Saturday, May 30, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Heading To South Bend & Day 1...

I'm not gonna' lie: Memphis needed to be a longer visit. But the reality is that there was only so much to see because of the Covid situation, so I'll have to make a point to get back there once we're able to move beyond all of this.

So, with Memphis in my rear view mirror, I set my sights north for South Bend, Indiana.

The drive to South Bend was a bit on the long side, but it wasn't without its diversions. After driving in Arkansas for a bit, I saw a sign which I couldn't ignore: "Johnny Cash Boyhood Home".

How could I not?

This house, in as area known as Dyess Colony, stands out in the middle of nowhere. I have my GPS set to avoid dirt roads, and I ended up on a dirt road. Seriously, it's out there.






For all your Johnny Cash souvenir needs. Like, maybe 40 years ago...

And, dirt roads or not, you always had to be careful driving and be mindful of other traffic:




As I said, the drive was long, but there was no shortage of entertainment. This "travel center" was a small gas station next to a REALLY big Bar-B-Q joint:




And, just in case you forgot you were in the middle of the Bible belt...

Now, I've not mentioned it, but one of my goals for this trip was to get rejuvenated and reinvigorated with regards to my tattoo project. The reality is that I've been slacking on it, and I needed to give it a good kick in the ass.

Well, I did just that in South Bend.

The offer was extended to me to stay at a friend's photo studio, The McDonald Studio, in South Bend. Not only was I able to have a comfortable bed, a hot shower and morning coffee, I would also have the unfettered use of the entire, fully equipped photo studio:

The McDonald Studio, South Bend, Indiana...

My first full day in South Bend saw the tattoo shoot start to ramp up. Not only did my buddy text a number of people to come down for the shoot, he put together a rather impressive charcuterie board for those coming down to the studio:

Tasty eats...

I'm not going to post any of the tattoo shots here but, suffice it to say, it lit a bit of a fire under me and I'm looking forward to getting back to Florida so I can really kick it into high gear.

With that said, I found myself looking forward to my second day in South Bend and a place I've always wanted to visit.

Stay tuned...

Friday, May 29, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Memphis...

Memphis, Tennessee is one of those storied places I've always wanted to visit. It has history across the spectrum, some of it good and some of it very, very bad.

We drove into downtown Memphis on a somewhat cloudy afternoon, which can be good or bad for photographs. The first stop we made was at what is probably one of the top two tourist sites in the city: Sun Studios.

Sun Studios was founded by Sam Phillips back in 1950 on Union Avenue. A veritable who's-who of rockabilly and early rock recorded there, including people like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis have all spent time recording there back in the 1950's. More recently, artists such as U2, John Mellencamp and Def Leppard have recorded there.


Sun Studio, at the corner of Union and Marshall in Memphis...

The studio is now open to the public and tours, for a fee, are offered daily from 10:00am until 6:00am for $15 (kids under 11 are free).

After stopping at Sun Studio (which was closed because of Covid-19), we made our way over to the other big tourist stop in town and, frankly, it could be argued far more important.

On April 4, 1968, only one day after his famed "I've Been To The Mountaintop" speech", 39 year old Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped outside of his room, #306, at the Lorraine Motel on Mulberry street, and stood on the balcony. The warm spring evening was shattered by the gunshot of a 30-06 rifle, fired by James Earl Ray from a boarding house across the street and up a small hill.


The sign at the entrance to the Lorraine Motel...




The wreath outside room #306 marks the approximate spot where Dr. King fell after being shot...

The boarding house from where James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King, Jr...

Even though the motel remained open following the assassination, room #306 was never rented out again. The motel is now a part of the National Civil Rights Museum.

Following our visit to the Lorraine Motel, it was time for a bit of levity, and the best place for that is Beale Street.

Beale Street, also known as the "home of the blues", is one of the most iconic streets in the United States. 




Due to the restrictions in place due to Covid-19, many businesses were closed and, sadly, there was no live music at all, which is what Beale Street is most famous for. But some bars were open during the day, despite the very obvious absence of people. Silver lining: You didn't have to wait for a beer!

