Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Five More Shots from Deep South 09

Deep South was 2009's megatrip, a nearly two-week road odyssey through SC, GA, AL, MS, LA, and even DC and MD. The purpose was, as it always is, to shoot photos while gathering stories and knowledge. We always strike gold, and we never use GPS.

Click any photo to see it on Flickr.

Gone Fishin', Death Beach, Biloxi, Miss. (DH09/DS09)

Fish, Death Beach, Biloxi, Miss. (DS09)

George Wallace Tunnel, Mobile, Ala. (DS09)

Saturday Morning Warning, Laura S. Walker State Park, Waycross, Ga. (DS09)

Papa's Bar-B-Que, Savannah, Ga. (DS09)

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Real Hephzibah People, Take Two, Hephzibah, Ga. (DS09/DH09)

As soon as I saw a town called Hephzibah on the map, I wanted to go there. It was kind of on the way from Augusta to Savannah, so we stopped at the one gas station in town to take on fuel. One couple was making out at the c-store, the boy seated on the curb and his young lady leaning over him. Next to the gas station was a brilliantly painted wood and cinder block restaurant, THE BURGER SHACK, desolate and bathing in the moonlight and the weak fluorescence emanating from the gas station.

I tried shooting the shack with two or three different lenses, and I wasn't getting it right. Of my three companions, at least two were already in the air-conditioned car and itching to go. It was just before ten, and the drive was going to take over two hours. We thought that our chances of drinking in Savannah were just about to die in this lonely country town.

Just as I was about to walk back to the car with my camera bag, I heard an engine revving up in the unlit, adjoining parking lot. Suddenly, a Dodge pickup came tearing out of the darkness, directly at me, with just its parking lights on. Meade's eyes registered the fast-approaching truck. Being from Queens, we thought we were in for some type of altercation, a good ol' street standoff.

The truck screeched to a stop about ten yards from us. A voice came from the blackness behind the wheel of the pickup: "Y'all take a picture of us!"

Out stepped three teenage Hephzibans into one of my favorite shots of Deep South 2009, Real Hephzibah People:

We chatted with these kids for a while. They were kind of shocked by our ambitious roadtrip plans; none of them got out of town often. They were just whiling away this hot, humid, late spring Thursday night in the Family Dollar parking lot. Meade and I brought them over to our vehicle to introduce everyone.

There were two girls and a boy. I've forgotten two out of three names, but the girl pictured at the top of the post was named Savannah.

"Y'all be careful, especially in the city," she said just before we shipped off. "People are crazy out there."

We got to Savannah after midnight but stayed up til 3 or 4. A couple nights later, when we made a late-night fuel stop deep in the Florida panhandle, and almost a dozen teens were found in and around the gas station, it just made sense.

Cross-posted to Flickr.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

INFRATOUR: Will it happen this summer?

FACT: The band will have by next month 11 original songs.
FACT: The live show rocks.
FACT: Dan Meade and Rob Bellinger are professional roadtrippers.
FACT: We know people all over America.
FACT: We want to play American music for them.
FACT: We can afford to do so.

So what's to stop us?

Do you have any suggestions for additions or deletions to the map...or venues where our sound would go over well? Please comment below.

View INFRAtour `10 in a larger map

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Snow's BBQ, Lexington, Texas: 2009 Visit

Snow's serves the best barbecue in Texas, as judged by Texas Monthly (not the New Yorker). The Manic American team visits Snow's every December to have brisket for breakfast and check in with the crew.

Please check out the photos from this year's visit on Flickr. Here are my three favorites:

Tootsie Tomanetz, Pitmaster

Brisket, Pork Shoulder, Jalapeno, Sauce

Owner Kerry Bexley Explaining His Art

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Friday, December 04, 2009

ABBQII (Austin BBQ 09) is less than a week away.

Here's what I have so far:

View A.B.B.Q. II in a larger map

Here's my suggested itin:

FRI AFTN: Record-setting crew of 6 arrives, lunch in town (Iron Works?)
FRI EVE: off to the Hill Country town of BRADY, which has 3 BBQ joints and is known for cabrito (goat). Possible stops at either Cooper's location, as well as the Burnet holiday display.

SAT MORNING: Out to Lexington to hit Snow's before the brisket runs out.
SAT DAY: Cruise anywhere east of Austin. Plenty of choices on the map.
SAT NIGHT: Dale Watson @ The Broken Spoke
SAT LATE NIGHT: Sam's BBQ? Open til 2.

