Thursday, December 03, 2015

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Monday, November 03, 2014

Lost Space: I'm still putting two spaces after my sentences and I don't care what you think, Grammar Girl

It's true. We've lost a space. Lots of them. As I discovered almost two years ago at work (when I learned my former boss had been removing each extra space after every period in my reports) the world of Punctuation Law has ruled two spaces post-period are out. One will suffice. It's like China post-1979.

Since my ninth grade typing class, which occurred, let's just say, well over 5-10 years ago, is the basis of all my knowledge on spacing and cartridge returning, and since I'm not a regular grammar-blog devotee, I never got the update. 

Cousin Maria & Rob at Yam Chops, worlds (only?) vegan butcher

I didn't want the update, either. There is something satisfying about two spaces after a thought. It sets off the next sentence in a clear, if now exaggerated way (and I'm prone to hyperbole – it's part of my Greek nature).

Speaking of Greek nature, I had a wonderful time in Toronto visiting my family.  We celebrated Dad's would-be 75th and got to see his brothers, my cousins, and their kids and one dog.  

Uncle Sotos, the eldest of Dad's brothers, and Uncle Aris, 4th brother, Dimi, niece Eleni, Maria, nephew Daniel - we were not ready for this picture, but the photographer/waiter at the Chinese buffet maybe wasn't either.

Theo Aris photobomb of Maria and I

Continuing on the space issue, take this very sentence. I've just followed it with one space – kinda messes you up, don't it?! You didn't even know I'd finished my thought, right? OK, no more of that mess. In any case, I'm sticking to the extra buffer, even if it does waste paper or virtual space. In fact, I may even campaign to add a third space, as a counter-measure. Otherwise, soon, we'll end up like this.No space.Theywilltakeitallaway.

They can't take this away.  Detroit Vegan Soul.

The door to our show in Detroit.

Detroit's nice waterfront park

Who doesn't love Bubba? #sybaselfie

Love. Detroit.

Speaking of conforming, I've been interviewing musicians and music-supporters with my self-titled list “big talk” of my favorite questions to ask. At last month's show in Detroit, Michigan, I asked a music critic my classic “what's the most difficult thing about being alive?” followed by the related “what are the essential ingredients to a happy life?” and his response resonated, which was, basically, “Being detached from what other people think of you.” I then asked how many people he thinks achieve this detachment. “.00001%.” Probably true.

We're social creatures, dependent on one another – it's only natural to have a stake in others' assessments. Fundamentally this is about survival, with both positive outcomes (ex: success of the viral movements such as ice bucket challenge) and shitty (bullying, war, depression due to dependency of others' opinions of you for happiness, ETC).

This dependency is particularly in view for a band or any artist putting out work with expectation of comment. Absence of comment (ignored) or negative feedback can send you questioning your worth. Or, like us, it can make you throw the Q word around. Whether you Quit or not, shows can be a roller coaster ride if you base your worth on audience response.

We never set up back-to-back shows as a traditional touring band would. First, it's too much work. Second, I want to enjoy a city for longer, visit family and friends, and not be rushed. Third (I can list 10 reasons but will spare you, reader), we want to minimize driving each day. Chugging along in Weston for 10 hours, nice as he is, does not make us happy (and it's really fanning the flames of Syba's selfie obsession!).

BB in Detroit (by Stephen Cramer)

So when we do have shows, they are fewer and further in between. Each one seems to count more. Detroit was organized by an extremely capable musicphile Stephen Cramer, who used to live in Athens, GA. Now he runs the Detroit music festival, and does all he can to promote your show. We played at a nice dive club called Small's, in a part of Detroit where you are advised by fellow bands not to walk your dog alone, even around the corner. 

 The first band, the musician Fred Thomas, was a thoughtful songwriter and engaging performer. In Portland, we played with a musician who knows Fred, who said, and I paraphrase here, “When I think of a 'real' musician, which I often feel that I am not, I think of Fred Thomas.”  

Opening for us was the wonderful Fred Thomas.

BB by Stephen Cramer

This is what you do in Michigan. I accidentally Star Trec'd it. Stephen Cramer had it right.

This was one of those shows where you feel that you might have been speaking a different language than the recipients of the aural message. There was very little reaction. Nevertheless, it was worth it just to meet Stephen and learn more about his good work in Detroit. 


In Iowa City we had our first reading slash show at the Dog Mansion. It was a wonderful combo that I want to keep combining. Show organizers work at the Prairie Lights bookshop, one of the oldest bookstores in ... I can't recall ... but very old; so it was a natural combination. Readers read their works primarily from their iPhones, a noteable change from the 90's poetry readings I attended. And rather than painful to sit through, it was a blast. 

Though we didn't really have a PA, we played quietly so that our singing could be heard. 

Syba hung out on the couch/floor and got pet a lot. 

The show produced some noteable drawings.

