Saturday, May 31, 2008

Travel Day to Netherlands

First show was last night in Madrid. It was one of those really late Euro festivals – Rage went onstage at 1am, came off around 2:15am.

Just before the band went on, there was a bit of celebrating, as it was guitarist Tom Morello's birthday. Cake, singing, the usual bit. And a bottle of really good 18-year old Scotch.

After the show, Javier Bardem, the actor from the movie "No Country For Old Men", wound up back in our dressing room compound. Turns out he's a big Rage fan. Nice enough guy.

We finally left the venue around 4:30am for the approximate 30 minute drive back to the hotel. Lobby call to depart the hotel for the airport was 6:30am, so there was no sense in going to sleep at all.

So here I sit, writing this in the Madrid airport. It's now 8am, I've been up for 24 hours, and our flight doesn't leave until 8:50. We're flying to Dusseldorf, Germany, where we'll be met by our bus (there's only 12 of us in the crew party, so just one crew bus). After that, we have a 110 km drive to Maastricht, Netherlands, near the sight of tomorrow's show, the Pinkpop Festival.

I'm hoping to get some sleep during the 2.5 hour flight, and the 2 hour bus ride. No plans for today, but I'd like to go to bed tonight at a somewhat normal time.

Fat chance.

Here's a photo of a pretty cool building that I spotted on the way to the venue yesterday:

The Madrid Electric Festival stage from ground level:

From above the FOH mix position:

And here's what I'm looking at right now – these totally wack lighting fixtures here in the Madrid airport.

Finally made it to the hotel and fell out for a 60-minute nap. Groggy as hell when I got up, but I promised Spragoo I'd meet him downstairs for a couple of beers and a bite at 6pm.

A few other crew guys passed through, but it was pretty much just he and I for a couple of hours. Ordered some food at the bar – I had a killer caprese sandwich, consisting of fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil on a baguette, and a side order of pomme frittes with mayonnaise. Rockin'!

A bunch of other folks showed up later, between 10 and 10:30. Hugs & mugs time. Headed upstairs just before 11pm. Gotta get some sleep…

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Arrival in Madrid, Spain

The gods of air travel must have been smiling on me yesterday. Greg and Ossie gave me a lift to RDU, and when I got to the counter, I found out I'd been upgraded for my trip from Raleigh to Madrid. Not only did I get bumped up to Business Class for the eight-and-a-half hour leg from Miami to Madrid, but I also got First Class from RDU to Miami. Score!!

Called Mom again while I waited for the plane. Calling her is pretty much an everyday event at this point – she's not gonna make it much longer. She sounded better than yesterday, but she's getting weaker and weaker. The flight to Miami was OK. The guy next to me never said a word, which was fine by me. There were 2 screaming babies a few rows back, but they were far enough away I could tune them out. I even managed a 15-minute catnap during takeoff.

The attendant in First Class was pretty funny. When he brought out his tray of steaming towels, he also had a glass of juice on it, into which he'd placed a chunk of dry ice. It looked really cool and made for a great special effect. I didn't realize the attendants were allowed to have personalities in this day and age.

His dry ice trick reminded me of a couple of parties my girlfriend and I threw back in the late 80's. We owned a home about 4 blocks from the old Capital City Ice Market & Grill, near downtown. I'd go buy 10 pounds of dry ice, and then during the party, I'd fill the kitchen sink with water and drop in a couple of pounds. Nerdy fun! Needless to say, I'd be glad it was all gone before I got a buzz on – I didn't want to accidentally touch the stuff with my hands, as it would supposedly burn your skin right off.

Before each of my flights, I also got access to the Admiral's Club, which is American Airlines' First Class Lounge. Those cheapo's now charge for wireless internet and have all but eliminated food (except for pretzels & cookies), so other than (a little) privacy and the ability to plug in my laptop, it's really not a big deal to be in one of the airline lounges these days. (Kinda like the myth of being backstage at a rock concert -- people think there's all this wild shit going on backstage – NOT!) And besides, I love people watching at airports, which is waaay better in the terminal than in the lounge.

On the flight from Miami to Madrid, I slept a total of about 15 minutes. Just couldn't fall asleep, so I read (a bunch) and watched 3 movies and 2 TV shows. Saw "27 Dresses", "Jumper", and "I Am Legend".

Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and current FOX-TV football analyst, Terry Bradshaw, was on the Jay Leno show last week and was raving about what a great movie "27 Dresses" was. Like Terry, I'm a sucker for a good romantic comedy, and he was right, it was a great movie. I'd definitely watch it again.

"Jumper" had a decent little sci-fi premise to it, but would never stand up to repeated viewings.

I had seen "I Am Legend" before, another sci-fi tale, and really enjoyed it. Will Smith is always fun to watch.

My plane landed a few minutes late, baggage took forever, and then the supposed 10-15 minute drive to the hotel stretched into about 40 minutes. Upon check-in, I was told that the hotel's brand-new (as in installed in the last two days) internet system wasn’t up and running in guest rooms, yet. So I had to sit around the lobby and take care of the usual 40 or so emails I'd missed due to yesterday's planes, trains and automobiles.

