Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More Miles Than Money: But Escovedo & Band More Than Worth the Trip

Trying to get ready to leave, for even a two day bike trip, is an exhausting experience for someone wired like me. I put off several tasks ranging in time to complete from several hours to the better part of a day and then try to accomplish them all in just a couple of hours prior to leaving. The end result of which is that I become so frazzled I just say f*** it and take off with the uncomfortable feeling that I forgot to do something or left something important behind.

First stop is the Hitching Post by my gun club to see if I can get my motorcycle serviced. The guys in the service department take pretty good care of me and get me in without an appointment and out the door with an oil change, fluid and battery check in less than an hour. I use the down time constructively by having a couple of cold ones at Nick's down the street. I had been waiting for my friend and gun club manager to join me for a drink but he got held up and since they finished my bike so quick, I decided to drop in to the club and say hello on my way out of town. My timing proved fortuitous as I got to meet the newly elected club President, Mark, as well as getting to see the outgoing President and newly elected Vice President, Gene. I greatly admire Gene for serving many terms as club president, many years by default, as it is a thankless task to be on the board or an officer of a non-profit. As far as I can tell by observation, much of your time is spent refereeing adults who act like children. The King is dead, long live the King! May you enjoy your Bidenhood Gene.

As it turns out, my timing continues to prove good as I leave the club around 2 P.M. beating rush hour traffic on 694 and before I know it I'm on I94 heading east with the warm afternoon sun and a light wind at my back. The weather and ride could not be more beautiful. I get a little carried away and anxious from my abortive Steve Earle Bayfield, WI no-show (by me, I misjudged the distance and missed the entire show; showing up as it ended!) and I open up my throttle arriving in Madison in 3 1/2 hours. Don't do the math.

As usual, I am flying by the seat of my pants, i.e. traveling without a map. Hell, I thought, I made it from Minneapolis to New Orleans without a map, why would I need a map to go just to Madison, WI? Well, I almost found out why but luckily took the last exit to Madison before I was committed to taking the turn off to Chicago. I went South on Highway 30 until I saw an exit for East Washington which, I remembered, was the street the club was on. The club was the High Noon Saloon and was where Alejandro Escovedo and his Band were playing later that night. I follow East Washington toward the state capitol and almost pass the club without recognizing it as it was nothing like its name implied. Instead of a faux western ghost town facade, the club was located in a low-story brick office building which resembled an old bank building or Carneige Library. Great I found the club, now my hotel must be nearby.

Unfortunately I booked my hotel in advance online thru Hotwire and although I got a great rate, they won't tell you the name of the hotel before you book it. Hotwire's description of the hotel's location was between .5 and 5.o miles from the state capitol. You see I prefer to walk to a venue, especially if drinking will be involved and especially if I am in a strange town. I therefore find myself stopped in a lane of thru traffic in front of the state capitol looking for a high rise hotel, oblivious to the rush hour traffic barreling down on me. A passerby, who must have sensed my impending danger of being run over, offerered assistance with a quizical: "Looking for something?" "The Sheraton by the capitol." I answer back. The man said with a look of disbelief, "I know there's a Sheraton out by the XCel Center but I never heard of one around here" he says. I tell him I'm pretty sure its right next to the Capitol, but before I can finish my sentence he has it pulled up on his Blackberry and gives me directions to John Nolen Drive. As it turned out, my hotel was a short drive (3 or 4 miles) down John Nolen Drive which runs between the two lakes with the state capitol at one end and the Xcel civic center at the other, across a bridge.

My $59 room was over the top and I enjoy a couple hours of nodding in and out of consciousness watching the local PBS station on my room's high def t.v. Before I know it, it is 8:30 P.M. and time to head for the show. Madison is actually quite a beautiful town I think to my self as I ride over the bridge on a gorgeous full moon night. I am heading toward the orange glow of the capitol dome with the lights of the city reflecting off the two lakes, one on either side of me.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Madison Blues? Hardly, Rather A Celebration of Life

Within the hour I will be jumping on my motorcycle for an early Spring ride across the upper Midwest to Madison Wisconsin. Why would anyone in their right mind take a cycle trip when in an instant the weather could change and leave one stranded by a not so unusaual Spring blizzard?

