Friday, August 27, 2021
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
I’m a coffee snob. I may also be a music snob, a boot snob, and a guitar snob. I am not, however, a beach snob. I have friends who think South Carolina beaches are crap. I have friends who think the Myrtle Beach area beaches are dirty and gross. I understand that I do not have to agree with them to be their friend or to respect them. I’ve been to beaches on both sides of Florida and the panhandle and their beaches are nice. There are probably not many beaches I wouldn’t like. The beaches at St. Augustine are pretty good. The sand is white and fine and the beaches are very wide. One difference from the beaches here is the long distance one must walk to get to the beach. St. Augustine has wisely protected a wide area of dunes between the beach and the residential areas and this creates a cool little ecosystem in that space. So while you may have to carry a bunch of beach stuff farther and across a long boardwalk, you may just see tortoises, snakes, and rabbits along the way.
We ended the day by walking through the old town. If you’ve never been, it’s definitely worth putting on your list. The oldest continuously inhabited city in the US. Lots of parks and historical things and some really good food. We ate at a place called Burger Buckets and it was really good. We also got some Hyppo pops and Blue and I grabbed milkshakes at Cousteau’s. Cousteau’s is worth the drive to Florida on its own. They only sell waffles and milkshakes. What a dream come true. They’re all specialty mixtures and all very good. The restaurant is themed around the movie “The Life Aquatic” and Jacques Cousteau. Very cool. Highly recommended. It was a good day.
Thursday woke us all up with the realization that vacation was almost over. We got breakfast at a local diner and then hit the beach. It drizzled a little but I didn’t care. I finished my David Sedaris book and had a beach nap. I may have went inside in the afternoon and had a second nap. We tried the closed restaurant again and it was open this time. We drove around a little seeing things we missed on previous visits and watched lightning in the distance. We ended the day by visiting the Publix bakery and grabbing desserts. Oh, and I caught a vintage Tom & Jerry cartoon before the Olympics were back on. That was nice.
Sunday, August 15, 2021
I slept in on the Wednesday after driving home from Atlanta at 3:00 am. I didn’t feel so much like a 49 year-old on the drive back, but I did feel like a person with very dry eyes and contacts that were hoping to jump out at the first chance. This kept my eyes squinty the whole trip home and made me even more ready to sleep once I hit my pillow. The last couple of weeks had piled up and at this point I felt like I could actually relax and rest. I forget how late I slept the next morning, but the only thing that got me out of bed was knowing how terribly hot it was already getting outside. I needed to run before the temperatures got into the 90s.
When G got home from work, Violet and I recounted the major details of our concert adventure. “You MISSED WEEZER???” was repeated a few times. I held up my HellaMega Tour shirt to show the cool design and when I did, I found myself staring at the back of the shirt for the first time. Each of the summer concert dates were listed there and my eyes fixed on “Jacksonville, Florida”. I can admit I began concert scheming at that moment.
Thursday I worked on getting all the art wrapped and put away or hung and stacked back in its proper storage place. I packed for vacation. I looked up ticket prices, you know, just in case. Friday morning I ran, had coffee, and loaded everything in the car. We drove to Charleston and I talked out loud about the possibilities on the way. It didn’t seem very practical and I couldn’t quite work out how the timing would allow us to either get checked in at the rental early enough to drive back to Jacksonville and NOT MISS WEEZER AGAIN or arrive at the rental before midnight after the concert. I pretty much dismissed the idea and moved on with thinking about what I was going to eat for dinner and for breakfast the next morning.
Dinner was good and breakfast on Saturday was not great, but a good coffee made it better. We started our drive south and the topic of the concert came up again but this time with a different plan. What if we were able to be dropped off right outside the stadium this time? No parking or traffic problems. I remembered seeing passengers bailing out of the cars around us stuck in traffic in Atlanta. What if Violet and I were dropped off at the gate, G and Blue found a cool place to do back-to-school shopping, and then picked us up after Weezer performed? This was starting to sound more reasonable and actually, very possible. The Florida state line was getting closer and Violet and I started to get excited. It looked like we were going to the concert!
