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Roaming South…. the end.

May 20, 2015

All in all it totaled ten states. Seven cities. Six days. About 3000miles… give or take.  Many, many seedy greyhound bus stations.  One train. One plane.  Only one bed. One very interesting night at the Memphis airport. One pair of broken shoes.  One very sturdy, trusted and dusty pair of Frye boots. A couple pretty good record finds.  Twenty or more cliff bars.  One fabulously superb meal.  About 30 rolls of negatives.  Miles of strange highways.  Miles of even stranger towns.  Oodles of personal information from complete strangers. Two new friends.  Hours of photographic stimulation, and only one real moment of fear.

Memphis.  

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.Blues Cafe. Complete with sad man in a suit out front. 

“Be stilllll….not like a catfish on a pole!”says Frank Wilson in an iconic slow, southern drawl.

“Now I hear ya babyy!  C’mon baby!”  He encourages his cab as if it were a woman up a not very steep incline on to the freeway.

Frank is as black as night, lean, wide eyed and friendlier than Mr. Rogers.  I couldn’t tell the exact length of his hair. It was so fabulously slicked back I almost commented on his finger waves.  He offered me air conditioning and we both opted for just windows down despite the heat, which settled around 94 degrees that day.  His “Baby” was falling apart at every seem and my legs were tickled with the torn pieces of cab leather that weren’t already stuck to me.  Unannounced and very casually he pulled into a gas station to buy cigarettes and a drink.  I play a little bit of a game with myself, where I try to judge a person’s character within the first moments of meeting them.  I boil it down to if I can trust them or not.  I trusted Frank.  He was casual and poetic.

(I’m painting his portrait with words due to my own carelessness and some film mishaps.  120 film in a 220 back works just fine so long as you keep tract of your shots.  Though it’s slightly romantic for me to think of the photos and portraits I’ll have frozen only in my mind because they never had any film to catch them.)

My instincts worked well in my favor.  I had taken the cab from the bus station to Graceland where he gave me two numbers and said he’d be at my dispose when I was finished being a tourist.

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.Gold for days. 

The King's Pink Caddy.

The King’s Pink Caddy.

They're not blue suede in real life.

They’re not blue suede in real life.

There's something like ten thousand pieces of fabric covering these walls.

There’s something like ten thousand pieces of fabric covering these walls.

Well done on the wallpaper Elvis.

Well done on the wallpaper Elvis.

I wonder if he ate peanut butter, banana, bacon sandwiches in here.

I wonder if he ate peanut butter, banana, bacon sandwiches in here.

I sat down in a small, overpriced, watered down excuse for a vintage ice cream parlor.  I was running through all the things I had just touched that Elvis once touched and was joined at the booth by a lovely English couple.  She was 68.  He was 83.  Eighteen grandkids and four great grandchildren.  His hearing aid stuck far out from below his hat which read “Retired and Lovin’ It”.  She informed me they were traveling because you can’t keep the money in a coffin.  I’m supposed to inform anyone who looks at their photo that they grew up right near the Beatles.    He can’t drive anymore and she won’t so they came over to do three nights in Memphis and then on to a cruise.  They were far too polite for me to ask how they decided on Memphis so I just assumed it was Graceland.  I still wanted to pull out a map and tell them where they might find some more picturesque parts of the U.S. to see.  Instead I just helped them turn the flash back on their camera.

"Retired and lovin' it"

“Retired and lovin’ it”

