Monday, September 29, 2008

The Dandy Warhols in Aspen

Poster for the Dandy Warhols at the Belly Up in AspenThe summer of music continues. Nan and I have been big fans of The Dandy Warhols since the release of their third album, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, back in 2000. Last night we finally got the opportunity to see them perform live. They played the Belly Up in Aspen, a nightclub we know well from our twenty-plus years living in Aspen. So we drove up for a wild night of psychedelic rock and roll starting with The Upsidedown and Darker My Love.

I stopped by the souvenir stand before the show started with the idea of buying a Dandys t-shirt. It turned out that Brett Kron, the guitarist from The Upsidedown, was behind the table. We chatted for a few minutes about his band's relationship to both the Dandys and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. All are part of the vibrant Portland, Oregon music scene. I also met Bob Graham Mild, The Upsidedown's drummer, when he stopped by.

I found a good-looking shirt but they only took cash, so I went off to find an ATM. When I returned, a different guy was behind the table. He introduced himself as Travis, one of the sound people for The Dandy Warhols and Zia McCabe's husband. Zia is the band's eclectic keyboardist. Like an idiot, the first thing I could think to ask was, "How many kids do you guys have now?" That made Travis laugh. "Just one," he responded. We talked for a few minutes about what a great place Aspen is and how well the band's tour was going. They had played to a packed house at the Gothic in Denver the night before and were headed to Los Angeles in the morning. He asked if there was any particular Dandys song I wanted to hear. How about "We Used To Be Friends", I asked. "I'll tell Courtney to be sure to play it," he said.

The show started at about 10:00 with The Upside Down. The similarities to the Dandys were immediately noticeable: guitar-heavy pop melodies with strong buzzy undercurrents. I was glad that Brett had also talked me into buying the band's new CD, Human Destination.

Darker My Love was next, and they were just that: darker. The guitar parts were complicated and the band members concentrated more on their playing than on their stage presence. There were interesting tempos and change-ups, but it was not the type of music I would rush out to buy.

The Dandy Warhols in Concert at the Belly Up in AspenAt midnight, The Dandy Warhols hit the stage with "Moham-med" [Not "Solid" as originally written. Thanks for the correction, Zia!], followed immediately by my requested song. Travis wasn't kidding, I thought. Nan and I had good seats, but we wanted to get closer so we spent the rest of the concert on the dance floor, pogoing around like crazy to an hour and a half of really good, really loud music. If I had to describe it, the Dandys' music sounds like the Cowsills on acid, like "Aquarius" as performed by The Rolling Stones. The show ended with lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor doing a solo electric rendition of "Every Day Should Be A Holiday". If only!

Grado to Gibraltar?

One would think that moving a sailboat out of the water and into a secure boatyard would be the safest place to store it for an extended period. I'm sure John Kretschmer thought so when he left his boat, Quetzal, in dry storage in Grado, Italy. Quetzal is the 47-foot Kaufman cutter that Nan and I helped sail on our Odyssey trip this past spring. After we left the boat in Corfu, John sailed her with another group up the east coast of the Adriatic to Venice and then on to Grado, where he had her hauled out until he could return for the next passage.

A few weeks ago, I received an email message from Harry, another of the Odyssey crewmembers, that Quetzal had been seriously damaged. I confirmed the details in an email exchange with John. He said a tornado had struck the Grado boatyard and knocked Quetzal off her supports. Fortunately, she had fallen to starboard and landed on an inflatable boat so the hull damage was not severe, but not so fortunately, the mast and rigging came down on a powerboat next to the inflatable and on the fence beyond that. They were a total loss.

Instead of returning for his scheduled Trans-Med trip earlier this month, John returned to assess the damage and begin the process of making Quetzal sailable again. He ordered a new mast from the Selden company in France, at a cost of at least $20,000. With any luck, it should be delivered and installed in time for a November 1 departure. Then he'll need to hustle in order to meet a crew in Gibraltar, Spain in time for the November 22 start of the Trans-Atlantic passage he has had planned for over a year.

