Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Interview With Gabe's Bar in Iowa City

Nestled deep in the heart of Iowa City is a little Oasis of rock and roll history. Just off of the beaten path on Washington Street away from the predominate bar scene stands an old building that has housed some of the greatest rock and roll shows this state has ever been privy to hosting... Not to mention the luminaries and the dignitaries who made their way through the doors of this less than fine establishment.

Well, that's not really fair. I should explain.

We are talking about Gabes, and less than fine is not a bad thing. That description fits the mold of what the scene that Gabes created was all about. Sure the walls were dilapidated and the bathrooms smelled like piss and  vomit. And, it was dark and dreary at times, and the crowd seemed to be made up more of drop out types than the plastic college kids that frequented the other bars. But that wasn't a bad thing in my eyes... I didn't want to mingle with the fraternity crowd or the other nimrods that frequented the mainstream taverns. I liked the counter culture that sleazed into Gabes and I admired the fact that I was a part of the prongs that went against society's norms. Gabes was the underbelly of civilization in Iowa City and being there made me feel like I was a part of something strange and vast... It wasn't rushed, crowded and obnoxious like the bars up in the pedestrian mall, and I didn't feel like I was breathing testosterone while I was in there.

Many of the University students unknowingly deemed Gabes as an unsafe haven, and once in awhile you would see a couple of cheerleader types come in and while scanning the place for the inevitable danger, order a cocktail from the bartender. Or actually, it was usually beer. Beer was quick and easy and didn't draw a lot of attention... You could literally watch as the apprehensive cheerleaders ordered their drinks and eventually soaked up what Gabe's was all about, which might have been non-conformity, but it certainly wasn't danger. Eventually they eased into a comfortable state of mind and realized that this was a fun place to hang out at and not a place of peril. Watching that transition take place was priceless.

The patio might have been the exception, at least for me.

Out back, it was a hallowed ground and provided for a daily party for the regulars who frequented it during the summer. More than a couple of times I tried to incorporate that crowd and pretty much, without fail I would only be shunned and eventually nudged back inside by the uncomfortable feeling I got when I attempted these infiltrations. But looking back, I am sure it was more me than it was them... I was the outsider and this was their spot... A seat at that table was earned, and not automatically given. I can respect that. Besides, I was young and naive. There wasn't a whole lot I could offer to their intellectuality.

But inside, the beer was inexpensive and the drinks were strong. So despite my mental shortcomings, I always found my way back down to the Oasis for another attempt at the patio seating or more often than not, just a seat inside the main bar for the cheap strong drinks I had come to expect.

Then, later at night when the day crowd began to fizzle out, the staff would open the doors to the large room atop a windy flight of stairs. This is where the live music was played, and in addition to another stocked bar being up there, it housed the stage that had supported so many great bands and musicians on it that it should be considered as a gift for for the Smithsonian. That stage is a national treasure. Personally, I have seen High and Lonesome play there, as well as The Meat Puppets, Giant Metal Insects, House of Large Sizes, Captain Barney, Dagobah and the All American Rejects. Not to mention the other 20-30 bands I saw on that stage that I cannot automatically remember the names of.

Upstairs at Gabes (Photo courtesy of Gabes website)

Upstairs it was dark and it was loud. The floor was usually wet with beer spill, and the crowd seemed to be nothing more than shadows with faces, moving in slow motion, hypnotized by the magic that was occurring on stage. Lights and colors would bounce around the room like a flashlight in the woods... Sending even more strange shadows into the assemblage. It was rock and roll in a very primitive setting, and it was beautiful.

I was actually able to reach Gabes Bar through the wonderful world of social networking, and convinced the bar to do an interview with me. As far as I know, The Bigfoot Diaries might be the first publication to interview a "bar", and we are very pleased that Gabes took the time to answer a few questions.

Meanwhile, the next time you visit Iowa City, be sure to stop in and visit this national treasure...

Bury Your Dead play Gabes

Please tell me about your early years... What year were you "born" and what are the details surrounding that? How much for a can of Schlitz then, and do you remember the very first band who graced your legendary stage?

I was never technically born, you must understand. I guess I've always kind-of existed. In fact, I used to be the mast of Blackbeard's ship back in the pirate days. I was also once the front doors to the Mann's Chinese theater in California when they first opened. I remember being JFK's can opener for a brief stint... And then sometime in the 70's I was Gabe's. Some asshole kicked me out for a couple years, but I came back and put him in his place. I'm a little foggy on prices. I'm the business, not the bookkeeper. I imagine thought Schlitz was pretty cheap, as it still is (delicious, too!)

The first band that played on our stage was The Beatles. And anyone who wants to argue this fact can go to hell.

Iowa City is a very historical place, and so is Gabe's. What are a couple of your most memorable moments?

There was that time we found a dude sleeping in the pee-trough in the men's bathroom. That was pretty memorable. There was also that time Kurt Cobain puked in our sink before he finished another bottle of whiskey.

Four-piece Nirvana in 1989 at Gabes

I think I heard once that Kurt Vonnegut would stop in once in awhile for a beer... Is that true, and whether it is or not, who are some famous people who have come in (not to play music, but) to have a drink?

If you heard it, it's probably true. That goes for any famous person who has been rumored to be here. Mick Jagger, Bill Clinton, Gilbert Godfried. I'm sure they were all here at some point and at some level of intoxication. And if you don't think they were, then try to prove us wrong!

Primus graced the stage at Gabes

What have you done over the years to keep up with the changes in music? (I see you have a DJ on Thursdays and a web site. Geez. How DID we survive without the internet?)

Kegels are an important first step. Gotta keep those groin muscles in tip-top shape. Beyond that, we maintain a healthy diet of cynicism glazed with a shimmer of hope and a dash of enthusiasm for all the little (and big) bands that stroll through our stage.

What do you see changing in the future of live music?

I really hope there are more lasers involved. That's all anyone can really ask for.

What does it take to play Gabe's... Is there a special quality a band must have before they will even be considered?

Female bass players are encouraged. Beyond that, we just look for a passion and drive to perform and entertain. You could be a terrible one-man kazoo band, or you could be the next Rolling Stones. It doesn't matter. If you play with feeling, you play at Gabe's.

Are there any bands touring right now that you haven't been able to land that you "dream about?"

Tom Jones. Hands down.

Poison Control Center play Gabes

What's the chances of getting Alice Donut (New York City) to come play?

About as likely as getting Kim Donut from New Jersey to play. Though she has nicer nails and blonde hair, so.... Tough call!

Let's talk about the ground floor level... Is the atmosphere today different than it was at the beginning?

Times change. People change... Laws change. I'd have to say it's different, but it isn't any better or worse. It's just right.
What promotions do you run when there are no bands scheduled?

Mondays are metal nights. Tuesdays we do Hip-Hop. Wednesdays are Open Mic. Thursdays are dance/DJ nights. All of these events are free and take place on our new downstairs stage. It's fancy.

One more question. What is the secret to making a great Bloody Mary?

I don't know, but the best ones, I've found, are made by old people.

(Thanks to the lovely Julie Osborn for help with this article!)

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Memphis sure does seem to be one hot place when in comes to music and evidence of that is the disk that I got sitting to my left right now. This Rhinestone River sure is one nice piece of sonic narcotics. Guitars that hit all the right spots, and a vocal delivery like a Quaalude shamble. This album exudes a dark, high lonesome sound; loose and sloppy, drunkenly majestic, this thing doesn't just sound good, it feels good. Garage, honky tonk blues, with a streak of menace. Kinda like a southern fried Velvet Underground. This thing makes the perfect soundtrack to those late night drinking jags with a good buddy or two, when profound revelations start to hit you harder than the booze; and certain answers to questions start to dimly make themselves known, sometimes to be forgotten by the coming of the morning sun. Or maybe you can make sure they have this handy at your local opium den, playing as the backdrop for a kif fueled delirium. The choice is yours, but no matter. Picking this up will be one of the nicest things that you will do for yourself all week.