This is in Icelandic.

He works in a restaurant.


This is Max Johnson. Since they spelled his name wrong, and have a "JK" in the corner, we weren't worried.

Best drawing ever (from Detroit I believe). Another band liked this so much he used this as the show flyer in another city (Tempe, AZ)

The organizers were super nice – this is a town we'd love to return to again. The next day we stopped by Prairie Lights and bought a book by Japanese author Haruku Murukami called The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage which Rob and I both read. Fans in Japan camped overnight to buy this latest book.

Biggest sand box ever ... 

On the way to Chicago we stopped at the Indiana Dunes park and hiked up sand dunes then swam in Lake Michigan.

Have you ever hiked up sand?  It's about as difficult as you might imagine.

And it really was a lot of up. This was just the beginning!

 But there was a reward at the end.

When you are in the water, Syba will swim to you. Then back. And repeat.

Aw, yeah!

Next we were off to try the famous Chicago Diner.

Chicago Diner shake.

Rob and Syba waiting outside, before the thunderstorm. Note the peace sign from patron. At least I think that's what she's doing.

And then it rained while we cowered in a doorway.

Leaving Chicago #sybaselfie

In Des Moines, Iowa, we stopped both to leaflet and lend a voice to the individual animals that are hidden away in factories for our food  (as part of Vegan Outreach's "Adopt a College" program) and also stopped at an excellent sculpture park. 

Hi, how are you?

Somewhere in Iowa, we also stopped at the best dog park ever.  Here, I demonstrate the water feature that we'd love but is impossible to install in our Downtown Durham Dog Park: 

Dog paradise.

 Then ...  Weston breakdown(s)

A few nights later, Weston began to stutter and cough, and though we were in the middle of Iowa, we were able to track down help eventually through the Kindness of Strangers. We attributed his stuttering to some faulty wiring, and stopped to ask for help in this small town 30 minutes north of Sioux City with one boarded up gas station. The first man, wearing a shirt with a fairly large gun and statement about his right to bear arms, didn't seem to like us much. The second directed us back to Sioux City, advising we try the Chevy dealer there. Though traveling with Weston is slow – very slow (I add about 1 extra hour for Google Map estimates) – we decided it'd be best to head back the shorter distance after the Chevy receptionist assured me someone could look at Weston. However, she did not have any idea what a Westfalia was, nor a VW camper, a VW bus, or Vanagon (I tried all the names!) so that should have been my warning sign.

In short, no go at the Chevy dealer; but they did give us a VW dealer name in Sioux Falls, where we were heading next. While Rob worked on Weston's wires, to see if he could fix the problem (which required moving all our music gear out to the cab from the back since the motor is conveniently located in the very back accessed through a floor panel) I went inside the travel station as my battery was about to die, and this is not good when your car is also almost dead, so I plugged in and called the VW dealership from the chips and motor oil aisle (booked until the following week).

Rob working on Weston's wires. Syba, glad to be out of Weston.

The dealership gave me another name. Ditto, full. As I was about to hang up on the 3rd try, she paused and said: “Well, there is someone that works on VWs out of his home” and gave me the appropriately named Jerry Grace who was then our only option.

Rob finished up with the van, and it ran better. Then it chugged again; then it wouldn't start. One man helped us jump start him, but he died at the light. Two others deployed Kindness of Strangers and came to the rescue, towing Weston with a heavy chain to their hotel the Roadside Inn. One man drove Rob to O'Reilly's, which, it turns out, charges batteries for free. Upon Jerry's recommendation, we charged it up so that we could get to his house the next day in Sioux Falls SD.

I almost turned you away,” Jerry said later, which is good (that he said this later). We knew we were in the right place when we spotted Weston's twin, Westina, stranded in Jerry's driveway. 

Westina, parked on the right. We knew we had the right place.
Jerry had been a VW repairperson for years, and enjoys nothing more than going out on his boat but doesn't have time. His garage was piled with equipment and tools, and he said, of this self-described mess, “I hate it.” He worked steadily most of the day on Weston while Rob, Syba, and I walked along the busy country road to the nearest outdoor/free-range wifi (Panera Bread) to work. 

When we returned, he had already been to a couple of shops to test the alternator and luckily at that time it was fine. Jerry undercharged us in the end, and helped us out later when Weston faultered again. 

Syba needed some Robey time after that experience.

Next the family was off to see some historical sites. 

Such as Kum & Go.

And Modern Love, opened by the infamous Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

Seitan cutlets and mac & cheese - delicious.

Purple flowers brought out the colors for an otherwise earthen colored comfort meal.

Sunset #sybaselfie

The four men, and Syba.

There they are again.

And this hasn't been done before.

Nor this. Patriotic Aikido move?

Mt. Rushmore was indeed some dudes carved into a mountain, who, according to original plans of sculpter Gutzon Borglum were supposed to be entire bodies. 

