Saturday, June 30, 2007


After a week back, and many many attempts at starting to write about the trip and not completing....I will finish! Promise!

We loaded up the new car ( hey got about 37 mpg for the trip!) and headed down to Stl bright and early. As we made our way south ( Minn, Iowa.......) I spotted a site that my wife would enjoy...Swedesburgh Iowa! Yep, it was a museum about Swedes! My wife said we could pass it by....but I thought " This trip is gonna be heavy on Mikes Music weirdness, so I better find some stuff that would make her happy!" So I made a swift U-turn and pulled into the mecca for fair skinned people :-)

It was a very nice little place with a very enthusiastic elderly lady showing us around, we had a nice break looking at the history of the swedish people and its early immigrants to the region.

Here is a pic from the stop

We made our way through Missouri and into STL. We spent the night in a town on the outskirts of STL , right by Six Flags Amusement Park. We spent the next day battling the heat, the rough looking fellow park goers ( more tattoos and missing bicuspids in one location than I have EVER seen) and a water park that had no room to move around. That being said, we had a good time. My son and I battled the rollercoaster "Mr. Freeze" and won! He was so proud of himself that he actually rode this very scary coaster, and told about everyone within earshot!

We departed for Memphis the next day.

Yep, down at the end of Lonely St. Thats Heartbreak Hotel! And that is where we stayed for 3 days. The hotel itself isnt really anything that wonderful, but it does provide 24 hour Elvis and a Heartshaped Pool. We were just across the street from Graceland and surrounded by gift shoppes.

I have been a Elvis fan since I was 12 and know more about him than about any other musical figure, but I have never been a huge fan of all the cheesy marketing crap that goes with him. Its always been about the music for me, and I wanted to make this trip more about that than just buying souvenirs.

Day One: We went down to Beale St. Memphis Blues central. Its where Elvis learned some of music influences and bought his clothes from Lanskys. We hung out there and looked at all of the interesting shoppes,clubs, live music and soaked in the atmosphere while we waiting for this thing called "The Memphis Haunted Walking Tour". I really cant do this tour justice with the printed word. Lets just say we were led on this 90 minute tour by a guy that admitted he was just making it up as he went. It was hilarious to me as I made a mental bet with myself when I thought my Wife would finally pop her cork and we would be outta there. ( 64 minutes!). We "disappeared " like one of the imaginary ghosts and headed back to Heartbreak Hotel. A fun first

Day Two: We had Tickets for Graceland in hand as we were the 2nd tour through the music gates and up the driveway. I have had a mental image of this place for many years, and of course it was much smaller than I ever expected it to be.

I found the place to be quite a humble place for a man that was on the top of the music world . Sure, it was a timecapsule back to 1977 and was not ever gonna make Better Homes and Gardens best list for taste. But it was very interesting to me.

What I enjoyed the most was all the costumes and stage clothes that they had on exhibit. Besides the usual ( 68 black leather, and 73 Aloha jumpsuit), they had a exhibit of over 100 of his other jump suits. Most of those suits I had seen in pictures at one time or another, but to see them all lined up...was curiously interesting to me!

After touring the airplanes, cars, etc.....and more gift shoppes. We headed down into the down and dirty non tourist area of Memphis and took a tour of Stax .

So much musical history was created at Stax. Otis Redding, Staple Singers, Booker T and The MGS, Isaac Hayes etc (Elvis even did some recording here. Its a shame that they tore down the original Stax in the 80's. They rebuilt it and recreated what it really was like. I was like a kid in a candy store as I thumbed through CDs of great soul music that I couldnt get my hands on in the upper midwest. ( I purchased the 1971 Isaac Hayes gem "Black Moses" to the irritation to the rest of my traveling companions, who had to listen to it most of the trip back home!) . I loved seeing all of the history of this building and also liked that we were looking at something that many seem to bypass when being in Memphis.

I caught the fever of this "off the beaten path" type of touring and decided to find Royal Studios. This place was not on ANY brochures and I know hardly anyone knew about it. But I knew the street and I knew it wasnt far from Stax. So, I loaded my terrified family into the little white bullet and found my way to the place where Al Green and Willie Mitchell created some of the best soul music ever made. It was located in a very rough part of town and surrounded by very run down housing and people. But it sat there all spruced up as I hopped out of car and took some snaps. Another cool moment for me , but I am sure to most it would have been a head scratcher! :-)

We then headed back down Elvis Presley Blvd. I then began my search for Al Green's Church. Again, rough part of Memphis and nothing to get crazy about, but I was loving it!