Exmortus ,The Black Castle,Los Angeles,CA 3/25/11

Well... Never been to the Black Castle before. The venue was OK but goddamn the area was like an NWA music video. I was scared but wanted to laugh at the same time.  I almost died getting Chinese food! Anyway this place was closed down for like a year. It now has new management and doesn't know how to have bands play in the right times and stuff. The show started at 6:00, and I went at 7:30 and 2nd band was playing. I know I usally review all the bands but the first 3 bands were all black metal band with their Kiss make up and sadly all sounded the same. I couldn't tell which band was which, one of the logos I cant read, and one of them was a substitute for Crossover and my hometown hero's SMD (Guess what that stands for). SMD couldn't play due to one of their bass players being ill and they called a small hiatus. SMD is a great band that I will review for you guys as soon as the come back! Sucks,they ddin't play. One of the main reasons I went.

I reviewed this next band for you guys before. (I saw them on the same bill with SMD and Exmortus I had to go!). Temple Of Dagon, my favorite local Crust band went up. Their singer, Mr. Red announced to the audience, "We're Temple Of Dagon,and as you can tell, we're the only TRUE black metal band here." They started and I head banged like bobble head. Thrash kids seemed to like these guys. I was wondering how they got into the bill at first but I saw the drummer from Merciless Death/Dismantle (I see this guy at almost EVERY show I go to) helping them out. First I thought he was being a nice roadie but then I saw him setting up his drum set. I remember they needed a new drummer,and who better else to play for them than Gio; a :funny ass thrasher and bad ass drummer. Temple finished their set and I told Kyle the bass player how much sexier they got with Gio and how much I love the band. Seriously download their EP, Book Of Azatoth for free. Its fuckin good.

When we got there we saw Bay area thrashers Zombie Holocaust setting up merch. I've seen and talked to them before. The singer is a really nice and a great front man and also a cool dude. We were talking to him about the upcoming Bay Area fest, Slaughter By the Water II (which hopefully I will be attending) and other stuff. He gave me and my buddies ZH Party Patrol bracelets so we felt cool. They started to play and the kids were really diggin' these guys. They played and I sang along to Boba Fett (their tribute to the Star Wars... Metal nerds rule) and cheered em on. They usually have boogie boards and they throw Lei's around, but not this time. Strike Force is the name of their full debut. Check it out,you will dig it!

As I said earlier the show wasn't set up great so I left after Exmortus and me my friend were pooped and had a after party to attend. Sucks cause Ive seen Witchaven twice but never enjoyed em (1.Stoned 2.Outside). See 'em if you got the chance for good Blackened Thrash Metal and check out their debut album Terrorstorm. So Exmortus was setting up. These guys have a reputation here in LA for being a unique Technical Death Thrash band. Both times Ive seen 'em were great and front man Conan is a really cool dude who cracks jokes with me and my friend. They played a very good set with some new songs I'm excited to hear on the new album which they're recording. I flashed Conan twice cause I love sExmortus (what I call them). Last time I saw them I let my buddy punch me in the face and record it so that I could get a free Exmortus shirt. I got it! This band I very fun and check out In Hatreds Flame.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

High Adventure With Some Antique Roadwarriors

It had seemed like a harmless enough kinda thing. Antiques. Sure. Why not? I like old stuff and frankly I didn't have anything better to do, so off I went. I decided that a stop at the bar was certainly called for on this occasion and my wife was in complete agreement, so we stopped at a little drinking establishment along the way and started the ball rolling. After having downed a couple of vodkas and grapefruit juice ( a fantastic pre- adventure cocktail), I felt sufficiently braced to face the streaming hordes of bargain hunters and along we went to the stadium.

Upon walking into the place I was immediately consumed with the feeling that maybe I had made a mistake in coming here. There were waves of people pouring over all of the dealers booths and kiosks, the sound of a couple thousand negotiations over price rising to the level of cacophonous thunder. Wow. It wasn't that the crowd was all that big, I've been in a lot bigger, but all of a sudden I just wasn't in the mood. I mean, I don't like standing in line to get on the fastest roller coaster on the planet, I sure ain't gonna want to do it for a set of Popeye and Olive Oil salt and pepper shakers. Oh well, I was already in so I might as well try and make the best of it. At first my wife and I kinda hung together checking out this and that, slowly moving with the lines of people, but as things moved along we sorta spread out a little more. My wife was much more in tune to the general vibe of the whole thing while I was just hoping I'd find something weird.

Milling around awhile, I start to see a few things of interest here and there. I spy a sheet of Ed "Big Daddy " Roth decals and move over to take a closer look. But in doing so, I'm starting to anger the guy who wants to get a closer look at the Bibikabad Persian rug on the other side of me. I decide that instead of receiving an ugly thrashing from the guys brass owl head topped cane, I will just move on. Next I see a table with a crate of records. Well I think you never know, I better check this out. Maybe I'll find Moby Grape's first record, or maybe the third album by the Deviants. Who knows, I might even come across Sonny Bono's Inner Views Platter, but it was not to be. The crate was full of 80's crap. As I walked away I noticed a lady move by me, making it a point to let me hear her sigh in a big huff. Apparently while hunting through the vinyl I was obstructing her way to get a closer gander at a pair of circa 1860 french marble and bronze cassolettes. Whew. If looks could kill.

Now I'm starting to feel a little dejected and out of place. Not only that, but I'm starting to fear that the alcohol in my system is going to start to evaporate and then things will really start to get rocky. I see more and more cool stuff as I walk along, but there are too many people in those booths and I figure it's best just to look at what I can from afar. Soon I notice a stack of old comic books sitting on a table. I decide to go over and start perusing the pile. Hey cool, Sgt. Rock. I'm finally starting to feel a little better about things. Yeah, this is good. All of a sudden a hear something. I turn around and notice an old, sweet looking lady advancing upon me in one of those hoveround things. I squint my eyes. Those things can't move that fast, can they? Apparently this gal has the thing souped up because she is covering a lot of ground real fast like. My stomach starts to cramp up. I break out in a cold sweat. I look around and notice to my left a table which is covered with arrowheads, and in the corner of it is an authentic looking tomahawk. If only I can reach it in time. I quickly jettison the idea as possibly being a bit too rash, but then I look back at the lady . She is scowling with a grimace that makes her look like the spectre of death. Are those flames coming out of the back of that contraption she's riding? What did I do to make her so mad at me? Suddenly I realize my faux pas. While I was thumbing through the old comics, I had unwittingly placed myself between this lady and a walnut brown, American shaker shawl bar armed rocker made in Mt. Lebanon, New York in the latter part of the 19th century. What a philistine I am. With just enough time, I drop the comics back on the table and lunge forward just missing being mowed down. I get up from my knees, holding on to the table for support. I look to the dealer for some kind of recognition of the danger I had just been through, but he's already over to the lady trying to make the sale. My very existence was meaningless to these folks, but hey, the most the guy would have made offa me is about four bucks and he had much bigger fish to fry.

So anyway, I meet back up with my wife, look around some more, meet a lot a nice people, score a few cheap comics in pretty good condition on the way out the door, and head for a steak dinner. The next time I go antique shopping, it will probably be online.

Local Artist Spotlight: A Fly Design

Ashley LaRue is the owner of a business called A Fly Design, a graphic design company she runs out of her home in Grinnell, Iowa. She is lucky enough to be doing what she loves... Graphic design, custom drawings, custom paintings, hand painted murals, photography, photo editing, glass (acid) etching, hand made custom beads which she uses in her hand-made hemp jewelry, scrapbooking, tattoo design (design on paper only, she has never tattooed someone), and she makes several types of hand made gifts.

