The Hot Place: Texas

04/06/2011 at 4:42 am | Posted in 49>50, Stories from the Road | 2 Comments
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(Photos to go along with this blog are at Flickr.com/mariancall.  Earlier blog posts linked & listed in this entry here.)

For an Alaska-dweller I spend lots of time in Texas.  I have a lot of fans there, I have family there, and I must admit: I love Austin.  I know I know, loving Austin is passé and uncool already, but know what?  I don’t care.  Avocados are 5/$1, they sell hot sugared pecans by the side of the road, and there’s live music and street fairs everywhere — well-attended too, people come out and support local.  I just avoid SxSW and snooty “industry” types and eat a LOT and I’m good.  So despite its reputation and its insecurity issues, I usually enjoy my time in Texas.  (When they aren’t shooting me with airsoft guns between the eyes, like they did on my first tour there.)

Bryan Ray and I drove very late from Oklahoma after I did this shiny breakfast interview to head “home” where I’d stop for a full week.  I recall getting out of the car at 1am and doing jumping jacks to stay awake at the gas station — which is a great way to attract some Texas homeboy attention. “You in need of assistance ma’am?” asked a would-be cowboy.  I couldn’t think of a good way to say, “No, I just want to do jumping jacks,” so I’m pretty sure I hid behind a trash can until his hat went into the convenience store.

We pulled in exhausted and in the morning I woke up in familiar surroundings — for the first time since I left Fargo, ND, I recognized something!  I knew where my coffee shops were at!  I could navigate without a GPS!  Almost.  So visiting Austin is a dream.

I could also afford a couple of concert-free days to play Ingenious with Dad, drink lots of tea and eat lots of peaches, and actually hear other people sing.  I drove out to Kerrville Folk Festival, a sort of beautiful remote hippie folkie lovefest in the Hill Country.  I’ve always heard only wonderful things about Kerrville, and sure enough the performances we enjoyed were completely stellar.  I ran into Randall Williams whose wise words in 2007 helped direct my career more than he could ever suspect.  And I found Raina Rose, a favorite singer-songwriter of mine, hanging around the music shop playing guitar with friends and strangers.  So I knew a grand total of two people.

Funny though — I didn’t quite fit in with the straight folk crowd.  My songs don’t have repeating choruses that everyone can harmonize to around the campfire.  And not having grown up with the culture myself, I didn’t know the music everyone else knew.  I didn’t have a guide to show me around, and a couple people asked me if I was from New York. “Um, no, Alaska.” “Well you look like you’re from New York City.” I hid behind a trash can again until their hats went away, thinking, “But I was so careful to wear dirty Texas hill country clothes!”  I wandered around the campsites and numerous hippie buses, and thought how strange it is that I lived on a hippie bus for half a year — full-time in fact, through the winter, hard-core hippie bus-living.  Yet I totally failed to gel with this crowd.  I was too metro, too fast, too uptight, too techie, and too New Yorkish.  (Incidentally this is also my social obstacle in Alaska, where so many of the awesome people are chill and outdoorsy and carry djembes and guitars on their backs.  Wonderful folks. Me no fit.)

Kerrville Folk Festival

Ah well, you can’t win them all.  I returned to Austin, bought Hadestown at Waterloo Records, drank beer, played more Carcassonne, watched some Pixar movies, and felt more like me.  And tried not to be too disappointed in my awkwardness around the nice folky hippies I would so like to befriend. #toouptight

The next morning (if memory serves), I got a phone call that expanded my working definition of ‘surreal.’

“Good morning, this is Paul of PaulandStorm. We do this thing called w00tstock and everyone has been recommending you.”

I hid behind a trash can but this is a less effective tack when you’re on the phone.

For the most part I tried to convince them that they had the wrong person, because my renown and fan reach were insignificant compared with the rest of the lineup.  But I failed. “I really don’t have that many fans,” I told Paul.

“Well, you have the right ones,” he replied.

There’s no disagreeing with that.  My fans are amazing.  So I signed on for w00tstock 2.4: SDCC.  Then I packed to leave Austin and head Into the West.

***********************

Well, mostly west.  First I drove south.  SOUTH TO SPACESHIPS!