Since the Trans-Med passage was canceled, John will have no scheduled crew to help him sail from Grado to Gibraltar, so with Nan's approval, I volunteered. I offered to cover my own expenses in exchange for the opportunity to help John and one of the original Trans-Med couples sail Quetzal two thousand miles in two weeks, and John accepted. If it goes as I expect it will, with minimal landfalls and continuous overnight passages, it could be a serious experience builder. More details to follow.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Circumnavigation Routes, Part 3

In a comment to my first Circumnavigation Routes post from July 23, "Melissa" recommended the book Chasing Sunsets by Lawrence Pane to go along with the book I had written about, World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell. She said, "We used Chasing Sunsets as a reference book for getting ready to cruise and found its real-life information to be invaluable." That was all the convincing I needed, so I filed away the title in the mental checklist I keep for future orders.

As coincidence would have it, this month's Latitudes & Attitudes features a new column entitled "Cruising Tips" by none other than Lawrence Pane. Melissa was right; Mr. Pane knows his stuff. His tips on the timing of a circumnavigation are the natural complement to planning the route itself (and I quote):
  • Because of the cyclone season, the South Pacific cannot be entered before March and has to be exited by November.
  • Again because of cyclones, the Queensland, Australia coast is not safe to sail between November and March.
  • The most favorable conditions to go up the Red Sea are found in February, March and April.
  • The winter months, November to March, are bad months to sail in the Mediterranean.
  • The best time to cross the Atlantic Ocean is November and December.
  • June to October (sometimes November) is the hurricane season in the Atlantic and Caribbean, so sailing in those months is dangerous.
This advice plays well into the idea of the discontinuous voyage that I presented in that first Circumnavigation Routes post. If you find yourself sailing in an area of the world that is about to enter an unfavorable weather pattern, you leave the boat and return later when it is safe to sail again. Of course, you would want to make sure the boat was safe from the weather, which could mean hauling it out and storing it "on the hard," but even that is not a foolproof strategy, as we will see in my next post.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dog Days

Scout the Golden Retriever at Dog Days in Grand JunctionSaturday, September 6, was the fourth annual Dog Days celebration at Lincoln Park in Grand Junction. It's a day for dogs and their owners to get out and have some fun. There is a run/walk in the morning and then the pool is open to dogs and their owners for the rest of the day.

Charlie loved Dog Days. He would be the first dog in line for the pool. As soon as they opened, I would throw a tennis ball out into the middle of the calm pool and Charlie would hit the edge at a full run, diving as far as he could, making a big splash, snagging the ball and dog paddling back for more. He would repeat this routine until we were both completely exhausted, him from all the running and swimming, and me from having to haul him out of the pool every time by his elbows. Twice Charlie was featured in mid-dive in photographs on the front pages of the local newspapers and once he was on the local TV news, swimming with a ball in his mouth.

Scout the Golden Retriever about to be launched into the Lincoln Park Pool during Dog DaysIn Charlie's memory, this year Nan and I took our puppy Scout, along with Hannah, a golden retriever we occasionally dog sit for. They were not as enthusiastic about the water as Charlie was. I think there is something about clear water that unnerves some dogs. They look past it to the bottom of the pool and think they're going to fall, so they stay clear. They might go down the stairs into the water, but that area of the pool was already crowded with wet dogs. So to get Scout and Hannah into the pool, I hip checked Hannah as she was standing at the edge, and I just picked Scout up and physically launched him about ten feet out into the water. Hannah swam right back to the edge, climbed out and shook off the water. Scout had never been in water over his head before and executed an exaggerated dog paddle, slapping the water with his front paws, to swim back to the edge, where I hauled him out. I tried to encourage him to go in by himself to retrieve the tennis balls that were floating around, but he wouldn't do it. A few more hip checks and launches, and they were both ready to call it quits.