Violet had a few questions. “Do we have tickets?” Well, no. We’ll buy them at the Box Office when we get there. “What if they’re sold out?” I don’t think they will be, but if so, we’ll see if we can buy some from a scalper. “What will we eat?” Hmmm, it’s a football stadium, so surely there are restaurants nearby where football hooligans get drunk on gameday. “How will they know where to pick us up?” We have phones. We’ll figure something out. Before long we saw the stadium growing on the horizon. Without a lot of warning, we rolled up right outside of Gate 3 and Violet and I sort of collected ourselves before bailing out of the car. It was around 1:30 pm. We were determined to not be late this time!
Gate 3 led to Gate 4 and then there was another building in our way. Walking around it seemed ridiculous and maybe impossible so we backtracked. On the opposite end of the stadium we encountered literal roadblocks of cones, busses, and 18 wheelers. There were even a few police officers. We asked how to get around and when the policeman didn’t know, he just told us to ignore the barriers and walk through. We appreciated that. Maybe an hour after stepping out of the car, we were buying cheap tickets at the Box Office window. We both felt a little relief after securing our tickets but we also felt our stomachs growling. The hotel breakfast was a long time ago now so we opened the map on my phone and started looking for restaurants. The few we found within a mile of the stadium were closed that day. The sweat was soaking through my shirt and Violet was only in slightly better shape. She said she didn’t want to walk a long way in the heat so we started looking for shade in a Florida parking lot. You know what you don’t find much of in a Florida parking lot? That’s right, shade. There was a Charlie Brown tree a few hundred feet behind Gate 1 with a shade just large enough for us to stand under. We took our position there and prepared to wait patiently for the gates to open at 5:30 pm.
I’m not a patient person. My default when I get a spare moment is to check my phone. Oh hush, you do it too. Violet sat on the shaded concrete, I stood and we both checked our phones. I had not charged mine since waking up and I suddenly became aware of how important it was to save the battery. I needed my phone for our digital tickets and to figure out how to find the car when the concert was over. And let’s be honest, I was going to make some photos and videos of Weezer too. I turned my phone off and rested it in my pocket. We people watched for 2 hours and we were not disappointed. Hair, outfits, age ranges, it was all so worth seeing.
This is a good time to take a side trip with me about proper concert attire. I know you don’t come to me for fashion but hear me out as I think this is a well-thought-out and time-tested theory. I have a rule about what to wear to a concert. It’s simple. Never wear a t-shirt of the band you’re going to see that night. It’s uncouth. Philistine. You wear shorts or jeans and comfortable shoes and you pick a t-shirt of a band you think the concert band will appreciate. Sure, you could be a person who wakes up and washes their Green Day shirt to wear to the Green Day concert. Or, you could actually put some thought into it and consider Green Day’s influences. Who inspires them? What does their particular style of music make you want to listen to? I mean, let’s say you’re the lucky one person who happens to walk past Billie Joe Armstrong in the wing joint next door. Do you want him to see a commoner wearing a Green Day shirt or would you rather him see a dude in an Ella Fitzgerald shirt? Maybe it’s a big leap to imagine him pointing to your Ella shirt and saying “Nice shirt, man” but it’s an even bigger leap to think you’re going to impress him with your Green Day shirt from Target. Not judging, I love Target bargains too, I’m just saying maybe wear the Green Day shirt to the Avett Brothers concert. Speaking of judging, I stood in that tiny shade with sweat pooling in my socks weeping at all the Green Day shirts walking around the parking lot. In the words of Violet, "uncultured swine".
There was also the guy in the fancy kilt to enjoy. The pot-bellied male in his freshly cut-off t-shirt showcasing the pot-belly and his friend in what appeared to be a bikini. There was the woman who decided it was too hot for this crap and just walked around in shorts and a bra. And the old guy in jeans and boots who wanted to tell me about all the Aerosmith concerts he went to back in his day. We didn’t exactly get bored. I don’t remember what Violet was wearing but since we didn’t know we were going to a concert when we got up that morning…or two days before when we packed, she was probably wearing the equivalent to my khaki shorts and white t-shirt. I remembered to grab my straw hat out of the car to protect my head.