A friend of mine from college is now awesome enough to be designing launch/abort/reentry suits for astronauts.  She’s an adorable & sweet engineer who can do her job in killer heels.  Geek girls FTW.  She & her husband threw a house concert, populated almost entirely by NASA folks, and I could not have been more excited.

Some audiences are harder to play than others — it took me some time to learn that certain groups, such as engineers, astronauts and Saskatchewans, do not respond with quite as much laughter or applause or engagement or Zombified passion as, say, SDCC attendees.  Thankfully the Midwest had prepared me for my engineer audience and I managed to navigate the stoicism.  Afterwards I got to learn just a very little bit about what’s been happening with NASA’s funding and why — but don’t ask or argue with me, I’m not an expert.  Just a curious party.

The next morning I got to go to Johnson with my host and hostess.  Not for the tram tour, for the REAL tour.  The photo blog describes my visit better — you can find the set here on my Flickr with captions.  GUYS THEY HAVE SPACESHIPS THER EFRO REALS

In fact as I was touring robotics with my host, he asked if I wanted to get in the Lunar Rover. “You mean the spaceship?” I asked. “We usually call them rovers or modules…” he said. “NO!” I replied, maybe only in my head. “You are making spaceships.  Don’t ever lose sight of how freaking incredible that is.”

What blew my mind the most was the age of their infrastructure and the incredibly tight budgets they have to work with.  Still using the same everything from the sixties — buildings in need of renovations, ancient furniture, no chance to redesign older elements with newer synthetic materials…sometimes it was a little hard to stomach.  NASA’s research has historically given humanity so many things for so little investment.  I’ll spare you the political rant I want to write here — I’m sure you can imagine how it goes.  Grr Argh.

My tour over, I left Houston with one mission: to warn you all that there is a Cylon device inside the Lunar Rover.  I didn’t put it there.  Not my job.

Cylon Device

****************************

Dallas would be my last stop on the way out of Texas.  There are a number of other worthy cities, but Dallas had two things I wanted to see: Kristina Morland and Jayne Cobb.

Kristina Morland made one of my desert island discs, Pidgin Music.  It’s one of those CD’s I have bought seven copies of for everyone I know.  I asked her to open for me at Poor David’s Pub — and as I remembered, she’s not much for live performance.  But glory can she write and arrange, and hallelujah can she sing.  I’ve worn out that disc.

I didn’t have as much time as I wanted in Dallas, so I coordinated a sort of happy hour with some fans ahead of the show.  The minutes were too few, and like at all geekish fan gatherings, it started awkwardly, but I tell you what:  I really love my fans.  Given a half hour and the right topic they are so warm and funny, and yes it’s awkward, but as I learned at Kerrville — maybe awkward people are just my people.  I don’t think I fit with the cool kids.

But the uncool kids had a great time that night.  We rocked Poor David’s, which is a really fantastic TX venue — I hope they’ll let me back.  My heroes play there, folks like Sarah Harmer and Kasey Chambers.

And a real honest-to-gods hero showed up, too. Jayne! The man they call Jayne!

Jayne Cobb

Yes, this is his actual head and his actual plaque.  Zippy wantsta go to the crappy town where he’s a hero.

Compiling…Compiling…Rebooting the 49>50 Blog

01/21/2011 at 2:35 am | Posted in 49>50, Stories from Alaska, Stories from the Road | 8 Comments
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Home.  I’ve been living in my own house nearly eight weeks now.   It’s still weird.

I gave myself a couple weeks to recover, but guess who’s bad at vacationing?  I failed to properly relax on Oahu, and I failed again at home in Anchorage.  Meanwhile my business trundles on with or without me, and the nature of the work is very hand-to-mouth, so if I rest too long I don’t eat.  (Marian would be such a good colonial pilgrim! If only she had a fancy hat.)

