Fortress of Louisbourg

August 12, 2010 Lousibourg, Cape Breton, NS

Louisbourg RV Park on the waterfront:

From the wharves we can see the Fortress of Louisbourg looming over the sea.

Louisbourg is the largest reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town in North America.

The French came to Louisbourg in 1713 after loss of territory to the English in Newfoundland and Acadia (Nova Scotia) in the War of the Spanish Succession. Louisbourg soon became France's most important stronghold and seaport in the Atlantic on account of trade and the thriving fishing industry.

In addition to arms and imported goods, livestock and gardens were integral to the community's health and survival.

By 1760 the English ruled and the fortifications lay in ruin. The reconstruction and reenactments are based on life as it was in 1744.

Red Coat and Blue Coat interpreters march, pipe, drum and fire off a cannon.

Lloyd buys bread the size, and half the weight, of a cannonball. And about the equivalent in flavour.

Jay's workout for the day: cannonball presses.

The crier reads aloud from a scroll which states that the guy in white stole a bottle of wine. The French officers will parade him through the streets, drumming all the way, then fasten him to a pole with an iron collar where he will serve his time: 2 hours a day for several days. In fact, he served five minutes before the interpreters ignored the unsympathetic crowd and let him go.

Jay writes his name with a quill pen next to the recently freed thief.

Since we couldn't elect Eric for public punishment we ordered him into the lime kiln for a time out. ;)

Back at the campsites, the boys strum it up. It's difficult to see, but Jay and Eric each trade a hand to play: Jay's left hand plays Eric's fretboard and vice versa (their right hands strum their own guitars).

In the evening we attended a ceilidh next door at the Louisbourg Playhouse featuring Jason Kempt, Beverly MacLean, Erin Martell, Lyndon MacKenzie, and Troy Young. Celtic music is expected and oatcakes hoped for, but this ceilidh included a box drum called a cajón and comedic costumed sketches too.

In the morning we had time to enjoy the sun and cereal by the sea.

-P

Up the Canal

August 11-12, 2010 St. Peter's, Cape Breton, NS

Battery Provincial Park

After Deb and I drove around in circles, we chose a seascape and a site large enough for both busses.

All five of us took a morning walk to St. Peter's Canal, just outside the campground, and arrived in time to see the canal in action.

The bridge our busses crossed to turn into Battery Provincial Park is high enough for small vessels, like Reel Happy from Antigonish, NS.

The bridge swings open ...

... to accommodate the biggies. A park employee mans the controls on top of the bridge.

Three boats arrived close together. They're corralled behind a lock until everyone's ready to go.

Her sailboat secured by bow and aft lines, a sailor from Donegal chats with Jay.

Aphrodite from the BVIs waits her turn:

The final lock opens.

Everyone's free.

The 800 metre canal links Bras d'Or Lake to the Atlantic Ocean. St. Peter's Canal is a National Historic Site and the only functioning lock system in Nova Scotia.

-P

Waypoint Halifax

August 10, 2010 Halifax, NS

I hoped we could explore the Canadian School of Lutherie with George Ryzsani, builder of Voyageur, a Six String Nation guitar built from 63 pieces of  Canadian wood "representing many different cultures, communities and characters from all across the country", "including a piece of decking from the Bluenosoe II, a piece of Wayne Gretzky's hockey stick and wood from Pier 21". One of goals for the Six String Nation project is "to tell the story of a country from the roots to the trunk rather than the other way around; and to encourage us to tell that story to ourselves and the world through music".

George ran luthier workshops at the Canadian School of Lutherie, a centre for studying guitar building that specializes in building hand-made, custom guitars. He has made guitars for James Taylor, Keith Richards, Sting, Peter Gabriel and more. However, George is on his last guitar building project for the centre and will retire from his line of guitars. I believe his last is the only with a built in vile of ashes--the ashes of a beloved friend and musician. The upright guitar on the far right:

George put me in touch with Jeremy. Jeremy et al were fine hosts, happy to explain their projects and processes, answer all of our questions, and allow Jay to try out their wares.

Project central:

The Faireses left feeling like they could finally tackle the guitar kit they have back home.

We left the school for waterfront Halifax and found a Buskers Festival we didn't expect. Normally, the waterfront makes for nice strolling grounds peppered with the occasional musician or painter, but festival goers crowded the wharfs.