“Now you can take the trolly up but DO…NOT… get on it if its empty!  And DO…NOT…get off all the way at the end if it’s dark out.”  Frank’s hollering warnings at me the whole ride.  I was instructed to stay in a four block radius of Beale street.  I hadn’t asked him for any help but he seemed to think I needed it.  No doubt in my mind that if I’d asked him to get out and walk with me he would have.  He took four dollars off my fare and dropped me around at a Starbucks because of a suspicious character near the bus stop.  I got an iced coffee, took my boots off and wrote a little.  Even from up on the patio I was haggled out of every bit of spare change I had.  Frank warned me of this but I was relieved to rid of my unwanted nickels and dimes.  How were the little English couple going to manage out this way? He had trouble paying for ice cream because it was in dollars.  But they wouldn’t be bothered.  Just like all the other Graceland tourists on the patio with me. They were in pairs.  I was young, alone, and seemingly approachable.  Everyone seemed intent on warning me of how dangerous it is everywhere.  I guess my politeness is construed as naiveness.  I had already trotted through Baltimore.  Rocked the short shorts under bridge paths in Norfolk laughing off the cat calls.  I politely denied the offers and requests for drugs in Atlanta.  I couldn’t start getting jumpy now and I certainly wasn’t going to sit at a Starbucks all night.  If my luck ran out I had two numbers for Frank Wilson, who says he doesn’t sleep.

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.Yes, I followed him a while.  He was following short shorts to the right. 

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Daisy Theater.

Daisy Theater.

Gumbo.

Gumbo.

I roamed downtown marveling at how deserted it was in mid-day.  I apologized in my head to Frank and ventured east to keep the sun on my back.  I figured I’d loop out and down and hopefully there’d be more going on by the time I got back.  A man in all black loped across the empty street towards me.  I didn’t trust him. Spare change is easy to lie about, although it was very true in my case that I had given it all away already, but I couldn’t deny having a lighter with a lit cigarette in my mouth.  He handed my lighter back and just as quickly grabbed my wrist hard.  “Baby be my friend, I need a friend”.  Shit, I thought. I’m alone,  approachable, jumpable.  Somewhere down the line I rationalized that staying un-showered may aid in that ‘not getting raped thing’ and smelling like a greyhound bus really just adds to the overall experience.  My free hand was already down at my pocket where a small knife was hidden by my over worn, stretched out tank top.  I wondered if the Hasselblad might be more effective as a weapon.  Then I remembered I was playing out scenes only because of what everyone’s barked at me, acting nervous wouldn’t do me any good.  I told him he had no need to be grabbing me, I was full up on friends and very truly out of money.  Which wasn’t a lie at this point.  He made a pouty face and trotted off.

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.Random bikini poster. 

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Next began my big Memphis exit.

I needed water, real food, sleep, and some shade.  I worked my way back from crumbling warehouses and poorly chose an outdoor blues bar with a live band.  When in Rome right?  I sat and began to get day drunk with a couple of vibrant homeless men being scolded for bringing their own booze in.  The band was precisely what you’d expect to see in a place like that.  A five gallon bucket out front with a sharpie scribbled “TIPS” label.  The front man stood about as tall as me but made up for height in the thickness of his glasses.  The keyboardist woke up today but walked straight out of 78.  I had more fun watching him load the equipment out of his van.  Hair falling below his waist, round yellow glasses and quite the pair of baggy leopard print pants.  I only hoped this meant they were really into the music.

New friends.

New friends.

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It was clear they played for tourists often when the not so shy little front man interrupted his solo to lay his guitar on my lap and play a few chords via mouth.  Thankfully it only lasted a few moments and I forced myself to laugh the red off my face with my new bum friends.  I switched to water and started looking up ways northbound.

This really happened.  Thank you to the random stranger for sharing.

This really happened. Thanks to the kind tourists for sharing.

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I knew I’d sleep like a rock no matter where I was at that point.  My best route home was a very early, and disgustingly cheap flight to Boston.  Frank dropped me off. What I did not expect was that I’d be the only frugal person trying to spend the night at the airport.  As in, the only person there. It was equally as cool as it was creepy.  I thought maybe I should break out into song and dance but convinced myself there must be an employee or security guy hiding somewhere.  It was very bright, very cold and at about 2am a cleaning crew came to buff the floors.  They moved the bench I was pretending to sleep on near an outlet some what away from the noise.  I couldn’t catch a break but it kind of made me smile.