The simple answer is Music. But not just any music. The music of Alejandro Escovedo, the greatest, most talented singer songwriter of his generation and his excellent band including the baddest, most powerful drummer this side of Eric Gravatt, the incomparable Hector Munoz! So to all my friends and colleagues who would rather play it safe and see a children's movie, all I have to say is: "This ain't no disco, this ain't no Mud Club, no CBGB's and I ain't fooling around..." (to paraphrase David Byrne).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday Reflections on Armageddon and Jerusalem

No, this long procrastinated posting to the Great Roll Call is not about so-called Bible Prophecy, although it does come on Palm Sunday. No this is not going to be about the impending tribulations, rapture and armed showdown as prelude to the second coming, although if you listen to the minority leader of the House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner and his minions in the Tea Party aka the 21st Century's version of the Know Nothing Party, you would know, of course, that Armageddon was the natural consequence to something so Christian as universal health care. No, I leave that to Jack Van Impe and his lovely wife Rexella. Besides, I can never understand what will be left for Jesus to reign over after thermonuclear war. This is one big reason, though, why the pro-Zionist, born-again Chistians for Israel, AIPAC lobby and Bush administration policy of unconditional support for Israel was and is so misguided. For me at least, doing things to hasten the beginning of End Times should be avoided at all costs. One of the more beautiful and wise tenets of the Jewish religion, as I understand it, and I paraphrase, is that you make your own heaven and/or hell here on Earth, while your alive. To me then, the only rational and logical course of action should be to say to ourselves, to quote the wise but severally beaten Rodney King: "Can we all just get along?"

The title actually comes from a night of interrupted sleep and the fact that my clock radio is left on all night tuned to the best public radio station in America which broadcasts BBC News all night from 11 P.M. to 4:30 A.M. weekdays and until 6 or 7 A.M. on weekends. Now that I am of the age where my body wakes me up at least once a night to well, as Elvis would say, TCB (i.e. Takin' Care of Business), I enjoy catching up on how we Americans are perceived by others, even if it is from our cousins with bad teeth across the pond. Being self-absorbed by nature, it is helpful to be reminded from time to time that reality, that is the real world, does not consist merely of your own or your own group's mentality or perceived reality, it also consists of how you are perceived by others.

Which brings me to, why would the Israelis insist on doing something as unproductive to the Peace process as announcing the construction of an additional 1600 residences in occupied territory, during a visit by the U.S. Vice President, unless, by virtue of sheer arrogance, they thought they could get away with it. Where the Israelis miscalculated was that the Obama Administration is not the lap dog Bush Administration and unlike the Bush Administration approaches problems with intellectual curiosity and intelligence not merely what is best for your wealthy or powerful political contributors. Therefore it does not take a Bible prophet to predict that something as potentially dangerous to U.S. military personnel, engaged in two wars in Muslim countries, as this news would not be well received by Washington. Why the Israelis would, in essence, flip the bird to the world, including the U.S. and continue with their construction on occupied Palestinian land, belonging once to both Muslim and Christian Palestinians, is beyond my comprehension.

Along a similar vein, why are thousands, if not millions of middle and working class Americans so vehemently opposed to something that eventually will be in their and everyone else's best interest as universal health care? I suppose for the same reasons that would compel otherwise rational middle and working class Americans to belong to an organization like the Republican party that works against their own economic interests for the benefit of a few percent of the population who by virtue of serendipity, birth or illegal and/or quasi-legal means, become grotesquely rich: fear of change and others not like themselves, ignorance and conscious or unconscious bigotry.

Which brings me to Boehner and the Tea Baggers. Any group or person that spits and hurls racial and hate-filled epithets at members of Congress as they attempted to make their way into the House Chambers or make speeches from the floor of Congress equating the reform of medical insurance abuses (like rescission and pre-existing condition exclusions) with "Armageddon" like the minority leader did, or announcing, a lot belatedly I'll note, that the Republicans are done working with the Obama Administration in times as difficult and troubled as the present, like the formerly straight talk express John McCain, recently did, in the company of the Queen of Ignorance Sara, no less, is utterly reprehensible and leaves little doubt in the minds of thoughtful Americans as to who are causing the oxygen sucking divisiveness and gridlock that is Washington.

Listening to the Brits last night, it is amazing how clarifying a little perspective can be. In summarizing the weeks news, the BBC newscaster noted that the health care bill that recently passed was very similar in concept to the plan advocated by the Republicans in 1993 in opposition to what they then dubbed Hillary care, and the mandate the tea baggers are falling over each other about railing "Unconstitutional!" is taken right from the pages of Republican and then Governor of Massachusetts Mint Romney's health care reform law. So if it is not really about the message, but the messenger, it leaves little doubt as to what the real motivations of the Republicans and Tea Baggers are. Just a hint, it's not patriotism.