You might remember seeing one of her photographs in the post we ran a couple of weeks ago that featured Caustic Vision. I loved the style and creativity of this photograph, but didn't realize at the time that she was capable of doing more than photography. Since that article was published, Ashley and I were able to connect through the powers of social networking, and only then did I realize her potential and the capabilities that she possessed. We talked about her involvement with Caustic Vision and her transformation from working a "real" occupation to doing what she loves, what she refers to as her "dream" job. She is very articulate and focused, and very dedicated to her craft. She has years and years of experience, and with that comes confidence and pride.

After realizing what her potential was, I asked her about designing a logo for the Bigfoot Diaries. In just a day or two, I had several options to look at. She could have emailed them to me, but Ashley actually drove from Grinnell to Des Moines to show them to me in person... About 55 miles! Our entire meeting lasted 15 minutes, but I was able to see several design options, and even chose two that I liked very much. (We will be displaying them very soon on this site, so stay tuned.) Since that time, I have been in constant communication with Ashley and have found that she is extremely easy to work with, and very professional in every aspect of what she does.

Because Rock and Roll goes hand in hand with Art, and because Ashley is essentially doing what we hope to do one day; turn our hobby into a means of making a living, I thought that she and her company would make for a nice feature in The Bigfoot Diaries. We are after all, all about the little guy!

She gladly accepted my invitation to answer a few questions pertaining to her life and her company...

How did you come up with the name of your company, A Fly Design?

I created the name in my first semester of graphic design school. The "A" stands for my first name. I love dragonflies, they represent change, and at the time I felt like studying graphic design would change my life so I incorporated a dragonfly into my logo. I do all sorts of design, so that word explains itself. In the image of my logo, the dragonfly's flight path makes a cursive "L" which represents my (married) last name. The whole phrase is kind of play on words because "fly" also represents sort of a slang for "cool" or "hip".

Have you always been so artistic?

I realized my love for drawing and painting when I was 14. I saw a picture of a rose one day and just told myself to sit down and draw it. After that I found myself spending every free moment drawing or painting. I took just about every art class possible in high school. I was in 4H all through school and won Top Visual Artist several years in a row, and all of my drawings went to State Fair. All but one received a purple ribbon.

How did you go from working in a "real" occupation to doing your "dream" job?

For quite some time my "dream" was to become a tattoo artist. Finding someone to teach that, and teach it correctly, is hard to come by. For now, I just stick to designing them. After high school I began studying to be a paralegal, with hopes of being offered a position practicing that at the law firm I worked for. One morning at work, I was taking a break while talking to a coworker (who happened to be a high school art teacher in the past). I was looking at a Kleenex box and drawing a rose. My coworker looked over my shoulder and said "Ashley dear, what the hell are you doing working here? You should be in art school!" That statement just kind of stuck in the back of my mind. After I left the law firm and decided I never wanted to work for a lawyer again, I transferred into the Graphic Design program at DMACC. I guess in a way, I took my coworkers advice. It worked out, I've been on the Dean's list or the President's list at DMACC every semester since I started the program. I did take a break for a couple years when I had my daughter, but am now back in school and plan to graduate next year.

So is A Fly Design the only "job" you hold right now?

I am a full time production designer for ASI-Signage Innovations, which is the largest Architectural Signage company in the United States. My career at ASI has taught me ADA Guidelines/Regulations and Wayfinding. I've been there for about 4-1/2 years now, though it does not seem like it has been that long.

Are you willing and capable of taking on anything... Even custom projects?

Basically, if you have a project in mind, tell me about it, and I can make it happen. My design services are based on a flat fee. I do this because I am a perfectionist, and I don't feel like I should charge my client by the hour when I know I'm going to take my sweet time on it, just because I want to make sure it looks good. I free lance design part time from my home. I am always willing to travel to meet a client though.

Does your company have a website?

My current web page is via Facebook. (Link)

Do you have a favorite art form?

I love all forms of art. Ever since the day my coworker told me I should study art, I have known that designing is what I'm supposed to do. I love when someone approaches me with an idea then I take that and turn it into something real. It's a very euphoric feeling for me. It's a way to express a side of myself that people don't see on a daily basis. I read a quote recently, that really describes my feelings "Only through art, can we get outside ourselves" - Marcel Proust

Very nice... Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?

In 5 years I see myself freelancing just as I do now. In 10 years, I see myself holding several major accounts, for design services. This question is really hard. I've never put a lot of thought into where I would be that far down the road!

Are you affiliated with other bands besides Caustic Vision?

The only band I really have an affiliation with is Caustic Vision (Grinnell, Iowa). My affiliation started with them because their guitarist Ryan (Rev) Hall and I met when we where in high school, in an art class ironically! I knew he always had a passion for music, and he knew I had a passion for art. We have just remained very good friends since then. He had asked me several times to come watch his band (Caustic Vision) perform, but my schedule just never jived with their performances. One night I happened to be in Des Moines, and I had my camera with me. I told Ryan I was FINALLY going to come watch him play a the Hull Avenue Tavern. I just started taking pictures, and ended up filling my memory card! All the guys loved the pictures, and taking pictures for them just became routine for me. They even invited me to a practice session so I could do some "studio style" photos of them. I started going to more and more of their shows, filling my cards every time. There's just something about hearing the music I love filling my ears, while doing something I love. Again, a euphoric feeling. I've also done a couple of design pieces for them. Through hanging out at the shows, jam sessions and just spending time around the guys and their families, I got to know all of them and what they're about. I have a great deal of respect for them. They have all contributed to me building my portfolio, and I will forever be grateful.

Caustic Vision by Ashley LaRue

You are so busy! Do you ever get down time? What do you do when you are not working?

Aside from designing, I enjoy spending time with my family, riding and training my horses, teaching the occasional riding lesson, reading, watching movies and running. I just recently started participating in 5k charity's kind of a stress reliever.

What's the best way for people to get a hold of you if they are interested in using your services?

The best way is email which is Phone works well too...but a lot of times I have to let my voice mail catch it. I will always call back the same day though within reasonable hours. That number is (641) 990-6990.

Like local musicians, local artists need our support too... I have been extremely pleased in my dealings (and results) from working with Ashley LaRue. Please contact her if you have any artistic needs... I am positive you will be delighted with what her company has to offer! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's Right... And What's Right.

You can take two approaches to life, one being a negative approach, one being a positive approach. You can say you're being realistic, self protective, grounded, etc. You can look at a situation as it affects you or how you affect it. You can look at what's right about the situation or you can look at what's right about the situation.

Let's apply this to a current situation, one that I'm in the midst of. Let's apply it to Des Moines music scene. There are so many wonderful things going on in it, so much talent, so many bright ideas and loads and loads of sweat and blood being poured out. On any given night in Des Moines you can go out and see live music. Why aren't attendance numbers higher? It's all at our finger tips.

Have we lost the excitement for local music? Have we lost the motivation to go out to shows? I realize there's many components here...people are getting older (my generation) and raising families, our economy is in an awful state, Iowa winters tend to keep people snuggled where it's warm. But, I do know people are still going out. Dropkick Murphy's was an oversold show, people were lined around the building to get in. People do still want to see music, it's just reviving our local scene. Some bands have an amazing draw, some don't get the attention they deserve.

I don't know that people are realizing what they are missing by denying themselves the opportunity to see some of Des Moines greats. Chair throwing, costumes, elaborate light shows, brain melting guitar riffs, bloody drum solos, nudity, romance, vocal brutality, wicked brass orgasms...this just skims the tip of what explodes out of our local scene. Any night...Sunday through Saturday, you can catch any of this at any of the venues that house and enable Des Moines musicians to cut loose.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you saw a man in a mask and dress hurling lung exploding lyrics about sharks in your face? When was the last time you saw a kazoo party while listening to a Prince cover? When was the last time you saw a group of ruffians covering Christina Aguilera? When was the last time you witnessed a guitar orgasming before your very eyes, or a drum kit being slain like a wild animal?