Even in my roughest shape I had a lot of fun.  I really had no goal or destination.  Just to roam and take it in.  You see a lot more on foot.  All walks of life.  You get to meet rough drafts of people when they travel.  You can only fill out their stories from the bits they choose to share and the rest you make up yourself for them.  I thought about it when I was waiting for a train chatting with a worker.  I could have pretended to be anybody I wanted and just rode off.  I’m horrible even at fibbing though.

Nonetheless, the south is pretty friendly.  There’s small towns with good and bad sides, big cities with lost faces, and a few hundred greyhound stops in between with everyone else like me.

Eventually the sun came up, and the airport took life.  I had two employees jovially comment on seeing me try to sleep just wee hours before.  I guess a lot of people don’t do that after all.

When it was well past the boarding and take off time myself and other passengers started flooding the desk.  They didn’t have a lot to say, just that the flight was delayed.  Sure enough an announcement came from above that it was canceled.  I got a later flight scheduled with no issues and went to wait some more at my new gate.  I hadn’t kept much track of any time the whole journey.  No real need to.  I picked up my phone to check and only now realized I randomly chose September 11th to hop a flight home.  Queue fear.

Thankfully, my luck has still yet to run out.

I still have both of Frank’s numbers should you find yourself in Memphis.

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Roaming South… Continued.

February 22, 2015

….”All in all it totaled ten states. Seven cities. Six days. About 3000miles… give or take.  Many, many seedy greyhound bus stations.  One train. One plane.  Only one bed. One very interesting night at the Memphis airport. One pair of broken shoes.  One very sturdy, trusted and dusty pair of Frye boots. A couple pretty good record finds.  Twenty or more cliff bars.  One fabulously superb meal.  About 30 rolls of negatives.  Miles of strange highways.  Miles of even stranger towns.  Oodles of personal information from complete strangers. Two new friends.  Hours of photographic stimulation, and only one real moment of fear.”

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Charleston South Carolina marked the thousand-ish mile.

I had waited on a craigslist ride to get there that never panned out.  It seemed I was destined to make a bed again on a bus.  I got pretty good at this.  I was more than enthused when I was able to grab a train.  The comfort level was stepped up but apparently so was the air conditioning.  Traveling the south in the beginning of September I had only brought a sweatshirt, mostly for pillow purposes.  The wide leather seat was half empty on one side when I woke up to find myself shivering against the stranger in the three piece white suit sitting next to me.  (To this pimp/man, I apologize) although I think he was chilly as well.

I was tired to say the least as I waited for the sun to come up on a curb outside a closed Starbucks.  It felt like forever before an employee came to open.  I tried not to look too impatient as she flashed me a polite smile that also said I know you look desperate for coffee and a bathroom but I’m not letting you in early.

One thing I kept noticing as I meandered and waited was how empty it was.  Even in some of my late night roaming back in Boston I find it odd that there aren’t more people.  Such big places, how could I be the only one around so frequently.  Does no one else travel overnight? Does no one else explore quiet cities in the wee hours of morn? Not that I mind the solitude, I’m just surprised there weren’t a hundred other people doing what I was doing.  Or at the very least, how was I the only early bird waiting for starbucks to open in the heart of Charleston…?

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I put in a phone call to the lovely Alyson Mathias after I had some caffeine and felt functional again.

(Look at her work if you haven’t…it’s fabulous.)

https://rubyhazzard.wordpress.com

I knew her sister Jill and finance Juan lived in town and as expected they were just as welcoming and hospitable as Al.  What I didn’t expect was to find my own sort of bizarro world right in her own home.  If you know the episode of Seinfeld I’m referring to then you know just what I’m talking about.

Back home I live with a family of friends I met at photography school.  We have a very close but wide variety of characters and equally as varied shenanigans we get into together.

Jill and Juan both being chefs invited me for what it still the best home cooked meal I can remember.  The apartment upstairs housed friends of theirs who were hosting a casual pizza night.  It was almost instantly that we got upstairs that the familiar feelings of home came in.  Their friends were all chefs living together laughing out their own shenanigans.  Even down to the different personalities, I was labeling each one as friend back home.  The witty charismatic one, the more mature leader, they even had the one non-chef in the mix as we have a welder in ours.  The whole atmosphere, even the jokes felt like I had my friends from Boston plucked out and dropped in Charleston.   I felt lucky to stumble upon this.  They played Prince records and told funny stories.  I almost broke when they played a recording of a silly home written song I believed was titled “smack santa’s sack”.