Tying up the myriad loose ends of the tour — such as chipping away at the nearly 500 postcards I have to write, digging out all the important contacts and business cards, and sending thank yous to the thousand people who deserve them — it’s somewhat frustrating work.  When you do something big and adventuresome it needs closure, a finish line, a wrap party, a book deal and movie rights (kidding, ick).  But usually The End is a slow fizzle of tiny tasks rather than a photo finish.  The first 100 postcards were no problem; the next 400?  That’s daunting.  Plus taxes, plus paperwork for Canada, plus proactively following up on venues that might be interested again next year…the more scattered the little jobs, the harder it is to feel like you’re making progress. I’m a fan of vertical filing, and my pathetic little piles of paper around the living room are starting to whisper urgent and confusing suggestions to me late at night.  Especially since my roommate went out of town. #help

</whine> #shutupMarian

After some computer issues that were all my fault (and which still plague me), I feel as if my brain is stuck on the spinny rainbow wheel of death.  My brain is stuck on the processing and compiling of all the data I acquired on this massive trip.  And I’m not sure how long I should wait before concluding it’s frozen and requires a force-quit and restart — maybe I should just give it a little more time to sort out all the 1’s and 0’s?

I think the key to un-sticking my brain may be this: I had a few lofty goals about reporting the 49>50 Tour back to you guys, goals that I didn’t quite accomplish.  And that’s bugging me.  Mostly I wanted to blog and post photos along the way, and I only managed that for the first few thousand miles or so.  My photos on Flickr stop in Oklahoma, state #10, which is failsauce on my part, and my blogs end in Austin, in state #11.  I sort of microblogged the rest of the way on Twitter, yfrog, and twitpic, but I didn’t have time or space there for deeper thoughts or longer stories at all.

I had been inviting fans to submit their memories of the tour in the comments, as if each post was a yearbook page.  I want to keep that up, because I like having a record of what you thought, not just endless jabber from me about me. That’s boring.

So I’m gonna try starting over on that, and see how it goes.  I can’t guarantee completion, but I’m not really ready to move on to the next thing (CD release) until I bring a small degree of closure to the last thing.

Let’s go back in time!

When I started this crazy trip, planning my route in the very café where I’m sitting now, I had no notion whether I’d finish it.  I’m pretty flabbergasted.  Which is fun to say.  Here’s the blog post that began it all, and the little map that I sort of mentally drew on an imaginary napkin:

Eeeeeeeeeeee!

(Funny, I stole this JPEG from a Google image search which revealed that on average two out of three U.S. maps on page 1 of a Google image search omit Alaska and Hawai’i.)  You can compare this to my actual route on the official Mapquest map to see how close I came.  Pretty darn is the answer.

Early blogs about the trip, listed here since some of you haven’t been around forever:

  • The Unobserved Life is Busy, On the nature of travel itself and how I roll
  • From Fairfield, IA, on house concerts and a freehand speed map-off competition (apologies to AL, AR, RI, DE)
  • Lost, on things I misplaced along the way and errands I ran between states
  • Uncharted Territory: ND, MN, WI, on the first three states I hit on tour, including a lecture at Kansas for claiming flatness
  • YMMV*, in which I play with Wolfram Alpha and discuss my car and the Cow Game
  • Places I never meant to go, in which I apologize to the Midwest and Heartland states, IL, MI, IN, IA, MO, KS, OK

I’ll be picking up where I left off, namely Texas, state #11.  Yes, I remember what happened.  Along the way I collected receipts, coasters, and other slips of paper, and I wrote my journal on those, in bits and pieces. (And I don’t expect you all have to read this nonsense, it helps me to write it, and if you’re interested and came late to the game, you can learn a bit of how it worked and what it was about.)

Photos!!!  The captions on the photos are practically a blog in themselves:

  • The Al-Can Drive South, with a New Yorker. Featuring tons of wildlife, creepy concrete Santa, a huge beaver, and a brilliant female luthier of the Yukon
  • North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, With glamorous rooftop pizza & hot tub parties in Fargo, the cutest giraffe I’ve ever seen, Zelda tattoos, and the legendary West Bend, WI feast
  • IL, MI, IN, IA, MO, KS, OK, with sunny beach rehearsals, adorable children, American Gothic, Kansas City BBQ, and the American Banjo Museum

I’ll be uploading more shortly to http://flickr.com/mariancall, probably starting with Texas.

Phew. I feel better. Categorizing and filing some links has soothed this pacing brain of mine.  But it’s only a start.  Soooooooo the spinny rainbow wheel keeps spinning, and I hope that if I just let it go a little longer, without panicking, it’ll complete the task at hand, quit, and be ready to open the next program.