I can't begin to explain how I've been completely moved by what's going on around me. These men and women that pour their hearts, souls, insecuritites, loves and nightmares are here for YOU. The raw emotion that I feel when I see them tearing themselves open and exposing their guts can be overwhelming. There are obviously different degrees of talent and emotion, but the point is that it's all there. It takes guts to get up on a stage and let people see what's going on inside your head. It takes confidence to get up and belt out about a dissolved realtionship, a failed career, an addiction, a major life fuck up. These, generally, aren't topics that come up in every day conversation, but they are a part of life. We've all been through some shit in our lives, it takes some serious kahones to discuss them publically and with vigor.

"Music is what feelings sound like."

We are spoiled. We have an arms full of beautiful venues, old and new. These business owners are providing us a great service by stocking their establishments with food, drink and it's up to us to fill it with bodies. Without patrons, these businesses fail, if these businesses fail, we lose the love that is music.

We have a plethora of music in Des Moines...we have a blues jam, country jam, rock jams. We have metal, hip-hop, rockabilly, punk, hardcore, jazz, folk...

We have venues of all shapes and sizes. We have musicians representing every generation. We have music at all levels, local, regional, national and international. NONE of this will be successful without ticket sales. Bands aren't going to want to come to a show that sold 30% of their possible maximum body count. The prices are right, the locations are right, the sweet sounds pouring out are right.

Ever seen the movie Footloose? Imagine a town without music...

"Without music, life would be an error."
-Freidrich Nietzsche

There are still bunches of people who slave away all week, with the excitement of a show on Friday night to get them through. We just need to multiply that and appreciate what we have here. We have a solid scene, we just need to expand and bring new faces in. We just have to get excited again. Don't let the woes of everyday life get in the way of your release. Let the musicians do the emotional work that you may not want to...Let them be your release. They can't speak if you don't listen...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Uncle Waldo

It's Saint Patrick's Day. I didn't feel like honoring an Irish dude. Instead I'll do the stereotypical drunk. After long thinking, I realized who my favorite drunk is... Uncle Waldo.

I hate new Disney movies to the max. CGI killed Disney for me after Monsters Inc. So there is nothing I love more than an old skool Disney movie. My all time favorite is The Aristocats. If you haven't seen this masterpiece, its pretty much about some millionaire's cats who got kidnapped from the butler himself cause he wasn't on the old lady's will but the cats were getting the big bucks. So then a big adventure happens. On their adventure home they meet two geese who help em out. They tell em they're going back to France so they walk together cause the geese need to meet their Uncle Waldo. The scene starts with a shadow of a goose running back n' forth from a cook whose probably trying to kill him. The hair on his tail is missing and he's drunk as a mofo. Here I present to you the only main scene he comes out in.

He comes out again at the end (still drunk) singing with the cats. Sadly the dude who played him died after The Aristrocats so this was his last film. I just found out Uncle Waldo does a cameo in Mickey Mouse's Christmas Carol so I gotta check that out. Show this movie to your kids. They'll love it as much as you do. Uncle Waldo we salute you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Ok. I'm bored, I've been drinking too much, and not much has been catching my interest lately so, here it is. A post in which your humble scribe will proceed to bitch, piss, and moan about the current state of affairs concerning that window to the world, TELEVISION. I can remember back in the day when I was a kid t.v. seemed to be pretty cool. The airwaves were filled with cool cartoons, Japanese monster shows, reruns of great shows, and fun b-movies. What do ya get nowadays but reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, suck ass reality television, and Japanese Anime. It's pretty sad out there in the idiot box wasteland and if my senses and nerves weren't so shot from all of the external stimulants and booze I'd probably be curled up in the fetal position sucking my thumb due to the pure desolation of it all.
We now have t.v. shows about the storage business. Really? I've seen ads for a new show about movers too. Ok. I worked as a mover for a while and I can tell you first hand that although the work is hard, it sure ain't interesting. Really, what's next, a show about house painters? Or maybe video store clerks, or better yet, guys who are obsessed with Xbox. Why not? Could it be any worse than The Real Housewives of Cucomunga? And how about Ghost Adventures. The show thart answers the unasked question of what would a bunch of punk retards, with delusions of hipness do, if given a tv show. Although it is a great drinking game. Take a drink every time you hear the word "dude" and you will be sensless by the first commercial break.
Well, amidst all of the crap that's out there I have to admit that there are still things I like to watch while sitting back in the recliner after a hard day. Football and Baseball are still pretty good to watch on the tube and I'll be watching the college basketball tournaments although I figure I'll be ripping up my bracket sheet pretty early on as usual. The ESPN Classics channel is also kinda cool even if it is mostly only because of the classic boxing matches that they show. I really do love these especially when they show some of the real old stuff with the greats like Joe Lewis, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson, and of course, Mohammad Ali.
There are some cool shows on those retro channels like Peter Gunn, The Outer Limits, (which although I may be committing blasphemy here, I think the show is even better than The Twilight Zone) and some pretty good older movies. They also show some of the current Horror Movie Hosts that still show the old schlocky (i.e. best) fright films which is something that will most definitely find a warm place in my heart.
As far as new t.v. goes however, there isn't that much that grabs me. I do like Man Vs Food. That guy Adam Richman is a pretty personable character and man do I wish I had his job. Travel around the country to cool restaurants and eat great food. The guy is truly blessed. I also like No Reservations. I kinda think that Anthony Bourdain comes across as somewhat of an arrogant prick at times, but I somehow find myself compelled to watch this show. Bourdain did say that the Stooges Funhouse album was his trapped on a deserted island pick, and you know that nobody from the cast of Jersey Shore could be that cool.
The other channel that I get a lot of mileage out of is Turner Classic Movies. I gotta say that I really do dig this network. They show a lot of great film nior, classic comedies, horror, whatever. It's probably the thing I watch the most, and I may not even have cable at all if it wasn't for this station. I mean you can always go down to the bar and watch the game, but at 3:00 am and your battling a bad case of insomnia, feeling the need for some old black and white gem from the 30's or 40's to ease your mind, but your too lazy to slap in a dvd, well TCM might just be there for ya more often than not.
My future plans are to get rid of cable and get myself an internet tv. With a subscription to netflix, youtube, and the bar down the block for gameday, all of my television needs would be met. Better yet, maybe I could spend more time writing good stuff instead of drunken, half assed ramblings like this pointless post. Then again, probably not.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hump Day Haymaker: The Sonics

Today we are launching a weekly video segment called The Hump Day Haymaker.

Couldn't think of a better way to get it started than with The Sonics's Psycho... A'-la a little Go-Go of course.

This haymaker was released in 1965 on the Here are the Sonics LP (Etiquette Records later Norton Records).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

RIP Mike Starr 1966-2011


Mike Starr was the original bass player for Grunge legends, Alice In Chains. Tho he was not in the reformed band anymore he was trying to get sober from heroin so he would not end up like AIC original singer, Layne Staley who passed away in 2002. Please listen to the first two albums today and remember him for being the talented musician he was.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Me and Shep: The Twisted and True Saga

The following is a three part series called Twisted and True that I posted on June 12, 2006 in a previous blog I used to manage. While it was written in three parts, I have re-aligned it so that it reads like one big story to eliminate all the unnecessary back tracking. I thought that I'd revisit it as a welcome to my pal Shep who has joined our writing staff... Enjoy!

Twisted and True

Shep and I had planned for several months to take a trip to Chicago this past Memorial Day Weekend, and like most of the trips that we have taken in the past, this one turned out to be full of spontaneous surprise and undisciplined indulgence. The original plan was to simply book a room in Chicago, see some good live music, catch a Cubs game and possibly stop and meet the Uncouth Sloth for some beer and fried chicken on our exhausted ride home.

I should have known something was going to go awry.

I didn't get up to Shep's house in Northern Iowa until 7:00 Friday night. We were to be at a Chicago bar called The Empty Bottle later in the evening for a Memorial Day Weekend punk rock bash that was called Blackout Chicago.

