2014

Sweet Sounds Alabama

Muscle Shoals Road Trip

“Buy a chevy get a gun!” announced the radio commercial somewhere in Mississippi followed by another commercial with a sultry women’s voice enticing the listener, “ever wanted to get into exotic dancing, come down on talent night and make lots of money”.

Leaving Memphis we drove through Mississippi and Alabama to get to Muscle Shoals. The trees in Mississippi have vines growing all around them, connecting each tree with an overgrowth that sweeps down up and around. Men drove tractors on the side of the freeway keeping nature away from the road, pulling trailers that pushed down on the long grass and probably cut the vines.

I’d seen the documentary earlier in the year, and it motivated me further to start planning actual stops on our road trip. Bowerbird and I being music nerds, Muscle Shoals was a must see destination followed by Fame Studio which is around the corner and down the street. The documentary is a little confusing when it comes to the timeline of both studios, but Muscle Shoals Sound studio was established after the partners at Fame studio decided to go their separate ways.

Trying to be a prepared tourist, I messaged Muscle Shoals Sound earlier in the month to make sure they we’re open the 8th as I know the studios will be restored. I got a friendly reply back saying the studios were open till 2pm that day. Bowerbird and I do not arrive places early together, more like right on time. So when we of course left Memphis a little later than intended, we tried to be light hearted and joked the entire way to Muscle Shoals, looking at our GPS which read ETA 1:57 and every time we increased our arrival time I’d chime “we will have 6 minutes at the studio – damn now only 3 minutes – come on sweetheart I know we can get 9 minutes.”

As we drove up I saw someone from the studio come outside and remove the open sign from the front lawn. I had Bowerbird flip a Dukes of Hazard u-turn and hopped out of the car before we officially parked. Opening the door to the studio, the adrenaline was pumping as I asked the guide if we could still look around. She kindly said yes, her name being Georgia.

The Muscle Shoals tour is informal with a capital I. You walk around this hallow ground, where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote music, Simon and Garfunkel recorded, the sound of a generation was shaped at your own speed. Pictures hung on the walls with the famed musicians working in the studio, writing is physically written on the wall like playful boys marking their spot. The toilet seat from which “Wild Horses” came into fruition. Georgia shared stores with us, explained the structure of the building, and how tiny it felt when it was originally in operation due to how large engineering equipment used to be. To think now most people just make music on their laptops, and before it took an attention to detail and agility to make sure everything was laid right because the last thing you can afford is a botched recording.

Apparently one of the Swampers haunts the property today, and most of the photos I took are blurry, so it makes you wonder. Although I didn’t feel any spooky spirit, not like I did in West Virginia but that’s another story. Here are a few of my favorite shots from Muscle Shoals.

After Muscle Shoals we visited Fame Studios for a tour. Still an operating studio, we only saw Studio B as they were recording in Studio A. The history of Fame was shared along with the stories that directly came from Studio B. My favorite being guitarist, Duane Allman camping outside Fame Studios until Rick the owner would give him a chance to perform and record. He slept in the parking lots for weeks till he was given a chance, and I just loved the story of commitment and roughing it out to get what you want. It’s a metaphor for all success, because the road to success sure isn’t comfortable.

Bekka an d Bowerbird at Muscle Shoals Sound

We are in South Carolina right now, and clearly in the second half of the trip, 3rd quarter. I’m trying not to get sad, while already on it. Mourn the loss of the trip, while I still have more states to go to I’ve never seen. Tonight is Atlanta, the day after possibly southern Alabama and next Monday – New Orleans! Ok I’m no longer mourning, I’m just excited. So many wonderful things have happened on this trip, even a few weird things. But altogether I’m living my dream, I’m seeing new sights. Yesterday I picked cotton off the side of the road. I’m experiencing life in a way I don’t normally get to, and that in itself is the greatest part of this adventure. It’s new.  For me a full life is achieved when you seek out new experiences, break routine, and get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a thrill seeker going to a silent yoga retreat or a shy introvert going on stage and belting out their voice. Variety is the spice of life they say, so let’s spice it up!