The similarities were uncanny.  Twilight zone uncanny.  No matter how I write it out it will never sound to you how wonderful and almost freaky it was for me.  I had always wondered throughout my travels about what moving would be like.  Would I ever find anything similar to what I have  now?  I certainly think it’s possible….

Pizza night.

Pizza night.

Window Pasta.

Window Pasta.

Ches Nous

Ches Nous

Aside from being more than gracious hosts Jill and Juan are talented chefs and owners of Chez Nous.  Their restaurant is as beautiful and comforting as they are.  For all the unexpected things you find when roaming Charleston certainly dished out some great memories.

I traveled like a hobo and got to eat like a king.

Chef Jill Mathias.

Chef Jill Mathias.

Jill Mathias and Juan Casselet.  Ches Nous

Jill Mathias and Juan Casselet. Ches Nous

Brandy.

Brandy.

Porch Light

Porch Light

Curiosity

Curiosity

The Green Door.

The Green Door.  Buffalo Chicken Waffle Tacos…. I’m not joking.

A tiny Taco Spot.

A tiny Taco Spot.

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DOA Crew.

DOA Crew.

Girl on Break.

Girl on Break.

Jail.

Jail.

Church across from the jail.

Church across from the jail….

King St. night gem.

King St. night gem.

Drunken walks.

Drunken walks.

Weekend plans with Fish.

Weekend plans with Fish.

Memphis to come soon….

Roaming South…. Part One

January 22, 2015

So I took a trip.   My permanent travel itch is so seldom scratched.  That doesn’t stop me from trolling the internet year round to romanticize over my ideal dreamlike, sun-flared, indie soundtracked, polaroid snapping, american exploration.

We’ll say my epic plan was just shy of realized.

Don’t get me wrong, what ensued was perfect.  The only thing I know about traveling is to expect many unexpected things.  Which is all I really could ask for.

Nonetheless, I took a trip.  Now you couldn’t pay me to go to florida.  Well, maybe if I was actually paid, but anywhere else is fair game.  New Orleans is like a sister I visit often and I couldn’t have headed west with only a week to do so.  Plain old south was the winning heading.  To change things up a bit I decided to leave Nancy Sonata behind.  I knew I could cover a lot more ground and dig deeper if I was to drive but…. it just felt like cheating.

All predetermined notions or hard plans were squashed.  I started with craigslist.  A next day ride-share to baltimore.  Good enough start for me!  Despite my assurances that craigslist killers weren’t trending this year,  my mother was not pleased.

All in all it totaled ten states. Seven cities. Six days. About 3000miles… give or take.  Many, many seedy greyhound bus stations.  One train. One plane.  Only one bed. One very interesting night at the Memphis airport. One pair of broken shoes.  One very sturdy, trusted and dusty pair of Frye boots. A couple pretty good record finds.  Twenty or more cliff bars.  One fabulously superb meal.  About 30 rolls of negatives.  Miles of strange highways.  Miles of even stranger towns.  Oodles of personal information from complete strangers. Two new friends.  Hours of photographic stimulation, and only one real moment of fear.

These are some outtakes that stuck with me…

Sunrise at the land of retirees.

Sunrise at the land of retirees.

I didn’t take a camera out till I hit Virginia Beach.

It was before dawn that the bus let out at a convenience store a few miles from the water.  I have a thing about knowing direction at all times.  It felt rather primal to see the sun trying to climb and know I needed to head right into it.  My scenic, sun-speckled walk was only made better by a street length of stores and signs kindly left behind by earlier decades.