We watched boats cruise by in the harbour and wandered the wharf for a bit.

We found some local music, but, tired of crowds, we broke away for a seat and a drink ...

at The Old Triangle, one of several great pubs in Halifax.

Jay had another chance to say goodbye to Carmel Mikol; she was just outside on the pub patio.

We had been working up to dinner since morning, when we decided we wanted good Indian food for supper. The private circle room was a perfect fit at Taj Mahal, open just two days following a six-month closure due to fire:

We feasted and waddled away.

Of course, we could spend a week or more in the city, but with just one night's stay we had time for just a few highlights.

We also highly recommend the maritime museum, Neptune Theatre, Paper Chase cafe, The Wooden Monkey restaurant, Opa! restaurant, Maxwell's Plum English pub, Pogue Fado pub, Split Crow pub, The Economy Shoe Shop cafe/bar and any live music you can find.

-P

Grave Sights

We drove by this cemetery a few times. I had wanted to wander through it each time, but we were always en route to something somewhere: a reading, errands, a play, live music.

Luckily, Ernie and Pat also enjoy old cemeteries and they stopped just for us so we could browse the grounds.

They led us to one of the most popular tombstone epitaph:

We also came across "I'm just resting my eyes" and "Oh, sure".

Some gravesites are sinking. Some go back to the mid 1800s. Newer graves are above-ground vaults.

Some have personal touches, like this shock of colour and a handmade stone, repaired with some kind of ... putty.

The handwritten inscription reads:

Aleida Marie Blanco Feb 21 1928 - Mar 8 2007 Loving mother of 4 children "Mi casa es su casa" Loved to shower in the rain Loved papaya, sour sop + dancing

Isn't that nice?

This is one of my favourite views, which includes the "I told you I was sick" and "I'm just resting my eyes" epitaphs:

More than once we found a water pump spout within a grave's borders and a wide array of tropical flora creates a park like setting.

About 100,000 people are buried here, more than three times the current population of Key West.

-P

30A Songwriters Festival

January 15-17, 2010 Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles fame kicked off the festival at Bud & Alley's waterfront bar. Everyone swarmed under the white tents for warmth and for guacamole and beer and wine.

We spent opening night at the Seaside Theatre. First set: Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird and Kelly Archer.

Natalie Hemby co-wrote "White Liar", a Billboard Magazine's Hot Country Song top 10 hit sung by Miranda Lambert. She co-wrote three other tracks with Lambert. Her song "Sweet Girl" was featured on the "Felicity" television series. Carrie Underwood cut one of her songs. She has had success since she turned 19 and seems to be more in demand every year.

Luke Laird writes laugh out loud lyrics and some touching ones too. He's written with/for Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Lee Ann Womack, Jessica Simpson, Holly Williams, Clay Walker, Jessica Harp, Julianne Hough, Little Big Town, Katharine McPhee, Joe Nichols and Laura Bell Bundy.

Kelly Archer, a "sweet and amazingly talented" Canadian, has written for The Eli Young Band, Jason Aldean and Jo Dee Messina among others.

Second set: local band Dread Clampitt and Mike Whitty shared the stage. Not pictured.

Jeff Black, Sam Bush and John Oates:

Jeff Black, "a songwriter's songwriter", has written for Waylon Jennings, Sam Bush and Blackhawk. He's a local favourite.

Sam Bush is a renowned mandolinist, songwriter, collaborator and is sometimes referred to as the King of Telluride and the King of Newgrass.

John Oates of Hall & Oates fame is short, really short, and from a seat in the audience he comes across as super friendly and unpretentious. He has a tween son who already towers over his Dad's shaggy black hairdo. Oates sang "She's Gone" and selections from his solo work and coloured Jeff Black and Sam Bush's songs with his guitar rhythms and fancy pickin'.

Day Two's workshop Origin of a Song with Shawn Mullins and Nicole Witt:

Shawn quickly became a favourite of ours. We're waiting for one of his newest songs presumably titled "Light You Up". A brief bio: "Grammy nominated singer songwriter wrote and produced Souls Core in 1998 with the hit "Lullabye" (Rockabye) which went to number 1 on pop charts in the U.S., Europe and Australia. "Beautiful Wreck" from 9th Ward Pickin Parlor (Vanguard) rose to number 1 on the AAA charts becoming the most played song on the format in 2006."