As 5:30 approached, the lines at the Gates grew longer. I had a better understanding of the concert timeline this time around and I was in no hurry to get out of my shade. With a little patience, the line at our gate grew until we were technically in line without having to leave our tree sanctuary. The gates opened and we were through security and inside pretty fast. We made our way immediately up to the upper level of food vendors and a nice lady beckoned us to come eat at her station. We snagged a couple of stadium dogs and waters and basically inhaled them. We agreed these were the best dogs we’d ever had and laughed, probably half from heat exposure. We saw some lady drop out from the heat on the way up the ramp but here, almost alone in the stadium shade, we enjoyed the breeze blowing out from one of the tunnels. It was nice. Our complete lack of a plan was working out perfectly.
The stage was reset for Weezer and as they were converting the stage I realized how lucky we were to be guessing correctly. This half baked "plan" was all based on the tour following the same set schedule as Atlanta. If Weezer had not played first on this night, I would have been in big trouble with my vacationing family. When the teal lightning bolts and huge drum kit was moved into place, I smiled, relaxed a little more, and texted our ride that Weezer was about to start.
That was our cue to leave. I know it was confusing to our neighbors, but we grabbed our trash and headed out. We were so stoked about the concert we’d just experienced that we didn’t even worry much about not knowing where we were going. The exits were not even opened yet and when we asked the police officer near the gate how to get out, he said “You’re leaving?” Yeah, it was too long of a story to tell, but we were only there to see Weezer. We had a vacation to get on with now. The ticket lady told us we could just go out the entry gate and she too, questioned us before letting us out.
Blue dropped a pin and sent me the location of the car. The distance from the gate to the waiting car was shorter than the line to get merch in the Atlanta concert. Some nice parking attendant let the car inside the paid parking area for free since they were just picking someone up. We were on the highway before the next band was on stage. It worked. It actually worked!
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Monday night after returning home wasn’t the best night of sleep I have had recently. The couch is great for naps but for a full night of sleep it’s not preferred. That’s where Zeke sleeps each night and while he’s a very sweet and loving dog, he’s not a sleep cuddler. When we all watch a movie on the couch he sulks in the floor waiting for us to vacate his space. He was generous with half of the couch when I went to sleep but when I got up in the middle of the night to turn on the fan, he jumped in my spot and I had to physically move him in order to go back to sleep. Once I woke up and ran, I was pretty recharged. It had been a busy few weeks, but I had one more day of adventure ahead and I was kind of excited.
Fast forward to the pandemic. The tour was postponed because of people and germs. When there was hope of things opening back up soon, the tour was rescheduled and I got distantly excited again. I had a lot of things on the calendar for this summer so I added the tour date to my phone and completely forgot about it. The concert was this thing I was going to do this summer but I wasn’t really sure when it was actually happening. About two weeks before the date, I rediscovered it when G asked about it. It was happening on a Tuesday? In the middle of the week? That’s not the best plan for a working person so she was obviously less excited than I was. And while Violet jumps at a chance to go to a concert, Blue has never attended one and intentionally avoids places where people gather. It started to look like it wouldn't be a whole family trip.
I kept forgetting about the tickets and really didn’t even know where they were. I made a feeble attempt to sell the extras on Instagram, but with the new Covid numbers starting to rise again, I don’t think a lot of people we eager to go to a concert in what was being called a “hot spot”. I took a little solace in the fact that it was still an outside venue, but vowed to not touch anything and then I decided that the extra seats might provide a buffer from others. So while G and Blue were probably a little relieved that they were not going to stay up most of the night going to a loud concert, the rest of us were still excited. I wanted to see Green Day. I wanted to see Weezer. But the thing I wanted most was to hear “Undone: The Sweater Song” live. Second on that list was to hear “El Scorcho” live. That one mentions Green Day so I figured there was a good chance I’d hear it.
The third thing on my list was Alexander Calder. There’s a big Calder exhibit in NYC this summer and I had every intention of dragging Blue and Violet to it before school started back. As the calendar filled up, I saw those chances fade and decided that the Calder/Picasso exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta might be a nice substitute. Still I wondered when I would have a day to sacrifice to drive to Atlanta. I’ll admit that sometimes these things sneak up on me. Just a few days earlier I was thinking about it and realized, “Oh, I’m already driving to Atlanta!”. Now I just needed to get there early enough to run by the museum before the concert starts. No problem.
