I eat. I drive. I write. I check out cute guys. I’m a single woman traveling — and living — solo. It occurred to me there are a million “mommy blogs,” but very few blogs for single women who aren’t sitting at home waiting for Prince Charming or watching their biological clock. Consider this the “non-mommy” blog. Think Anthony Bourdain meets Bridget Jones.  

Pack your bags: Spork it over

titanium-spork

Whether you’re traveling through a tropical rainforest or to the corporate lunchroom, the spork is an all one utensil that helps you pack light but always be prepared, like a good girl or boy scout. Whether you want fancy or simple, these sporks prove  function can take on a pretty form.

Here are the features of this titanium spork, the Cadillac of sporking. Pack your bags: Spork it over

  • Titanium spoon-knife combo
  • Tough, lightweight, and long-lasting
  • Non-corrosive, non-magnetic
  • Hypoallergenic; non-toxic
  • Weighs 17 grams

Or if you want to go colorful and even downright girly, here are a few more options:

 Pack your bags: Spork it over

colorful sporks Pack your bags: Spork it over Columbia River Knife And Tool’s Eat N Tool

  • Multiple tools in one: spoon, fork, bottle opener
  • Includes three hex wrenches
  • Equipped with a carabiner for convenient transport
  • Large central hole for finger gripping and keeps tool weight down
  • Finished with a black non-stick coating

 Pack your bags: Spork it over

pink sporks Pack your bags: Spork it overLight My Fire 3-Pack Spork Little, Think Pink.

  • Designed for children, both a spoon and a fork are available
  • Weigh only .3 ounces each
  • They won’t scratch non-stick cookware and are Teflon-friendly.
  • They are manufactured from heat-resistant and BPA free Tritan and won’t melt in hot or boiling water.
  • They are extremely durable and dishwasher safe.

 Pack your bags: Spork it overblue spork Pack your bags: Spork it overSea To Summit Delta Spork With Knife

  • Ergonomically designed for comfort
  • Spreader knife incorporated into handle
  • Spoon profile to match inside curves of Delta Plate and Delta Bowls
  • Food grade Nylon 66, BPA-free
  • Dishwasher safe
Nomad by Fate: On the Road with Chuck Ragan

Nomad by Fate: On the Road with Chuck Ragan

Next week, Chuck Ragan hits the road opening for Social Distortion, playing venues like the House of Blues and ending with three sold out shows at the 1300-seat Ogden Theatre in Denver. But tonight is another story. Tonight, Ragan isn’t just playing a small dive bar in San Antonio, but the basement of a dive bar in San Antonio.

I walk right in the unattended side door and go downstairs with nary a bouncer in sight. Ragan and his band, consisting of Jon Gaunt, fiddle, and Joe Ginsberg, upright bass, are sound checking in the partial basement of Korova, with a few random stained couches, a tiny bar and gear for five acts piled to one side of the room. No stage, no stage lights, no house sound system, no one watching except the guy whose opening band has their own sound system and is helping Ragan sound check on it. And now me, of course. I try to settle onto one of the couches, but a couple of burly staff apologize and ask me to move, because they are taking the two big couches upstairs. I sit on a once-white loveseat and listen to Ragan playing under one dingy fluorescent light. I wasn’t sure it was him at first, because the bearded man before me with a hat pulled low on his head looks nothing like the clean-cut, clean-shaven photos on his site, but the raspy voice is unmistakable. When they wrap sound check and Ragan approaches me, even I have to ask, “Are you playing here or is this the green room”?

It ain’t the green room.

Ragan is a 20-year veteran of the music business, making a name for himself in the punk band Hot Water Music and it’s folk side project, Rumbleseat, before venturing out on his own. Most of those years have been spent, literally, on the road, but his gypsy life started even before he went into music — his mother is an entertainer and his father is a professional golfer, so living on the road is in his DNA, and perhaps part of what has allowed him to live a traveling life for so long. At the ripe old age of 37, Ragan feels he has been moving his whole life, and his website bio even draws comparisons to Jack Kerouac, although Ragan himself is reluctant to put himself in that group of artists, despite some obvious parallels.