I was matching pace with a man also just off the bus.  His step was much peppier than mine given the current hour and previous night I’d had.  He made point to slow down and make very cordial and very upbeat small talk.  With no hesitation he began into a story of himself.  Today was his first day in seven years he woke up a free man again.  I had now met my first of three parolees for the trip.  He was heading to see his sister who had retired there many years prior.  He hadn’t seen her any of the seven years and thought a surprise at breakfast was overdue.  I got the impression she was the only place he had to go.  I’m still not sure what it was that he was jailed for.  He made no efforts in hiding that he was a bad guy once but seemed to me plenty reformed, at least on this morning.  He only asked if I’d ever been there before, the rest of our walk I was only an audience.  I’m sure based on looks alone I come off as very approachable.  I was also the only other person in sight.  I was very happy to listen for him.  I wondered if he’d already told his story off to other bus patrons on the ride.  I’ve only known a few other people who’ve done real jail time.  I wasn’t about to start judging.  You have to take whatever the road gives you.  It’s easy to remember to keep an open mind when you’re away from your comforts.  I was still working my head around figuring out how he was so quick to advertise his past.  I gathered it was all he had to talk about.  I sort of wanted to be in his shoes.  He seemed so irrepressibly happy.  I thought to ask him for a photo but decided against it.  Regardless how good or bad of a man he was it seemed selfish on my part to ask him for anything on his most elated of mornings in seven years.

VirginiaBeaches

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To lighten the mood I went for coffee at the Log Cabin Pancake House.  If you’d seen it you’d also have known it was necessary! A stone’s throw from the beach and a very strange mix of oriental signs and greek wall art.  The breakfast buffet had already drawn in a crowd of what must have been “the regulars”.  Rows of teal booths with white hair poking above awaiting their orange juice and back pills.

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VirginiaBeach

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Breakfast of champs in any state.

Breakfast of champs in any state.

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I was just off the main drag walking the boardwalk.  A roar of small sized engines and clouds of two stroke exhaust quickly engulfed the walkway.  I shrugged it off as odd until another brigade flew by about twenty minutes later.  I called my dad.  I explained I was in Virginia already and tried to sound reasonable when I asked if he knew anything about lots of older men in funny hats that seemed to belong to an upscale go cart gang.  Even at thirty I call my dad for answers quite frequently.  He just seems to know them all.  He knew the answer immediately…. and minutes later I realized I had stumbled upon a Shriners parade.  He seemed amused in telling me to try and get one of them to let me wear their hats for a photo.  As pleasant and talkative as they all were I was abruptly denied each request.

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Zembo ponies.

Zembo ponies.

TweedleDee

this guy….

A Disparate Compilation.

February 23, 2014
Nana Babe.... an epic little woman.

Nana Babe…. an epic little woman.

Reads books with no pictures.

Words with no photos.

Friendly Toast.

Friendly Toast.

...I just like this for no real reason.

Candid coffee.

Not a strand misplaced.

Not a strand misplaced.

Mysterious eyes and orbs.

Mysterious eyes and orbs.

Catan snow days....but the secret's in the stocking.

Catan snow days….and Easter eggs in Christmas stockings.

Sinclair silhouette.

Sinclair silhouette.

Goblin opener's...two guys...8 keyboards.

Goblin opener’s…two guys…9 keyboards.

A Habit of Zimmerman.

February 23, 2014
I used to draw the covers to my old albums.  It sort of just turned into sketching Bob Dylan all the time. I'm fine with it.

I used to draw the covers to my old albums. It sort of just turned into sketching Bob Dylan all the time. I’m fine with it.

Live at Budokan.

Live at Budokan.

Baby Bob in pen and ink.

Baby Bob in pen and ink.

Greatest Hits Vol.II

Greatest Hits Vol.II

Save Ends

January 11, 2014

 

solace.

I have few friends left from past years. I find great solace in certain seventh grade memories of sleeping bags on living room floors and Jurassic Park…over and over…

Small girls slang big guns.

Small girls slang big guns. Christine Atturio ladies and gents.

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Shovels & Rope…

December 9, 2013

Listening is highly recommended.

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and watch…!

They’re so adorable.