I finally got up to my room about 11:45am (5:45am back home). Been up about 24 hours, so I set my alarm and took a 3-hour nap, from which I could barely wake up.

I thought I was gonna have a quiet night, just kinda slip off by myself and get a bite, then maybe crash around midnight. But no…

Five minutes before I walked out, Molly called me in my room and asked me why I hadn't yet joined everyone at the bar.

Oh, well…

Five minutes later, it was hugs 'n mugs time. It was good to see everybody again. Hadn't seen these folks since February.

Many beers later, we walked about 3 blocks to a tapas restaurant for dinner. Then, back to the hotel bar. I have no earthly idea what time I got back to my room, but 3am seems reasonable…

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spain, Here I Come...

Leaving for Madrid in 45 minutes. On tour in Europe for the next three weeks with Rage Against The Machine.

Check back soon for new blog entries from over yonder...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Weekend In The Mountains...

Just back from an amazing weekend in the mountains with my good friends Foy & Terry Beal, and Greg & Paige Howard.

Foy & Terry picked me up on Friday around 2pm. Off to get Paige & Greg, then off to Boone, NC, to the Beal family's mountain house. Foy's got a gigantic Ford diesel pickup, so the 5 of us all fit comfortably in it for the trip. Well, I know I did – I was up front, riding shotgun with Foy. Terry was kind enough to sit in the back with P&G. (Thanks, Terry!)

Friday night was spent eating, drinking, telling stories, and more than anything else, laughing. I swear, we laughed about so much stupid shit. Us, them, the others, politics, people, racing, religion, food, you name it – we laughed about it. A new phrase emerged at some point, that I just couldn't get out of my head – "Oily discharge with report." Think about that…

Early dinner at the house and off to bed, due to an early call time for departure in the morning. Unfortunately, I woke up about 2:45am and never could go back to sleep. Have to blame the beer, I guess.

We left the house Saturday morning just past 6:30am, bound for Damascus, VA. Today's event was to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail (google it), which is a beautiful 17-mile bicycle ride, mostly downhill. There seemed to be at least 5 or 6 bike shops in Damascus that offered the same sort of package that we got from the fine folks at the Blue Blaze Bike & Shuttle Service. You pay to be transported (in a 15-passenger van, with bikes on a trailer hitched to the rear) to the top of the trail some 17 miles away, where you get on the well-marked trail and ride back (mostly downhill) into Damascus. You can ride your own bike, or rent one from the shop. We all own bicycles and ride together at home in Raleigh, but we decided it would be smarter to rent bikes from the shop to avoid having to transport our bikes all over creation. It was only $24.00 combined for the shuttle and bike rental, a bargain.

Although it wasn't very challenging physically, the ride was about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on, with lots of beautiful mountain scenery. There were a few too many Boy Scouts riding at breakneck pace, but even they couldn't put a damper on such a cool ride. Below, some photos from the ride.

The riders (from left, Foy Beal, Terry Beal, me, Greg Howard, Paige Howard):

This is the kitten I met and fell in love with about halfway through the ride. If I coulda, I woulda taken her home with me. Such a sweet thing:

Shots from a few of the places I stopped along the way:

At one point, we had stopped by a stream to admire it. My dumb ass decided to step out onto a rock in the stream to get a cool photo, and of course I picked a rock just covered in slippery algae. Yep, slipped right off that sucker and into the drink. I only went in up to my knees, but I almost fell totally in. Just beyond where I got my footing, the water was deeper and I just about went facefirst into it. What sucked was that now my shoes and socks were soaked and would be cold for the next hour or two. Here's the spot where I did that:

Just after climbing out:

Greg's Photoshop-enhanced version:

Greg and Photoshop have me getting deeper:

And even a shot of Paige on her toy four-wheeler, pulling me out. Note the noose around my neck.

After the ride, we returned our bikes to Blue Blaze, then spent a couple of hours wandering around Damascus. The Appalachian Trail Days Festival was being held this weekend, and there was a lot to see and do. This included one of the strangest parades I'd ever seen, where the locals and the AT (Appalachian Trail) hikers had a water fight during the parade (a lot of the hikers were in the parade). Water guns, Super-Soakers, water-balloons, buckets, whatever you had handy was fair game. Greg guessed that the locals started this tradition years ago, wanting to bathe the hikers. Probably right. All the hiker/hippies were kinda smelly.

Me & Greg watching the hippies go by:

Me, Foy, and Greg reading anti-gummint propaganda. Note the look on the face of the guy standing next to me:

Here's how Paige kept herself busy while the rest of us were enjoying the more adult aspects of the festival:

Finally got out of Damascus mid/late afternoon. On the way back to the house, we stopped to hike up Backbone Rock, which was really cool.