October 15, 2014

TN: Back to Memphis…

road trip Memphis

Memphis is the hometown to one of my favorite bands of all time, Lucero. They were the first band I ever saw by myself, and if my heart had a soundtrack it would be comprised of Lucero songs. I made it a mission of mine to visit 1372 Overton Park, not only the title of an album but an actual address in Memphis. Lucero’s musical roots in Memphis, it’s where the band lived and wrote music for years. A loft on top of a Thrift Store, taking a picture with the door to 1372 was my little piece of Lucero memorabilia. I asked the Sun Records tour guide what was near 1372 Overton Park, as I was a huge Lucero fan, and she lit up with the familiarity of talking about a wonderful mutual friend.  A few of the members had played on her own record. She recommended a few bars, but told us the place to go that night to potentially run into Lucero members was Buccaneer. A friend of Lucero and fellow musician, Dave Cuosar was playing at 11pm. I was completely committed to seeing this local act, and till then we filled our time with local Memphis finds.

We chose to experience the delicious ribs at Central BBQ. Their hot BBQ sauce still teases my phantom senses. The meat fell off the bone, but wasn’t too dry, only around the blackened edges that gave it an extra smoky flavor. Next we went to Beale Street. The tourist trap of Memphis. Its neon signs draw the out-of-towners like a moth to the flame. But once on it, aside from the jazz and blue grass music that fills the air outside stuffy bars, it is a dead street. We left just as soon as we arrived, walking up and down it once, and then hoping back in the car.

Beal Street Memphis

On ward we went to one of the other bars our Sun Tour guide suggested, we came across Overton Square. A colorful street lined with restaurants and bars, the buildings were really interesting. A mixture between the old and new, most of them had to either been built or renovated within the last ten years. Maintaining the structures charm and a certain amount of character most modern establishments’ lack. We pulled over to explore, stopping inside Boscos, a Tennessee brewing company. Enjoying a flight, we overheard two college students discussing their Knoxville campus. Sharing that the campus was socially segregated, and how some of their friends don’t know how to talk to black people. I was stunned, my ear glued to the conversation. I can’t fathom the idea of not knowing how to talk to someone because of their skin color. Language barrier yes, but a different ethnic background… it was my first real taste of the stereo-typical south everyone warns you about. This same person then went on to discuss how they didn’t care for Jewish people. Let’s just all agree, that as a society we should look at people as an individual and not respond to someone based on a skewed idea of a group of people.

memphis overton square

After the flight we headed to First Avenue which was one of the first venues Lucero played at. It was a pretty mellow night, and we took a seat at the bar. Watching the baseball game on the TV, those sitting at the counter bonded over a singer on the screen wearing a bizarre parade float styled hat upon her head.  Soaking in the vibe, when I told the bartender we were there as I was informed Lucero got their start there, he handed me an old guitar pick. “This could be from them, or perhaps another band, one thing for certain it’s old.” He went on to say how members of Lucero still come in, and the bassist was across the street at a different bar the night before.

Then on to the Buck, a dive bar located inside a yellow house. It was filled with cigarette smoke and illuminated with red lights. Set up on an area that was clearly designated for bands, but hardly a stage, was one guitar and a stack of amps. Arriving ten minutes till the show, we ordered drinks, took a seat and watched Dave come out of the shadows and take his seat next to the guitar. That night we got one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2014.  Dave Cousar is an artist with the guitar. He plays in a way that I’ve never heard before, making the guitar cry and wine, vibrate beneath his fingertips. An abstract painting of folk and rock, he is what Bob Dylan should be. I made up a story in my head that Dave and Dylan were at the same festival or audition, and by some random accident Dave couldn’t go on, letting Dylan take the stage and the slot for that sound. I think Dave is a little younger than Dylan, but man did his voice just weave through notes rising and falling. Mid-set he paused, and aside from my enjoyment of the music I was getting really sleepy. We told Dave how much we loved his set and he humbly thanked us, even gave me his own I just saw the guys in Lucero story.

dave cousar memphis

That night I didn’t see any of the members of Lucero, but I met them through Memphis. I began to gain a better sense of the band through friends, acquaintances, the musicians they play with for fun. Driving up and down the same streets they do, and talking with the same friendly faces they know to be familiar. If I wasn’t going to see Lucero live in Memphis, that night was the best I could have asked for. I look forward to name dropping Dave to Ben at The Echo in November.