So I was sleeping on the couch with Zeke and the rest of the family was camped around on mattresses because the air conditioning was out upstairs. G got up and went to work which left me as the adult in charge for the fix-it guy to come Tuesday morning. I just needed this to be a quick fix so I could get on the road. Violet and I dressed in our museum/concert attire and waited. The appointment did not start on time, but it did go mercifully fast. We were later than we wanted, but we were on the road to pick up Katherine before noon and I had high hopes. If traffic was kind, we’d still be ok.
I’m not sure “kind” is the word I’d use to describe Atlanta traffic that day but we still made it to the museum parking garage in good time. We were all blown away by the exhibit.
That was the plan. Here’s what actually happened:
We left the museum inspired but a little behind schedule. We drove across town to the coffee shop. The coffee shop with amazing coffee and huge letters on the door showing they were open until 6:00 pm. At 5:30 pm they were NOT open. Doors locked. Lights out. No coffee. I checked the map and saw we needed to drive a bit to get to the stadium and I announced that was our next stop. There could be traffic and I didn’t want to chance it. We were all hungry but we’d just have to grab food inside the stadium in the time we had before the music started.
Off we drove to the stadium exit. The stadium that hosts major league baseball games several nights each week for a big part of the year. The stadium that should have well-marked parking lots and easy ways to get into them. We sat at that exit moving one car length per 5 minutes for an hour and a half. There were no police directing traffic, just a ton of tired and panicky, hopeful concert goers trying to figure out where to go. When we finally made it onto the street with the parking lots, none were clearly marked as ones we could use. There were no instructions and no humans to ask. After following other clueless cars up and down the roads, we finally pulled into one with some spaces left and asked the lady scanning cards of we could park there. She said “NO!” I asked where we could park. She said “TWO LEFTS, THREE RIGHTS!” and motioned for me to get out of there.
It was obvious that everyone on the street in front of us had the same instructions and we moved like a slow parade first taking two lefts and then ever so slowly taking the first and second right. As we searched for parking, we noted there was music coming from the stadium. Surely this was just a sound check, right? During the slow parade, we heard what sounded like Weezer songs. What was going on? We weren’t missing the concert were we? It was definitely a sound check. It had to be. The music stopped. The crowd roared. It was not a sound check. Weezer was playing and we were missing it. I moved an inch closer to the bumper in front of me. The inch didn’t make me feel any better. Was this really happening? I was firmly in the anger stage at this point. Choosing to not stop for lunch was my fault. Choosing to add a museum visit to this trip was my fault. Thinking I had the luxury of time for coffee was my fault. But this whole business of trying unsuccessfully to get parked and into the stadium certainly felt like a failure on the part of Truist Park or the City of Atlanta. I was very angry.
We finally got parked in a remote parking space. There was a whole moment of the lady holding my debit card at the gate musing about closing the lot but we escaped that disaster. The three of us power walked through a maze to try to get out of the lot and onto the street. We were so far away we had to use a map to get to the stadium. The music was still playing. The crowd of people who came early to drink in their cars all afternoon were seeing MY concert. The song “Africa” was clearly blasting from electric guitars and drums in the stadium. I was not at all excited about hearing this one, but I figured they were close to the end of their set if they were playing it. Power walking turned into sprinting.
My concert friends were very kind at this point. Neither of them chose to point out how I had discouraged lunch in favor of an early dinner. Neither of them chose to point out that I was the only one in comfortable shoes while we sprinted. Neither of them chose to blame me for the disaster unfolding before us. I ran, holding Violet’s hand, practically dragging her toward the stadium, grateful for their mercy.