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A Life Lived on the Road

“We don’t compare ourselves in any way with a lot of those beat writers, although I’ve definitely found similarities in the lives. I mean it’s just that nomadic, kind of transient, always searching, always looking, kind of hungry life of seeing what’s out there, testing the waters, taking risks, and kind of that fine line between living on the edge, but still staying in control, you know what I mean? Controlled chaos.

“I feel like it’s one of those things where if you grew up with it and it’s something you’ve always known, it’s a lot easier to handle and deal with and understand. I think people who do this are wired differently. I know a lot of friends and loved ones who couldn’t handle a week of this kind of life.”

Nor the tremendous personal sacrifices required, and the toll on the personal life of people who spend most of their lives in vans or buses and hotels. Yet, so many musicians do just that. Not only do they do it, but swear they wouldn’t trade it for anything. But even the most hardcore road warrior has their limits.

“I’ve lived this way for so long,” says Ragan, “but killing yourself on the road for the majority of your life will take a toll on anyone. It’s not a very family-conducive lifestyle. You have to make sacrifices to do it, I know what you mean as far as some people wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I gotta say, I really look forward to slowing down, I look forward to having children, I look forward to having my world turned upside down in a completely massive life change.”

At one point, Ragan tells how suffered burn out on the music business and tried to settle down and focus on his carpentry trade, attempting to build a business with his wife.

“There was a point I wanted out of the music business so bad I just naturally turned to my trade because I was able to make a decent living doing that…When I signed to the label, I remember sitting with Joe and Bill at SideOneDummy and saying, just so you know, I gotta be honest with you, I’m going to write and record records till the day I die, but if you’re looking for somebody who’s going to tour, I’m not that guy. Me and my wife are going north and starting a custom home building business.”

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Trying the 9-5 Life

They moved to a more rural area, but then the economy tanked and the housing market crashed, and they found themselves in a town where 60-70% of the men there were tradesmen like himself, all scrambling for less jobs and less money. It wasn’t a conscious decision to go back on the road, but as the phone calls and gig offers started picking up, the inevitable became more clear. But not without some compromise.

“I tried it, running hard and doing everything I could, and the phone kept ringing — ‘Hey, come play this show. Alright, well cool,’ and it just kept building. At the time I told my wife the only way I was getting back on the road is if she went with me, and we toured together,” he laughs. “She was like, well great, no pressure on me! She didn’t really want to go.”

Not only did his wife come along for the ride, but has now taken an active role in management.

“I wouldn’t be in the position I am if it wasn’t for her and all the hard work she’s done for my music and The Revival Tour and she’s made a ton of sacrifices and never gets enough credit for what she’s contributed. But we got a chocolate lab and now she’s home all the time and I’m back on the road.”

And back to the road taking its toll on family life. But for Ragan and artists like him, there really isn’t any other choice.

“Songwriting, and making records — it’s my calling. I feel like it’s something I need to do just as my own therapy to get through the day to day. It’s almost something I have to do, rather than something I want to do. I mean, I want to do it, I have a passion for it, but it’s more so something I have to get off my chest. To me, writing a song is taking a step back and looking at my life or this idea or whatever it is that’s affecting me in a positive or negative way enough to move me to get it on paper. That’s my chance to kind of step out and look at my life in a different perspective or a different light and figure out what needs to happen next. To become a better person or better husband or better friend or better citizen — you name it. Expressing myself has always been just a form of therapy. That’s why I feel like whether people are listening or not, I need to do it in my life. ”

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Breaking Ground with “Covering Ground”

And in order to focus on the music — and its therapeutic aspects — on his latest album, “Covering Ground,” Ragan turned over the role of producer to an outside source, after self-producing his previous album, “Gold Country.”

“We had a small budget to work with for the last record, but I just wanted control of it to be able to pay my guys and pay everybody what I felt like they deserved, and what they needed. But also to do it at my own pace and on my own time frame, and that was what I was shooting for. What I found out is that producing a record is a pain. What I never thought about was the fact of the matter is, I’m also my own worst critic — asking myself all the time am I spending too much time on this one hang up, or did I not spend enough time. And at the same time the clock’s running, the dollars are disappearing and the guys I had there are leaving in a couple of days, and I’m still trying to be creative and still enjoy the session.