SUN AFTN: Breakfast at Opie's or The Salt Lick
SUN EVE: Comatose state
SUN NIGHT: Heybale w/Redd Volkaert @ The Continental Club.

MONDAY: Chill until flights out.

Jetblue had AUS on sale for $99 each way from NY and BOS this week. Let me know if this sounds like fun, and we'll get a bigger van.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Gee, I wonder if anyone will learn anything from reading this.

From Amazon's "Product Description:"
Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster.
Who is the target audience for this book? Literate, bourgeois idiots who don't know they're idiots because they don't read books that tell them that they're idiots?

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Did you ever notice that you go to the most disgusting places in the country?"

asked my friend, Helen.

She's right. Because I don't have time to do real writing, here are my notes on the Gigantic Downtown Wilmywood Country Nightclub that Dan and I visited in NC. After passing through the metal detectors AND paying the cover, I typed these notes on my phone:

Weaselstache, radioactive stumps, bowtie barefoot bulldrider, thong sluts on bars, employees on barrels, whites dressed as blacks, lumped puke on floor, militaires on bull now, country girls grinding shamelessly on c*cks, country gradually and then totally replaced by slick Rick and.... 50something lifted onto bar by military haircuts, dancing. like a blue.velvet prostitute but wearing a.sequined dress. daisy dukes vs hot pants. Ogres in suits.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This is Death Beach, Biloxi, Miss. (DS09)

Dead businesses, dead buildings, dead fish, dead boats, and nearly dead humans. Hidden in plain sight next to the construction sites for the Margaritaville Casino and the inexplicable, Gehry-designed Ohr-O'Keefe museum, there's dead stuff everywhere in Biloxi.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

America, Discovered, Again.

Surf City Pier at midnight. More on this to come.

Now, to get back to Boston, and attempt to start my life there once again...

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

2009 Visit to the Skylight Inn, Ayden, N.C.

This is a a story in reverse chronological order, sort of. No more words here; just click a photo for more info.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Biloxi Death Beach Triptych, Frame One: The Nap

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Biloxi Death Beach Triptych, Frame Two: After the Fall

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Biloxi Death Beach Triptych, Frame Three: Resurrection

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Deep South Phase II: The Mississippi Vortex

Stuck in Mississippi, pursued by coyotes, struck down with swine flu, fried rabbit devotees.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Megagator, Okeefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (DS09)

This is where Dan crashed our rented boat into a bush, killing the motor. The Okeefenokee is not a zoo: if you fall out of the boat, the gators eat you.

I think Dan is writing up the story now. It is a fantastic one involving yokels, death, gasoline, class conflict!!!, and megagators.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Extremely Perplexed Rich People (at Fenway)

When C. and I arrived at our free Loge Box seats at Fenway last night, we found a family of four already occupying them. The father, expecting thus inevitable moment, stepped forward and offered to exchange his tickets with ours. "I don't care about the game," he said in a British or Australian accent. "I just want to keep the family together." He pointed out where his own seats were: just behind the Red Sox dugout. In disbelief, I asked to see the tickets. Sure enough, they were real, field box tickets. We made the swap and headed down to the seats, eight rows off the field.

Upon entering the Field Box, we noticed a change in the atmosphere of the park. No longer was I taunted but rather questioned for wearing a Mets shirt. The crowd was very subdued, with a far lower percentage of fans wearing fan gear. "What is your connection to the Mets?" asked a day-trader looking guy, sitting with a friend wearing a $200 play shirt and $500 watch. "How did you get these tickets?" asked an older couple who manner and clean appearance felt very Cape Cod. Another gentleman, a veteran of "the tennis business," claimed that we would not "have much to worry about" being Mets fans in this section. "It's very corporate down here."

And it was. It was the Acela crowd transplaced into Fenway. And they couldn't understand how we had gotten there (or how we could be older than 17). The nice couple we sat next to even asked to see our tickets.

It was a strange experience, made more rewarding by the Mets' 5-3 victory.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Soo Experience

Sault Ste. Marie is pronounced Soo Saint Marie. Its eponymous, Canadian twin city is five times larger, and some people still speak French there. Both cities form a dot on the map that you may have seen in your fourth grade social studies book. On Day Eight of UP08, Dan and I actually went there.

