Monday, January 31, 2011

Memphis Maniphesto Part 1


The Characters:

Lionel Young, violin/guitar/vocals
Jay Forrest, drums/vocals
Kim Stone, bass
Andre Mali, trumpet
Dexter Payne, Sax/harp
Ricardo Pena, keys/guitar/vocals (not on the road trip part, is flying in and out, so he won’t make an appearance until the third act: “Memphis”)
Heidi Knochenhauer, our Memphis hostess, friend, and bar-b-que guide
Honey Sepeda, cook/problem-solver/distraction/den mother

8:00 p.m., Saturday, January 29, 2011. After a four-hour unscheduled detour involving a faulty tire on the rental van, we are now headed through the center of Kansas. It’s dark in the van, and Kim’s watching a movie, while Lionel is driving and trying to talk to me while I’m trying to write to you. Andre, of course, remains the saint of patience and is interceding on my behalf, sitting in the passenger seat, chatting with Lionel about music so I can work on this blogging business. Jay and Dexter are in Jay’s car just behind us. It’s already been an adventure, and we’re but nine hours into the journey.

While temporarily stalled at a truck stop right at the entrance to Prairie Dog Town, between Colby and Oakley, Kansas, Jay pulled me aside and walked me a short way to show me, off in the distance, the world’s largest prairie dog. Well, just the head, but I saw it! No one else bothered. I guess not everyone is into fine art.

Surprisingly, thus far the sports talk has been fairly minimal. Considering Lionel’s beloved Steelers are going to the Super Bowl, I find this fact wonderfully baffling. No complaints, mind you, but I am bewildered. Particularly as this van is packed, but Lionel still insisted we bring his black and yellow Steelers football. It’s about half the size of a regulation football, but still! At the first rest stop, before the discovery of a dangerously faulty tire, Kim and Lionel attempted to toss it around in the parking lot, but the Kansas winds made that effort futile. However, Kim nearly succeeded in hitting me in the head.

It was after our first gas stop that Lionel realized something felt wrong. All four of us could feel the wobble, but it was also reasonable to fault the winds. After a bit, Lionel called Jay and asked him to look at the tires from behind. Over the course of the next few miles, Jay passed us on either side as he and Dexter scrutinized the tires. It was mutually decided that we stop at the next gas station to check the air pressure. One look at the right rear tire, and it was evident that it was too much a hazard to attempt making it to Kansas City. After an hour or so of phone calls to the rental agency (worthless), AAA, etc., we were on our way six miles down the road to a tire place. Where we spent a couple of hours. But they had wifi in the neighboring restaurant, so we passed the time chatting and checking email.

And back to where I started. It’s dark, we’re all doing our own thing while Lionel drives both the van and the Blues with his great selections. I’ve been on many a road trip in my life, but I’m certain this is the first that will be almost nothing but the Blues in the van, there and back. Fine by me. As I type this, we’re listening to Johnny Long. Lovely. And now, we’re on to Louis Jordan, “Early in the Morning.”

We had planned on staying near Kansas City tonight, but we’re not going to make it that far, thanks to the tire. So, it looks like it will be Salina tonight, then about six hours to St. Louis tomorrow. They have a 6:00 p.m. load-in at B.B.’s, so we should be on the road by 9:00 a.m.

Fun fact! Thursday morning, I received an email from Pricilla and Dave wanting to know where we we’re staying in St. Louis, as they are also heading to Memphis and decided to go to the LYB gig at B.B.’s. Turns out they were able to book a room in the same hotel, so there’s going to be a little Outlook spirit in St. Louis! And I’ll have friends to sit with at the gig.

Another email I received Thursday was from Intrepid Artists, the 2011 winners of the Keeping the Blues Alive award in the “Agent” category. They have a few of our good friends as clients, and here’s who will be playing around Beale Street this weekend: Trampled Under Foot, John Nemeth, Shawn Starski, and of course, Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, Prodigal Son of the Outlook (although not an Intrepid client). I’m going to be a busy bee in Memphis.