When we finally made it to the house, I decided I really needed a nap. Went to lie down, but I heard the National Anthem (Free Bird) on the radio upstairs, so I joined everyone else out on the deck for beers. This is the view from my rocking chair. That's Grandfather Mountain in the distance to the left of my feet, and my favorite beverage to the right:

The normal view:

The sundown a bit later was magnificent:

Later on, Terry modeled her new idea for bike helmets, and then had me try it:

I had made a six-avocado batch of my famous guacamole for the weekend, which we all snacked on (along with all of Terry's goodies). I'm sure the whole house reeked of garlic by the time we sat down for dinner. Tonight, Terry made some wicked quesadillas for everybody, which we ate while watching the NASCAR race from Charlotte on TV.

By 11pm, everyone was out, but me. That was surprising, considering that I'd been up since 2:45am. For whatever reason, I still had some energy, so I sat out on the deck by myself for another 80-90 minutes and had a Bud nightcap. The night sky and view was so peaceful. I really love the mountains – I'd take a trip there over a beach trip anyday. Finally crashed close to 1am.

Woke up Sunday morning to the smell of Terry cooking breakfast upstairs. After we all ate, Foy drove Greg, Paige and I over to the Cascades area to do a little hiking. Terry wanted to stay behind to just read and relax. Some shots:

Greg and Foy, up on the rocks:

Paige trying to nap on a rock:

Scrambling upstream over all the rocks was a great workout. Lots of legwork and you can work up a real good sweat.

After that, it was back to the house to load up for the trip back to Raleigh. About 5 houses up, this was at the top of one of the neighbor's driveways:

We left a bit ahead of schedule, which gave us time to go cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway before getting on the highway.

Homeward bound…

As always, click on any photo to enlarge.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Forgot To Post These...

A couple of race photos that I forgot to post from the Rockingham race the other week...

The view towards Turn 4:

The lead pack coming out of Turn 4:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Dogwoods

Probably should have posted this a couple of weeks ago when I took these photos.

One of my cute little Dogwood trees, along with the new car:

The house, both Dogwoods, both cars:

There is nothing in the world more relaxing to me than sitting in my rocker on that front porch, enjoying the view. Which is exactly where I'm sitting right now, watching a steady rain falling and writing this...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Rock

Today marked the return of racing to The Rock. Formerly known as the North Carolina Motor Speedway during its NASCAR days (which ended in 2004), the track is now called the Rockingham Speedway. It's always been one of my favorite tracks, and I attended approximately 12-15 NASCAR races there over the years. It's a mean old piece of asphalt with a very abrasive surface, and measures 1.017 miles in length. I'm lucky enough to have seen Dale Earnhardt, Sr. win there even – I kinda remember Bobby Hamilton "backing up" into Dale's front bumper coming out of turn two, ha-ha-ha…

So, anyway, the race today was part of the ARCA Series, basically a step below NASCAR. The cars these boys run, though, are last year's Sprint Cup cars and you can believe they're plenty fast. A lot of the drivers in this series don't have the level of experience you'll find in the Cup drivers – some are up & coming, some are on the downhill slope. Ages today range from 17 year-old Joey Logano (who won the race in a Joe Gibbs Racing prepared car) to some dude who is 74 years old! Yikes!

I went with my racin' buddy Foy Beal, Carina Muehl, and her friend Kevin. Foy picked me up at 7:30am, we met Carina & Kevin in the Whole Foods parking lot a few minutes later, and off we went.

One of the Rockingham racing traditions is to stop at the Bojangles in Aberdeen for breakfast. Made it there about 9:15. This is where the first beers are usually cracked, and as much as I hated to break a tradition, I just wasn't in the mood.

We got a great parking spot at the track (probably due to the light attendance), whipped out chairs, sunscreen and coolers, and the day began in earnest. First Bud, about 10:15 or so.

If you've ever been to a NASCAR race before, you're familiar with the dozens of merchandise trailers selling all the driver swag and more. None of that here today, which sucks, because there's a driver named Darrell Bashem driving car #34, and his sponsor is Anti-Monkey Butt Powder. Yep, you read that right. Anti-Monkey Butt Powder. I'd fork over my $25 for a shirt in a heartbeat. I guess there's just not enough interest in this series to justify the expense of selling sponsor merch.

The race started about noon, and because of the size of the field (49 cars vs. the NASCAR standard of 43) and the inexperience of some of the drivers, there were a decent number of wrecks. Lots of good old-fashioned tight-quarters racing, and again, I really love this track.

After the race, the crowd (probably around 12,000), was allowed to cross the track and walk around on Pit Road. Got to see some of the cars up close, which was cool.

We were on our way home by about 3:30 or so. And once we got back to Raleigh, Foy and I couldn't resist stopping by Northside for a cold one. Or two. Or three. I finally got home about 9pm…

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Enough! Enough With The Damn Snake!!!

The polls are in. Eleven folks FOR beating the tar outta that snake, and two folks AGAINST. I absolutely do not feel guilty for what I did, especially considering how many little old ladies walk that section of the greenway every day.

Bottom line is that I didn't kill it. In the time it took me to go home and get my shovel and come back, it either crawled off or was eaten by another critter.

Read the comments on the entry below for a few good laughs…