Thursday, 18 September 2008

1966 is not a year that I remember in the least – not politically, not culturally, not musically – I was born late in the year. My only thoughts were napping, eating, and pooping.

Still, this was an interesting year for music. And since I was born in 1966, it serves as a place to start. Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Johnny Cash and a host of others released albums that year.

What surprised me most, however, was Booker T and the MG’s had an album that year. I always thought they started recently but, as it turns out, the band was formed in 1962. The were largely a group of studio musicians from Stax Records.

I shouldn’t be so surprised that they’re still playing; after all, Dylan and the Rolling Stones are still around. But for some reason they strike me as big names, where Booker T. and the MG’s comes off as a much smaller group that, for some untold reason, wouldn’t still be around.

The Beatles released two albums in 1966: Revolver, and Yesterday and Today. Both albums spawned spawned several remarkable, classic tunes: “Eleanor Rigby,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “Taxman,” and of course “Yellow Submarine” from Revolver and “Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “Yesterday,” and “Day Tripper” from Yesterday and Today. All great songs, but still neither is my favorite album from that year.

The Monkees put out their first album in 1966. Despite having its roots in a television show, it went #1 in the US and topped the UK charts. “Last Train to Clarksville” was a #1 single that I remember having as a scratchy 45 at one point. I played the heck out of that song and never missed the show when it was out in syndication.

Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy each had albums in 1966. Nancy, most notably Boots, which brought us the unmistakable, spectacular “These Boots are Made for Walkin’.” I bought a Nancy Sinatra best-of CD a couple years ago just so I could have that song.

Still, with all that great music, and more from the likes of Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Buffalo Springfield, Smokey Robinson, Otis Redding, The Animals – too many to mention, there’s one more that clearly tops them all.

Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys.

Pet Sounds was their ninth studio album and it changed the face of pop music. It’s even credited with influencing The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!

The album has several seminal Beach Boys songs. Tunes that are instantly recognizable, that snap you back to a simpler time (if you’re of a certain age) or just make you feel good.

Right off the top Pet Sounds starts with one of my favorite Beach Boys songs: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” With its many layers of harmonies and upbeat sound, it expresses some of the impatience of youth and how you have to wait for what you truly want.

Even though it’s a cover of a traditional West Indies folk song, “Sloop John B.” will always be a Beach Boys tune to me. It is unmistakably summer. I play it during the winter as a sort of talisman to ward off the doldrums and hopefully bring the sunny days back more quickly. Also, I always wonder how many people have named their boats after this one song.

“Let’s Go Away for Awhile” is a brilliant instrumental song, almost orchestral in its nature. You can hear the strings, saxophone, piano, vibes, and I think an oboe in there.

Sophisticated for its time, “God Only Knows” is, in my mind, the best song off Pet Sounds. The depth of the harmonies and easy complexity of the melody make it stand out. It’s a gorgeous love song that basically says “You make me what I am.”

Although just a smattering, Pet Sounds is truly a classic. I come back to it often and it really did define pop music for many years. It’s truly a must for any music collection.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Most people come into their own, musically speaking, in their teens. It typically starts with a variation of what their parents listen to, then evolves based on what is popular among their friends. Sure, occasionally we’ll want to know more about the influences of our favorite bands, but that often just leads to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Clapton, and not much else.

How often do we really go back and consider what came before?

Although I turned 13 in 1979, it wasn’t until MTV was launched nearly two years later that music really hit me. Prior to that, it was mostly stuff my parents liked: Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, Anne Murray, Crystal Gale… You get the idea. MTV and music videos brought new wave, funk, and ROCK to the table. It was an experience that forever changed the way I listened to the world.

What came before the 80’s? Who influenced the musicians I grew to love and even still listen to? Sure there have been forays into older music. A penchant for jazz and swing. The occasional dip into classical music. Even a late appreciation for the Beatles and Bob Dylan. But what came before?