But first St. Louis for the Sunday night gig. After a good night’s sleep somewhere in or around Salina, KS. We’re now looking for a gas station for a quick refuel, then the next stop will be whatever motel we decide to secure for the night. Hopefully.

A FEW MINUTES LATER: Typed too soon. I had no more put my laptop back in it’s case when Lionel announces, “I’m getting pulled over.” Now, I’m sitting right behind him, and he’s using the cruise control, set to the speed limit, so we knew it wasn’t for speeding. The officer was nice, shining his light in our faces only briefly, checking Lionel’s license and rental agreement. He told Lionel that he’d swerved over the fog line, and was checking to make sure he hadn’t been drinking, and then wished us a safe trip. We lost about two minutes more. Minor loss.

I’ve just been informed that we’re not stoping in Salina, but going for Topeka. We should get there a bit after midnight.

8:30 a.m., Sunday, January 30, Topeka, KS, Motel 6. To my knowledge, I’m the only one awake. We have only a five-hour drive to St. Louis, so we’re not scheduled to leave Topeka until 11:00 a.m., allowing everyone some extra sleep. Except for me. I slept for only two or three hours. Not for lack of trying, just too many noises. Hopefully I can sleep in the van. I can be a tad cranky when tired...nobody wants that.

10:21 a.m. I went for a walk and found a Starbucks across the street, so I’m caffeinated . It’s bitter cold here in Kansas, with strong, chilling winds. Still, the walk woke me up. The coffee is helping tremendously too.

We’re scheduled to leave in about half an hour, and as near as I can tell, I’m still the only one awake. I’m envious of their slumber.

1:00 p.m., Kansas City. We just pulled out of a gas station in KC, headed to St. Louis. I decided since I was in KC, that I should call the Trampled Under Foot kids and say hi. I called Nick, and we got to chat a bit, and made plans to meet up in Memphis.

I was also texting this morning while not sleeping, with Heidi Knockenhauer, our hostess during our Memphis stay, and she is texting some friends of hers in St. Louis to come out to the gig tonight. Looks like we’ll be with old friends and new at B.B.’s tonight. I do love the Blues world! There is no such thing as a stranger at Blues show.

Another coffee, but I’m still feeling the lack of sleep. Lionel has jokingly attempted to offend me a couple of times, but my mind is too tired for pithy responses. I told him I’d respond tomorrow.

10:38 a.m., leaving St. Louis. The guys killed at B.B’s last night, a wonderful venue with great food. They had a decent and very attentive crowd who were awed by the 90-minute set. Dave and Pricilla had a good time, and it was fitting that I should enjoy the first gig of my first band tour with good friends, cheering good friends. And, we were back at the hotel by 11:00 p.m., so we’re well rested and ready for a night off in Memphis. We’ll be there in about five hours.

We have discovered that Kim is incapable of multi-tasking, in that he can’t listen to music and me at the same time. He’s choosing to listen to the music, for which he’ll pay a heavy price. Andre, on the other hand, seems to be able to do everything at once, including sleeping and talking to Lionel simultaneously. Jay and Dexter remain in Jay’s car with a lot less rousing, and occasionally conflicting, conversation. I have moments of envy...

Overall, this leg of the road trip has been a lot of fun, with a lot of laughter. The circadian rhythms have been blissfully synchronistic, with everyone taking turns being a moody pain. Well, not me, of course.

12:25 p.m. We just left a Cracker Barrel somewhere in MO, and in the interest of good taste, I’ll not relay the lunchtime conversations, but I will tell you that traveling with five men is an education indeed. I’ve always known that men and woman think and interact differently, but this trip has served, and I’m sure will continue to serve, as solid confirmation of that fact. I’m on my own out here, fending for myself. Can’t wait to get to Heidi’s for reinforcements. Ricardo arrives tomorrow, then it will be six men and two women. Finally, a level playing field.

The weather is coming in behind us with a vengeance, sheets of freezing rain, so it’s fortunate we have tonight off, as it will be warm and still in Memphis. We’ll get to Memphis when we get there, and Heidi will have a glass of wine waiting for me, which I will enjoy off somewhere by myself. I love these guys, but I’m ready for a little solitude. Today is day three. Six to go.

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