Nicole's songs have been recorded by George Strait, Colin Raye, Diamond Rio, Rodney Adkins, Terri Clark and others.

K.C. Clifford, Drew Tillman, Marc Berger:

K.C. Clifford lost a 100 pounds with Weight Watchers and was featured on the t.v. reality show Biggest Losers, Drew Tillman we met the prior night at Bud & Alley's waterfront bar where we could watch the waves lash the shore and the wind wipe all the texture out of the dark sky. Drew is super nice and we like his black guitar. And Marc Berger sings an antinuclear anthem “The Last One” and I don't remember beyong that.

We had time for just a couple songs from Greg Koons and Ben Reno before heading back over to the theatre:

Greg Koons released his "Welcome to the Nowhere Motel" record in June. Yep, we still call 'em "records".

Ben Reno looks like the California boy he is and has that "boy band" style.

Pat Hull (not pictured), William F. Gibbs, The Smoking Flowers at Seaside Meeting Hall Theatre:

Gibbs is an uconventional songwriter and, it could be said, a bohemian who mixes music genres (mostly southern inspired) and comes up with a "gumbo of retro sounds". An odd, but entertaining fellow.

Michelle Malone and Sonia Leigh:

Michelle is a comedic and consummate entertainer, even with a cold and seasoned with DayQuil, NyQuil, "SeaQuil" ;). Michelle's festival summary: "Veteran blues/rock musician from Atlanta left Agnes Scott college in to sign to Arista Records in New York. Ten original albums later she is still going strong touring the country. 'Raucous and Jubilant – somewhere between Lucinda and Shelby' – Rolling Stone."

Sonia's current release, "Angel on My Shoulder was recorded live at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA, where many Georgia musicians have launched their careers, including Jennifer Nettles and Kristen Hall of Sugarland, Shawn Mullins, and John Mayer."

Greg Barnhill and Tim Nichols:

Greg's songs have been recorded by Tim McGraw, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Lonestar, Martina McBride, Etta James, Bryan White, Lee Ann Womack, Ty Herndon, Sherrie Austin, Pam Tillis, and Jessica Simpson. The man can sing.

Tim Nichols wrote one of our favourite country songs, "Live Like You Were Dying", and we don't call ourselves country music fans. He also wrote Trace Adkins's "This Ain't No Thinking Thing".

Rodney Crowell, a spiritual and contemplative man, and ex-husband of Johnny Cash's daughter, Roseanne, hosted the second Origin of a Song workshop with Chely Wright.

Rodney told us about first time he met Johnny after downing several rum and cokes on the flight to meet the Cash family at their Jamaica abode. He arrived, smashed, and promptly challenged Mr. Cash about sleeping in same bed as his daughter, Roseanne. The showdown ended with Johnny: "I don't know you well enough to miss you if you leave."

Chely Wright wrote "Single White Female" and "Shut Up and Drive". I don't know her songs and I don't know why she feels compelled to showcase herself in her underwear or cuddled up to a pole on her blog or ... the like. Anyway.

We waited over and hour, with a couple hundred other people, in the frigid breeze to see Indigo Girls at The Gulf Green on Alys Beach. They put on a great show. I was equally impressed that they could keep moving their fingers in the bone-chilling breeze. If you know about the Indigo Girls you also know about their activism. If you too want to be a "punk ass patriot and a happy human being" you can check out the activism link on their website.

Cody Copeland has a supple voice and plays guitar like a keyboard, Carmel Mikol (a Cape Bretoner with a satiny voice), Ryan Parker and Michelle Luchese:

Jessi Alexander, Jon Randall (Jessi's husband) with 18 South.

Jessi is best known now for co-writing "The Climb", a song made famous by Miley Cyrus, but has also written for Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood and Little Big Town.

Jon Randall co-wrote "Whiskey Lullaby", toured with Lyle Lovatt, The Sam Bush Band, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood and Earl Scruggs. He sang "El Paso", a haunting song that you can hear on his myspace page.

You can find the complete lineup by clicking here.

-P

New Orleans: More Odds Than Ends

December 19, 2009 We couldn't resist St. Louis Cathedral courtyard again and made a beeline to a front row, wrought iron bench. That day, a cuban man from Miami, wearing a toque and smoking a smushed cigarette sidled up, quizzed us about the food we liked, the music we listened to, where we've travelled, then blew smoke in my face and said, "Well, I gotta go." Just like that. Tourists wore beaded necklaces strung with beads as big as tennis balls and carried drinks by the litre in weird shaped drinking vessels. A wee girl admired her pink, balloon wings. Street urchins cradled beer cans in paper bags. Just another day...