I started at the Rum Boogie Cafe, and ordered up a locally brewed craft beer. It was good, it was cold and it was pricey. A single can was $8, and even a can of Coors Light would set you back $6.


Ghost River Gold...


The empty stage at the Rum Boogie Cafe...

Celebrity-signed guitars hang on the walls and from the ceiling, signed by musicians, actors and sports figures. One such guitar, and a guitar he was not normally associated with, was signed by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan:


A Fender Telecaster signed by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble...

I made my way up the street and stopped in to the Tap Room at the King's Palace Cafe. It was completely empty when I walked in, save for the bartender who was in full Covid mode:




The Tap Room at the King's Palace Cafe...

Of course, the best time to be on Beale Street is at night. The street lights up with all colors of neon, whether people show up or not:








The venerable B.B. King's Blues Club on Beale...

As dinner time crept up, it became clear that there were actually very few eateries open along Beale. I found Alfred's, though, and man was it good. Social distancing was, of course, the rule, and diners were sat at every other table.

The pulled pork platter at Alfred's, insanely good at only $12.99...

Beers over Beale...

The police presence, even though there were almost no people, was rather heavy...


 
This was a common site along Beale Street...

Beale Street, even when it's empty, is pretty cool. Enough bars and restaurants were open to make it worthwhile, and things are only going to improve as time passes. Every bartender and server I spoke with told me that they're ready to get back to working a full schedule and to take care of blues fans as soon as possible.

You could spend the better part of a day trying to find anything wrong with that!


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Heading To Memphis...

I left Navarre on Monday, in the midst of a downpour which was so torrential I almost began to question the wisdom of getting on the road. I finally decided to head out and, in hindsight, I'm glad I did. The rains let up a bit after about an hour and, after two hours, I was seeing sunny skies.

What surprised me most of all about this leg of the trip was how much of it wasn't being driven on interstates. That's a double edge sword, though. On the plus side, the scenery you see when you're not on the interstate is so much more enjoyable. Driving through small towns in the south can be like a step back in time, sometimes. On the downside, though, the drive invariably takes longer. It's a trade-off and, for this trip, a trade-off I was more than happy to make.

This leg of the trip was actually taking me to the small town of Bartlett, Tennessee. Bartlett is the home of my old friend Alphonso. He and I were stationed together in San Diego back in the early 1990's, and we'd not seen each other since I transferred from that duty station in 1994. He retired shortly thereafter. 

The drive wasn't bad, even if it did get monotonous every once in a while.

At some point in the day, I found myself in the little town of Georgiana, Alabama. Ordinarily, I think I probably would've just cruised right through, but a sign caught my eye. It was a sign directing me to the boyhood home of none other than Hank Williams. Of course, since a major part of this trip is to get photos I may not normally have an opportunity to get, I pulled off the main road and started following signs. Now, I'm never going to be accused of being a country music fan, but I known an icon's name when I hear one, so I thought stopping would be a good idea.
 




Hank Williams lived in this house from 1931 until 1934...

Williams only lived in the house for four short years, after which his mother moved the family to Greenville. Despite being known as one of the founding fathers of country music, Hank Williams was only 29 years old when he died.

The road got a little bit long after I was on the interstate for a while, and I knew I was starting to fade. That tends to happen when your view doesn't change and you stare at these two views all afternoon:







After being on the road for what was just shy of eight hours, I found myself pulling into Alphonso's neighborhood. Yeah, it'd been a while; 26 years, as a matter of fact, but it was damn good to see him...






Monday, May 18, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Day 2...

A subtitle for this entry could be "The Food Edition".
 

The one thing I want to do during this trip is relax. I know I could've relaxed in St. Augustine, but this is a different level; a different "brand", if you will of relaxation. This second day of the trip fit rather nicely into that idea.

We decided we'd take a drive over to Navarre Beach and walk the pier. It was a bit warm, but nothing unbearable. We paid the whopping $1 to walk the pier and headed out over the water. There were a lot of people on the pier, and most of them were fishermen (and women).  Now, I've walked up and down piers all over the world, but I've never actually seen someone catch a fish. That would change today, though. As we walked towards this one rather slight woman, it was clear that she had a fish on the line.

And it wasn't givin' up without a fight.