We weren't too concerned about the Friday night shows, as we were running quite a few hours behind schedule. We figured that at least we could catch the Oblivians with Mr. Quintron on Saturday night, after a drunk afternoon at Wrigley Field with the Cubs.

Who wouldn't base a vacation around this band?

What we didn't count on was not making it to Chicago at all.

I should have known better. After all, I was with Shep... The Iowa equivalent of what Ralph Steadman was to Hunter S. Thompson in Vegas.

Actually, in many cases in my travels with Shep, it's more equal than that... As if there were two Hunter Thompsons and no Ralph Steadmans. Neither one of us is really any good at art, but are both capable of turning on the gonzo switch when the going gets weird.

We don't concern ourselves much with safety and consequences, which was a Steadman trait... And like the Good Doctor, we tend to get easily sidetracked from the planned objective.

In the case of this last trip it didn't take us long.

Since we were running late, I thought that I'd call the hotel that we were to be staying at in Chicago and give them a cordial heads up to our late arrival. It turns out the owner got cold feet when we weren't there earlier, and rented out the room that we had reserved. There was some animated conversation with the hotel owner, as my room was supposedly guaranteed according to the hotel- finding website on which I had booked the reservation a few months earlier.

I was starting to get a little pissed off.

It was already getting late... About 8:00. I had already spent the majority of the day driving, first from my job which I worked until mid afternoon, and then on the drive from my house to Shep's which was a good two and a half hour trip in itself.

My intention of calling the hotel in Chicago was to bring some serenity to my day, which was plagued with unpredictable shenanigans, chock full of examples from the coveted Laws of Murphy.

As is often the case, Murphy wasn't done with me yet. Not having an affordable hotel can be a very bad thing in Chicago. I've spent the weekend on those cruel streets before... And trust me, I'm getting a little too old for that. Not having that guaranteed room took the air out of my tires so to speak, and I became a little bit frazzled.

"Look, Shep, " I said. "Let's get a room in Iowa City and stay there. We'll hit it hard tonight, and sort everything out tomorrow. Maybe we can get an early start and make that noon game at Wrigley, find an affordable hotel and still make it to the show tomorrow (Saturday) night."

"Sounds good to me."

Shep has never been one to argue. Bless his heart. Besides, he had already let me in on the happenings of his day... Which rivaled mine for inconsistency and inefficiency.

Iowa City was a good bet.

There was sure to be some live music, and having once lived there several years ago, I was familiar with the bar scene. We pulled into a hotel parking lot about a quarter till ten and booked a room. Immediately we called a cab, and got a ride downtown, where we began to drink heavily. Chicago cash goes a long way in Iowa City, so we weren't holding back. Shots were pounded as we made our way around the bar circuit, as were gallons of beer. We drank huge martinis at the Piano Bar, and pounded a few more shots while flooding the hapless pianist with impossible requests.

"Do you know Itchy-koo Park?" I'd shout.

"Know what?", the puzzled musician would ask.

"Never mind that," Shep intervened. "Play something by Neil Young!"

"I LOVE Neil Young!" The piano player said, looking at us with huge eyeballs, as if he and we were the only three people in the world who had ever heard of the godfather of grunge.

"Well let's hear it then!"

The piano player then played a Neil Young song (I don't remember the title) totally butchering the vocals.

Yep that's what I said. As impossible as it sounds, he did butcher the vocals of a Neil Young song. But we had a good bartender, so we stuck around.

As the pianist played people would walk up to the piano and write out a song request... And stuff a buck or two into the fish bowl that sat atop the front of the piano... Which of course is what one is supposed to do. Not Shep and I. As soon as one song ended, we were shouting out another one with machine gun rapid fire intensity. All from the comfort of our bar stools.

"Play some Eddie Cochran!... Play Great Balls of Fire!... Anything by Elvis!"

Eventually it became time to go so we each stuffed a ten spot in the fish bowl and walked out into the Iowa City night. The Yacht Club was just around the corner, and we knew that there was a band playing.

We had met the band earlier in the evening as they loaded in their equipment, and approached them as writers from a rock and roll fanzine. They didn't seem to be all that impressed with us, maybe they knew that we were lying, but we shook their hands with a wink and told them that we'd be back later to catch their set. If we liked it, we said, then we might feature them in an article, or better yet make arrangements for an interview.

I don't even remember what the name of the band was... Maybe Shep does... But once inside the Yacht Club we walked right up to the stage and made our appearance known. They were in the middle of a song, so after our initial greeting we grabbed a beer and took up residence next to a curtain that was "back stage." It was actually to the side of the stage, and there was plenty of room there for us to stand.

I stuck my face behind the curtain and caught what must have been the opening band sucking on a big tightly rolled hooter. They were passing it back and fort, oblivious to the fact that I was standing there for a few seconds watching them.

"Hey!" I said, making my way behind the curtain. "Can I hit that?"

Puzzled and obviously very high, the dude holding the joint passed it to me. I took a long drag off of it and passed it to Shep who had followed me behind the curtain. We passed it back and forth for awhile as the band slowly began to dissipate from behind the curtain. There wasn't a lot of room back there, with a 5-piece band and all of their equipment... And our imposing on their little party. There was a couch however, and as the band slowly left one by one, we soon had a seat on the sofa with the one remaining musician. We gave him the spiel about us being writers for a rock and roll fanzine, and that we were here to catch the (current playing) bands act and that we were sorry to have missed his set, but if he wanted he could give us a "sample" CD and we'd give it a listen to and whether or not if we liked it we might schedule an interview or feature his band in an article.

"What's the name of your magazine?" the guy asked.

We told him and he said "Excuse me" and left us alone on the couch behind the curtain.

Shep still had the joint in his hand, so we sat there finishing it off laughing at ourselves and this silly situation that we had just found ourself in. Somehow... Almost magically... We had imposed our presence at a back stage college rock show totally disrespecting all boundaries and had even nudged a band out of their ganja and off of their couch. We could see the live band on the stage from where we were sitting, and we took a lot of pride in the fact that we had gotten the very best seat in the house, without even trying.

Shep and I on the couch

It seemed once and for all that Murphy's Law was finally done with us... That is until I woke up Saturday morning.

Twisted and True part 2

Forget about the guy in the Piano Bar.

Forget the fact that we solicited two bands with false credentials.

Forget the fact the we invaded one of these band's private space, and essentially took it over.

Never mind the fact that we managed to get a cab in a busy college town at two thirty in the morning.

Never mind the fact that we made it back to our room, and despite our session of power drinking, still managed to get out of bed after just a few hours of sleep... Without any real hangover effects.

We were tired... But who wouldn't be?

After getting back to the hotel at 2:30 in the morning we grabbed a bite to eat at Perkins before heading into our room. 8:00 came pretty fast, but like real professionals we managed to get out of bed as the alarm went off.

But none of that mattered anymore. Upon waking up I made an inventory of all that was sacred to me, and discovered that I didn't have my debit card. Murphy's Law had struck again. Now I was completely broke as I wasn't carrying any cash.

Must have been the karma, but it's actually pretty typical. Routine isn't a word that commonly describes the events when Shep and I get together.

I went into brainstorming mode.

I called the Perkins restaurant, which didn't have my card. I called and woke up the cabbie at his house.

"Hey did you find my bank card in your cab last night?" I asked after he answered the phone on the 12th ring.

"Whaaat? No, there is no bank card in my cab..."

"Are you sure about that?" In my estimation, this dude was probably into his second or third hour of sleep.

I knew I paid him with a credit card... And left him a helluva tip too. In fact, that's why he gave us his home number... In case we might need his services again. I'm guessing that good tippers might be hard to come by in a college town, especially now that school is out of session.

He seemed confused and very tired. I pressed him a little harder.