Our wanderings took us to every bookstore in the French Quarter. Sometimes we risked life and limb as we squeezed through quaking towers of books literally stacked to the ceiling with no evidence of order.

We spent a few minutes sampling the life-size gingerbread house at the Ritz Carlton.

We sauntered aimlessly for a while. Here's a common feature. We've seen these fish gush rainwater by the gallons.

Some heritage buildings have tile placards denoting the historical name of a specific street.

Not all New Orleans balconies boast pristine facades with filigree wrought iron and pretty paint jobs:

The muddy Mississippi, a local paddle boat and the Crescent City Connection a.k.a. Greater New Orleans Bridge:

More familiar Crescent City sights: Street performers and a mule and carriage.

The End.

-P

More New Orleans

December 18, 2009 If you ask a local where to go for authentic creole cuisine, they'll probably direct you to Gumbo Shop.

Lloyd tried the (vegetarian) green gumbo and the white bean and rice dish. I had the crawfish étouffée. We shared the fresh, warm loaf of bread and dipped it in praline vinaigrette.

Locals also told us that the better food and music has, more or less, moved to Frenchmen Street. We wandered Frenchmen Street during the day. Don't do that. It's downright doggy and offers little aside from what the locals call "The gay bookstore", half of which we perused. Anyway, find a gig and check out Frenchmen Street at night or you might be dissuaded altogether. And, for goodness sake, take a cab!

After Frenchmen we found ourselves back in St. Louis Cathedral (what I'll call) courtyard where we saw Santa and Mrs. Claus at the end of the psychic line (there must be a dozen psychics on a busy day) and enjoyed the fine-tuned voice of a long-haired duo in plaid.

The courtyard attracts all kinds of people. It's a primo people watching site. One afternoon we watched a man on a 3-wheeled bicycle that wiggled side to side vs. peddled, a young woman in a fuzzy grey cape with pointy canine teeth - an obvious patron of the Boutique du Vampyre on Royal Street (and living dead wannabe), a rather pale cyclist in a lacy, billowy blouse and knickers, "The Ghost of Christmas Past," said the lady seated next to me.

There is no shortage of entertainment in the French Quarter. You can find music every night of the week and special concerts for special occasions, like the Christmas concert/Procrastinors Pajama Party & Sweet Tooth Soirée:

We topped the evening off with the closing night production of "The Kingfish", a one-man, two-act play about Huey P. Long at the Intercontinental Hotel. Long, Governor for Lousiana 1928-1932, noted for radical populist policies and forceful traits, was a dramatic political figure who also inspired the film "All the Kings Men" starring Sean Penn. He was assassinated at the age of 42.

-P

New Orleans Aquarium: Part 2

December 15, 2009 If you can still squeeze through a tire and don't mind looking a bit ... warped, you can be part of the exhibit and get an insider's look at life in a tank.

Okay, this is kind of neat, kind of gross:

Visitors can feed little fish and scraps to stingrays, which is a little gross to begin with. Grosser than that, the stingrays have really big, spongy mouths and they basically swallow and suck a whole fist to get the little morsel. Yick!

Yep, that entire slippery smile slurping your hand ... Bleck!

But better than a hand in an albino alligator...

... or a nurse shark. They suck too: they suck in dormant fish and other bottom feeders off the ocean floor. Nurse sharks are bottom dwellers found in tropical waters. Their days are spent huddled on the bottom in groups. At night they head out solo in hunt of prey. Here they presumably feel camouflaged amongst the oil rig pipes.

Above, the more active inhabitants circle and circle and circle.

-P

New Orleans Aquarium: Part 1

December 15, 2009 Another curious penguin:

The penguin handlers hand-feed the penguins twice a day.

A few of the penguins become attached to their caretakers. The one below nuzzled his handler then just hopped into his lap to cuddle while the guy recorded the number of fish each penguin ate.

The wing bands provoke pity, certainly, but they do serve a function. Each penguin's name is embossed on their band so their statistics can be recorded.

The little guy on the right below is molting. When penguins molt they can't swim. Molting takes about a month so this wee one will waddle around, left out and embarrassed, 'til his feathers grow in again. All together now: "Aaaw...".