“On this record, I wanted to find somebody who really understood what I was shooting for, just a like-minded person who had the same convictions I had about the record and just wanted to get into it full speed ahead. I wanted them to understand acoustic instruments, I wanted them to understand the potential of the tones and the sounds that would come from these three instruments I wanted to spotlight, which was guitar, fiddle and upright bass. Just keeping it simple. When I found Christopher Thorn, it seriously took about four or five minutes talking to him where I was like, this is the guy, no one else. I could push everything across the table and just focus on my parts and my vocals and my lyrics, and not think about if the money was running out, not think about booking the flights — I just wanted to make a record.”

And play that record on the road, even in this cramped little basement for about 50 people, a fair chunk of which are members of the four opening acts. It’s like watching bands perform in your living room, and while Ragan is hanging out with me watching one of the bands, a fan comes up to tell him how great he is, and hands him a $100 Visa gift card — for no reason. Just…because. As much as Ragan insists it’s too much, the guy ain’t taking it back. I kind of wait for him to say something to me when the fan walks away, but he doesn’t say a word. Finally, between songs, I say “How cool was that?” But Ragan still doesn’t answer — even this hardened road warrior just sort of shakes his head in wonder without being able to speak, obviously moved by the gesture.

These are the kind of moments that don’t happen in 10,000 seat arenas. Or even 1,000 seat clubs.

“As an artist or traveling musician, you can never take yourself too seriously,” says Ragan. “You can never get caught up in believing the hype of whatever the hell you’re doing because one second you’re gonna be playing a sold out show at Shepherd Bush in London for 2,500 people and the next second you’ll be in a basement somewhere with just a handful of people and half of them don’t even really care. That’s reality. That’s life.”

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

While Ragan’s music may wander through some of the darker hardships and struggles in life, what separates it from so many is a persistent, unrelenting thread of hopefulness that runs through it. Like creating music itself, anything else simply isn’t an option for him — it’s about embracing the bad with the good, and not backing down from life itself.

“I’ve always been a true believer, that all of this could be done tomorrow. I mean, granted, I want to make it home safe, alive and kicking to my wife, but the reality is, we have no idea what’s gong to happen to us when we walk out that door. And you feel it’s important to cherish what we have and love life and live it to the fullest while we have it.”

“The thing about music, at least the way I grew up knowing it, feeling it, living it, it’s been nothing but hopeful, it has to be hopeful. That’s what music is there for, for me, in my life. The bands I go and listen to, the bands I enjoy, it’s gotta be able to lift me up and make me want to keep my head above water. And I mean that’s for songwriting in general.”

Which isn’t to say there aren’t times when taking the easy route of apathy doesn’t have an appeal — maintaining hope can be far more difficult than simply giving up.

“Sometimes man, I’m not gonna lie to you, I just want to give up, throw in the towel and throw my hands up and say the hell with it. Fine I’m done. You have a good run, then you have a bad run. Sometimes its just a helluva a lot easier to throw your hands up and lay down and give up. I have a buddy, me and him always talk about this and years ago he said something to me, when I was real frustrated with something and I just felt like I was beating my head against a wall, and he as like ‘Hey man, we either roll with the punches or we lay down. And for people like us, only one of those is an option. We’re not gonna lay down. Can’t do it. Gotta keep trying.’

“Some of the best art and some of the best songs, unfortunately, comes from suffering and tragedy and hardships. Again that goes back to what we were talking about having music there for us to help keep our head above water and having it there for us as hope. Something that we can kind of hang on to when we’re falling off the face of the earth.”

Or, he tells of the wisdom of another friend:

“I have a little Irish in me, and a buddy said to me once, late one night — and I might have been a little bit inebriated at the time,” he laughs. “I was complaining about something, and he said, ‘Don’t worry, an Irishmen is never truly drunk as long as there is a single blade of grass he can hang onto to keep him from falling off the face of the earth.’”

If that’s the case, may we all have a little Irish in us.

The crowd gathers around the staging area, lit with one red and one blue bulb, with nothing but a couple of feet between them and the man they’re there for. The music they’re there for. It’s dirty, it’s grungy…yet it’s uplifting, much like Ragan’s music. The setting may be bleak, but the mood in the room is anything but as he plays such songs as “Let it Rain,” “Meet You in the Middle,” “Nomad by Fate,” “For Broken Ears,” and “Nothing Left to Prove.”