Like this.

I must say that I prefer the floating heads. The sculptor, who kind of sounded like a jerk, died before his project could be completed (which was undertaken originally to instill pride in South Dakota and the US of A) and his son finished it off. 

It's a lot of driving, but it's beautiful out here.
Sometimes she sits in the front and stares at me, sitting in the back.I think she's judging.

Next we were off to Yellowstone … it wasn't until the mountains in the Bighorn National Forest that Weston's battery light began to reengage.

I remembered this site where people around the world with Westys help one another (AIRS - the Aircooled engine Rescue Squad) and on a whim looked up Wyoming and found the nicest man, Bob, and his wife, Cindy. We headed to Cody to their home, where he let us borrow his hammer to hit the alternator, as Jerry had advised, and it didn't work.  Hours later, and many phone calls hence, Rob decided to try his hand at the hammer. Not holding back at all, as one can do on one's own van, he hit the alternator and the brushes unstuck.

Bob and Cindy are a liberal minority living in a town where one has to register Republican to vote as there aren't any democrats running. I can only imagine how neighbors enjoy their holiday wreath,  shaped in a huge peace sign that they display every Christmas. 

They had a beautiful yard and dog, Fox, who loves riding in their '78 Westy. They helped us out for free – saying that someday they too would need help and hope someone took care of them. The Westy community is quite loyal and I suppose out of necessity to some degree communal. We appreciate them. 

Yellowstone ... another planet

Alternator hit, we made it to Yellowstone. We would have enjoyed it more if it weren't raining the entire time ... cold and raining. Even the buffalo hardly came out.  But on the whole - it was an amazing experience traveling through and seeing, up close, all the things our earth can do.

The tunnel to ...


Very cold and rainy.

We were clear about this and other potential goring by the time we registered to camp.

This is the one buffalo we saw.  Pictured here, behind Rob's pointy finger ... you'll have to take our word.

It was like another steaming, oddly inhabited planet ... and earth show-and-tell

It made a dragon noise as the water splashed out against the hot rock

These fumaroles bubbled up slowly and made fun noises.

The landscape was amazing and diverse.

#sybaselfie being arty and reflecty.

And blurry.

Camping away from the cold, damp outside at night.

While Weston-camping, we not only were cold and damp, but were awoken at about 3 am by a crying infant ...

Painting of artists' inspiration.

Understandably, dogs were not allowed on trails or really anywhere except parking lots. Syba did get out a little bit and "see the view."

The actual artists inspiration point, I believe

One wrong step (it happens all the time ... a few days before our stay in fact too)

One step off the path could result in your foot being scalded or eaten by acid.  So not hot springs like you, me, and our nature buds soak in. But it sure is pretty from afar.

Old faithful in the background.Another postcard moment.

More Weston 

The drive out ... as mentioned, amazing

After Yellowstone, we were on our way to Seattle.  Weston decided to completely break down - we were on sides of roads, off-ramps of exits, random nowhere gas stations, and finally, a town called Ritzville Washington, where we got to camp at a Napa auto parts store awaiting their opening the following day so we could charge our battery and buy another one for back-up.

Ritzville is in the midst of revitalization, and some attempts have been made to art it up by some local folks. It was an interesting mix of Twin Peaks and a completely abandoned coal mine.  Without the coal mine. 

That's right, little boy!

Finally, the next day we had two charged batteries and were off.   But not before having more battery issues, roadside stops and charges, and a spell in Ellensburg, WA, where we charged for the last time. 

Rob drove through the pass to Seattle with no windshield wipers during the heavy rains (to conserve the limited battery), lots of hoping (and asking, "What if we broke down here?" and pointing to the absolutely non-existent place to pull over), and we made it.

Ah, Seattle! Well, not the best part of Seattle, but still this is the city of Seattle. And sun! Sun, by gawd.

Seattle ...

It was amazing to reconnect with friends and family in Seattle (and Rainier!).  We had a great month with everyone and staying at my childhood home was fantastic. 

Syba even made/found her own bed.

Rob (sort of) pointing at the view  of the Puget Sound from our room at Mom's

My desk ... this was also my desk that I didn't do homework on as a kid, but should have

As part of the "Y away" program, I biked several days a week to this Y. In the background, the "Little Pilgrims" pre-school that I attended as a wee one, and had my earliest memory of getting in trouble in the sandbox.

On one of our many walks to Lincoln Park, Syba found a diversion and stretched out her each to the stone dog

On my birthday Rob and I hung out in Pioneer Square, which is a cool old part of town. I've been interested in gold rushes lately.