October 13, 2014

TN: Walking in Memphis…

Graceland Memphis Road Trip

Memphis has soul, it possess a grit that can be felt throughout the city. It’s this authentic character even amongst the most tired tourist spots. I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but you don’t visit Memphis without going to Graceland. A different tour guide experience, your handed an ipad and headphones to help direct the tour. Older gentlemen and their wives at times looked like lost children with the clunky tech around their neck, trying to figure out where to go next once the audio (spoken by John Stamos) ended. It’s a tour that depends on self- reliance to move from one room to the next, and a little bit of attitude in not allowing the museum staff to heard you from one room to the next too quickly.

Elvis’s decorating style was as distinctive as his sound. There is no doubt you are in the home of a king; it’s opulent carved furniture, stained glass windows, shag carpeting as wall treatment, and bright patterns on the walls are loud but in harmony. For any interior design nerd, you must go to Graceland. It overflows with unique focus pieces, and is a challenge to the bold to see if one could decorate their own home this way, and succeed.

Next we headed to Sun Records, the source of where it all began. Parking in the back alley a man approached us, being friendly he chatted us up about traveling and being from California. He eventually asked for a couple bucks, and I said I had no change but would give him something when I broke my twenty.  Going into Sun, I bought our tour tickets and then walked back outside to search for the gentleman.  He appeared out of nowhere, once again like how he appeared the first time, and lit up at the fact we had gone out to actually find him to give him the dollar. A woman of my word, I handed it to him and he gave us a hug.

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October 12, 2014

has it only been a few days?

…Since I recapped Oklahoma city. We’ve been to Memphis, Dollywood, and now leaving Nashville. I haven’t had the chance to write an actual post. Whether I’m too exhausted to think or staying someplace with out WiFi, there are a lot of stories I’m collecting in my head which I’m dying to get out on paper/ computer. My whole sense of time is wacked, I never know what day it is anymore or how long we’ve been gone unless I check. Sort of gives me a sense what being on a deserted island would feel like.

I write this on my phone as i ‘ve paused putting on my makeup. I’m excited as we head to Louisville today and to Elizabethtown!

Find me on Instagram or twitter for more frequent updates at @basicallybekka. Hopefully I will see you again tonight.

October 9, 2014

OKC : Birth of a Dream

womb gallery roadtrip

The saying, if you knew how powerful your thoughts are you’d never have a bad one, really is the best intro into what I’m about to share. Wayne Coyne, singer of Flaming Lips, lives in Oklahoma City and has a reputation for being very nice, giving, and open. A king of the freaks, he welcomes people, if you can find him. Knowing his gallery, Womb Gallery was located in Oklahoma City, Bowerbird and I decided on a whim to just see if we knocked on the door possibly we would be able to stay at the compound.  Unfortunately the freak storm in Oklahoma, caused us to pull off the road 16 miles from the gallery and all my hopes of running into Wayne washed away.

The next morning we went to the gallery, and as Womb is known to have fluctuating hours, I assumed we’d only be able to take pictures on the outside and it would put us 10 minutes behind schedule max. We also had the diamond crater of Arkansas on our list of things to do that day. Instead Womb Gallery turned into nearly an hour excursion and it was better than we could have imagined, we found a different kind of diamond that day.

Driving up to the gallery, there was a group of men taking down an installation of a nose on the outside of the building. I could tell the gallery probably wasn’t open, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from asking. Approaching the gallery manager, we asked if it was open and after explaining we we’re on a road trip from California and wouldn’t be able to swing back for the show, Jake was very kind and offered to give us a tour. Their show Acid Off by artist Isis Fisher opens this weekend, October 11, and half the space was incomplete but the concepts mind blowing.

Glitter floors, fluorescent walls, textural and scent stimulating sculptures; the entire space awakens a creative spark within. Pushing norms, and mixing the absurd with post-modern fine art.  Jake and I geeked out on art, discussing past exhibits with Dalek and Bigfoot. I even shared with him an artist I had worked with before, Alex Chiu that I feel would fit in the gallery perfectly.