"You're sure I didn't leave my card with you... Cause that's all I got. If you got it, please do the right thing and give it back to me!"

I did have another credit card, but I didn't think I had used it. It was reserved for emergency use only. I didn't have the receipt, so I couldn't be sure which card I had used to pay the fare.

"Look man, I do not have your card!... You callin' me a thief?" was his reply.

"Well I know I paid with a credit card, because I wrote you a helluva tip... Was it green or brown?"

"Whaaat?... What, the card?... I don't remember!" He was really tired. I could tell that he was getting angry and very anxious to end this call.

"Alright, dude. Sorry to bother you at home." I hung up.

I was satisfied that he didn't have my card. I did have a faint memory of giving my debit card to the bartender at the Yacht Club when I bought that first round of drinks. It was almost closing time when we got there, and I didn't remember picking it up on my way out.

Yeah. It had to be at the Yacht Club.

I fumbled through the phone book and got the number. I dialed it, but it just rang forever. After ringing about 50 times I was satisfied that there was nobody there, and hung up the phone.

"Well Shep," I said. "What do you want to do? I don't really want to leave Iowa City without my money... And the Yacht Club doesn't even open until 4:00." (At that point I was still only about 50% sure that my card was there. I wasn't really eager to leave my card behind in Iowa City.)

"No biggie," said Shep. "Let's just kick it downtown until 4:00."

"Alright, then... No Wrigley Field for us." I wasn't even really upset about missing the game at this point. I just wanted my card back.

"Aw, we wouldn't make it there on time anyway... We'll catch it on a big screen downtown somewhere." Hanging with Shep is very easy. Nothing seems to rattle his cage. "Alright, bro, I said, "sounds like a plan."

We checked out of the hotel and drove downtown. It was almost 10:00, and we immediately went to the Yacht Club to satisfy my concern that somebody might be there. Of course there wasn't, so we stepped into Mickey's Irish Pub for a moment.

I used to work at Mickey's 15 years ago... And was well aware that Lou, my boss at the time still did. From visiting with a waitress the night before, I knew that Lou was working this morning and wanted to stop in and say hi.

Lou rocked. Best boss ever, hands down.

Berke Breathed once lived in Iowa City and it's been said that he based all of the characters in his Bloom County comic strip off of real residents of the town.

I knew Cutter John... For real... And had a pretty good hunch that I knew Michael Binkley too. It was heavily rumored that Lou was the inspiration for Bill the Cat.

I had no reason whatsoever to doubt that notion.

We stopped at Mickey's and said hi to Lou, who seemed happy to see me. We relived some old times with him, and then said our goodbyes.

Lou still had that good vibe thing going for him. I was happy to hear that he was now married and had some kids. The world needs more Lous in it, I thought.

Shep and I had a whole afternoon to kill. We ended up at Buffalo Wild Wings in the mall for breakfast... A plate of 25 buffalo wings and a couple of pints of beer.

Noon was inching closer and closer and eventually the Cubs game would come on. We sat and watched it and continued to drink beer after beer after beer... Almost suddenly it seemed that the game was over. The Cubs lost, and I was thinking that I was glad that I missed it in person.

It was 3:00 and was amazed at how fast the day was moving.

I didn't have any money on me to speak of, so Shep picked up the tab at Wild Wings.

We walked out into the pedestrian mall in Iowa City and felt the sun as it baked our half crocked faces. Dave knew a lady from a previous trip he had taken to Iowa City who ran a record store. She used to be famous in some circles, in the New York City underground garage music scene.

As the name Wild Girl she used to DJ at some heady places in Gotham. She personally knew gods of the genre, like Joey Ramone and Handsome Dick Manitoba. Somehow through cheap circumstance and the curse of time she and her husband ended up in Iowa City, where she now runs her little shop.

Shep and I were hammered. By the time we got to her shop we were laughing hard at ourselves and the ridicularity of the whole weekend so far. She immediately recognized Shep and they broke off into conversation. I browsed around in her store, looking at old vinyl albums and cassettes, and the little novelty signs and figures that made up the rest of her merchandise. She kept a pretty killer t-shirt rack and also sold wrestling figurines and the like. It was a very cool store.

After a bit of conversation she announced that she needed some caffeine and wondered if we would mind keeping an eye on her shop. We looked at each other and shrugged. Of course we didn't mind. She was only to be gone for a few moments she said, and asked us if we wanted anything.

I didn't. Shep ordered iced coffee.

She left and Shep and I were left to mind her store. We had fun playing with the little wrestling figures and reading her signs. Then I discovered a row of vintage wrestling masks on a high shelf and put one on. Shep, following my lead put one on too. Suddenly we were transformed into the Mexican wrestling icon, El Santo.

Real life Santo with The Blue Demon

Two Santos in the same store. Side by side. A hell of a force to reckon with, you can be sure. We were eager for some customers to walk in, and we were still very drunk.

There was nobody in the store, so I tried to put Shep in a souflex. He was too quick however and countered my attack with a Boston Crab. It hurt, but I struggled and eventually broke free. Not enjoying the pain, I rushed Shep for a quick take down. The idea was that I'd get him down on the ground, work a quick reversal on him, and get him in position for the Pile driver. I wasn't really going to finish him off, but wanted to set a precedent as a means to let him know that I was the faster wrestler.

After all, we were wearing El Santo masks.

I was wrong again. He blocked my reversal and held me down on the hardwood floor wrapping me up tight in a curled ball. Then we got customers.

As the couple walked in, I was wrapped up tighter than an El Rey burrito unable to move. With his free hand Shep pounded his palm on the wooden floor to the count of three. He stood up with his hands raised high in the air celebrating his victory.

The couple looked around as if to see who was running the shop.

"Can I help you guys?" I asked, getting to my feet.

They blew me off. After browsing for a few moments they left without buying anything. I'm not sure if they even spoke at all. I went and sat behind the counter still wearing the mask.

Wild Girl soon arrived, and laughed at us in our wrestling masks.

"El Santo is one of my all time favorite heroes, she said. That's why I sell his mask here and not just anybody's."

"Yeah, we like it too man," said Shep.

"It like makes us want to wrestle and shit, " I chimed. "These masks are freakin' killer."

"Would you give us a deal on two?" asked Shep.

"Of course I will, guys..."

So the transaction was made. Dave paid her for two masks which we had not yet taken off of our heads. I could tell that there was an invisible challenge in the air... That Shep was going to leave his mask on as long as I did. Of course, I wasn't going to take mine off until he did...

"Hey," I asked Wild Girl. "Do you have a magic marker... and some cardboard or paper or something?"

"Yeah... What for?" she asked.

"I wanna make a sign."

She got me a marker and some paper, and I began to write: Will Wrestle for Food. Iowa City is a pretty freewheeling town. Street musicians and peddlers are rampant; it's not uncommon to be approached by some scrounge on the street looking for a free hand out. Frankly, I have no time for these people, so I decided to make a mockery of the whole thing.

So suddenly Shep and I are standing in the pedestrian mall wearing wrestling masks holding up a sign that said, Will Wrestle for Food. We weren't given much attention. We didn't even generate a laugh... I think people thought we were trying to be legitimate.

Man. This town has seen some weird fucking people, I thought.

It was about time to check the Yacht Club for my debit card, so we started to walk that way. Yes, we still had the masks on...

Twisted and True Part 3

It was hot. The combination of the sun beating down on us and the Iowa summer humidity made wearing the mask unbearable. I took mine off just before approaching the Yacht Club, and Dave did the same thing.

Yeah, he outlasted me with the mask. Big whoopee fucking deal. I was hot. Besides nobody was laughing at us anyway, because apparently it takes more than a couple of fellas in wrestling masks to make "freak status" in downtown Iowa City.

Had we been in my hometown, or say one of the historic Iowa river towns, we might have generated some buzz... Probably got our asses kicked... But not in Iowa City.