We'd camped at Tahquamenon Falls the night before, then checked out the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum with a bunch of Amish tourists. At the museum, we explored some eerie artifacts from the Edmund Fitzgerald, a lake freighter that sunk mysteriously in 1975, killing all 29 aboard. Our daily quest for American ghosts satisfied, we cruised narrow forest roads, passed through a few Indian casino towns, and arrived in Sault Ste. Marie for lunch.

We expected to blow through town, then hit the road toward Ann Arbor. But something about the city kept my attention...and Dan's. It wasn't the waitress who didn't flirt back or the really excellent Reuben I had. The gaudy neon motel signs all over town helped hold our attention...

...and the owner of this masterpiece came out to question the weirdos shooting her sign. She didn't know much about its history, but instead suggested that we head across the border to party on the the Canadian side of the St. Marys River. But Dan didn't bring his passport. The motel owner didn't have one at all. She'd lived in Sault Ste. Marie all of her 40ish years but had never crossed the bridge into Canada.

So why did we spend all afternoon in Sault Ste Marie? The same reason a lot of people hang out there: the ships.

Even a non-nerd can admit that the sight of an 80,000-ton laker threading its way through the locks without any assistance from tugboats is pretty cool.

And we saw some pretty cool ships that day. For instance, there are only twelve thousand-footers that transport coal and ore on the lakes. They're actually too big to make it through the St. Lawrence Seaway to salt water. Two of them happened to show up when we did:

Indiana Harbor

Edwin H. Gott

A fellow nerd informed us that the Arthur M. Anderson, the last ship to have had radio contact with the ill-fated Fitzgerald, was to arrive. Sure enough, the then-56-year-old laker rounded the easterly bend in the St. Mary's, sidled up to a bulkhead wall, and tied up to wait her turn through the locks. The Anderson's crew found no survivors where the Fitzgerald went down in 1975. But for the Anderson itself, life had gone on for more than 30 years.

With our day in northern Michigan weirdly complete, we hit the highway, hoping to find a good time in Ann Arbor. It was the peak of the gas crisis, and it cost us $85 for one tank of gas. Sadly, Ann Arbor would prove to suck.

Photos are from UP DAY EIGHT.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Back to This

That is: UP #221: Rob and Dan at Tahquamenon Falls.

In just a week and a half, we ship out for the Deep South and whatever experiences it has to offer us. It has been a tough week (no posts for seven days) and a tough spring. I am alive and exhausted and ready to move forward with many goals. These goals include completing the construction of Infrastructure, doing more with my many photos, and, oh yeah, mastering my new job. I also have to decide where to live in America. No big deal.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I got to my hotel outside Miami pretty late. I'd been entrapped in "secure" areas for almost ten hours, so I decided to explore the quiet stretch of Route 1 outside my air-conditioned tomb. Large American cars whizzed by. There were no pedestrians in sight, just two separate hispanic guys biking down the sidewalk, apparently coming home from work. A few people waited for a downtown train at the elevated platform across the street.

Not fifty feet from the entrance of my hotel, I spotted this...

...an ancient-looking concrete street sign embedded in the dead grass at the corner, the letters eerily calling out to the ghosts of the city's past. Calling back, in my imagination, to the time when the city was largely caucasian and agricultural and the original carpetbaggers came south to meet their fortunes. Now Miami is a totally mixed hodgepodge of humans. The agriculture is gone. The Cubans that the city became famous for have been supplanted by waves of northern retirees, suits, asians, central americans, etc. And each wave has shaped and nudged the city into its present form.

If there is one thing that American cities do, they change. I enjoy trying to understand the changes, and I try half-assedly to honor the ghosts of the past. Some American ghosts are horrible, and some are inert. But every square mile of America is haunted by something. I suppose the same could be said about anywhere, but many Americans willfully ignore this country's past, in favor of nothing, or, worse, in favor of neverending bourgeois obsessions with overseas ghosts.

But ignorance is bliss. Still thinking about that concrete street sign, which could be one year old or one hundred years old, I stepped into the only nearby business open, a TGI Friday's. I had a beer and two delicious sliders. In that frat boy-laden atmosphere, the only ghosts conjured were those of girls I didn't like anymore. I went back to the hotel.

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Monday, March 09, 2009


That's Akron. Akron, Ohio.

I will now drive across most of this state without a map and attempt to accomplish business objectives along the way.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Art Travel and the idea of MEMPHQ

There are maybe three types of travel.