They were in fact, quite pleasant about it. Both of them were singing “Africa” while we sprinted and while we waited in line at the gate. The multi-tasking began immediately. Katherine held our place in the long security line while Violet and I picked up some merch. We made it inside the stadium just in time to hear the last three Weezer songs. We stopped our march to our seats long enough to stand and take in “Buddy Holly”. Then we continued our climb to the nosebleed seats. Almost as if they were waiting for us, Weezer bowed and left the stage just as we were directed to our seats. We sat down and saw an empty stage before us. All of our neighbors moved to the bathroom lines or food lines. We were hungry and needed to pee so after we gathered ourselves for a moment, we found our places in the lines too.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
We rolled into the hotel parking lot in Summerville, SC a bit closer to 5:30 pm than I had hoped. Violet and I were set to perform a few songs during the Rad Dad Concert at Public Works Art Center that started at 6:00 pm. We checked in, threw our stuff down, changed clothes and ran back to the car. We were on time for parking, but by the time we walked into the gallery, we were a good 5 minutes late. (Sorry y’all.) The concert had just started so it was all fine. Our cool friend Dan Riley was in charge and he kept things very informal and comfortable. When he asked us if we were ready, it took us a few minutes to get things organized but that kept us from getting too nervous. It was odd to not be in our living room with our music laid out on a table in front of us. Violet had to hold the music because I don’t always remember the chord progressions. I really had to concentrate because her hand was shaking, it was dark, and my eyes are old. We rocked the first two songs but I kept screwing up the third song, “Betty”. We never figured out what was wrong, but we both agreed the chords sounded terrible so it was definitely something I was doing. We did one more song on ukulele and then we were done. The pressure was off and that was one more thing I could take out of my mind. One more compartment I could close. We were so pumped to get to hear Dan play with both of his kids. That was definitely the highlight of the night. It was also very cool to be playing in the gallery filled with my artwork.
We had planned to hang out in Charleston on Saturday before starting our secret art mission at 5:00 pm. We got up, I ran, and we all headed to breakfast at The Vicious Biscuit. It was so good. At breakfast we decided to change our plans and shift it to doing back to school shopping for the kids. We spent most of the day at the outlets and while I walked around with everyone, my mind had shifted to the mural I was about to start. I didn’t know what I was going to draw, but I had some ideas on how to use the very vertical space. I was also trying to problem solve how I was going to plan and execute the entire mural from the top down. This is not how I usually work. I like to move around the composition as it evolves. All this was playing in my head as I “shopped”.
After shopping we headed back to the hotel. Actually on the way we had to make a very important stop for Blue. This summer he fell in love with Cane’s chicken and the closest one is in Summerville. He was happy we had to make so many trips to the area this summer and this was the reason he was glad to be town again. After Cane’s, we made a quick stop at the hotel. G and the kids were heading back to the dogs at home and Katherine and I were preparing to be up very late doing the mural. We found a food truck near the hotel and got some really good food from Page’s Okra Grill to fuel our night. We all loaded up G’s car with as many drawings and sculptures as possible and wished them a safe trip. Then Katherine and I went inside to prepare. Our friend Dan set up the scaffolding for us as soon as the building closed officially at 5:00 pm. The idea was that the scaffolding was going to block access to the bottom floor of the Art Center so we only had from 5:00 pm Saturday until 8:00 am Monday to complete the whole thing. Not a lot of people had been told about the event so we totally ran with the whole “secret mission” thing. Muraling is still associated with graffiti so the idea of coming in under the cover of darkness and working all night seemed to fit.
When I did the gallery mural for my show, I asked a few of the artists in the adjoining studios if they had any requests. I did my best to work those requests into my narrative. I had an idea to do something similar this time. I had the privilege of getting to know Jana, the Executive Director, Emily, the Assistant Director, and Jana’s husband Dan during my exhibit. Two of Jana’s kids performed at the Rad Dad concert and I also got to talk to them a little. The kids had a couple of requests for the stairwell mural and Emily had a tiny one too. Those were little sparks that started to build and grow as I started drawing.
On Monday I ran alone along the exercise path I found near the hotel. I was able to think about the mural and toss around ideas for the few small open areas left to fill in. At this point we mostly had touch up work to do and then we’d be finished. We checked out of our rooms that were so kindly provided by Cambria Hotels and stopped at Coastal Coffee Roasters on the way to the Arts Center. I found this place when I was doing the gallery mural and loved their coffee. We were not disappointed this time either. We took the time to leave a butt drawing on one of the tables outside and then drove over to do the finishing touches. While we technically needed to be finished by 8:00 am Monday, we had completely dismantled the scaffolding on Sunday, so the stairwell was open to traffic.