It isn’t the venue, or the size of the crowd, that matters, but the heart and soul of the people and the performance. And in a tiny little basement in San Antonio that night, there was plenty of that to go around.

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The Ol’ Hitchin’ Post

hitchinpost21

I’m currently on travel assignment in Norwood, Colorado, where I have been hanging out for four weeks till they can move me to the town where my client actually lives, about 20 miles away. The reason I am here instead of there is because they had to squeeze me in where they could between this and their other hotel during their busy season.

No, it’s not Thanksgiving yet. Nor is Halloween the big season. We’re talking something far more sacred in this neck of the woods at this time of year…. hunting season.

I’ve spent the last four weeks in Motel Man Cave, as pretty much the only female in a sea of testosterone and camouflage. And a dumpster full of beer cans and Swiss Cake Roll boxes.

They thought they were going to be able to move me today, but the current resident in what is about to be my room is staying one more night. So now I’m stuck here in Season Two of the “Motel Man Cave” series… Elk Season. Our new batch of contestants like to sit outside and smoke cigars outside my open windows, and discuss the various merits of different truck tires, and bass vs. trout vs. crappy.

Fascinating. *COUGH*

So I decided to go out to eat. Now on any given day, my options are limited to about six options. On Mondays and Tuesdays, that number goes down due to certain restaurants taking their day off between those two days. The town’s high end Lone Cone and the artsy live music venue Two Candles were both closed, so I decided to go with the Hitchin’ Post Cowboy Saloon. I’d read reviews a lot of locals hang there, but also less than kind reviews of the food.

The latter factored heavily in my decision when I saw the special was meatloaf. I love meatloaf… GOOD meatloaf, and I knew if I was really going to embrace the “adventure” of going local that was the choice. But seeing the handful of people present for dinner, and imagining it being even slower during the day, I was picturing that meatloaf sitting around stewing all day.

I went with the half pound burger.

They caution you to be patient, because they do make their burgers to order and that half pound slab takes a while. I ordered the bacon cheeseburger, and they make a very respectable burger. It has a strong flame-broiled flavor, like a super-size whopper but not dripping with mayo and ketchup. They had options of cottage cheese, soup or tater tots instead of fries, but I went with the onion rings. Your basic frozen rings, which is what I would normally expect in a small town restaurant, but was hoping for homemade due the generally very high quality of food I’ve run into in the small towns here.

But the burger and rings were certainly acceptable, but then I decided to go with dessert, as apple and cherry pie were the daily dessert special.

Saying it’s special and being special are two very different things I’m afraid. There’s no other way to describe it but bad. Certainly not homemade, with a un-browned, limp top crust. It was served room temperature and my ice cream was covered with chocolate sauce.

Huh?

As I sat there mentally critiquing it in my best Alex Guarnaschelli, try-to-be-diplomatic imitation, I found a whole new appreciation for how kind those culinary judges can be sometimes.

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The restaurant and bar is huge, and there is a nook where the waitress stand is stocked with coffee cups, steak sauce… and the most craptastic western cowboy mural in town. I’m guessing this place must be hoppin’ at breakfast time, and even though it wasn’t the best meal I’ve ever had, I definitely need to try their biscuits and gravy, one of my favs.

But if it fails like that apple pie, no more Mr. Nice Guy. I’ll channel British food writer and Iron Chef judge Simon Majumdar — that guy’s the Simon Cowell of the culinary world.

Hooray for Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado

When people think of Colorado ski country, they usually think Aspen, Vail, Telluride… all the rich folks’ places. And if you have deep pockets, those places can be great. But here are a couple of gems close to Telluride where you can stay and eat a whole lot cheaper, and mix with a bunch of laid-back everyday folks. I’m talking the small towns of Ouray (Your-ay) and Ridgway.

About 10 miles separate these two places, and they both offer a taste of how the locals in Colorado live. In general, I’ve found locals in both towns friendly, they love the great outdoors all year round, good, local beer, and good food in varieties you don’t normally see in such small towns. I mean, sushi and Thai food — very good Thai food — in a town of less than 1,000?

Get outta here!

Let’s start with that. Ridgway has a wonderful Thai and sushi restaurant that would easily hold its own in any major metro area. I’m sorry to say I have no photos of Thai Paradise’s food, because I was having one of my weird shy moments about taking photos when I dined in, and got takeout the other times I was there during my stay. (Most of the time I’m oblivious to what people think, but I have my moments.)