***photos and topics after the jump are graphic in nature, Bowerbird’s mom who is a loyal reader will most likely not enjoy the following – so you’ve been warned <3 ***

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October 7, 2014

KS & MO : Toto We’re in Kansas

wamego Kansas oz museum

Remember VHS? The way kids used to watch movies. I had a copy of The Wizard of Oz that I played so much the color ran out of it, or at least the tape became so worn it had lines going through it. My earliest memories was watching Wizard of Oz, and sometimes asking my Dad to fast forward to the colored part. My mom would French braid my hair and I’d call it “Dorothy hair”. Surprisingly I never dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween, but I do have a collector set of all the characters. A lifelong fan, I’ve seen most OZ related material expect Wicked, I just can’t bring myself to endorse it. For kicks and giggles, I’ve even searched Ebay for first editions of Oz books by Baum.

In Wamego Kansas there is the OZ Museum. The largest collection of OZ collectibles in the world, I had to see this treasure of Kansas. First this museum is legit, its not just one musty room with a few items behind glass. The OZ museum is a well thought out and executed extravaganza of everything OZ. From the moment you walk through the front porch doors, you seriously don’t feel like you’re in Kansas anymore. Greeted by an alcove with a Dorothy statue, to the left of it is early editions of the OZ books and history on Baum and his career. Then moving through the museum, a new character alcove at every turn, the history of the MGM production unfolded. Describing casting choices, directors – which apparently the film had 5, and evolution of the OZ world over the decades.

They really created a fun atmosphere for any OZ fanatic. My favorite land till this day, I’ve always felt a little like Dorothy. Possessing a desire to explore, see new things, experience absolute wonderment; and in the end still have an inkling to go back home. In later books for non-OZ fans, Dorothy goes to OZ when in distress or when OZ needs help. Oz is a second home, because in the end home is just where the heart is.

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October 6, 2014

OKLAHOMA : The Rain on The Plains…

bad weather and oklahoma

 

Are terrifying and completely massive in scope! The majority of our trip from the Oz Museum in Wamego Kansas to Oklahoma City was completely pleasant, but for the last 2 hours it’s been scary as hell.  For miles and miles we watched lightening far off in the distance, making for an interesting light show. But once we drove into the storm, my California driving skills and California tires on the rental, were not prepared for what was to come. Sheets of rain, mixed with wind creating a cloud of water that blurred the lines of the lanes. The tires hit puddles or pot holes, and vibrated shaking the entire car like a toy.  Initially the storm was like a bad rainy week in California. After hearing an ad for Phantom of the Opera on the radio, I thought it would be humorous to have Dan record the lightening to see if it went along with the music. We pulled the song up on Spotify and below is the magic.

But shortly after this small moment of levity, the silliness of the video calming my nerves. The rain fell harder, faster, and violently to the earth. I white knuckled the steering wheel, my heart racing and a cold sweat forming on my brow. Our aim was to get to Wayne Coyne’s womb gallery, see if a light was on and hopefully charm anyone into letting us stay with them (potentially at the compound). But I had to stop driving. Every time the rain would let up for a second and I thought maybe we could still pull it off, it would come back with a fury. A meteorologic slap in the face. Only 16 miles away I had to pull off the road, book a room at a freeway hotel, and let go of my Wayne Coyne Womb Gallery sleep over fantasy. If the light was on, we would have totally knocked.  I’ve been talking to him on Instagram like we are old buds. He is the kings of the freaks, what’s more freak like than blind delusion?

Tomorrow we will wake up and swing by the gallery before heading to the Diamond Park and Memphis. I pray the storm has passed and I don’t have to see my life flash before my eyes.

October 5, 2014

DENVER: Guardian  Angel Molly Brown

molly brown house

A day and a half behind, I write this sitting on the floor of a home built in the 1800’s for a doctor in Kansas City MO. It was one of the couchsurfing situations I set up, and nice that I had one lined up since we arrived really late to the city. In Denver, we didn’t know where we were going to sleep but knew we had to get creative.