The woman was absolutely spent. She was screaming as she was trying to reel it in, and she wasn't having much luck. Finally a guy came over and took the rod from her, and he enjoyed only a mildly greater level of success. He got it to the surface, though, so another guy came along with a wire basket and was able to get it underneath the fish to haul it up onto the pier.




She guesstimated the weight at about 40 pounds...


Dan didn't have quite the same level of luck:


I don't think he'll be on "Wild Tuna" anytime soon...


There were a lot of people in the water and, as you can see in the background in the photo of the woman above, there were a reasonable number of people on the beach, too. The color of the water was great, too; that turquoise hue that you usually only see in postcards.
 





The pier is 1,545 feet long and towers 30 feet above the water. It takes a little while to walk it, but the view doesn't suck:







After our jaunt out onto the pier, we stopped at Windjammer's at the foot of the pier for a quick beer. Windjammer's is a typical beach bar, and there was plenty of seating:




As we were leaving, we saw one of those signs you see only because, at some point, there became a reason for the sign:




From Windjammer's we decided to head over to Broussard's for lunch. Broussard's is also a typical beach bar kinda' joint. Their inside dining room was closed, so we sat at the bar and ordered. It was right about beer-thirty, so I ordered up a cold one a grilled mahi sandwich:


Tasty grub...

We finished lunch and walked back to the car and then made it back to Dan's house for a bit. Honestly, I didn't sleep spectacularly well the night before, so I was all in favor of nappy-time. I'm pretty sure Dan did the same.

The thing about being along the Gulf coast is that, when you get hungry, seafood is prevalent. We decided to head over to The Grand Marlin in Pensacola Beach but, because of social distancing, they were only serving people with reservations so as to maintain proper distances between diners. So, we made our way over to Crabs. We've eaten there in the past, and it's pretty good. It's not as spendy as The Grand Marlin, but the food is really tasty.


Crab's in Pensacola Beach...
Yes, they do...

Looking through the dining room to the beach...


Due to the coronavirus they were running a minimal menu...


Seating was at every other table...

I know I'm going to be getting into some serious BBQ once I get to Memphis, I spent the day in a seafood mood. Accordingly, I opted for some sushi and, yeah, another cold frosty. 





We got back to the house and, after a couple of cocktails, I was fading. I spent a good amount of time editing pictures from the day, but the day caught up with me and I just wanted to go to bed. After all, I've got a bit of a drive to Memphis, so rest was high on the priority list...






Sunday, May 17, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Day 1...

As you'd expect, the first day of the trip (of any trip, really) was pretty uneventful. It took me about six hours to get to my buddy Dan's house, and I was a bit beat when I got here. Even still, this is a trip I always love making. After all, this is a setting that isn't difficult to get used to:


Dan's backyard in Navarre, right on Pensacola Bay...

The most eventful thing of the evening was dinner. Dan's been wanting to bring me to Johnny Huston's for the last few visits, and we finally made it.





I got the "50/50" which was, quite possibly, the best burger I've ever had. It was a 10 ounce patty of half ground beef, half pulled pork and diced bacon topped with cheddar cheese & spicy bbq sauce. It was insane. It was one of those burgers that, once you pick it up, you never put it down.


The "50/50", which comes with bottomless fries...

The bun was so inadequately small it was almost comical. There was just no way to hold the burger without the patty getting pressed against the palm of my hand. But, damn, it was good. But, as much as I enjoyed this burger, I couldn't finish it. Koa, Dan's Siberian Husky, was the beneficiary.

Tomorrow will find me back on the road, headed for Memphis, Tennessee...





Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Road Awaits...

So, if it hasn't been obvious, Covid-19 has been driving me up a wall. Yes, I know it's serious. Yes I know a lot of people have died. Yes I know it's a bitch to find toilet paper at Publix.

But we learn to move on.

This coming Saturday, I'll be doing just that, if only for a couple of weeks.

I'm going to leave St. Augustine Saturday morning, probably by 10:00am at the latest. I'll be heading over to Navarre, which is in the panhandle, to visit my friend Dan who, like me, is going nuts with the whole "social distancing" thing. The intent is just to spend a couple of days there unwinding and, really, getting myself amped up for the rest of the trip. 