The restaurant is very small and quiet, and there was no way not to overhear a couple of women discussing their massage therapy classes. There is a sort of New-Agey, holistic vibe, but not in an obnoxious way like some cities I’ve been to (*COUGH*Sedona*COUGH*). They also have their own art district, which must be pretty much the whole town, and moonwalk art events during the full moon. I’m telling you, this is a very livable small town if you want to get away from it all yet keep some culture and cool things.

OurayRidgewayJan2013 015 Hooray for Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado

You’ve also got the True Grit Cafe amongst other pubs, as much of the John Wayne classic was filmed here. Other notable celebrity ties include Dennis Weaver, who made his home here and has a park named after him with hiking trails. With Telluride 39 miles away, you’re still close enough to hit the slopes there.

I didn’t much time there, with the lure of Ouray close by, but it’s definitely on my list of places to return to. And I’ll get some photos of that yummy Thai food next time, promise.

OurayRidgewayJan2013 050 Hooray for Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado

Tucked into the mountains is Ouray, dubbed the “Switzerland of America.” Ouray has less than 1,000 locals as well, but they pack a lot of fun and variety into that small number. I’ve already sung the praises of O’Brien’s Pub and Grill, and you can find plenty of local microbrews on the rooftop patio at the Ouray Brewing Company in warmer weather, or grab a swing at the bar. (Yes, the bar has swings instead of barstools.) The big claim to fame in Ouray is the sulfur-free hot springs, and you can partake in huge hot springs pool in town. (See the top photo.)

The whole area is filled with off-road 4-WD tours, hiking, mine tours, historic architecture, pubs and great restaurants, but Ouray is also known for its Ice Park, where winter visitors can scale a huge frozen waterfall of ice.

The whole Ouray/Ridgway area is so awesomely livable, it would be a serious contender for a permanent home if I could ever settle down in one place.  I can’t wait to go back in the spring to see it then, and finish touring the sights.

Blues, brews and BBQ at the Blu Pig restaurant: Moab, Utah

moab000 Blues, brews and BBQ at the Blu Pig restaurant: Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah is known for magnificent scenery and an outdoor sports culture. I was hellbent on checking out the local Arches National park, and sampling some nostalgia at the Moab Diner, but hit a small distraction on the way.

The Blu Pig.

Even cruising by on the highway entering town, the Blues, Brews and BBQ sign was about to make me slam on the brakes, because anytime you want to combine good food, alcohol and music, I’m down. Unfortunately, I had many hours to fill till they opened at 4 pm, so I did my hiking/photography thing and pulled in as the full moon was rising over the blue neon.

The restaurant is laid out with a huge table running down the middle, and the servers seemed to be preparing for a big party. Bummer – I like a nice, quiet and preferably empty setting when I’m going to geek out taking food and restaurant photos.

My waitress was friendly and very professional, and told me they do have live music Wednesday through Sunday, but on this Tuesday night I had to settle for piped in blues. Eh, I’ll take that. It beats the hell out of Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, or whatever top-40 douchebag du jour is on heavy rotation on the radio.

Even though I wasn’t very hungry, I opted for the three meat platter, choosing sausage, smoked turkey and pulled pork. Call me crazy, but I have yet to meet a Texas brisket I’ve liked, so I left that for another day. You also get two sides with this order, and they have a huge selection, including southern favorites like fried okra as well as more traditional sides of baked beans.

As I figured I’d be hard pressed to find anyone else offering red beans and rice in a radius of, well… several states, I went with that, and asked for a recommendation from the waitress for my second side. She recommended the coleslaw – a classic BBQ side, and a simple dish, but one so many restaurants can’t seem to get quite right.

I got my corn bread before the main meal was served, and after smothering it with butter, couldn’t resist starting in before the rest of my food arrived. It was moist and fresh, and a nice start to the big plate that came out quickly after.

Thank goodness for take home boxes.

The waitress explained each of the sauces at the table: Carolina mustard sauce, Kansas City-style and their “house” Texas BBQ sauce. The smoked turkey comes with a special BBQ sauce, as well. And the pulled pork uses the house Texas sauce, so I tried the Carolina and Kansas City-style both on a little turkey, as well as the turkey BBQ.