A nice example of an intercity "sanctuary" where people can hang out to get away from cars. A waterfall (natch) flows in the background

Rob spent some time repairing Mom and Allen's house

My brother and I went through old memorabilia to get rid of and save some things.  I was struck by the faded art of letter-writing and the stories you can gather from reading each letter, even though you do not see the prior letter that prompted it

My brother and my nephews, his kids Vasili (named after our Dad) and Suriya
In Seattle we played at a new-to-us bar, Darrell's Tavern. It's apparently owned by the Tractor Tavern folks - so good quality all around. It was a warm venue, with a small stage and good sound. The soundman was very atypical for Seattle (in my experience) and approachable, friendly, open.

As always it was good to reconnect with old friends and family - and in particular see Scott's new band that he formed after moving back to Seattle from Durham a few years ago.

My good pal Sean, whom I met moshing at Lollapalooza circa ('92?) ... we formed a band, Slug Sandwich - my first - and went to many a 90s concert in and near Seattle

Scott Waite's band Ichy Bichy were excellent - great vocals, melodies, quirk

Some of my family, who came out to support.

Family by Tasha
During our last song, my step-sister's beau jumped up on stage, grabbed Rob's guitar, then performed a solo.  It was unexpected, and could have gone badly, but ended up to be an awesome way to end the song and our set. And, thankfully, it was performed well and in a place where I usually would play a keyboard solo, but forgot to (as I did for 99% of the tour). So, from now on, if you think we need a solo, bring it!

Friends, family, outerspace eyeballs

Rob's sis Melanie and her boyfriend Jamie, supporting the BB
While at Mom's, I found Nana's original note that became the title of one of our songs, along with a book Mom was reading to better understand Alzheimer's.

I found the original sentence, written by Nana, written when we took her from Alzheimer's testing in 2007, after they asked her to write a sentence.

Like all cities, Seattle has places that are gentrifying ... Georgetown is old news in that respect, but it's still ... there.

You could not get a Dark & Stormy when I worked in Georgetown in the '90s

Wolfie (brother's dog) and Syba, hanging in the cold and slimy Puget Sound at Lincoln Park

Passing ships

Vasili with a pinecone present for his grandma

Family - Gary, Allen, Mom, Brenda, Emily, Olivia, Denise, Brian, and ... Rob!

In front of the lookout point near Alki

Rob's sis Jaime came to visit Seattle! Here at Alki lookout point.

Amazing fence entrance to Melanie's, Rainier, WA


Melanie had amazing Kale and other greens that we used to make chips, massaged kale salads, etc

Hanging out in the garden

Playing cards + Syba seeking crumbs

Rob's ma made her delicious apple pie

And Melanie's guy Jamie made the best carrot-ginger juice we've ever had

Back in Seattle ...

 Ma scoring (I think that's what it's called) music for concert, with her favorite t-shirt from band we played with once in NJ

We went to the "Cardio Salsa" workout at the YMCA

Here at "lookout point" in West Seattle - downtown is behind us

Mom and husband Allen

I made some glam chowder and seitan "fish" sticks

My favorite photo, here at vegan bakery with Lynn and her son Theo. It was his first day of pre-school, and he learned about giving people space and something about compassion training. Kids of tomorrow will be a super-breed!

My good good bud Karen, who co-founded "The Game" with me over a decade ago ... which thereupon launched/inspired "Big Talk," a series of questions I like to ask when faced with the banality of Small Talk (and the film series noted above).

Syba, when she still trusted vets, and viewed them primarily as treat-purveyors (pre-ear operation), Seattle

Lynn and hiding Theo, at the Bamboo Garden - showing awesome CD they made us for the road

Rob and great bud/cousin Tasha, after an awesome night of comedy at Sketchfest in Capital Hill

Just when I thought ideas for new stores had run out, I came across this. And it's not even Husky-related. I went by their windows - really, everything is purple.

Mighty-O Donuts: Further proof that animals aren't needed for tasty, fluffy treats

Mom at our favorite cafe in West Seattle, C&J

Aunt Sheryl and I after dinner

Cool water cover painting on walk to Lincoln Park from Mom's
Another stop that my brother, Rob, and I made was to a Greek restaurant who knew of Dad (fellow-restauranteurs) back in the day. We went by there to meet them and see if they knew anything about Dad's time in Seattle in the 70s. 

Greek family who have been running this place (Olympia Pizza and Pasta) since 1977
They were super nice and welcoming, and even gave me a copy of the article written about Dad when he died that another Greek friend gave them. During our visit, another of Dad's old contacts came by.  He asked my brother how many wives he had, and whether or not we had any "bad habits," while passing us his card for Emerald Casino (horse racing). Though we came close to betting on his horse, something internally stopped us. 

Return to Rainier, WA  - then on to colorful Portland...



This was a beautiful vegan restaurant and bar the Bye and Bye - outdoor seating (Syba friendly) as well as cozy yet elaborately decorated indoor seating. I'd be here everyday should we live here.

OK, so it's super hard to see this evening photo.  But here you have a hotel comprised solely of all tiny houses.  Ruth? Lynn? Paul? (my tiny house buds)

Actual Birds, who changed his band name during the show ...