So I decided to take a look back; starting with 1966, the year I was born, and possibly rediscover my musical roots. The intent is more than just a list of my favorite album from each year. Along the way I’ll offer thoughts on what makes each one my favorite and perhaps some commentary about other releases from the same year.

I’ll begin with 1966 tomorrow.

† Yes, the M in MTV stands for music. They did actually play music at one time.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Even though I may not totally agree with his politics, I’ve been a fan of Billy Bragg for many years. His songs are strong mix of punk, worker’s ballads, and the world at large that just have this certain appeal to me. Bragg played The Cedar a couple weeks ago and I took my friend Sherry to the show.

It was actually a pretty busy week: Association meeting on Tuesday, drinks with friends on Wednesday, Aimee Mann at the Zoo with Sherry on Thursday, Billy Bragg at The Cedar on Friday, then Stomp! at the Ordway on Saturday.

In the couple-dozen shows I’ve seen at The Cedar, this has been only the third where there were no chairs.

The first was Hoven Droven, a Celtic punk band at the Nordic Roots festival a couple years ago. The show started with chairs, but as the band got going people got up to dance. At first the chairs were (gently) shoved away from the stage, then quickly a bunch of people helped to stack them and put the chairs away properly. In under 5 minutes the floor was clear.

The second show was Konono No. 1, a percussion and thumb piano band from Africa. (Boy was that show loud!) They started the evening without the chairs so people could dance. The crowd really got hopping in sync with itself and you’d see this mass of heads bobbing into the air and back down again.

And then the Billy Bragg show. It was billed as limited seating, but I was surprised to find no chairs at all. I figured it meant the normal seating arrangement, but that there were more tickets than seats. I wouldn’t call Bragg’s music danceable – indeed, nobody really moved that much the entire show. However, the concert was sold out. With chairs The Cedar holds about 300 people but they must have sold 600+ tickets for this show. Standing room only in the truest sense.

The opening act was a guy named C. R. Avery. He did this beat-box, hip-hop, spoken word thing that was just great. I had to buy his two CDs after the show. If you’ve ever heard Kid Beyond before you’ve got the general idea, but with a bit more focus on the words than the beats and the looping.

Billy came out and it was just him and a couple guitars. One electric and one acoustic. He did several songs from the his latest album, Mr. Love and Justice, with a healthy dose of old stuff interspersed. I got to hear most of my favorites, including “Sexuality” and “The Space Race Is Over.” It was a really good show.

At one point, switching back from acoustic to electric, Bragg made a remark about amplification and apologized that I was getting the brunt of it standing there straight in front of his main stage amp. I just smiled, pointed to my ear plugs, and told him it was no sweat; I was getting a great show and couldn’t have picked a better spot about 6 feet off center right against the stage.

After the show he came out and signed autographs. He took the time to talk with everyone in line and come my turn he apologized again for the amplifier placement. I said he shouldn’t apologize, I knew what I was getting into by standing there. I have earplugs and could still hear every word, it just took the edge off. Sherry had helped me grab the set list from the stage, which he gladly signed and tried to point out the one or two spots where songs got added.

Then I asked him to autograph a couple CDs I had brought with me. As I handed them to him, I remarked that they were two of the old ones (not the oldest, but William Bloke and England, Half-English.) He started signing them, and asked “Who are they?” Confused, I looked and realized what had happened. He had written “To the Old Ones, “ and signed the first one.

Unable to make something up on the spot, I explained that I had said “Two of the old ones,” figuring he would just sign them and be done with it. Completely embarrassed, Billy remarked that after a show there is often no brain filtering information between ears and hands, so he’ll often just write whatever someone says because he’s talking with them at the same he signs stuff. “I’m just as likely to write ‘To the git that makes a terrible cup of coffee’ if someone said at the right time.” We all started riffing on “To the Old Ones” a bit, including my friend Kathy who was next in line, and eventually someone (I think it was Kathy) said “To the Young Ones.” The Young Ones was a British sit-com that played on MTV for a while here in the US. A bit more joking around and that’s what the second CD now says: “To the Young Ones, Billy Bragg.”