I entered the Yacht Club and went downstairs. It wasn't open yet, but a couple of guys were cleaning the place up. It was empty and uncrowded.... Quite a transition from the night before.

"Did I leave my debit card here?" I asked the guy cleaning behind the bar.

"Uh, yeah... I think you did." He handed a card to me without even asking for identification or what my name was. It didn't matter, because it was my card.

What a relief. It felt good to have it back in my possession.

"Let's get outta here Shep."

We were too hammered to drive anywhere safely, so we decided to spend another night in Iowa City. The plan was to get a room, and a couple of hours of sleep. Buffalo Wild Wings was showing the UFC fight on the big screen at 9:00, and we decided that after a bit of a nap that we would go there.

The combination of a day's worth of drinking and the hot Iowa sun made a nap a very appealing... We pulled into the first hotel that we passed, an old dump called The Big Ten Inn. The lobby smelled like a slaughter house, but our room was clean and it had two beds. It wasn't but a few minutes and we were both sleeping.

I woke up and looked at the clock. It was 8:00. Shep was still sleeping on his bed in a heavy snore.

Cool, I thought. I felt rested. VERY rested.

I opened up the curtains and immediately felt that something wasn't right.

The window faced west, but yet there was no sun in my face.

What the fuck... I wondered.

I turned on the television and was greeted with a church service. Then it hit me.

"Wake up Shep!" I shouted loudly. " I think it's Sunday morning!"

Sure enough, it was Sunday morning. We had slept throughout the rest of Saturday, losing about 15 hours in the process.

Shep got himself out of bed.

The room looked hardly used... Except for the beds.

Our suitcases were nowhere to be seen, as they were still in the car. Except for the pile of clothes at the floor of each of our beds, nothing else seemed out of place. The remote was still on the table next to the television, and all of the towels were still folded hanging neatly on the towel rack. The little basket next to the sink still contained a miniature bar of soap which was still wrapped up in it's little wax paper wrapper, along side a pair of shampoo bottles. There wasn't so much as a drop of water in the sink.

"Wow. We must have been tired, huh?" I laughed. I still couldn't believe that we had slept for 15 hours.

Shep took a shower, and I put on my wrestling mask, which I found stuffed into the back pocket of my shorts. When he came out and saw me he instantly began to chuckle, and I was glad that wrestling masks were indeed funny... Even to the groggy and sober.

Fuck Iowa City, I thought. A plaid suit and an ape mask wouldn't generate a smile here.

We got ourselves ready for the day, and walked back into the hotel lobby which still smelled like a slaughter house. I paid the bill and we went outside and got into the car.

"This place smells funny, Shep." I said.

"Yep. It sure does."

We got in the car and Shep started driving. Without saying a word, he got on the interstate and drove out of town.

Words weren't necessary. It was obvious that we had shot our wad in Iowa City.

We had already spent more time there that we had originally planned, 15 hours of which seemingly vanished from our lives, as if we were abducted by aliens like those campers from the Allagash Incident.

Artist's rendition of The Allagash Incident

It's funny. There is a sign on Interstate 80 about 10 miles east of Newton. It's on of those green interstate signs that let's one know how many miles there is to the next town. Usually, of course these signs list the next closest town, and then a town that may be further away but a bit bigger or have historical significance or something. Sometimes they go as far to display the mileage to a far off distance city such as Chicago.

This particular one just east of Newton says:

Grinnell 6
Iowa City 66

I've always called that stretch of the interstate the devil's highway, but it actually goes deeper than that. Grinnell and Iowa City are by far the two most liberal cities in Iowa, blowing away the competition, with virtually not a single town in third place. In other words, these two towns are in a class all by themselves - the Dennis Kuciniches if you will, of towns in Iowa.

We're all fucked, I thought, if the aliens choose Iowa City as a location for abducting citizens. These communists will break like a guilty child.

However, I thought, Iowa City would be well represented if it happened to be Shep and I who were abducted. Especially if we were still wearing our wrestling masks...

"Where do you want to go?" Asked Shep. We were well down the interstate by now heading east towards Davenport.

"Ever been to Spook Cave?" I asked.

I was looking at an Iowa map, and Spook Cave jumped out at me as a possible destination.

"Yeah, I've been there", said Shep. "Years ago..."

We'd all been there. Every person who grew up in Iowa has been there. It was one of those summer vacation spots that every Iowan has visited at least once... Probably on a summer vacation as a kid.

It's a natural cave that was discovered a zillion years ago by locals who investigated weird sounds that were coming from below the Earth's surface. (Hence the name, Spook Cave.) A couple of dynamite blasts later, a wonderful underground natural water spring was discovered that was encompassed by a very unique underground cave. It was explored and refurbished, and is now one of the vacation hot spots here in Iowa. It is only accessible by boat, as it still feeds itself from the underground spring. Guided tours are taken all summer long, with the guides being high school kids from the local schools. It's pretty cool, especially for Iowa, and as I was about to find out, not much about Spook Cave has changed since when I visited it as a kid.

We headed north on an old Iowa highway now known as the Avenue of the Saints. It is part Highway 35 and part Interstate 380 and connects St Louis with St Paul, earning it it's name.

It's a beautiful highway abundant with Norwegian architecture and festive little towns. Around noon we pulled into a place called the Stadium for some lunch. We were in Guttenberg, a town that I had visited once years ago. The town probably didn't remember me - that I could be sure of. However, I remember it as it was there that I experienced one of my all time great hangovers.

It was the final leg of RAGBRAI in 1987, a commercially sponsored bike ride that takes place every year in Iowa. Thousands of people gather to ride it each year, and it has gained quite a reputation as one of the all time great bike rides in this nation.

In 1987 I took my last ride on RAGBRAI. It was a week of debauchery that I won't soon forget. It started off on the Missouri River in Onawa, Iowa, where I befriended a motorcycle gang. While everybody else in my group was at the bars and the RAGBRAI opening ceremony, I was tucked away at some little hide-away with these heathens, drinking their whiskey and taking all the speed that these guys would give me. I had some Valiums that a friend had given me for the journey, and was soon distributing them amongst my new friends... Who payed me back with more speed.

From that night on it was full throttle, and I hit each town like it was New Year's Eve.

In Storm Lake I rode my bicycle into a roadside pie stand that some ladies from a local church had set up. I was hammered on Tortilla Tequila... The worse tequila ever... and didn't stop in time before plowing into their lovely little table. Pies went flying everywhere, as did the ladies, and I ended up head first in lilac bush. I excused myself as politely as I could, and got back on my bike and wobbled down the road.

It was either in Osage or Forest City where I challenged (and beat) a Native American to an "Indian wrestling match," on the town square, and was later assisted by a state trooper who helped me get back on my bicycle and even gave me a friendly push down the road. I thought for sure that I was going to jail when he approached me, as I was way too drunk to be walking, let alone riding a bicycle.

My neighbors in the next night's campground probably wished that I had been arrested, because I spent the entire night with my friend Jeff inside a giant cardboard box singing made up blues songs. It was thunder storming outside and though people were tired and pissed, only a few ventured out of their comfort zone to berate us, to no avail.

We literally sang our blues song until the morning light.

Here comes an old lady... (Da na na na) Who's gonna kick our ass... (Da na na na) She looks really pissed... (Da na na na) she's coming real fast... (Da na na na) She's beating on our box... (Da na na na ) Telling us to shut up... ( Da na na na ) She's really angry now... (Da na na na) She's kicking our box... (Da na na na)

... And so it went. All night long.

By the time I reached Guttenberg on that trip my body had had enough. The Karma gods (Or was it that awful tequila?) socked it to me the night before sending me on a puker that ruined my buddy's tent. I ended up forfeiting my bicycle for the more comfortable back seat of a stranger's car for that final leg of the trip, and forced that couple to deal with my uncontrollable sickness all day long. They had to pull over every 30 miles or so, to let me gag up another pint of bile onto the roadside. I was in bad shape.