We played a show at the Habesha Lounge in Portland with Charlie Slick (below) and Actual Birds) above.  We first met Charlie in Ann Arbor, where we played a show with him when he was living there (bubbles!). 

Charlie Slick with his homemade whatchoomadoit

One drawing from our show in Portland. Damn right.

We were also happy to see Jeanne S. (formerly of the Triangle) at the show - a little bit of home away.

Which was needed after our "welcome" by a woman who insisted we bring Syba to her, pushed her way toward our van to help us "load" our equipment, then said "I'm not going to kidnap her" when we refused her offer to watch Syba. I held my Seattle/South nice face until she began holding/rubbing Syba's paws even after asked not to.  Then it was NYC/NJ Eleni - "Back off!" to which she did to my surprise.

"California, here we come. Right back where we started from..."

After Portland, we set off toward Oakland for our show - but not before stopping and camping in the Redwoods area of California. 

Though I loved our trip along the coast, I must say the Tsunami warnings, particularly after reading this book - not recommended), were duly noted.

Almost free camping for Weston if he woke up earlier

Weston lost in the landscape

Breakfast and coffee by the beach

A great place to make yourself look smaller. 

Redwood forest #SybaSelfie

A really, really, old Redwood (1,000 + years)

Unleaded or leaded?
Driving along the coast of California is like stepping back in time - there are many original (or original-appearing) stores, stations, and hotels.  It's nice to see and experience.

There even lived a man in the back, who emerged speaking to himself, but not to us.


Show at Trees ...  

Thanks to Alexis (former Nightlight and current Oakland resident!) we played at the DIY space Trees in Oakland.  Upon arrival, Syba found an unattended sandwich and polished it off.

Opening was Dave D

We played next, followed by PDX band (which I would have photoed had I not temporarily misplaced my iPhone) The Breaking Yard.

Zack, who runs the space, closed the show with his band Cougar on a Meth Binge.

Berkeley ...

A street in Berkeley was our home for roughly two days in Berkeley.  We visited chiefly to see our friends Joe and Noelle's all-vegan store Republic of V (one of 8 vegan stores in the nation) and see my cousin Vangelis, but Rob also practiced Aikido while in town. See more of Rob's posts at On the Rojo.


A happy Rob is an Aikido-practicing Rob. Here,  in Berkeley after practice, with Seattle Aikido shirt on, which got noticed by former student in New Orleans later.

Was happy to see my 1st cousin Vangelis, who now works in San Francisco at Oracle. His house was our first stop when I was 11 and went to Greece for the first time. He was only a few years old, but I remember it vividly as it was my first out-of-country experience.

Republic of V!

That's right!

I love that they created a "Vegan Passport" of all the vegan places in town ...pictured here in front of yummy treats

We shopped there two days in a row ...

Our spoils, later in van-home

Pepples Donut Farm

Using our vegan "passport," we found this donut shop and walked 6 miles round trip and promptly ordered several varieties as well as their biscuits and gravy for lunch.  Note that there is also an option for "donuts and gravy." We did draw the line, somewhere, and avoid that menu item.

Oh, Pepples! You show a vegan donut is not only possible, it's necessary.

Retuning to the Republic.  Here with friend Noelle.
Syba, exhausted after so many good treats at the V.

Onward to San Jose ... 
My super dooper awesome aunts and cousins live in San Jose, so this is a must-stop for us when we are in the area.  

We stayed with Aunt Carolee and her wife of decades Mary Ellen, and their animal family including Minnie the dog.

Syba taking a walk with Aunt Carolee and Mary Ellen's dog, Minnie

Most delicious sea-uncreatures served up at the ever fun to decode Loving Hut

Followed by cookie-sandwiches vegan dessert at Cream

We all did Tai Chi - pictured here - instructor, cousin/niece Caitlin, Mary Ellen & wife Aunt Carolee, me & Rob
During our visit, we also played dominoes at cousin Dan & Leah's home - they host an annual tournament every year that's off the charts (the domino and other charts).

Off to Moss Landing ... 

Upon the recommendation of family above, we stopped at Moss Landing to possibly see whales.

Smokestacks at Moss Landing

Moss Landing #sybaselfie

These were my go-to shorts for the warmer parts of the tour

If you look closely there are creatures - perhaps seals

Syba did not have a healthy fear of the ocean and it's waves/undertow, even when knocked over a few times.  Hence,  the leash.

A big bird and the factory off in the foggy distance

You can never get enough photos of Weston, parked.

Next stop, Salinas ... 
Whether you're a fan of "Of Mice and Men,"  "Grapes of Wrath," or "Travels with Charlie," you'll want to make a stop in Salinas to see John Steinbeck's home and National Steinbeck Center. As with many such museums, the content is "stretched out" (there is a lot of filler such as huge quotes on the wall) but overall a great peek into the life and times that surrounded Steinbeck's life and writing career.

