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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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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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Smitty's Front Entrance, Lockhart, Tex.

From ABBQ09.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Humans in the Trees (ABBQ09)

Merry Christmas from the Manic Americans.

Come see Infrastructure in Manhattan tomorrow!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Of the tens of thousands of digital photos I've taken, this is my favorite. It says: you have a family of amazing friends who will meet you in Texas and drive out into farm towns to eat the best brisket on earth. And in the city of Burnet (BUR-nit), they will stand before your tripod and mimic the action of the giant electric Santa. And then they will vanish inside the fuselages of airplanes and return to the cities whence they came.

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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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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CPCCPCIV Postponed.

Note to all Manic-CPCCPC (College Point Class Conflict Pub Crawl) participants: we need to postpone this year's event. INFRASTRUCTURE (Chris, Erich, and myself, plus Micah the drummer) is playing a 9:30pm set at Tritone in Philly on Saturday Friday night (details here), and Rob Gestone's band, Postcard Secrets, is playing at The Bitter End in Manhattan on Saturday night (details here).

We'll try to bring back the CPC over Christmas, even though INFRASTRUCTURE is making its New York debut on 12/26. Stay tuned.

And, oh yeah, Austin in TWO WEEKS. Manic to the max!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mega-Manic Fall

It's 3:33 p.m., and the sun has already clocked out here in Boston. In dark times, you have to make your own weather. This is what I'm working on:

11/16-19 NY for work
11/19-21 Boston for life and rehearsal.
11/22-23 Toronto for work (looking forward to this, as I've never been to the city before).
11/24-29 NY and Philly for Thanksgiving.

And then:
12/11-12/14: ABBQII in Austin! With a crew of at least 5!
12/18 INFRASTRUCTURE at Church in Boston
12/26 INFRASTRUCTURE at National Underground in Manhattan.

Doing stuff is awesome.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Escape to San Diego, 2008, Part II: The Desert

There are a few things you need to know about San Diego. It's huge: over a million people. It used to be in Mexico, and now it's practically in Mexico. The weather attracts young adults and bums from pretty much all of the southwest, and the bums can get away with shaking down tourists in the Gaslamp because no one actually lives there. If you are a student, going to class and running one errand requires you to own a car and drive at least 30 miles. The weather is nearly perfect, yet you can throw a rock and hit a tanning salon. There is a special unspoken derision of obesity; you will see a disproportionately small number of fat people at the beaches. Strip malls grow like stultifying weeds between houses. You can find anything you want if you're willing to find it, except for Tibetan food, which I couldn't find. Did I mention the perfect weather?

Don't get me wrong. I like San Diego, mostly because of its bizarre quirks, which include the unmatched seediness of the bars and rock clubs near the airport. Not to mention that San Diegans seem far less miserable than people in the Northeast.

Speaking of easterners, a lot of them seem to think that San Diego is superficial. Maybe that's because the city is, literally and geologically, a thin layer of stuff that sits atop a vast nothing. If you resist the temptation to go to the beach, to head north to OC or LA, or head south to TJ or Ensenada, well, then, you have to head back east. That means traversing a vast desert where no one seems to live anymore.

Here are some vignettes from the interior:

Ex-home in Jacumba.

This is the Mexican border fence under construction. T. and I had massive burritos for lunch at the hotel in town. The locals dining there complained that the fence would only keep them from hunting, fishing, and hiking on the Mexican side. They said the only thing that ever came across from Mexico was the occasional wayward cow.

Houses like these are sitting right on the main drags of the ghost towns in the desert, just about an hour from San Diego.

El Centro is a tiny agricultural city in the Imperial Valley. It sits fifty feet below sea level, as this tank advertises. On satellite imagery, El Centro is a splotch of green in a sea of brown. In person, both desert and farm are the color of dust.


Dogs in Jacumba.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Escape to San Diego, 2008, Part I: The Coast

I am a manic American. When I tire of America, I escape into America. My brain tells me to go somewhere, and I go. I am a slave to the landscape, less so to the people. I photograph everything. I also write about what I see, in little spiral notebooks and blog posts and lyrics, and set the lyrics to music, and play the songs in rock clubs. This is how I live.

A year ago, I grew very tired of whatever I had been doing. I decided to engage some temporary manifest destiny and go west. Thanks to the graciousness of my host, I was able to explore San Diego and its vast desert backyard. This is what I saw.

I found this guy hard at work in Pacific Beach. Somehow, seeing him made having the day off even more awesome.

Arrival at the beach, Wednesday morning. A welcome sight to a denizen of the miserable northeast.

Get down tonite!

Looks like I started writing the lyrics for the INFRASTRUCTURE song "Republic, Michigan" while having a burger for lunch at this Irish pub. We just played the song for the first time at Harper's Ferry two weeks ago.


Car window sunset.

Ocean Beach street scene.

That's me, yo. I'm about to ascend Iron Mountain in 95° weather. Iron Mountain is in Poway, northeast of San Diego.

The summit.

You can see the entire San Diego skyline from Iron Mountain's peak.

Looking away from the city, you can see a big cross erected among the rocks.

This is what doing homework at San Diego State looks like. I read an entire noir novel on the beach the first day, Kenneth Fearing's The Big Clock. Tremendously impressive. I wish I'd been aware of it when I taught my literary noir course at Tufts.

The military industrial complex is a huge part of the San Diego economy.

San Diego lifeguard.

San Diego FD.

Friday evening, Mission Beach.

Green house, Mission Beach.

These four Hispanic guys were working their asses off in ninety degree weather, while frat parties began to rage and vacationers whizzed by on beach cruisers. They were covered from head to toe in sun-blocking gear.


Part II: The Desert, soon.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And extra special thanks to...

Dan Meade.

Dan shot over 500 photos and hours of video of the band this weekend, and wrote up his experience here.

Check it out.

It's so awesome to have these allies, supporters, friends.

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Friday, October 09, 2009


  • Just got Telecaster out of shop. Dude told me I lucked out and "probably had a better guitar than most Americans," as my tele is a Mexican.
  • Just bought MAN-CAM (hd camcorder) for MAN-AM VLOGGING
  • Erich coming in tomorrow to start final rehearsals for the Harper's Ferry gig.
  • Meade also coming in for photo/video documentation, Man Am site construction
  • Just saw "It Might Get Loud" which confirms that I think the right thoughts.

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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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Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Momentous, Manic Day

The past 48 hours have been a big step forward.

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