Nan, Hannah and Scout at Dog Days in Grand JunctionA swimming pool is probably not the best introduction to swimming for a dog. We'll need to find a pond or lake in the area that's not too muddy and give it another try. In the meantime, we'll keep filling up the plastic kiddy pool in the backyard so Scout can at least wade around and stay cool.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Obama in Grand Junction

John Lichty at the Barack Obama rally in Grand Junction on September 15, 2008Barack Obama spoke in our town today. My friend Phillip Linville and I witnessed the historic event from just fifty feet away thanks to Phil's willingness to wait in line for three hours on Saturday to get us tickets. Still, after waiting another three hours this morning, nowhere near the front of the line, we were both amazed to be so close. It more than made up for not getting tickets to Obama's acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium during the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago.

The warm-up speakers were obviously excited to be sharing the stage with Obama and speaking before a crowd estimated at about 6,000 people. Notables included Governor Bill Ritter and Senator Ken Salazar, but the introduction duties fell to local citizen Bill Haggerty, who mangled Obama's name but scored points with the audience when he presented him with a locally grown peach.

Change We Need Event for Barack Obama in Grand Junction on September 15, 2008Obama's speech focused primarily on the economy, which was especially pertinent today given the failure of Lehman Brothers, the acquisition of Merrill Lynch and the record decline in the stock market. He also spoke about issues important to Western Colorado, particularly water rights and energy development. Overall, his message was one of hope for a better future for all Americans.

The importance of this election in deciding the future course of history, either change for the better or more of the same, was evident on the faces all around us. People were still waving their "Change We Need" signs as they walked back to the parking lot.

Seeing Barack Obama speak in person was a tremendously uplifting experience, one that could not be dampened by the protestors lining the entrance, not by the boy in the Denver Broncos jersey with the "Your [sic] in McCain country" sign and not by the young woman holding the racist "Got White Guilt?" banner. Has there ever been a greater divide in the way people think in this country?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Searching for epic hero Odysseus in the winds of history"

Anchored at Cape Sounion in the shadow of the Temple of PoseidonJohn Kretschmer's article about our Odyssey sailing trip was published in the Travel section of the Miami Herald today: "Searching for epic hero Odysseus in the winds of history" The Web version included three photos, two by John and one by me. John's are the two embedded in this post. Mine is the one of John in the left sidebar under My Photos.

It was interesting to read John's take on our adventure, which took place more than four months ago. Some of the details were not exactly as Nan and I remembered them, but then embellishment is the writer's prerogative. As John just emailed me, "The piece has a few fictions but not too many."

Pastel-colored fishing boats at Pythagorio on Samos, GreeceThe article balances the history and mythology of Odysseus with the details of our trip in fanciful ways, as if the Greek gods themselves were behind our misadventures. It is an entertaining read. If you read it online, there is a form at the bottom for submitting comments. I'm sure John would enjoy hearing from you.

My account of our trip is due to be published as a feature article in an upcoming issue of Latitudes & Attitudes. At least that's what Editor Sue has told me. It will be my first published piece, so I'm pretty excited about it. With any luck, it could create opportunities for future writing assignments. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Opinion vs. Fact

A few months ago, I had a brief argument with a person about whether or not Barack Obama is a Muslim. She said that she had heard from her friends and family and had read on the Internet that he is indeed a Muslim. I countered that I had seen interviews on TV and read in newspapers and magazines that his father was a Muslim but that Barack had been raised a Christian by his mother and grandparents, and that he is a member of a Christian church in Chicago. She shrugged and said that she could believe what she wanted to believe. That unexpected reaction threw me for a few seconds. Then I responded that there is a difference between facts and opinions. She shrugged again and walked away. Argument over.