It was time to go, but I got a picture with Billy and he apologized again for the autograph mixup. I said it was no trouble at all. In fact it was great! Usually it’s just a signature, or “To Michael” at most – as if anyone would be fooled into thinking Billy and I were drinking buddies. These two CDs, “To the Old Ones” and “To the Young Ones” are now truly special. Not only do they have some good music on them, but I have a story to go with them.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

After my TwitterBerry review (it’s only O.K.), a friend suggested trying TinyTwitter by…well…TinyTwitter it seems. You can get it for Windows Mobile Pocket PC, Windows Mobile Smartphone, as well as older and newer Java enabled smartphones (MIDP 1.0 and 2.0).

This one seems to have gotten almost everything right. The main screen is your friend timeline. It shows them in reverse chronological order (newest at the top) with their respective icons and it shows the whole tweet. Moving between messages is easy, just scroll down the list to work backwards in time — no selecting necessary. In fact, if you select the message, it will show you a details screen, but you’ll find that everything was right there on the main screen in the first place.

Sending a reply is easy too. Just highlight the message, pop up the menu (with either select or the menu key on my Blackberry Pearl), and choose reply. It automatically fills in the @username part and you’re good to go.

The entry screen is otherwise straightforward. What more do you need than a place to type your message and hit send? There are two things I would like to see and really they’re just minor changes:

  1. When replying to someone else’s tweet, put the cursor after their @username so you can just start typing. It’s annoying to have to scroll over first. One could argue that leaving the cursor at the start makes it easy to fill in an instruction (d for direct message, follow or nofollow to control your friends list, etc.), but 99% of the time I’m not doing that. Generally replies are intended not only for whom they are directed, but the “room” at large.
  2. Add a character counter. The first line on the update screen only says “What are you doing?” (the ever-present Twitter question); there’s plenty of space to add a character counter so you know how much space you have left. Or use some of the other screen real estate, it’s not like 140 characters is going to fill things up.

The settings are easy to access and fairly straightforward. I’m not sure why there isn’t one “settings” area with sub-sections like most Blackberry applications, but the full menu is only a tiny annoyance. In the UI Settings you can turn on/off images, tell TinyTwitter to play a sound when you get a new direct message, and disable the last tweet ticker at the bottom of the main screen.

Under Sync Settings, there are similarly few choices. Just how often you want TinyTwitter to fetch updates. Never, 4 (the programmer’s favorite), 15, 30, or 60 minutes. I’d like to see this become more flexible, allowing for any user-selectable time here.

Finally there’s a section for Font Settings where the choices are small, medium, and large. Not that this choice actually seems to do anything. I haven’t experimented enough to see if this is an artifact of my overall Blackberry settings (I tend to use a pretty small font) or just something goofy about TinyTwitter, but I can live with it.

The final weird thing is that direct messages don’t show up in your friend timeline, but rather you have to go to a special screen called “Inbox” to see them. The Inbox also shows any replies sent your way via the normal @username thing. Kind of strange, but I can live with it.

It may seem like I’m nit-picking TinyTwitter to death, and perhaps I am, but it comes from love. In just a few days I’ve grown to really like TinyTwitter and would highly recommend it. At least on my Blackberry it completely kicks Twitterberry’s butt. That whole IM and RSS reader combo thing I was doing before? What on earth was I thinking!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Just today I finally thought to look for a Blackberry app to do twitter updates. A quick Google search brought me to Twitterberry by Orangatame (http://www.orangatame.com/) so I decided to give it a go. Until now I had been using a combination of Twitter’s Gtalk interface and Newsclip, my RSS reader of choice.

Twitterberry has potential, but it’s not quite there yet.

