Highland, Illinois

Spent a day in airports and on jets to get to Highland, IL (about 25 miles or so from St. Louis, MO). Not an illustrious place to travel to, from what I’ve seen so far. I guess it can’t always be San Diego. I wish I’d had my camera in hand taking off from Missoula this morning, as the climb out, and across Montana, was stunning. Clear and sunny, and the snow on all the mountains . . . it was magnificent. I haven’t quite gotten this part down yet about always having the camera ready. As a taker of pictures (I’d never refer to myself as a photographer) I’m kinda lame. If I get good ones, it’s pure luck.

I fly Northwest more often than not, and given how much I travel I always get bumped to first class. That is pretty damn sweet. I haven’t slept much the last couple nights, and it felt great to stretch out and luxuriate a little bit. The only bummer is I finished The Freedom Manifesto, which was one of those books I wished would go on forever. It’s nice to read someone who, for the most part, thinks like I do. Thanks to kitcarson (whoever that is, though I think I could guess who she is) for tipping me off to it. Those people over at S&Co are like crack dealers.

Now I’m at that point when I travel where I feel gross. The first day out I always eat horribly, and it sucks. I even broke one of my primary rules of travel: Always Avoid Restaurants That Bill Themselves as Family Restaurants. They almost always suck. Here is tonight’s example, as viewed from my window:

This one actually wasn’t that bad, but not great either. This is one of those towns that on first glance doesn’t seem to offer a whole lot — Pizza Hut, DQ, Ponderosa, etc. — so I just held my nose and walked over there. I’ve always thought to make these trips interesting I should road-ready my acoustic and find hole-in-the-wall bars to busk in. I should seriously pursue that one of these days. I know I’m not the first guy in the world who would follow up a butchering of a Hank Williams tune with a decent rendition of a Sex Pistols tune, but I bet there hasn’t been a lot of that done in a place like Highland, IL. I have these fantasies of both being able to make some extra cash on the side on these trips, or coming back with a story about how I had to fight my way out of some hostile roadhouse with a rusty Pabst Blue Ribbon sign out front (listen to me, the tough guy: I’ve never been in a fight (though Jimmy and I did square off and find victory against about 50 guys one time) in my life!)

Speaking of PBR — has the demographic for that beer changed or what? You drive through rural Wisconsin as I have done frequently over the past few years, and most places have battered old PBR signs hanging over the doors, or Old Milwaukee, or some other swill like that. These are blue collar beers, the kind that guys with bellies hanging over their work pants would throw back after a day out in the fields. Nowadays, PBR is the hipster/indie rocker beer of choice. I remember it from the Jay’s Upstairs days, when bands essentially drank for free, and it was always PBR on tap. Blue collar guys would hate the people their beer is being marketed to. If a crew of the modern PBR generation swaggered into one of those Wisconsin small town bars, they’d get laughed at our beaten out of the place. Only nowadays, instead of getting harassed about having long hair they’d get urged to “Pull your fucking pants up!”

That’s another part of the problem with rock these days. Hardcore rockers are supposed to be anti-establishment, sticking it to the man, right? That isn’t something you get from Hot Topic in the mall, you get it by performing deeds that could potentially run you afoul of the law. How the hell are you going to run from the cops with your pants falling down around your knees? I tell you, this world is made up of half-ass amateurs. . . .

Two paragraphs ago I was reminded of Jay’s Upstairs, and how I get a tumbler’s worth of bile crawling up my throat at the thought of what that space has become. Even now my rage is beginning to spike, which ain’t pretty. Julia and I attended this birthday party/preview opening thing for what is going to be a dance studio in Missoula, that occupies the space where Jay’s Downstairs used to be. I can’t remember the woman’s name who is doing it (she is a friend of Julia’s), but she’s the one who does the salsa dance lesson things at The Badlander (update: Heather Adams is her name). Anyway, it was weird to be in there, see where the staircase up the back used to be where we had to haul gear, etc. But having that ritzy club overhead . . . I wanted to tear the old washing machine from downstairs (which is still there) and throw it through the window overhead. Argh, I hate that stuff!

In closing this rambling post that no one has probably made it this far on, I’d like to pose this question: What is it about NASCAR that seems to make its fans unaware that their garish-tshirt-of-choice is only flying about half mast, so that a good six inches of triumphant belly (aka gut) is displayed for all to ogle? Maybe the guy I saw today intended to cover his gut with the NASCAR jacket he was wearing, only it didn’t appear that thing has been closeable for at least 5 or 6 years (which is about the same time frame that had seemingly elapsed since its last washing as well).

Think this lovely lass is a NASCAR fan? I wouldn’t bet against it. Note that the PBR is what she’s drinking, and is merely . . . cooling herself . . . with the High Life.

Realization: After viewing this post, I realized that most of the people who read this blog are female, if you measure it by the comments I’ve gotten. So, odds are, you women may not realize that the person I am referring to is the woman in the middle of the shot, not that delicious hunk of manflesh grinning in an “I will be toothless someday” fashion to her immediate right. That dude is one barbed-wire armband tattoo away from godhood, isn’t he? I’m guessing the armband is probably on the arm outside of the frame.

First Trip of the Year

Just to see what it looks like, I’m going to kick this thing off with pictures from the first trip of the year — I went to San Diego for a couple days last week. These shots were taken at Pacific Beach. It’s pretty cool what you can do with a couple hours to spare on the way to the airport, even if it means for a damp, sandy ride on the airplane afterwards.