Not a bad place to hunker down for a couple of days...
 
Dan's dock on Pensacola Bay...


Dan's got to work on Monday, so that'll probably be the most opportune time for me to head north. I'm certainly going to miss that view, though.

From Dan's house, I'll make my way up to Memphis, Tennessee. I've never been to Memphis and, as it turns out, an old shipmate of mine lives there now. We were pretty good friends back in the day, and recently I got to wondering what happened to him. Well, leave it to Facebook. I punched in his name and, lo and behold, there he was. I sent him a message and he responded with his phone number. We were on the phone for over an hour when he invited me up for a visit. It was really just the luck of the draw that the invite coincided with this trip. When I told him I was looking forward to hitting Beale Street, his reply was "Oh, you wanna' go there? I was going to take you to the real Memphis."

Suffice it to say, we're going to visit both.

Oh, sign me up... (photo courtesy of Memphis Daily News)
The nice thing about this trip is that there's no hard and fast schedule. If I spend two days in Memphis that's cool. If I spend four days there, that's good, too. With that said, I'm thinking two nights before I head off for northern Indiana and southern Michigan to visit friends. I'm hoping it's not too cold up there (it was 38° the other morning), but I'll be happy if I'm able to feel some actual springtime temperatures. I'd like to check out Saugatuck while I'm there, as well as the St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse. It looks pretty sweet in photos I've found. 

I mean, really?

(Photo courtesy of The Herald-Palladium)

If I'm lucky, I may even be able to work in a tattoo shoot during this visit, as well (I need to get that project in high gear!).

From Michigan, I'll make my way down into Ohio to visit some family in Wooster. Not sure how many days I'll be there, but I know it won't be enough. I'm going to try to work in a tattoo shoot here, as well. I'll be in Ohio for Memorial Day, as well. I can't say I've ever enjoyed a midwest Memorial Day celebration before, but maybe this will be the year.

As I write this, I'm still trying to determine what the last stop will be. I'm hoping it'll be to visit my buddy Holt just south of Chattanooga. I've known Holt since we both lived in San Diego, and he's a phenomenal photographer. If things pan out, it'll be a nice stop along the way home.

Either way, I expect to be getting home either May 31 or June 1.

And then I think I'll take a nap...



Covid-19...

Well, it's been right about two months since I attended CPAC, and that was my last blog entry.

Since that time, of course, the world has changed a little bit. The coronavirus, Covid-19; call it what you will, has impacted every aspect our lives in every corner of the globe. The virus has impacted life on six of seven continents. It's literally everywhere.

However, I'm not one of the "doomsday" types. Much to my daughter's chagrin I haven't done a great deal of social distancing and I haven't been wearing a mask when I go out. I have one, mind you, but I only wore it once, for this picture to show people that I had a mask:



I guess I should wear it more often and, who knows, maybe I'll start. Or maybe I won't. It's hear if I need it, and I've actually been thinking of buying more.

Of course, there's been no work. All of my college shoots evaporated, the magazine actually opted to not publish for the first time ever, and future photo shoots are only looking like glimmers of hope on the horizon.

So, for fun, I decided that I was going to shave and then not shave again until I can walk into a bar and order a Martini. This is what it looked like when I started on April 5:





And this is how it looks as of April 29:





Florida's Governor, Ron DeSantis, has started his three-phase re-opening of Florida. We're in the midst of Phase 2 at the moment, which allows bars to open as long as they're selling food. It's actually a pretty convoluted thing and, so far as I can tell, no two establishments are doing this the same way, so it goes without saying that a lot of people are doing it wrong. That said, the authorities aren't being real bullish about it, though, as they don't really seem to have it all figured out, either.


Oh, and here's me today, May 12:



Thinking about it, I may decide to leave the beard for a while. While I've had a goatee almost on-stop since since 2004, I haven't had a full beard since 2003 and, frankly, it's kinda' fun.

It's funny how easily you can be entertained during a lock-down...

Looking Forward...

This whole Covid-19 thing has obviously sent us all into a tailspin. Trying times these have been, and there's no way to know when, once...