The friend timeline has a nice layout that shows people’s icons and is a handy interface to see what’s going on. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show the whole message either on-screen or when the individual tweet is highlighted. You have to select the message (just hit the select button or press enter), but then there isn’t a way to move between messages. It’s back to the list, then pick the next one to read. At least you can do replies and direct messages right from that list.

The update screen (where you write your own tweets) is straightforward. Just a blank screen and a character counter– something my IM client doesn’t do.

The config is minimalist. Just user name and password. The software doesn’t even auto-retrieve timeline updates, which is a big disappointment.

Another irritation is that Twitterberry doesn’t do anything to keep track of where in the stream you last fetched and download everything since then. It also only shows the last 20 updates, which is a major bummer when you follow more than a couple people and they tweet even a modest amount.

Overall, it’s not bad, but there is much room for improvement. It’s not even a 1.0 version (0.6 actually) and it’s free, so I can’t really complain too much. It will be interesting to see where Twitteberry goes in the future.

Updated 2345 PM: expanded the review slightly to include a couple extra notes.

Saturday, 05 April 2008

This is the first installment in an infrequent series on concert sociology that will depict a particular segment – genus, if you will – of the concert-going public. Kind of a taxonomy or spotting guide for concert patrons. Don’t be surprised if you spot someone you know, or even spot yourself somewhere in here.

Aves Liberticus – Freebird

First up is the Aves Liberticus, or Free Bird. Abundant in their natural habitat of Southern-Rock concerts, they are plentiful at nearly any public music performance.

For the unfamiliar, “Free Bird” was a song released by Lynyrd Skynyrd in November 1974. It begins as a slow power-ballad, but clocks in at over 9 minutes (album version; longer in concert) and features gospel-flavored organ, slide guitar, and a 4+ minute guitar duel. At one concert, Steve Wilson (the band’s guitar player), says that they will play one more song. Someone in the audience yells back “Free Bird!” likely due to the song’s length and a desire for the band to play as long as possible. In the 1980’s a radio DJ urged listeners to yell “Free Bird!” at a Florence Henderson concert as a joke.

Whether it’s an opportunity to make a request, or done as a gag, every band seems to have it’s “Free Bird.”

I was at a CD release show for Nickel Creek’s Why Should the Fire Die? The band played each song from the album, in order (a neat concept for a release party), then took requests. A couple requests in there was one of those uncomfortable pauses and someone in the band said “It doesn’t even have to be one of our songs!” Everybody got a laugh out of it, then Chris Thile added “I know there’s one guy out there dying to yell ‘Free Bird’ right now. Don’t. That stuff isn’t funny.” There was a brief chuckle, then someone asked for “American Pie” or something else completely ridiculous and the band nearly choked from laughter.

At the Mike Doughty show the other night, and pretty much every one of his shows, there’s someone that yells “Firetruck!” between every song until it gets played. This time around Doughty said “Dude, if I promise to play ‘Firetruck!’ will you stop screaming for it?” Then a long pause and “In fact, if anyone shouts ‘Firetruck’ for the rest of the show, I promise never to play it at any show ever again. You’ll ruin it for everybody.” He said it with a huge smile on his face, but I wonder if there wasn’t just the tiniest bit of truth to it.

Even my favorite band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers has a “Free Bird” in the form of “Mekong.” It’s a song from Rogers days heading The Refreshments. At every show there’s a guy hollering for “Mekong” practically every song. Finally at one show Roger laughed and asked “Have you ever been to one of my shows where we haven’t played Mekong? It’s coming later.” For Roger to skip “Mekong” at a show would be like the Rolling Stones not bothering to play “Satisfaction” – it would quite possibly start a riot.

There you have it, the next time you’re at a concert, you’ll be ready to spot the Aves Liberticus and see for yourself.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

OK, so here’s the deal: I won tickets to the recent Barry Manilow show in the Twin Cities.

No kidding.

