Category Archives: Driving

Niles/Fremont, Mudpuddle Music, and Michael McNevin…

They are all inter-related.  And somehow I’m related, too, by recent past, and now, by present, so is Jane.  Let’s see if I can explain:

I met Michael McNevin in the mid-90s when he toured Chicago.  I liked his music, and he invited me to attend a house concert — a concert in someone’s home, something I’d never heard of before — the next night.  I did this, and from that night I found a whole new discovery of folk music, the house concert scene, new friends… a whole new world.

Eventually I hosted Michael in a house concert myself.  And eventually I  started writing songs myself.  So, it was especially meaningful to me when Michael agreed to host Jane and me at his Mudpuddle Music Shop in Niles/Fremont CA — our first show of the “Ya Just Never Know” Tour!

As we drove from Reno to Niles, Michael gave us a “back road” way to get there.  Unfortunately, he forgot to say “left” or “right” at an important juncture, and Jane made the mistake of listening to my gut feel (I’m directionally dyslexic!)  But the drive — both the wrong way and eventually the right way — was beautiful, it was a hot sunny day and soon we rolled into downtown Niles:

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And soon we found the tiny, magical Mudpuddle shop:

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We went for drinks and dinner at the back patio of The Vine, on the next block:

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The top of these two photos is Michael hanging a poster for an upcoming show; the latter is Michael telling us about the history of Niles/Fremont.  There is some fascinating stuff, and I have to go over my notes before posting incorrectly.  But basically, Niles is a historic district of Fremont — it’s a separate unincorporated city.  Fremont is larger, and while the Mudpuddle shop has a Fremont address, it’s in Niles.   Again:  inter-related.  Michael told us about the silent movie industry, which used to be very big in Niles before moving to Hollywood, and other cool stuff too… which will have to be in a separate post because once again I’m talking too much. 🙂

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Michael grew up in Niles, and appears to know everyone in town.  It was fun watching all the activity going on around us, listening to Michael talk about the town, reminiscing about his time touring in Chicago, and talking about keeping up with old friends.  And then:  time for the show!

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It was fun, it was funky, it was warm and friendly… a GREAT way to begin our gigs!  Our friends Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan came to see us (as well as my friend Carol, who hosted us in SanFran, and Renee, a relation by my sister’s marriage, amongst others).    Here we are after the show:

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In addition to all this, a videographer friend of Michael’s, Ken Bushman, happened to be there, and he not only shot footage from our show, but enhanced it in really cool ways, for example, interspersing my Damsel in Distress video by Mary Lewis with my performance of the song:  

After our sets, which were “audibles” — a football term we learned from Michael, which pretty much means to do things “on the fly” — there was a song circle, where many talented folks performed.  The whole night was absolutely magical.  If you’re in the area, check out Michael’s website to see what other performances he’s hosting at Mudpuddle, and around Niles.

So much more to say, but I think they’re about to kick us out of the coffee shop! 🙂  Thanks again, Michael McNevin!!

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Out the Window: Salt Lake City to Reno, 9/10

When one of us is driving, the other is taking pictures.  (Actually, sometimes the driver also just points out the window and clicks, without really looking… because ya just never know what amazing thing the camera will capture!)

We got in late to Salt Lake City on 9/9.  Basically, we blogged and slept, and left early on the 10th for Reno, where we’d be visiting my friends Darlynne and Paul.  On the way there, we saw a lot of SALT:

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The first picture shows the Morton Salt girl, but it’s hard to see.  (You can click any picture, and it’ll get bigger so you can see better).  The other two:  mountains of salt!  Think about that next time you use your little salt shaker! 🙂

The landscape from SLC and along Nevada reminded me of the moon… not that I’ve ever been on the moon, of course, but it’s what I’d imagine it to be.  It looked like white quicksand, but there were tire tracks along the perimeter, so that was really interesting:

Moonscape wTracks_Utah Moonscape wTracks_02 SLC to Reno Train

And there was a Train to Nowhere… at least that’s what it looked like to me.  We saw a few of these, trains in the middle of nowhere, not necessarily moving, either.  Like ghost trains, perhaps?

I love funky roadside signs.  This is when we were approaching Nevada, I think:
Goin toReno
I kept waiting for some showgirls to come running down from the mountains!

We stopped for gas shortly thereafter… no doubt we were in Nevada now!