I had a week's worth of hangover on that final day on Ragbrai in Guttenberg. It wasn't a town that brought back fond memories. In fact I didn't have any memories of Guttenberg at all, as I spent most of my time there asleep.

Shep pulled his car into the Stadium parking lot and we went inside for a little lunch. We were immediately greeted with bad service from the bartender.

In fact we were completely ignored for the better part of ten minutes.

"Hey Slick, Can we get some menus?" Asked Shep.

"And some beers?" I added.

The bartender was an asshole. He acted like we were putting him in a bind, and with a huff and a smirk, he threw us a couple of menus.

"Whatdya drinkin'?" he asked, still with a face full of bemusement.

We ordered a couple bottles of Old Style - which we finally got after about a three minute wait. Of course the bartender had to finish wiping down the spot on the bar that he was working on when we made our order. Then he had to flirt a bit with the young waitress, who obviously wanted nothing to do with his creepy advances.

"Busy lunch today?" I asked the grumpy fucker. We were two of probably 14 people still left in the place.

"Yeah." He answered, rolling his eyes.

He and the waitress were discussing who was responsible for cleaning the bathrooms that afternoon. It eventually came down to him agreeing to do it, after the young waitress basically flat out told him that it wasn't in her job description.

I got the feeling that bathroom duty was his job, and carrying on that awkward conversation was his way of flirting with the poor girl.

"Hey, where is the bathroom?" I asked.

"Over there," said the girl, smiling. She pointed to the corner over by the entrance.

This gave her a break to get away from the creepy bartender, and she left the area from behind the bar to finish up with her tables.

I got up and walked to the bathroom. Apparently I had a pretty big piss brewing up inside me because I pissed for what seemed like 3 minutes. Not once did I hit inside the urinal or inside the toilet. However, I did manage to hit every other part of the bathroom with my spray, leaving that grumpy fucker behind the bar with a lot to deal with. Hoping that I was the last to use the bathroom before another customer, I even soaked the toilet paper that was in the dispenser.

Back at the bar, I motioned to the bartender.

"Man, I know why you don't want to deal with that bathroom. It's a freaking mess in there... What happened?"

"It's always like that after lunch," he mumbled, not realizing the extent of damage that I had just done.

We gave him our food order and I watched with nervous amusement as a man behind us got up to use the bathroom. After about a minute in the john he was up at the bar complaining to our bartender.

"John, there's a water leak in there or something," he said pointing his thumb towards the bathroom. "...At least I hope it's water!"

"Alright", said John our grumpy bartender. He went into the back room and returned a few seconds later with a towel and something in a spray bottle.

"You're going to need a mop too," the man said. "There's water everywhere in there. Even on the mirror."

"Yeah, it looks like a water pipe burst or something." I added. "Surely it's not like that every day after lunch."

The bartender went to the bathroom to have a look. In a sluggish stride he came back to the bar to get his cleaning supplies.

"Keep an eye on the bar," he told somebody in the back room. "I'm gonna be awhile."

When we got our food, John still hadn't returned from the bathroom, except for just a brief moment when he retrieved some fresh toilet paper and some bleach. He only came out as we were finishing up our meal and were ready to pay.

"I got this one Shep." I said, remembering how my friend had basically carried me financially the day before in Iowa City. The bill came to $23.79.

"Here you go," I said to the bartender, handing him a twenty and four ones. "Keep the change."

A couple of hours later we were in McGregor Iowa, home of Spook Cave. We did the tour which, as I said earlier, hasn't changed much from when I took it as kid. We rode in a boat with 7 other people... All strangers... And they were a pretty fun group. They had all obviously taken the tour once or twice before too, as they pretty much pre-meditated each occurrence before it happened. Nobody minded though, and it was a pleasant way to end a very fucked up weekend.

Dave drove us the 2 hour trip back to his house in Waverly and back to my car. I said my goodbyes to Shep and his family, and started my own two hour trip back to my house. It was Sunday night during Memorial Weekend. I still had another day off in front of me, and looked forward to seeing my family again and visiting the cemeteries where my grandpa and uncles were buried.

As I drove I thought about Chicago, and the pattern of events that prohibited us from getting there this weekend. I thought about Rob, the Uncouth Sloth, whom I had previously arranged to meet in Ladd Illinois for chicken and beer. I wondered if he thought I was blowing him off... Which I kind of did... Or if he just chalked me up as another internet fool who can't be trusted to keep a date.

I should have known better, and probably should have warned him.

Me and Shep in younger days

When Shep and I get together for these little trips, nothing seems to go according to a plan, so what business did I have arranging that meeting in the first place?

However, In my wildest dream, not once did It occur to me that we wouldn't make it to Chicago...

(Welcome aboard Shep!)

Sunday, March 6, 2011


It seems that in recent years it has became kinda fashionable to like the Stooges. In some ways I find this to be a rather sad kind of a thing, I mean any witless dumb ass can follow fashion. On the other hand it takes true character to grasp style, soul, and energy, all things that fashion attempts to eliminate in order to achieve the herd like, conformist, mind warp that the powers that be seem to love so well. (Don't go thinking fer yourself punk, we'll tell you what's cool, and you can buy it all at Hot Topic).

However, curmudgeon that I am, I'm going to look at the positive side of things. Since the Stooges stock seems to be rising in more circles, we are starting to see some pretty nifty archival digs starting to see the light of day. Where the Raw Power era of the band has been somewhat out there and not too hard to find, stuff from earlier incarnations have been much harder to come across. That seems to be changing, even if the tiniest little bit,and I have to say that it fills my ever lovin' heart with joy. Lesser mortals would soil themselves if they were truly capable of grasping the impact of such things, but those losers have the latest season of American Idol to keep them sedated.

Well anyway, the artifact that's got me all riled up is this recording of the band doing their thing live at a place called Ungano's. You get the boys ripping through a set of tunes from Funhouse, which is an excellent, if not the ultimate slab of street thug rock 'n' roll filtered through free jazz skronk that exists on this planet.

The Stooges start playing and the energy and intensity is in the red. What else would you expect from these guys, a band that give you psychotic frenzy, troglodyte skull thump, and over mind alien intelligence all rolled up in one tasty enchilada. Ron Asheton's guitar moves from bone crushing stomp to phantom like tones that creep into the dark recesses of your brain. His brother Scott brings on the glorious smash as he beats his drum kit to death, and Steve Mackay blowing the sax making some of the best nerve disintegrating blare this side of a Benzedrine crazed John Coletrane. Bill Cheatham on second guitar holds the rhythm down while Zeke Zettner, replacing the recently departed Dave Alexander, cranks out some nice down and dirty bass riffs. And lest we forget the master of ceremonies Iggy singing, slithering, and spazzing as only he can.

The packaging is cool as well giving, with Lenny Kaye doing the liner notes on the back side of a poster that has Iggy throwing a two fisted middle finger salute to the crowd. Nowadays that's somewhat cliched, but back in 1970 such an act carried a little more weight, specially when you consider that the Stooges sometimes had an adversarial, if not outright hostile and combative relationship their audiences. As well you get a couple of pix of Ig ad a repo of a newspaper ad for Ungano's.

And now we come to the issue that is often the festering boil on the butt of many Stooges live recordings. The sound quality. A number of Stooges stuff sounds like it's been recorded by a portable tape machine that's stuck in the trunk of a car in the venue's parking lot. The sound quality on this thing is nor great by any means but it isn't as bad as some of what we've been subjected to before on previous outings.

The sound is distant, and yeah, the energy of the thing suffers somewhat for it, but it isn't the worst. If you play the thing loud (duh) and let yourself sink into the sound, you're in for a cool experience. I'd have likely gotten this if the sound quality was half as good, but that's me.

Like Jade Hubertz once wrote me when I was asking about some Stooges disk he was selling, Of course it's good, it's the Stooges!