Much to my surprise, I liked the Carolina sauce best, perhaps because it stands out so much from more traditional sauces – I found the Texas and Kansas City somewhat similar.

The red beans and rice was a little bland, and it occurred to me afterwards it really needed the sausage mixed in with it to give it some kick, as it didn’t really seem to have any in the side dish by itself.

But the coleslaw… I swear they resurrected my mama and had her back in that kitchen making slaw. It was a creamy, fresh cabbage (not browned, old cabbage like so many restaurants serve) adding a nice contrast to the BBQ sauces.

Good tip for me, means good tip for you, Ms. Waitress.

The sausage was my favorite of the meat offerings, with good spicy flavor and nice and juicy. The turkey had just a hint of smoky flavor, but paired well with all the sauces offered.  The pulled pork was moist, tender, but a little less flavorful than some pulled pork I’ve had, but hey, we’re in Mitt Romney/Mormon country, not the deep south or Kansas City, so how high can you really set you BBQ barometer? Especially for a girl who used to live less than a quarter mile from Slo’s BBQ in Detroit.

Tasty food, good service and good music, in a beautiful town. You can’t beat that.

BBBMoab Blues, brews and BBQ at the Blu Pig restaurant: Moab, Utah

 

You can’t go home again, indeed

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I grew up in a small town in Indiana full of cornfields and with a population of about 3,000 in the county seat. I’m thankful I got to grow up in a place where you didn’t have to lock doors and could go walking alone at night, even if I did struggle with trying to blend in, weird child that I was (and weird adult that I am now.) But I don’t regret my decision to pick up and leave that town, where my options were pretty much get married and have kids, or become a waitress or bank teller, or maybe get to keep writing for the weekly newspaper on an unlivable wage.

I often think about how simple life was then and how friendly people were and have often thought of going back. Of being somewhere where I naturally belonged and knew most everyone and could just hang out at the local bar or a pig roast on weekends. But then I get a reminder of the old saying about never being able to go home again. Like I did tonight.

I had “friended” one of my old high school friends on Facebook and had even thought that if I did go back, we would have much in common, as she had traveled and lived much of her life single, although she did eventually have kids. I felt she would be the one person most likely to understand me out of anyone.

We were exchanging comments on a thread on my Facebook about a silly B movie I love and suddenly, she hits me with how she misses her “old” buddy and how I talk too much about me… on my Facebook page (you know, the site I use to promote my writing and try to make a living.)  And just posts this out of the blue when we’re talking about “Sharknado” and Sybian machines of all things:

“you seem superficial alot…I am your biggest fan…your pics fascinate me. I have traveled as well, dined exquisitely, and dreamed…however, I don’t have a bone of conceit in my body”

Blindsided is an understatement. That was about the last person from there I would have expected to make such hurtful comments, and make them publicly without provocation. And one of the few people whose words could actually be hurtful, even 30 or so years after the last time I saw her.

I don’t even know exactly what brought it on… the fact I post links to my work, this blog… I really don’t know.

“I’m a poor photographer and writer struggling to survive. I don’t think I pretend for one minute I live some charmed glamorous life — in fact, I’m trying to convey the opposite: After 20+ years of wiping asses and stressing myself to the point I’d rather put a bullet in my head than work another day as a nurse, I now do a crappy work at home job that barely pays my bills to try to get to a point I can make a living doing something I love. But my life is my own again. I’m sorry I’m not still the same person you knew in high school. I’m sorry I’m not the same passive, weak, let everyone walk all over me person I was then, but you have NO idea what I have been through the last 30 years and no right to judge me.”

Then she kept insisting I didn’t understand and she wasn’t judging me.  She was complimenting me… she loved my “spirit.” Would that be the spirit you just did your best to crush 60 seconds ago? The one you were cutting down and trying to put back in its place even as you were complimenting it?

She only remembers the girl who let everyone walk all over her, and has never met the woman I am now. She thinks of the girl who would never stick up for herself and let everyone kick her. But that girl is gone. That doesn’t mean the one who replaced her is better or worse, and if I had to pick one, probably worse, to tell you the truth. Almost certainly worse, actually.

I don’t know… maybe I am superficial or conceited, but I can’t go back to or give time to people who want to knock me down. Why does it always seem to be women who do that?