I was at my dad’s place for Christmas and he had the radio tuned for a local adult-contemporary station. (Hey, not my choice, but not my radio either.) They were doing a Songs of the 70’s thing, heavy on the disco and easy-listening classics of the decade. I didn’t catch the prize at first, but they had a trivia thing and the question was “What kind of car did Dantanna drive in the 70’s TV series Vegas?” After a quick discussion with the room at large, I casually called the radio station and actually got through.

The DJ repeated the question and I gave her the answer and I won! Actually, she gave me a second chance on the color because I had everything else spot-on (It was a red Thunderbird convertible, by the way.)

I’m not usually the winner. I don’t win the lottery, I can’t guess the number of jelly beans in the jar, and I’m never caller #10. Yet here I was, the proud owner of two Barry Manilow tickets. I didn’t even know when or where the concert was, I had to look it up.

I’m known among my people for having varied musical tastes and I’ll listen to nearly anything. I’m not big on modern rap or country and I know precious little about classical or Jazz, but I usually peg Manilow as an easy-listening artist. Let’s just say that easy-listening normally come somewhere further down the list. Somewhere above new age (rhymes with sewage) but below heavy metal.

Somehow I felt compelled to go. After all, everyone can name at least three Barry Manilow songs off the top of their head and in addition to his own recordings he’s written tons for other bands. Plus he’s known to be quite the showman. While I might not appreciate it as much as other people, the concert was not going to suck. Heck it’s possible I might even enjoy it.

The show was at Xcel Energy Center (some time I should share my thoughts about corporate sponsored venues) and the tickets were pretty decent. Not on the main floor, but 12th row about half-way back from the stage. The place is usually a hockey arena, so if front edge of the stage was about 20 feet in front of the goal, my seats were about even with the far blue-line. They turned out to be great sight-lines.

I had to invoke some Google-Fu to remember the name of the opening act, Brian Culbertson. With 33-year old Brian on keyboard and trombone, his dad on trumpet, plus a drummer, guitarist, bass player, and another guy on keyboards; he’s described as a Smooth Jazz act. Ugh. Smooth Jazz. As it turns out they weren’t bad, but pretty unremarkable; which is my complaint about most Smooth Jazz. Think Kenny G crossed with John Tesh, but somewhat less somnolent. Their last tune was a kind of funk number that was pretty good.

Then it was Barry-Time.

This tour was called Music and Passion, the premise being music through the decades, 40’s on forward, with stories from his life and plenty of his own songs interspersed throughout. He had an 11 piece orchestra, plus guitar, bass, drums, percussion, backup singers, keyboard, and his own piano. The light rig was huge, with at least 4 arms jutting out 30 feet over the audience, three video screens, and a pair of LED curtains that they could change colors and display patterns on. Even the stage was something else. It had a multi-tier band riser that split in the middle for Manilow to make his entrance, a trap door in the middle for his piano, and a mini-terrace/elevator that he used to come down to the front row.

We left early, just after Copacabana, so I don’t have a full set list, but here goes: Miracle; Daybreak; Somewhere In the Night; This One’s For You; A medly of some boogie-woogie thing (Jump Shout was one of the lines?), Chattanooga Choo Choo, then back to the boogie woogie thing; Moonlight Serenade; When Can I Touch You?; Bandstand; I Made It Through the Rain (mixed with an early music story); Can’t Smile Without You; Looks Like We Made It; Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed?; Even Now; New York City Frame of Mind; a story about Vegas vs. home vs. other cities; Come (Baby I Love You); Yesterday (the Beatles tune); Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You; Where Did Our Love Go (sung mostly by the backup singers); Mandy; I Write the Songs; Copacabana…

If it weren’t for the free tickets, I’m not sure I would have gone. The seats were expensive by my standards, $77 up to $248 (before fees) through that national seller we all love to hate. That said, I have to admit it was a good show. While it wasn’t transcendent I honestly enjoyed myself and I’m glad to have gone. I think that Barry’s fans got their money’s worth.