A mural outside the Center. And Rob.

Grapes of Wrath-era mockup of Dust Bowl residences

Travels With Charlie mockup of actual truck he used (or was this actual truck? I can't recall) - and Charlie (not actual). I liked it better than Weston inside ...

Great dust-bowl and beyond photographer that I was recently reading about - a new documentary on American Masters covers her work

Someone in Salinas - trying to go elsewhere

Route 1 - Big Sur = amazing
One of the best choices we made on this tour was to take Route 1 all the way down to our turnoff to go to Vegas. Why haven't I done this before? Partially inspired by reading Kerouac's Big Sur (in English, and now in Greek) I was tempted to check out the coast and in general have a more relaxing and scenic ride than I-5. 

It worked.  Here is a place I want to return to every year.  Its peaceful, quiet, and human-eating boulders (barely containing the thirsty Pacific) invoke life by reminding you you're only one misstep away from absolute dissolution into the elements, particularly among these steep rocky cliffs with little barrier between you and the ocean below.

Heading down historic Route 1 - coast of California

Playing cards in Weston, camping by the coast

Wake-up view through Weston's pop-top screen ... we camped for free in one of the larger pullouts

Hiking from our camping place

Rob and Syba settling in on some boulders to read and have coffee

My boulder. I was scared the entire time (can you see knees quaking?). But the chair-like rock was comfy.

Rob and Syba

Syba ... contemplating her late years? Trying to warn us about possible tsunami?

When we were ready to leave, I couldn't find Syba. I looked around and found her on this nearby trail, hiding from Weston.

Lots of space out here, and fog that periodically clears up mid-morning and mid-day

Trees the form of wind

The fog feeds the Redwoods much-needed moisture/water
Nice free state park

Bixby bridge? I cannot recall, unfortunately

It really is a long way

Fog splashes

Henry Miller lived in Big Sur for years.  We stopped by his free Memorial Library, created by a close friend of his. There, travelers may sit, read, relax, and use free wifi and even camp. They host shows  and films, including some pretty large acts such as Patti Smith, the Oh Sees, and Arcade Fire, to name a few.

Screen for movies, stage
Big Sur, at Pfeiffer falls; a landslide created this previously absent sandy beach. Note the Seagulls taking turns bathing in the waterfall and on the beach below.

We found this camping spot on a pull-over as well .. but unlike the last one, it had used TP and many other gross-ities so we moved from this spot to one a little further



I thought we were being risky by hiking down this steep, dusty cliff with limited footholds until I saw a woman with a newborn strapped to her front doing the same hike

Elephant Seals smell bad, sound funny, and are super cute when they joust .... they hang out here at the end of Big Sur

On to Las Vegas ...
Sadly, the time had come to leave Big Sur. We took a left turn and headed to Vegas. I was curious about Las Vegas, but like many I know, would sigh and roll my eyes when asked if I'd ever want to go. "Of course not!" was my typical response.  However, I realized that before I truly could dis Las Vegas, I'd have to go there and hate it for myself.

But first, a winery stop:

The wine was delicious

A rare moment of apparent affection

Before heading to the casinos, we went to the Mob Museum downtown

Upon this wall, several mobsters were shot - their blood remains on the brick

The crime scenes were great, but our favorite part of the museum was the creative way they showcased the trials of mobsters in a courthouse that housed some trials back in the day. With three screens, one a "smoke screen" in the middle showing halograms, the viewer was treated to a dramatic story complete with sound effects and, upon finishing the documentary, the slow creaking opening of the court doors so that you could leave.

Big famous needle thing that costs a bundle to go up. We didn't splurge but got lost in the rest of the building for a bit.

Based on an online recommendation we began at Circus Circus. And I liked the name.
We, speaking for both of us here, really didn't know what we were doing. But we'd seen movies, heard stories, and generally paid a little attention, so we knew that there was gambling, something about free drinks, and possibility of serious addictions. As in, "Do you have any bad habits?" said in Greek accent.

Rob, contemplating his next move (there's only one)

About to execute the spin: the difference between losing your shirt or going home rich ...

Wait and drink the free drink - which we finally got after the waitress instructively informed us "You have to gamble..." and so we hit the .25 machines
Summary of financial gain or ruin?  Approximately $6 won; 4 free drinks; $5 played; free cigarette smoke = $1 net gain to our tour.

I knew Steve Wynn had gone vegan, so we went to one of his places to eat a fine vegan meal there.

Apparently they have vegan brunch options daily that are delicious, but we didn't have the appetite to return to the strip after being there past 2 am the night before among the increasingly unsober masses.

It was, however, great to see vegan food options beyond the typical listed on at least two of his restaurants that we stopped by.

The next day, we went to the Center, a LGBT resource center and vegan-friendly eatery which bears the name "Wynn" inside due to his large donation to make it possible. He's sounding nicer and nicer ... 