In business travel, you have clearly stated objectives and a tight schedule. You go from airport to business hotel to place of business and try to get something done. It is often exhilarating, and always better when you have time to explore.

In vacation travel, you go somewhere and do nothing. It sounds boring.

What I'll call art travel is a combination of both. You throw a dart at a map, then come up with a crazy schedule to cover as much ground and eat as much food and see as much music as possible. Your partner(s) are there for the same reason. All day long, you are seeing....framing shots with your eyes, shooting them with your camera, experiencing America in your lifetime. You bring home stories and thousands of images--raw materials for something you'll make later.

I am about to do about six weeks of business travel. The D50 now comes on all trips.

After that, though, it appears there'll be a scheduling gap before DS09, the most touted roadtrip yet. So we're thinking of going to Memphis for a weekend. Just check out this Google Map some guy made of all the BBQ joints there, and you'll be sold.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

ABBQ: Great Success!

I'm snowed in here in Somerville and just posted ALL of the good photos from ABBQ. I'll be blogging many here over the next few ...years. Photos look better on black anyway.

I'm also going to try embedding a slideshow here, which you can mess around with:

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Monday, November 24, 2008


There is much to be thankful for this year, and I am really excited about being home in New York City for the holiday. We'll have the Third Annual CPCCPC and two Infrastructure rehearsals. Plus, I'm doing a Dexter Season 3 marathon with my little bro.

Just two weeks after Thanksgiving is ABBQ1, my group's first Austin BBQ road trip. Rob L. recently sent along a link to Texas Monthly's "quintessential, quinquennial review of the 50 best barbecue joints in Texas."

They've plotted all 50 places, plus honorable mentions, on a Google map. Last night, I printed off the area around Austin, cracked open a Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, and started planning.

Three days of cue. Plus Dale Watson at the Broken Spoke. I don't think you can fit much more Austin in a weekend.

The plan so far:

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Carolina Bar-B-Q, Statesville, N.C.

When I first passed through Statesville on the interstate, late on Tuesday night, I could tell that it had enough exits to be a decently sized town. That meant there would be good barbecue.

Sure enough, the NC Barbecue Society website had an entry for Carolina Bar-B-Q there. I stopped in on the 3-hour drive back to Charlotte the next night.

Here's what happened:

My waitress was great. She was from Buffalo and had moved to NC to escape a bad relationship. That's the nice thing about America, I said. You can just keep moving on until you use it all up.

After I'd eaten, I overheard one of a group of working men order a buffalo wing dinner. This was the first time I'd been in a NC joint that combined barbecue and buffalo. I'm still curious about that buffalo. I wonder if the waitress brought it with her.

I hadn't made the connection at the time, and so I didn't ask. Before bringing the check, she sold me on taking dessert to go. I brought a styrofoam cup of fresh cobbler--half cherry and half blackberry--to my hotel room in Charlotte.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

There really is nothing better than watching three horsemen ride past an abandoned, partially collapsed gas station during a driving thunderstorm.

Well, you could always take pictures of the scene developing.

Yes, folks, it's NCBBQII Part X.

Rob L. and I were drifting about the rural byways of coastal Carolina on a sweltering Sunday afternoon when we happened upon this gem: Latinos Gas Station in Chinquapin, NC. Where is Chinquapin?

Does it matter?

Probably not. What did matter, though, was the the station seemed to be retreating into the earth. The canopy over the pumps had collapsed, tearing the pumps from their moorings and, in fact, tearing one of them apart We ditched the car in the thick grass on the side of the road, and I began shooting from many different angles.

Almost instantly, the sky turned dark and opened up. Gigantic raindrops began pummeling the hot asphalt. Rob pulled the car closer to me, but I just kept shooting. My hair, shoulders, and camera got soaked, and I tried to keep the water off the business end of my lens. But the darkness provided an eerie feeling and I wanted to capture it.

I had just wiped off my lens and gotten back down low to the ground when a cry came from up the road: "Hey! Take a picture of us!" Three soaking wet horsemen emerged almost silently from the woods via a side street, and rode on past the abandoned gas station without ever once looking at the lens.

Yes, it was slightly surreal, but surreal is what these trips are all about.

Rob and I reached the ocean a few hours later, then spent the night in Wilmington as the rain poured down. When we awoke, it was Monday and we had to get home. Our northward route, which we planned to take us back to the Skylight Inn, also took us back through Chinquapin. There, Latinos Gas Station was basking in the sun once again.

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