Day Three: We toured Sun Records! The place where Elvis recorded his first sounds. So, what do you think I was gonna do? Yep. Record a song! I have from time to time recorded a Elvis song at a state fair recording booth. But, this....was different. I got to record in the same place that Elvis sang! I picked one of the first songs he ever cut " I love you ( because). ( look it up on I-Tunes). I think I did a pretty good job, but it really didnt matter because I loved the moment!

We also toured the Rock and Soul Museum and the Gibson Guitar factory. Both were also very fun in its own way! Very cool to watch a guitar get made and then get rejected and cut apart on a band saw because of a slight inperfection!

We had a great trip. It will never win any awards for stunning beauty and scenery. But, as all good trips provide.....lots of memories and stories!

Ps- thanks to my understanding Wife and Son for letting me go on this journey. I wont forget it!

Pss. Did I tell you that Steven went on Mr. Freeze????? :-)

Monday, June 25, 2007

The White Stripes-Icky Thump

Tuesday the Cd came out for this band of 2. Jack and Meg White have created perhaps their best work to date.

Although I wouldn't call their music commercial or mainstream , it does have a sense of melody that most hard rock music today is sadly missing. What I love about this band is its sense of history ( delta blues,country,psychedelic) and its influences blend into a sound that totally unique and their own.

Early faves for me are

You don't know what love is ( you just do what your told)- A great lyric about settling into something safe and convincing yourself that its "love". Plus the guitar hook is great!

Icky Thump- great weird little song!!!!! Click below for great little weird video

The rest of the Cd is full of surprises, even a cover of a 1950's Patti Page song called "Conquest" That features a great guitar/trumpet duel! I mean, how many CD's of this era can feature stuff like that!!!!

Check out this CD....its a strong contender for my fave of the year!

Stay tuned, I have Memphis stories!!! And tacky pictures! :-0

Saturday, June 09, 2007

An unexpected addition to the family!

No, I am not announcing that I will be a proud new papa. But, I am a new car owner.

As the decieving title splains, it was not planned.

The above vehicle is a 2007 Honda Fit. It is replacing my long loyal a very rarely problematic 1996 Honda Accord. We had planned on replacing it about a year from now when we paid off our other car. Well, plans dont always seem to go as planned.

In the last month, my flawless Accord was pelted by hail and yesterday blew a transmission. It had close to 200,000 miles on it, so it had a good life ( play taps here).

I began my car search about 2 months ago, I am one of those kind of people that like to REALLY know alot about what I am gonna buy. Yeah it seems kinda unlike me, but it is a little known fact ( see, isnt it worth it to come here and read this valuable kind of crap!). I bought my copy of consumer reports and studied all of the most reliable cars and of course in the time of $3.00 gas, what got the best gas mileage. The Honda Fit was exactly what I wanted!

So, I decided to get a test drive. I was told that there is a waiting list for this car and that there would be no chance for a test drive. I walked away a bit irked! I wasnt gonna ever buy a car without test driving it. So, what did I do? I happened to see one that day and went up to the lady that was driving it, and asked if I could see her car! Good thing she didnt have mace or a good knee to the groin because I know I must have freaked her out! :-) Not really, she was very nice and understanding. In fact she said that she had lucked out herself when finding her FIT. They just happened to find one the day they stopped at the dealer. So, she let me sit in the driver seat and get comfy. I knew I liked this car....but was concerned that I might not get a shot at one when the time came.

Well the time came alot sooner than I expected. After this mornings news that it would take about $2100 to fix my Accord. The time was now. I was a bit freaked out by the thought of having to find a car in such short notice. I really dont like to rush these things. So, I decided to call my local dealer that I have used since I was 18. ( no jokes about that being in the kennedy administration....make sure it was Reagan that you refer to!) and check if they had any Fits ( yeah....I am having a hard time with that name also...) thinking it was a total stab in the dark. Well, my stab came up with one. I was forced to take white ( I am a black car guy by nature) for a color but everything else on the car had what I wanted!

I got to take my test drive, and it confirmed that I loved it. 3 hours later, and cramped hands from signing so many was ours.

Now, I know that it looks like a glorified asprin and that I wont have many motorheads wanting me to pop the hood!!!! ( I included a pic for all of you Booogity Boogity types!) But its a cool little car!

Finally. We are heading off for our Summer Vacation in a few days. We are heading to Memphis Tennesee by way of St. Louis . I am excited to soak in all of the music culture ( Elvis, BB, Al Green, Stax Records, Sun Records etc) and Steven is excited to go to Six Flags in St Louis!

But what should be really exciting will be the looks I get from the southern folk with my lil rice burner! Yep....yeeeee haw! :-)