More cuteness:

Not cute and poisonous:

Hideous and also poisonous:

They're as thick as Arnie S's biceps, and the person the latter are attached to is, perhaps, also considered poisonous in a certain state...

And just funny:

It says, "Harold, where are we? Why can't you ever ask directions? No, you just have to let us drift and drift. Sometimes I think your brain is jelly."

:D

-P

Day One in The Big Easy

December 12, 2009 We recharge at Cafe du Monde, often. This is the first time I get a glimpse behind the scenes as I wait for the bathrooms, which I will avoid at all costs in the future.

A load of beignets, fried squares of dough mounded with icing sugar, en route to tourists crammed around tiny round tables and lined up out the door:

My first Cafe du Monde experience triggered a hacking fit (WARNING: avoid inhaling when you bite a beignet), clouds of powdered sugar and a poor wardrobe choice: black on black. I learned fast. Now, I typically leave the beignets to Lloyd while I recharge on murky, full-bodied chicory coffee. From the cafe's website: "The Acadians from Nova Scotia brought this taste and many other french customs (heritage) to Louisiana."

Sufficiently caffeinated, we wander the boutiques around Jackson Square (Place d'Armes).

At Louis Sahuc Photo Works we learned we arrived just in time for PhotoNOLA, a city-wide photography event, and just in time for torrential rains. Undeterred, we ventured out. Here's our approach to Canal Street:

Canal Street, presumably not named for its ability to in fact transform itself into a channel of sluicing water, became an actual canal on account of the all-day drumming rain. The depth, however, came on almost by surprise, so gradual that we splashed through until we were literally wading through, ankle deep, with no dry exits in sight.

Though soaked to the knees (jeans = wicks) we trekked on. How could it get worse? Well, I'll tell you.

Several soggy blocks later we sloshed into the hotel only to be informed by the doorman that the exhibition "moved." Thus, we splashed back to the evening's point of origin, refusing to allow our sopped state to dampen our moods, and admired the fine photographs, daguerreotypes (something to do with iodine, silver plate and mercury vapor), photogravures (transferred from a negative and etched on metal plates) and orotones (gold tone prints from negatives) at A Gallery.

-P

P.S. We stayed at French Quarter RV, which is conveniently located just outside The Quarter. Though convenient, we were forewarned, repeatedly, "Do not walk back in the dark." Still, it's a nice RV camp and we' would definitely stay there again.

Tennessee Aquarium: Part 3

December 7, 2009 Sea otters. Lloyd's favourite animal.

Wee, poisonous frogs:

A seriously old tortoise shell.

Younger tortoises. Indian Star Tortoises.

Catfish kiss.

Just a sight I liked on the way out:

-P

Tennessee Sealife: Part 2

December 7, 2009 This is a cuttlefish. I think he looks like a wee hippopatamus with no legs. Technically, they're mollusks, not fish. They can rapidly change colour to camouflage or communicate with other cuttlefish. Tell me that's not cute.

Seahorses are poor swimmers, but they are majestic creatures.

It does look like he's missing a little fish jockey...

Did you know it's the male seahorse that incubates the eggs in his pouch?

"The eggs then hatch in the pouch where the salinity of the water is regulated; this prepares the newborns for life in the sea. Throughout the male’s incubation, his mate visits him daily for 'morning greetings'. The female seahorse swims over for about 6 minutes of interaction reminiscent of courtship. They change color, wheel around sea grass fronds, and finally promenade, holding each other’s tails. :D Then, the female swims away until the next morning, and the male goes back to vacuuming up food through his snout." Wikipedia. But the smiley face is mine.

The yellow guy below is a seahorse, but what's more interesting are the gold and black fish to his left. They drift and swim vertical, in a pack--a strange sight.

Most seahorses can camouflage with colour, but some are built for pure deception like the one below that was difficult to discern in seaweed, and its green partner more so.

We saw seahorses of all colours and some as wee as a thumbnail and some a foot long. The seahorse exhibit was my favourite of them all.

-P

The Sealife of Tennessee

December 7, 2009 The Tennessee Aquarium is "the highes rated aquarium in the USA".

I took a lot of photos--all in wide angle, unfortunately, which means lower quality and poor memory (mine). I'd like to show you anyway. It might take a couple, three posts so here we go.