Rob at the Center, gardens

We stayed at a friendly AirBnB outside town, which allowed Syba to get a break from us and Weston.

Flagstaff - cold & friendly 

We headed to our 2nd leafleting stop of the tour - Flagstaff, AZ.  After hot Las Vegas we found arctic Flagstaff a bit of an adjustment, but a welcome one for Syba. We stayed with a vegetarian family who had a second home there.  The woman became vegetarian two years ago after learning that pigs (sows) are kept in tight gestation crates for most of their lives ... and she proceeded to institute a "flexible menu" in her huge corporate workplace (like Meatless Mondays) and leafleted with us for the first time here.

Inspiring to see this transformation and action-taking in such a short time, and at a later-than-college age, and a reminder that the general public does not know the extent of the industrialized, standard practices are so cruel they would be illegal if done to dogs or cats.

Rob leafleting superman.
We reached over 2,000 students in Flagstaff.

Plenty of Cacti

If you are in Phoenix, you must try Green, and it's sister dessert shop next door.
Crazy good vegan butterfinger shake & cupcake

Show at the Trunk Space! With Smiling Faces ...

The Lonesome Wilderness...

And the fun and politically lyriced Out Past Curfew - reminded me of early Midtown Dickens

The Trunk Space was a ton of fun - we were so grateful to Malarky for setting it up based on the show he saw us play in Tucson in '09. He will be touring here with his band - so stay tuned, we'll share info when that happens. And he's friends with the Fellowship Hall folks ... small world.

The next day, we hit Phoenix/Tempe with a vengeance!

Rob, power-leafleting/leaning

Me, in between leaflets

With the help of a volunteer, handed out over 2,000 here.

Arizona has some amazing sky art

It's no coincidence that this is Arizona's state flag

And this is our flag. At this friendly Tucson Whole Foods, there was even a vegan maple donut goodness and pimento vegan cheese.

Out to dinner with Matt and Anne (VegFund and Our Hen House) we had this Thanksgiving-inspired deliciousness

Staying in the Q ... 

Following Tucson we were off to Albuquerque to leaflet and to visit my sweet cuzuncle Steve and his wife Robin.

More Syba/Rob time
Steve is a fine luthier, who has built guitars for many including a memorial guitar for me when Dad died. He and Rob completely fixed up the bouzouki to make it sound great, added a volume knob, cleaned it to better than new, and more - resulting in a great sounding instrument.
Had a great visit with Steve and Robin.  We also viewed one of the films Steve performed in as ...not an extra...but "Background Actor." He's been in all sorts of Western-themed films and other popular TV shows. As you can imagine, New Mexico is a great backdrop for many genres, but particularly Westerns.

After Albuquerque, we headed to Las Cruces to leaflet. On the way, we were treated to the most humble of rest stop facilities.

Won't you be Rob's neighbor? "Brochure to help animals?" complete with Steve-supplied hat

I'm Hatin' It #sybaselfie

After Las Cruces, and before El Paso, we drove out to the dessert mountains to camp in the Organ Mountain National Recreation area. It's beautiful, peaceful, and quiet ... highly recommended.

Syba is afraid of cows. And goats, and quite possibly chickens and cats. But for sure horses.

Organ Mountain National Park,  New Mexico. Sleepy hollow tree.

More tree

One last tree

The signs said that cougars came out at dusk, and as luck would have it, that's when we were there to hike.  So we tentatively climbed up a couple of hills, snapped some photos, then headed back to our Weston.

After El Paso, my Papa's home town (he was born in a tent in Clondcroft, NM in 1910), we took the windy and long roads to Lubbock, TX, to leaflet at Texas Tech. 


We only had 1.5 negative encounters - one was an Ag student saying, "We treat our animals great!" (yes, we all love cages/electric prods! Well...) and the second called me a hypocrite when asking me if I was "pro-life" (without waiting for answer. But yeah, it's "choice" camp I'm in).

Austin ... a contrast in Texas cities ...

We performed at the Carousel Lounge in Austin - it was such a fun show.

Bee Vs Moth - super nice people! Also, great band. I was reminded of D-Town Brass.

We visited our friend Jed, and stayed with him. He's going to open up a psychotherapy office in his apartment. I can't recall the theme.

Obnosticon were fantastic! I didn't realize that we'd previously played with the main singer, who is also in Foot Patrol, back when we did this.
In Austin, we went to a 24-hour diner that served up some crazy delicious vegan pancakes & veg sausage, and stayed up late (or early ... 4 am?) reminiscing about old Seattle times like when Rob threw his beer on a random patron at the Sunset instead of Jed.

NOLA, just because

On the way to New Orleans, we stayed at this top of the line rest stop ... one of the best. I now have a "Rest Stop App" to better plan our free sleepings

In NOLA, we stayed at another AirBnB, a private room in this mini-mansion in the Bywater neighborhood.  Super nice folks.