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Once we reached Reno, Darlynne and Paul showered us with kindness, food, hospitality, and comfort.  Everywhere we go we’ve been the recipients of kindness, friendship and care.  But, practicing brevity:  more on that in another post! 🙂

Roadside Attractions #1

I am a sucker for  uniquely odd over-sized roadside attractions.  To me, they are a bright spot on a long drive and they make me smile.  I make it a practice to stop the car and take pictures when traffic, time, and my traveling companions allow.  Lucky for me, Sue is not only amenable to spontaneous stops along our journey, but she’s all about interacting and posing with said gigantic Americana delights.

First, here’s a little oddity that was parked at our hotel in Hays, KS.

I want one of these!
I want one of these!

Classy trailer, eh?

Next, I must document that we drove through Alma, CO and I stress “drove through” because we did not stop to visit any of the local marijuana dispensaries.   I had it in mind that I might need to visit such an establishment…just because I could.  But common sense prevailed and we drove on.

South Park Hydroponics
South Park Hydroponics

On our long drive from the South Park area to Salt Lake City today we drove through Dinosaur, Co. and saw a number of choice roadside dinos, but the traffic situation was tricky at the time.  Oh, the one that got away – a smiling pink behemoth!  I was lamenting that missed opportunity when we drove through another town, Vernal, UT.  and caught side of a real gem.  “We have to stop!”, I whined; and Sue abruptly whipped the car into a gas station, sending my camera flying to the floor of the car.

First, the pumpkin.

Pumpkin - Vernal, UT

I don’t know why the pumpkin.  But then again:

Ahhhhhh!
Ahhhhhh!

Why is the dinosaur wearing a hat, eating a watermelon, and grilling a burger and hot dog?  We don’t care, do we!!?

Sue is hungry.
Sue is hungry.

Honestly, what more could one ask for in a roadside attraction?

Sue on dinosaur leg

Driving to Jane’s, or: the Solo Drive

On 9/4, I left Chicago for Jane’s around 6pm — only six hours behind schedule, a new record for me.  I’m always running late, but this was ridiculous!  Now I’d be driving mostly in darkness… which would completely change my CD setlist.

It’s always the setlist that makes the drive, that informs the journey.  Before I leave, when choosing which CDs to bring, sometimes one will say, “no, I’d best stay here” and another says “why not choose me?”  and I do as I’m bidden.    Once in the car, it’s a matter of which gets played when.  Sometimes I reach for a CD and it says “not yet.”  The right CD always gets played at the right time; it’s the soundtrack to the adventure, it informs you, on some cellular level (cells in your body, NOT cell phone service!) what’s going to happen next.

In this case, I’d just received Steve Dawson‘s new CD, “Funeral Bonsai Wedding,” shortly before the trip; I’d pre-ordered it, knowing that I’d be missing its Chicago release on 9/12.  When I tried to play it pre-trip, I couldn’t get past the first song:  I love it (“Ezra Pound and the Big Wood River”), Steve played it solo in an in-the-round we’d done in May, it’s epic, and I’d been waiting for its release for months.  It’s so amazing that as soon as it finished I’d just play it again… and again, and again.  It’s like eating a particularly tasty food item in a meal, you just don’t want to rush to the next item, you want to savor each item separately.  So I saved this CD for my trip.  (Plus, I love anticipation and delayed gratification! 🙂 )

I played other lovely CDs first, and waited until I was whipping along I55, the sun completely gone, total darkness.  In went “Funeral Bonsai Wedding.”  Played the first song, and forced myself not to re-play, to move past.  I’ll just say:  the vibraphone is prevalent throughout.  It’s insistent.  It’s the voice of someone’s favorite aunt, a little jarring at first, that distinctive laugh, you wonder if she’s doing it on purpose; then you don’t notice it anymore, other than that without her voice the conversation would be so much duller, and now she’s part of your family, too.  That was like the vibraphone for me.  At first I noticed it constantly; then I didn’t, unless I thought about it.

There was one song that was so forceful and rhythmic, I had the distinct feeling that if I rolled the window down to let in the night, I might veer off into blackness and space and never fully return.  I finally got the guts to do this, but I had to really concentrate on staying here on earth.  This is a powerful album, folks, from beginning to end.  I don’t fully understand everything, which I like.  I’ll be giving it multiple listens and getting something different out of each one.  And Jane and I will listen at some point, too.

By the time I arrived at Jane’s, at 11pm, I was fully energized.

Driving solo is a completely different energy than driving with a companion… but both Jane and I feel the same way about CDs making the trip.  More on that in another post!