Namely ProTools.

Thanks for reading — your time is valuable and I’m always amazed and happy when you spend a little on me.  You guys rock.  More adventures to come shortly!

Marian

(This is where I am, but not what I’m wearing, since it was taken a couple weeks ago.)

 

P.S. The more I look back over these blog posts, the more I’m convinced that I’m totally insane.

Just Taking Inventory

12/01/2010 at 12:21 am | Posted in 49>50, Just for Fun, Stories from the Road | 4 Comments
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The time has come, the Walrus said, for summaries and lists.  I have some math to do later, but for now, here’s the list of cities that partook in the 49>50 Tour:

Fairbanks, Tok, Anchorage (5 shows) AK
Fort St. John, Tsawwassen, Vancouver BC
St. Albert (2 shows), Edmonton  AB
Fargo ND
Minneapolis (2), Savage, Roseville (2) MN
West Bend WI
Chicago IL    (3)
Saugatuck, Ferndale MI
Indianapolis IN    (2)
Fairfield, Des Moines IA
Kansas City, St. Louis MO
Manhattan KS
Claremore OK
Austin (2), Houston, Dallas,  TX
Albuquerque, Santa Fe NM
Green Valley, Chandler AZ
Cambridge, Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener ON
Lancaster, Joshua Tree, San Juan Capistrano, San Diego (4), Encino, Venice, San Luis Obispo, Redwood City, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Elk Grove CA
Las Vegas NV
Sandy UT
Boulder, Monument CO
Cheyenne WY
Bozeman MT
Prosser, Spokane, Gig Harbor, Tacoma, Seattle (4), Bellingham WA
Bend, Portland (2), Eugene OR
Boise ID
Sioux Falls SD
Omaha NE
Conway AR
New Orleans (2), Sulphur LA
Biloxi MS
Hunstville, Auburn AL
Atlanta GA (4)
Fort Lauderdale, Winter Park FL
Greenville SC
Charlotte, Raleigh, Julian NC
Roanoke, Fairfax VA
Charleston WV
Louisville KY
Lebanon, Nashville TN
Westlake, Cincinnati OH
Edgewater, Silver Spring MD
Vernon CT
Claymont DE
Philadelphia PA
Long Valley, Highland Park NJ
Glenmont, New York (2), Brooklyn NY
Providence RI
Montpelier VT
Portland ME
Holden, Boston, Cambridge MA
Concord NH
Montréal QC
Winnipeg MB
Regina SK
Honolulu HI  (3)

The list is final as of this writing, though Hawai’i may still surprise me with another booking outside HNL. Oh, and if you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a map. Hawai’i will get added to that once I complete it.

In other words: I haven’t been everywhere this year.  But I’ve come damn close.  (And yes, I still want to live in Anchorage.)

I wish I could tell you how many towns and suburbs and cities are on this list through the sheer force of will of a single person in that town who REALLY wanted me to come to their place and not somewhere else.  I couldn’t honor every request, but I nearly broke myself trying, because you guys are worth it.

If you Twitter-catch me snoozing a little on the job through the next month or two — this list would be why.  Currently I’m sleeping a lot, wrapping up tour business, planning Hawai’i, writing postcards, and breaking out my studio because I have an album to finish.  Oh, and I hafta do my taxes.  From last year.  *gulp*

Love to all — Marian

Calling Cards: Road Movie to the Yukon

11/11/2010 at 6:21 pm | Posted in 49>50, How to this-or-that, News & Explanations, Stories from the Road | 16 Comments
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UPDATE ON THIS BLOG: much to my shock and awe, nearly 400 people have already requested postcards. That’s a lot more than I anticipated! I have about 200 postcards to mail out, I’ll get some Alaska ones to round out the bunch. This means 2 things: 1) this might take a little longer than I thought, and 2) I need more postcards! If you want to send me some from your area, mail them to me (clean and unposted so I can use them) at PO Box 190926 Anchorage AK 99519! Beautiful, tacky, everything’s welcome as long as it’s rated PG. Read on, you can still apply until midnight 12/6.