I was reminded of that incident recently when John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate. As a virtual unknown, the press dug into her background quickly. It's no secret that I support Obama and do not think too highly of his opposition, but some of the dirt on Sarah Palin still surprised me. Mostly it was the obvious pandering to the Christian fundamentalists. I expected the strident anti-abortion stand, but then it was reported that she was "skeptical" about evolution and global warming. I started looking around for something to throw at the TV.

It amazes me that people think it's acceptable to have opinions about the validity of scientific theories, as though the word "theory" lessens the truth somehow. What about the theory of gravity? Would anyone hold an opinion denying gravity? Why then would anyone deny scientifically proven theories confirming evolution and global warming? Because they don't fit certain religious principles or a particular worldview? A better idea, and one based on the scientific method, would be to adjust one's thinking to conform to observed, repeatable phenomena. Fossils have not been placed in the earth to test our faith. Faith has nothing to do with them. Faith is for phenomena lacking sufficient evidence one way or the other, like the existence of God.

Applying faith and opinion to matters of truth and fact is not intelligent. The idea that we might elect someone to the second highest office in our country who thinks this way should make all right-thinking Americans consider their votes carefully.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jazz Aspen Snowmass 2008

Nan and John at Jazz Aspen Snowmass 2008Nan and I used to attend the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day weekend music festival every year, but we have missed it the last two years in a row, partly because we live in Grand Junction now and partly because we didn't think the music line-ups have justified the trip.

This past Labor Day weekend, we decided we would attend at least one day of the four-day festival. For us, it was a choice between Bob Dylan and John Fogerty. I had seen Bob Dylan twice before, once with my friend Curt Haensel back in 1986 at Alpine Valley when Bob was touring with Tom Petty and once with Nan at Jazz Aspen Snowmass in 2002 when it was held at the base of Buttermilk Mountain. We had both seen John Fogerty once before when he performed at Jazz Aspen Snowmass in 2005. That was our last Jazz Aspen Snowmass show and it was so good that in the end we decided to see him again instead of Bob.

As we waited for the festival gates to open at 2:00, the clouds that had looked threatening earlier in the day began to drop a steady rain. That's always a potential problem with outdoor concerts, but we were prepared with rain jackets and a waterproof tarp. Our plan was to run to a spot next to the sound tent, close to the stage but not too close, spread the tarp, position our lawn chairs to hold it in place, and then head to the tent-covered bar to stay dry. Luck was with us though, and the rain stopped as soon as we got in.

The first act was Tift Merritt. We didn't know what to expect since we'd never heard of her, but she and her band were terrific. Her voice sounded like a combination of Joni Mitchell and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and she accompanied herself on piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. When her set ended, we wandered over to the merchandise tent where Tift was signing copies of her CDs. She was very friendly and chatted with us briefly about what an enthusiastic reception she was receiving in Colorado. We smiled and told her it was because she was so talented and her songs were so heartfelt. Her latest album, Another Country, is still in our car's CD player. Good stuff, especially "Morning Is My Destination" and the title track.

Dwight Yoakam was next. He is a little more cowboy-country than what we regularly listen to, but he played a bunch of classic Buck Owens songs from his new tribute album and put on a great show with his excellent backup band.

John Fogerty on the stage at Jazz Aspen Snowmass 2008Our friends Robin and Dick joined us for John Fogerty's headline act with their son Alex and Dick's cousin, who was visiting from Sweden. I have been a John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival fan since the mid-1960s when my dad started buying their albums. I know all their songs by heart, but I wasn't the only one singing along to classics like "Who'll Stop The Rain?" and "Willie And The Poor Boys." The highlight of the show was a combination of songs off his latest album, Revival: "Long Dark Night" followed by "I Can't Take It No More." Together they form a harsh diatribe against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. The crowd roared its approval. The show ended after two solid hours with fan favorites "Fortunate Son" and "Proud Mary."

It's always a blast to revisit the music of your youth, especially live in concert. If Jazz Aspen Snowmass keeps bringing in talent like John Fogerty, we'll keep coming back.