Our room

We biked everywhere for the next few days....very flat and manageable.

Awesome vegan restaurant, Bhaka, located on the top floor of an old creaky velvety interior building


Our favorite was the mushroom pate in the background ...

The balcony seating looked on to a courtyard below - it was very cozy and French-y

Outside on Frenchman street, a great bass band busked for the throngs of people

Best thing in NOLA?  A fous ball table on wheels ... I never thought to combine this game with a bicycle. What was I (not) thinking?
We didn't really know what we were doing, so might have missed the good places (or maybe should have paid a high cover) but wherever we went it seemed like a frat scene ... I don't recall NOLA being this way on our other two visits, but I'm sure it hasn't changed that much.  As with Las Vegas, and even Capital Hill, being around a bunch of drunk guys and gals drinking for the sake of drinking (rather than something more noble, such as drinking for your country!) is tiresome and boring. We avoided the worst places, and came across a nice band here:

No cover? Magic words.

The next day we walked about 5 miles with Syba, first over this brass rainbow.

On the other side was a park and the Mississippi


Not sure what happened here, but it didn't look good

Vegan Andouille, what? Great dogs at Dreamie Weenies.

Back "home," we hit the Mirliton Festival, ran by and for the Bywater neighborhood association. They began the fest 25 years ago, with the notion that NOLA had a ton of fests, why not the Mirliton?

Foldies, not folded

Paid tribute to my Uncle Rick here .... he died one year ago.

Seed was great, but definitely better ambiance at Bahka
Our 2nd AM in NOLA, we woke up to Syba's right left being puffed out like a balloon.  In Rob's words, she looked like Dumbo.  So for the 3rd time on tour, we brought her to the vet. This time, it was surgery for her ear hemotoma (diagnosed in Las Vegas). Basically, from shaking her head too much, blood vessels burst and puffed out her ear. She went under (apparently not liking the "high" effect and wimpering) and got quilted ears as a result. She was the most sad, pitiful creature when we took her back ... ears fur-less and bleeding, deflated and droopy.

And so it was, she became our Cone Head.

A little stop in Birmingham botanical gardens, where dogs weren't allowed unless service dogs. Rob held my arm the entire way and we "passed."

Cone kisses

In Nashville, we stayed with friend David's wonderful Mom, in her comfy house nearby all our leafleting destinations.

The first day, we leafleted Belmont and Tennessee State.

Compassionate statue #1


Went vegetarian as a result of this leaflet two years ago. 

During two weeks of leafleting, we reached 16,050 students with the plight of animals raised for food - with the help of volunteers and the tips/notes of past Adopt-a-College "foot soldiers."  This and seeing our friends/family was the highlight of our trip. That's why it's in larger font. 

After leafleting, we headed to the strip to see some of the clubs/shops in Nashville

Next stop, Knoxville, for leafleting and our last show.

And Syba got her cone to fit into the #SybaSelfie spot (almost)

Alley load-in for last show at the Preservation Pub in Knoxville, TN

Preparation for our set
And here, Relentless
The show was fantastic ... met several people who were interested in talking with us and buying merch, staying in contact, etc.  One man said, "I totally got what you guys were doing." Which means maybe we don't if it's not just playing songs. That's kind of cool.

Super nice folks here, including those who run the pub.  We met this great guy, Bill, who has lived in tents for years and survives by folk busking alone. He hasn't seen a doctor since 16 years old, and must be in his later 60s ... smoking away and drinking cheap beer.  It's always inspiring to meet people who have led non-traditional lives, and get their perspective.

Speaking of, also met "Andrew" who was the token insane audience member slash regular.   According to him, he was unjustly incarcerated for kidnapping/murder.  He really liked our set.

The outside of the Preservation Pub, all Halloweeny
The next day, we leafleted UNC Asheville then stopped at our favorite dog-friendly Book Exchange to catch up on some work.

The other day, Rob and I were wondering if Dogs have long-term memory - and I mean, wondering in the research sense - we know our Syba remembers it all - especially where the trash is hidden. Found a study from '13 that points to them having long-term memory.

However, all doubts were cast aside right before we reached our neighborhood.  Syba had her head in my lap, looking her typical somber and sulky self while in Weston. Suddenly, as we pulled up to the the dog park, Syba immediately sat up, looked around, eyes wide open, sniffing, shuffling to get out ... she was happiness embodied.

So good to have gone.  But better to be home right now.

And an attempt to tie-in our opening theme with end of blog, all professional-like:

We may have lost one space, but we've gained an earlier period.  No, wait.
One less space in the near-term means ,,,                               more space later.
Naw. No more space talk. 

Hope to see you at our homecoming show Thursday November 6th at the Pinhook with the Jews & Catholics and the Wigg Report. Be invited!