This is a freshwater stingray. I didn't know freshwater species existed. The one below has the company of several others including a bright orange and black ray and also fish that couldn't care less about them.

Can I get that for you?

Okay, not sealife, but cute, right?

That's a blue spotted ray below on the left in the tropical touch tank. All of their barbs are "removed". Wonder if that hurts...

I touched a ray. They feel like a warm, soggy mushroom. The fish on the right is a guitar fish.

We are especially adore penguins. They have such character. They waddle, socialize, dive and play. They're nonstop entertainment.

They're curious too. The little one below floated above and let me snap all the photos I wanted.

Shark alert!

PLEASE, please, please, Mother Nature, never let me see a shark this close in real life:

Ditto, but dazzling.

The aquarium has a large jellyfish exhibit lit by black light. "Jellyfish" is a misnomer; we should call them sea jellies or just jellies.

These are upsidedown jellies. Lazy jellies. They just stretch out and wait for food to come to them. Bet you know some creatures like that...

The jellies below just look confused. They bump and roll around.

An elegant species:

This one should appear here almost life size. It gives a little light show.

This is where I tell you that I have in fact eaten "jellyfish". I don't recommend it.

It was dinner with an important Asian client. He ordered. And, hey, I like to try new things...

Actually, I never wanted to try sea jellies.

They served it cold, in strips as long as shoelaces. What does it taste like? Well, first you have to chew it for days, well, for what seems like days because it has the consistency of jello left out in the sun to dehydrate for ... oh, say ... ten years! Anyway, you chew and chew and chew (and so on) and it never softens. In fact, it never tastes like anything after the jelly sauce dissolves, which you don't really taste because your mind overrides all tastebud abilities: I'm eating jellyfish! Gelatinous zooplankton!

Was it cooked or raw? I have no idea. So. You chew 'til the chunks can be safely swallowed without instigating a gag reflex and you gulp it down like you're famished. I'm convinced it can't really be digested anyway so why extend the epicurean anguish?

Yeah. Don't eat 'em if you can help it.

-P

The Sealife of Tennessee

December 7, 2009 The Tennessee Aquarium is "the highes rated aquarium in the USA".

I took a lot of photos--all in wide angle, unfortunately, which means lower quality and poor memory (mine). I'd like to show you anyway. It might take a couple, three posts so here we go.

This is a freshwater stingray. I didn't know freshwater species existed. The one below has the company of several others including a bright orange and black ray and also fish that couldn't care less about them.

Can I get that for you?

Okay, not sealife, but cute, right?

That's a blue spotted ray below on the left in the tropical touch tank. All of their barbs are "removed". Wonder if that hurts...

I touched a ray. They feel like a warm, soggy mushroom. The fish on the right is a guitar fish.

We are especially adore penguins. They have such character. They waddle, socialize, dive and play. They're nonstop entertainment.

They're curious too. The little one below floated above and let me snap all the photos I wanted.

Shark alert!

PLEASE, please, please, Mother Nature, never let me see a shark this close in real life:

Ditto, but dazzling.

The aquarium has a large jellyfish exhibit lit by black light. "Jellyfish" is a misnomer; we should call them sea jellies or just jellies.

These are upsidedown jellies. Lazy jellies. They just stretch out and wait for food to come to them. Bet you know some creatures like that...

The jellies below just look confused. They bump and roll around.

An elegant species:

This one should appear here almost life size. It gives a little light show.

This is where I tell you that I have in fact eaten "jellyfish". I don't recommend it.

It was dinner with an important Asian client. He ordered. And, hey, I like to try new things...

Actually, I never wanted to try sea jellies.

They served it cold, in strips as long as shoelaces. What does it taste like? Well, first you have to chew it for days, well, for what seems like days because it has the consistency of jello left out in the sun to dehydrate for ... oh, say ... ten years! Anyway, you chew and chew and chew (and so on) and it never softens. In fact, it never tastes like anything after the jelly sauce dissolves, which you don't really taste because your mind overrides all tastebud abilities: I'm eating jellyfish! Gelatinous zooplankton!

Was it cooked or raw? I have no idea. So. You chew 'til the chunks can be safely swallowed without instigating a gag reflex and you gulp it down like you're famished. I'm convinced it can't really be digested anyway so why extend the epicurean anguish?

Yeah. Don't eat 'em if you can help it.