I took lots of pictures, including the one above, which I hope to have on-line soon.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

As I said before, I won’t go into the details of each show. In Toronto, Jason Boots, Roger’s merch guy and hard-workin’ roadie, opened instead of Alternate Routes. Jason kicks ass in his own right, so it’s always good to hear him play.

The Horseshoe Tavern is really just a bar in front with a space for live music in the back. The lighting was marginal and the room felt kind of low, but the show itself was great, so it overcame the club’s shortcomings.

The next morning it was up early to make the trek back to Detroit. One thing I noticed about driving in Canada was that it was hard to translate speed limits on the fly. Sure the speedometer on the car shows km/h, but on a smaller ring that’s hard to read without concentrating and taking my eyes off the road.

The drive back was uneventful just the same. Coming back into the US it was the same third-degree as entering Canada, but with the added bonus of a look-see in the trunk. No meat. No fruits. No plants. No firearms. No narcotics.

I decided against hitting the Motown Museum. Mostly because my reconnaissance on Monday had been so dissappointing. Maybe I’d have been up for it had there been someone along for the ride. I settled for a nap, an early dinner, and some reading before heading to the show.

The Magic Bag was the venue, as it usually is for Detroit RCPM shows. The place is still oddly laid out inside, but I did get a slightly better vantage point this time. Also, it was less crowded this time, probably because this was a Thursday night show.

Friday was a quick drive to Cleveland for the show at the Beachland Ballroom, a former Croatian meeting hall. I didn’t plan for any sightseeing, having taken in much of what was of interest last fall.

A couple doors down from the Beachland is a music store, which not only has a cool neon sign out front, but has a cool name as well: Music Saves. Wish I had thought of it myself.

The Beachland show was the best of the three shows so far, but there were still four to go.

The artist that put together the now very rare “Iwo Jima” poster&dagger: had done a limited edition poster this time. It’s pretty simple, being mostly square with the glyph in bright green and a couple lizards on it. It’s a cool poster and I like his set, by the ones from last year were better.

Saturday night was Chicago, back at Joe’s Bar again. It was kind of confusing when I first walked in because they were still in sports bar mode with several screens all showing football. I knew better than to say anything about sports in Chicago — those folks take it very seriously and are not to be trifled with.

My hotel was WAY out on the western edge of town. I think the western half of a far western suburb. I really need to learn Chicago geography better for the next time I’m out there.

At least it was a short drive up to Madison for the Sunday show, so I could sleep in and take it easy driving up. Unfortunately my friends Michelle and Steve had other commitments, so they couldn’t make the show. All the same it was fun.

I met a bunch of good folks at the Madison show, slightly more varied than the group in Des Moines last spring. The club was kind of odd. Shallow, very blue, with metal edges everywhere you looked; The Annex, if I remember the name correctly.

Thankfully the show had kind of an early start, because my drive the next day wa going to be a long one, something I was not enthusiastic about.

† The artwork was lost in a computer crash after only some copies for the club had been printed. I managed to get a copy because I asked one of the bartenders and tipped extra for the favor.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The drive from Detroit into Toronto (by the way, did I mention that I was travelling by car — solo?) was uneventful. It was impossible for me to read the distances on road signs and have any idea how far it was. Thank goodness for my trusty GPS.

The border crossing was kind of surreal. I got asiked all the expected questions: Any fruits or vegetables? Any meats or plants? Any cigarettes? Any narcotics? Purpose of my trip? When I said it was for a concert the boarder guard wanted to know the name of the band and why I hadn’t flown in for the show. Eventually I was allowed to pass with a curt “Have a safe trip.”

In Toronto, I was sort of in a state of shell-shock. While it looked like an American city, it was still odd, especially the electrified street-cars running down the middle of the road. Literally. You had to drive on the tracks to get around downtown. The flip-side is that Toronto is a great city for walking and mass-transit.