On October 3, we went from Durango to Denver, with a few hiccups in the morning.  Our rental said the tire pressure was off, and Dan needed to get more sustenance than the one oatmeal packet he ate.  That led us to trying to find a market that carried natural peanut butter and bread with no sugar. The slow giddy up in our drive, had us racing to Denver to make the Molly Brown house museum’s last tour at 3:30pm. The GPS said our arrival was 3:45pm and I was rehearsing my pitch to get us in mid-tour. I love Molly Brown, she was an intelligent strong Irish women. A feminist spit fire and a women before her time. I’d like to think I have a little Molly Brown in me.

Once we got into Denver, we took a wrong turn and it caused my anxiety to really shoot up. I really wanted to see the Molly Brown House! We got to the house by 3:40, parked the car, and ran to the ticket booth/souvenir shop, and I mean ran. The girl in the tickets heard my desperate plea, and said depending on where they were in the tour she could bring us in but if they were on the second floor we might be out of luck.

The ticket booth girl, fiddled with a lock on the door. It was stuck and the suspension was killing me, are we going to get to see Molly Browns house. Praying to the lord the door would open, it finally budged and we were taken into the dining room where the tour group was getting the last of the info before moving upstairs.

The museum house was everything I could imagine, Victorian, ornate, well designed, I swooned. The tour guide inside, Cat, was really kind to us and said since we came late she’d go through the first few rooms with us and then finish the history outside. We soaked it up, and after enjoying hearing all the additional Molly Brown tid-bits the other tour participants didn’t get to hear, I pushed my luck with Cat.

Having already given so much of her time to us, I felt selfish for asking if she might have a place or know anyone open to hosting two travelers for a night.  She informed us she had cats, and since I’m allergic, I informed her I had pills and a nasel spray to handle that. We exchanged numbers and in a few hours after cleaning she called us, and we had an amazing night in Denver.

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October 3, 2014

AZ & CO : We drove all night…

Words can not properly describe how exhausted I am, as Bowerbird and I left for the Grand Canyon at 1:30am in the morning. After a week filled with sleepless nights due to work and planning, the day of my trip I couldn’t for the life of me actually fall asleep. I’ve been so excited and anxietal, that my racing mind has kept me up. Now I’m in Durango, Colorado completely zombiefied and pushing a blog post out of me so here goes.

COOL PEOPLE: 

Bowerbird had stopped at little Colorado canyon in the past and wanted me to see this beautiful formation. The thing about the Grand Canyon, although it is amazing in size, scope, pure enormity; it’s really hard to absorb all of it. Especially if you are not doing a helicopter tour, or hiking from the bottom to the top. It’s a limited experience. With the little Colorado canyon, you can see to the bottom, you can see where the horizon is and the flat land breaking off into a cavernous pit below. At the same time we were visiting the LCC,  four Irish men were as well. Their accent were distinguishable off the bat, and I wondered if they were from Belfast. (Because of Sons of Anarchy of course)

When I had the courage to approach them, I said I was assuming they’re accent was Irish and they said I was correct, in which I proceeded to ask where from. When they told me Dublin, I replied I thought it could be Belfast and we had a good laugh. As the two men walked away to their other friends, they remarked how someone else had asked if they were French. I replied, “French? You’re clearly Irish men, the 1/4 Irish in me knows this”. The men laughed again and he said well in that case, and pulled out a magnet of Ireland. I haven’t had a chance to take a picture but I found the same one online. It was truly touching to me, and I replied “It’s because I’m a Gleason”. Gleason being my grandmother’s maiden name. Personally I feel that this magnet wasn’t just a friendly Irish gift, it was a way of my grandmother telling me she is protecting me on this journey.

Ireland magenet

NEW SKILLS:

I bought a real point and shoot for this trip for low lighting and potentially self timed pictures. Today I was able to use the 10 second self timer, and being able to get Bowerbird and I in the same shot with cool stuff in the background is kind of a huge highlight…

DSC00469

…and now I’ve run out of steam, I seriously can’t think and the comfortable Airbnb bed I’m writing this on is sinking me lower into it’s mattress. I feel like my typing fingers are 20 feet away from my burning eyes and exhausted mind. As soon as I catch up on some sleep more detail reviews of the trip will come but for now GOOD NIGHT!

and wow I’m on the road.

Basically, first day was amazing but I’m EXHAUSTED!!

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