And it reminded me again of another friend of mine from high school. A guy who went to a top college and worked in New York in advertising.  After many years he moved back for a simpler life, and threw himself into the community, resurrecting the old Canoe Races event and bringing in more tourism, which is the primary economic product there.  Then I read in back issues of the paper how he was pushed off the committee for it, and he and his wife banned from even volunteering ever again for this event they had poured their heart and soul into, because of complaints from volunteers for the annual event.

The reasons cited? His arrogance. His conceit.

I guess it’s better to get it out and see it now rather than after going back so I can avoid a huge mistake. As Susan J. Matt said in The American Journal of History:

“The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ has entered American speech to mean that once you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis you can’t return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life and, more generally, attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.”

Note that last part: “Attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.”

It’s a hard lesson to learn and remember, but I guess you really can’t go home again, indeed.

The swanky new office (and house)

The new office, complete with sleeping fur baby.

The new office, complete with sleeping fur baby.

I found a nice little (well, not so little) house in Vicksburg, built around 1898. At almost 2000 sq ft, I can afford the luxury of using the biggest and best bedroom for an office/living room, leaving the front room open for photo work if I ever get back into the swing of that again.

The furniture is courtesy of what was there and some rummaging in one of the back sheds, as my landlords also own the house next door being renovated.  And thank goodness that big TV was still there from when the landlord’s mother lived there. Sweet!

Here are a few more photos:

The only thing that never changes is change itself…

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Well, the RV deal hit a bit of a snafu. More than a bit, actually. When the so-called owner of the RV bought it about 7 years ago, seems he never got the title transferred to his name. So that means it remains in the name of a dead man in the registration roster of New York, and that’s more than a bit of a problem.

It’s a deal killer.

New York requires he register it before he can transfer it to me. Despite having the documentation to put it in his name, New York will not issue a title immediately when it is filed for, because… well, they’re New York and want to make things as difficult as possible. So they make you wait 4-6 weeks for it to come in the mail. Seems the son who listed the RV for sale didn’t know — or claims he didn’t know — dear old dad has been getting a dealer tag from someone in the family whenever they want to drive it, in order to avoid actually registering the vehicle.

So after filling up the gas tanks numerous times to get to Rochester, NY, which was the commute from hell, and spending a whole weekend in the crappiest Motel 6 ever (and that is saying something my friends) as they kept putting me off and finalizing the transaction, I find out that I cannot get the vehicle in my name for 4-6 weeks.

I walked away from the whole mess.

Faced with the unexpected large expense of fitting my car to be towed (the cheapest I could find was about $1600) I found myself scared to death I was going to spend all my money on getting the RV and setting up my car, then have it breakdown and be forced to do another travel nurse assignment. I am determined that someday I will get an RV, but I’m afraid today just isn’t quite that day yet. Maybe I’m just being a chicken shit (probably is more like it,) but for now I just want to find a small town to get a little house in, and do my work at home gig.

Peace. Quiet. Sanity.

A chance to just let the dust settle and figure what the hell I want to be when I grow up. Presuming I ever do. Yeah… right…

The rumors of rock and roll’s demise are greatly exaggerated

Not only am I browsing old blogs for material to post on this new blog, but it’s that time of year when we tend to reflect on where we’re at in life, and the changes we’ve gone through, and the changes we still want to make. This was written way back in 2007 if I was saying I had been shooting about a year (I pulled it as a repost from my first blog so don’t have the exact date of original publication.) I’m looking through all these old photos, looking for a few to add to this article, and am feeling overwhelmed at what I captured in the obscure little scene of psychobilly music. I’ve gone through a lot of changes since I wrote this, and have focused more lately on other projects, and moved on from mid-life crisis, but I can tell you this: I feel exactly the same way about rock and roll now as I did then.

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2095033187_9dd588f033I recently celebrated my one year anniversary of getting my digital camera and starting to shoot bands, and I just want to say that in the last year, I have not only rediscovered my love of photography, but my love of music. Real rock and roll, not the corporate packaged crap on top 40 radio or MTV.The music industry is crying about the drop in sales and blaming illegal downloading. Yes, that has hurt sales, but what they blindly disregard is the two most important factors in why the music industry is struggling.

1) The music the labels are putting out sucks.