UPDATE #2: Final count for postcard requests: 485.  I have some thank you notes to write as well. This may take a while. But thank you for your support and interest!  I’ll be working on this for a loooooong time.

SO! I have finished playing shows in 49 states out of 50.  And I am driving back home.  Through the Yukon.  In winter.  #survivethedrive

I had lofty aspirations of blogging and photoblogging this trip, but that will have to happen retroactively.  Because, the thing is, when you travel to all 50 states — you spend an awful lot of time driving.  I have been collecting notes for some badass blogging, and possibly short stories, once I’m home.  And I have amazing photos ready to share once I have some time alone with my beloved laptop.

This whole insane seven-month-long nonstop tour was made possible by an unbelievable wave of support from a very, very small group of people.  In a sense I set out to prove that a small sustainable friendly community on Twitter (5000-9000 people) and Facebook (1000-2000 people with lots of overlap) could support a tour of tremendous expense and reach.  It was a test of the Long Tail theory and the 1,000 True Fans proposition.  It was a test of the tensile strength of the internet and social media on the whole.  It was also a test of my health and endurance and mind and heart in every possible way.

And here’s the thing:

WE DID IT.

I left Anchorage on May 15th in my Subraru, drove through and played in 48 states as well as every Canadian province except the Maritimes (I’ll getcha next year, guys).  I’ll be home in Alaska by Thanksgiving, weather permitting, and I’ll hit Hawai’i in December.  My grand Victory Concert will be on 12/23 at the Tap Root in Anchorage, AK.

Twitter and Facebook have preserved my soundness of mind on this trip.  It’s psychologically devastating in ways I can’t describe to see nothing familiar for weeks at a time.  I might need therapy.  Or else a good long round of singing “We’re Out for Blood.” But when I was alone and witnessing something amazing, my Hive Mind was there — people I know, people I don’t, all keeping tabs on me.  You all kept this crazy lady sane.

I wish I could think of a good enough way to even BEGIN to thank you guys.  Instead I’m always begging you to come to shows or do more promo, come up with more ideas, answer my questions about groundhogs…and while I can’t afford to stop asking those things, I want to do SOMETHING nice for you.  I’ve been trying to think up a good thing.

So here’s what I’d like to do: send you a postcard!!!

I’ve been purchasing postcards from all the states and provinces I’ve been to, and I have a couple hundred by now.  And one is for you!*

If you want one, fill out this form: https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dEtxLXN2c1dEdWtGUE8xbXBnSlRwTGc6MQ (If the link doesn’t work immediately, try copying/pasting it.)

This is free, and for everyone. U.S., Canada, overseas. You don’t have to have come to a show or even been helpful. You might have discovered me last week. I don’t care, I’ll send you a postcard anyhow!

I’m also collecting memories from the tour in this spreadsheet — from your perspective.  Like a yearbook.  Don’t let me ever forget about the Tribble Hug at Thinkgeek, or how Grandma nearly got run over at my show in North Carolina, or how I threw pineapple at my host’s son’s nose for missing the a capella dinner show in Bend, OR.

This is, again, totally free for all — including folks overseas!  Won’t lie, right about now I’d really appreciate a tip or a T-shirt sale or an album purchase, as getting up the Al-Can is unearthly expensive and I’m a little broke without shows every night.  (Plus, the many holidays are approaching! Happy Festivus…) But whether or not you tip, this is totally free.  I want to thank you for being one of the Most Amazing Little Fanbases on the Internet.  I’m gonna make up an awards ceremony with a not-so-meaningful prize and give it to you.**  Because you may not be many fans, but you are clearly the RIGHT fans.  You are mighty.

I’ma go home now, plan my Hawai’i trip (help welcomed), rest up, pay my late taxes, and finish an album or two.  Phew.

I love you guys all.***  Thank you SO MUCH.

Marian

Homeward Bound

*You can’t choose a state for the postcards, sorry.  I tried to pick cool ones.  If somehow I run out, I’ll send you an awesome Alaskan one.  This offer good thru Dec. 6th.  And I have really nice handwriting, I promise.

**Actually I think I just did.  Postcard trophies for everyone!

***But not that way.  You’re imagining things.

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