After I checked into the hotel (cheap and close to the club), I had to go see CN Tower. How could I pass up the tall building?

Supposedly its the highest observation deck in North America, but it doesn’t feel like it. Somehow Sears Tower in Chicago felt higher, even if CN Tower has the stats. I went up to the observation deck, and the “Sky Pod” which is that extra bubble you see on the needle — 30-odd stories above the main observation deck.

I also went out on the glass floor which was disappointing in a way. Their Web site leaves the impression that the glass floor is much larger than it actually is. I guess I was expecting something like the inner half of the floor to be solid and the outer half to be the glass panels. That would give those afraid of heights ample opportunity to look through to the ground below while the more daring could walk the whole perimeter on the glass. The reality was a section of glass panels maybe 30 feet wide and 12 feet extending from the outer wall toward the center of the building.

All dissapointment aside, it still took me at least 15 minutes of peering over the edge before I could actually step out on the glass. I tried to take a couple self-portraits, but I couldn’t seem to get the angle right. I resorted to doing the souvenir photo thing, and even that didn’t turn out great. It suffers from the same thing that screws up most pictures I’m in — I simply can’t loosen up for photographs. Every picture of me tend to catch me looking goofy, or worse, stuff and posed.

I took a series of pictures from the SkyPod, one looking straight down from each section, all the way around. 36 sections in all. I hope to assemble them into a sort of mandala from the sky as long as enough of them turned out.

It was also from the SkyPod that I saw a 30+ stall roundhouse maybe two blocks away. I later discovered that it’s now a brewery and restaurant. Pity. Although there were a couple railroad artifacts in the vicinity, so I was sure to check them out.

The next day I slept in, then spent most of the afternoon wandering the area surrounding the hotel just snapping pictures. It was my first real foray into street photography, so I’m still not sure how well I did. Toronto is a beautiful city and it was fun to just walk around and check things out.

After that it was lunch at a nearby pizza place and a quick nap before the show.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Instead of the daily play by play, I figured I would just do one or two summary posts once I got home. After all, do you really need me to tell you how great each RCPM show was? Either you believe me and have gone to one, or you’re just not into it (read: lame).

I decided the first night out would be La Porte, IN; right near the Indiana Sand Dunes. My sister-in-law, Tina, said they were gorgeous if you could catch them at sunset. It also happened to be about 8 hours from home and would make a good place to stop.

On the way I stopped in Madison, WI and had brunch with my friends Michelle and Steve. I always enjoy seeing them and we had a good time, but I had left home later than originally planned, so I got to La Porte pretty much at sunset, so that part of the plan was blown. However, Michelle is like a sister to me and I wouldn’t have traded my brief visit for anything.

Second night was in Detroit, MI, after a visit to The Henry Ford Museum. Of particular interest to me were the restored Alleghenny locomotive, an operating roundhouse, and working narrow-gauge steam line. At least that’s what drew me in originally. They also had several other railroad pieces on display, as well as several Presidential limos.

The outdoor portion, known as Greenfield Village, was like a ghost town because it had rained all morning. I practically had the place to myself, but it was quite eerie walking along the deserted streets.

Greenfield Village has roughly 100 cottages, houses, stores, and workplaces all restored to nearly pristine condition. Each serving its original purpose, including Edison Illuminating.

Because it was so quiet, I got to spend some time talking to a couple of the guys at the roundhouse. I even had the opportunity to move the roundhouse turntable myself (with some pointers from the the proctor). No big deal you say, but to a train geek like me it was very cool.

I spent some time in their carousel, which also works, just looking at the magnificent job they did restoring the animals. Since there were no riders, I was allowed inside the fence to take some close-up shots of the menagerie. I still need to pick through the photos, but there should be at least a couple keepers in there.

For some reason, one of the most memorable aspects for me was sitting in Rosa Parks’ bus seat. I can’t explain why, but it was quite a solemn moment.