2) The artists are divas more worried about looking cool and getting the right haircuts and wearing the right artificially distressed black t-shirt than making good music. It’s all about bodyguards and backstage passes and partying with idiot millionaire heiresses and doing a stint in rehab for the sympathy factor…I mean, what is that?

Forget the divas and go out to local dive bars if you want to experience real music again. See for yourself how hard these people work. They haul all their own equipment, setting it up and tearing it down themselves between sets, often for nothing more than a handful of people (sometimes just a few friends and family) and a few dollars. Not even enough for their gas in some cases, and after spending a day working some crappy corporate 9-5 job to scrape by on the rent and buy their equipment. The ones from out of state don’t travel in luxury tour buses or stay in five star hotels. They get out there in a car with a trailer for their gear, or some cramped van, sleeping on peoples’ floors and or even on the ground somewhere to come out to these shows. Sometimes for months at a time.

These bands put themselves through this for the love of the music. And sacrifice a lot to get up on stage for all the rest of us. So love them, support them, buy their cds and merchandise.

Whoever spread the idea that rock and roll is a glamorous lifestyle was a brilliant PR person. And completely, utterly, full of shit. I am going to slap the next millionaire “rock star” who cries about how hard life is on the road with their room service and high tech tour buses and the fans that just won’t leave them alone.

That’s the sad excuse that passes for music these days. Real rock and roll is in some hole in the wall, with sweat pouring down everyone, and people slamming into each other and screaming and jumping up on the stage with the bands and everyone — bands and fans alike — hanging out as equals. Like a sort of big, happy, family.

(Okay, a big, crazy, drunken family, but we’ll take what we can get.)

Turn off MTV and get out there and see it up close. Get sweat on, spit on and knocked around the pit. Because rock and roll is NOT dead. It’s in some dingy dive bar down the street. Where’s it’s always been.

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Mmmm… Happy Belly, indeed

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If you’re one of those people who think small town cafes mean frozen beef patty hamburgers and onion rings, Happy Belly Deli in Norwood, Colorado will definitely redefine small town cuisine for you.

The restaurant is also a bakery and coffee house, but forget any vision of pretentious open mike nights and all-vegan bohemian staff. The menu boasts a variety of healthy – and not so healthy, in a good way – dishes that cover any diner or group.

Opening at 6:30 am (5:30 am during hunting season), you can start with breakfast in the colorful dining area, where local artists display their work. They have some fancy mixes of espresso and teas, but for a good ol’ cup of joe, it’s self-served family style by the ordering counter. There’s a daily special, but also a choice of breakfast bowls and sandwiches that make great to-go items.

And that egg, cheese and meat sandwich on a homemade croissant… ooh-la-la, that puts Burger King to shame (not that that’s hard, but you get what I’m saying.) I go pepper jack on the cheese for a little southwestern spicy kick and extra crispy bacon… yeah, it’s not good for you, but it hurts so good, right?

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The dining room is sunny and warm, with shades of green and orange.

The Benny breakfast bowl seems to be a popular favorite, which features the usual eggs and potatoes, but has a hollandaise sauce thrown in the mix. I was going to get that on my last trip, but confess I got sidetracked by the daily special – an omelet with cheese, bacon and carmelized onions.

Likewise, you can grab a single serving quiche fresh from the oven, or a selection of pastries and huge muffins overflowing their wrapper. And they always have a gluten-free option if you need one.

Now, when you move to lunch, things get a little healthier, thank goodness, or this whole town would be dead or on the heart transplant list.

The chicken pesto sandwich is tasty, stuffed with chicken, of course, and cream cheese, pesto, tomatoes and sprouts. There are vegetarian options, if needed, such as the Mediterranean roll: hummus, feta cheese, carrots, pepper rings, olives, cucumbers, lettuce and Greek dressing in a whole wheat wrap.

The food is very good, but even better is the friendly ambience, and the local hang out here. I’ve witnessed conversations from ballroom dancing to the counter gal asking a customer if his house was unlocked so she could go by and take a look at it, as she was thinking of renting it after he moved. And of course, it was.

That is a conversation you’ll only hear in a town of 400 or so.

If you’re passing through Norwood, Colorado, stop by the Happy Belly Deli – before 3pm when they close – and give yourself a happy belly, indeed.

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The egg, bacon and cheese croissant. Take that Burger King.