-P

Gibson (Not the Drink)

November 20, 2009 Nashville, Tennessee

I wandered through the Gibson Showcase three times. There's a whole Santa's workshop-like set up where you can watch (I'll call them) artisans build acoustic instruments.

A Gibson guitar is a beautiful thing and I think there is an art in building a Gibson and in making one sound like it should (meaning when someone who can play plays, meaning I'm not the one playing it).

The bodies below are not guitars. They might be Jam Master Series Standard F-style Mandolins.

Now I don't really know what to do with them, aside from a few chords, but I can still enjoy them. To me, this is as good and as satisfying as an art gallery:

This has nothing to do with Gibson, but it's not something you see every day in a mall, a diver scouring the gunk off coral with a little scrub brush as people mill by, oblivious and overloaded with shopping bags.

-P

Gibson (Not the Drink)

November 20, 2009 Nashville, Tennessee

I wandered through the Gibson Showcase three times. There's a whole Santa's workshop-like set up where you can watch (I'll call them) artisans build acoustic instruments.

A Gibson guitar is a beautiful thing and I think there is an art in building a Gibson and in making one sound like it should (meaning when someone who can play plays, meaning I'm not the one playing it).

The bodies below are not guitars. They might be Jam Master Series Standard F-style Mandolins.

Now I don't really know what to do with them, aside from a few chords, but I can still enjoy them. To me, this is as good and as satisfying as an art gallery:

This has nothing to do with Gibson, but it's not something you see every day in a mall, a diver scouring the gunk off coral with a little scrub brush as people mill by, oblivious and overloaded with shopping bags.

-P

The Almost King

November 19, 2009 Nashville, TN

This man boasts a good measure of the requisite flair for impersonating The King of Rock-n-Roll and an equal dose of charm. While not quite convincing in stature, John Beardsley rocks the house with a bold voice and even bolder moves, moves that earned Elvis the childish nickname of "Elvis the Pelvis".

Below: This is Lola, a white-haired septuagenarian vamp in a white sweatshirt, demanding yet another kiss from Elvis. FYI: that sweatshirt bears last year's photo of her cuddled up to that very impersonator. Not only does Lola sidle up to the stage and reach for his hand, she offers commentary throughout the performance, usually in the form of some romantic advance. She even challenges this Elvis's wife (the event organizer): "But you get him all the time." Hey, her affections won her a white scarf that he used to blot the sweat off his face...

-P

The Almost King

November 19, 2009 Nashville, TN

This man boasts a good measure of the requisite flair for impersonating The King of Rock-n-Roll and an equal dose of charm. While not quite convincing in stature, John Beardsley rocks the house with a bold voice and even bolder moves, moves that earned Elvis the childish nickname of "Elvis the Pelvis".

Below: This is Lola, a white-haired septuagenarian vamp in a white sweatshirt, demanding yet another kiss from Elvis. FYI: that sweatshirt bears last year's photo of her cuddled up to that very impersonator. Not only does Lola sidle up to the stage and reach for his hand, she offers commentary throughout the performance, usually in the form of some romantic advance. She even challenges this Elvis's wife (the event organizer): "But you get him all the time." Hey, her affections won her a white scarf that he used to blot the sweat off his face...

-P

The King

Memphis has a host of kings: The King of Beale Street (Preston Shannon), B.B. King (also The King of Blues), Martin Luther King, but my mother first acquainted me with the Memphis king that stole her heart, The King of Rock-n-Roll.

Source: www.elvis.com

We had to "do" Graceland. We enjoyed it even more than we expected for the fact that we learned more about the man himself. As for the Graceland tour, big-haired women corralled us through the main floor of the house in 10-15 minutes I think. Check it out:

The living room just beyond the foyer to the right:

To the left, the dining room:

The kitchen just down the hall:

We weren't allowed upstairs. The guide said, "It's private." Um. Okay.

What I'll call Elvis's playroom, where he could watch all three channels (the only three channels that existed at the time) at once:

Folded fabric covers the walls and the ceiling in the billiard room.

The Jungle Room (my personal favourite), where wood monkeys grin all around and green shag covers the floor, and the ceiling:

The Graceland Platinum tour includes:

  • an audio-guided tour of Graceland Mansion and grounds
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' two custom airplanes
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' Automobile Museum
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis in Hollywood Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis Lives: The King and Pop Culture Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Private Presley Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of '68 Special Exhibit

So. More to come...

-P