Friday, March 25, 2011

Homesick Yankee Ramblings Part 6 - Wright's Farm


Wright's Farm is a family-style chicken restaurant in Harrisville, RI. It's owned an operated by the Galleshaw Family. It's located near the border of central Massachusetts. Going to Wright's Farm is a local Blackstone Valley tradition. Here's how it works:

1. You drive to Wright's Farm. This involves some stress, because unless you're with 10 people, you can't make a reservation. You discuss how long the wait will be on your ride.
2. Arrive at Wright's Farm. Despair upon viewing that the front parking lot and most of the back lot are full.
3. Go inside anyways and wait in a long line to get a number. It takes two teenage girls to give you this number, one to talk to you and one to scrawl feverishly in a planner. They hand you a wooden coin with a number on it and tell you how long the wait will be. Despair again.
4. Find out your wait is 2+ hours. Now it's time to drink at the bar and buy Rhode Island lottery scratch tickets. Many people also go outside to smoke butts, though this is not recommended as A. smoking is gross and B. you might miss hearing your name called. Miracles happen a Wright's Farm, so you might get called early.
4. Size up the other people waiting for tables. Listen to other people have their numbers called over a loudspeaker. Get hungrier. (I should note here that pre-starving yourself to consume as much food as possible is part of the Wright's Farm ritual, but it makes waiting worse).
5. Lose on all the scratch tickets. Lose at Keno. Get hungrier. You will feel your soul begin to slip from your body as hunger becomes unbearable.
6. They call your number. Rush to the counter. Follow a teenager into a banquet hall and be seated. Wait for your waitress. This waitress will be a gruff, middle-aged Swamp Yankee who will ultimately be dissatisfied with her tip. However, she is still awesome and you wouldn't want a nice waitress.
7. You do not have options at Wright's Farm. They bring the following items, family-style, to your table - oddly gray, but tasty, chicken, mushy shells and sauce, hard rolls with frozen butter, the hard bits of iceberg lettuce covered in the tastiest salad dressing, over-fried french fries. If you order a Coke, your glass will be small and you will need many. That's because the rest of the food costs a flat rate per person, but drinks all cost something. Stick with water.
8. Eat until you get sick. Then eat part of your ice cream dessert.

As you can see, eating at Wright's Farm is a ritual. As vegans in the Southwest, Wright's Farm seems very far away indeed, but my in-laws are thoughtful enough to keep we prodigal Yankees stocked with southern New England essentials. For our anniversary, they sent a six pack of individually wrapped Narragansett beers. I saved the box. Then, the other day, we got some Red Rose tea, Autocrat coffee milk syrup, and Wright's Farm Salad dressing!

Red Rose tea is the brand that comes with the Noah's Ark figurines. It's just regular black tea, but it's better than Lipton. Their website says it's available out west, but I haven't seen it and believe me, I looked.

Even some New Englanders look at me a bit sideways when I talk about Autocrat coffee milk, but I love the stuff. Other kids called me Autocrat in middle school because it was all I drank.

In honor of these New England items in our kitchen, we prepared faux-Wright's Farm for dinner last night. Everything came out very similarly to Wright's Farm - soggy salad, over-fried fries - absolutely delicious. Except the tofu, which was still delicious, but quite inauthentic.
faux wrights farm 1

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Black Mesa to Dutchman Trail

erin fire 2
Last week my wife and I went for a quick backpacking trip. She hadn't seen Weaver's Needle up close, so we did the Black Mesa/Dutchman Trail loop in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. We didn't take many pictures, but here are a couple of night photos. The lens glare is all natural aftermarket funkiness. I need a new lens!
erin fire 1

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Ishmael!

Today, March 20th, is our cat Ishmael's sixth birthday. We're really happy to have him with us. Just over a year ago Ishmael suffered terrible kidney failure. He spent over a week in and out of an emergency vet clinic, hooked up to fluids, undergoing tests. They shaved his belly and his poor little paws to look like a poodle. Things looked pretty bad for the guy. You can read about the whole ordeal here.

He was sent home with an uncertain prognosis. We fed him special kidney food, Pepcid to help steady his stomach, phosphorus blockers, and 200 ML of fluid under his skin every couple of days. At the outset, this routine sounded daunting and we questioned if putting a cat through such a rigorous medical routine was fair, but the vets told us that the necessary care would diminish if he was going to get better, and if it didn't diminish, we would probably know sooner rather than later. Ish was almost five years old.

Having your pet diagnosed with a serious disease is devastating news. Assessing the quality of your pet's life and the cost of maintaining it seem overwhelming. And you hear a lot of "maybe's," "possibles" and "only time can tells." So, while I understand all pets and circumstances are different, I'd like to quickly share out success story dealing with Ishmael's renal disease.

First off, his routine is greatly diminished since last year and it's been stably this way for about six or seven months. He eats prescription cat food and gets 100 ML of fluid under his skin twice a week. That's it. The fluids were definitely a scary thing at first. You literally poke the cat with a needle and pump fluid under it's skin. The thing is, this doesn't really hurt the cat too much because, unlike people, cats have space between their skin and muscle and bone. The skin is loose. Poking just feels like a pinch and then the warm fluid doesn't hurt at all. How do I know? Well, I can guess from the cat's actions. He might vocally protest for a second when he's getting poked, but he doesn't try to get away and after the needle is in, he just sits there and even purrs sometimes. Not his favorite thing, but Ishmael GREATLY prefers getting his fluids to getting combed, clipped nails, or teeth brushed. Ish is a pretty agreeable cat, so I understand others might be worse, but subcutaneous fluids aren't as bad as they sound.

Ishmael's energy has improved immensely. He's more energetic than he ever was before. We will always feel a little uncertain and wonder how long we'll have him, but his quality of life for this year has made saving him worth it. I hope sharing our story will help make someone else's pet health decision easier.
Ishmael in the Window

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Mission Creeps!

I'm very, very excited to be featuring an interview with The Mission Creeps here on Making Owls Cool!  The Mission Creeps are one of our favorite bands. It's not often that I go to see one band and end up leaving a dedicated fan of another, but The Mission Creeps got me. We first heard them a few years ago when they played with Phoenix band The Love Me Nots and we were hooked.  They do spooky music that is energetic and they're great live.

I set up this interview with bassist, Miss Frankie Stein, a little while back. Guitarist/singer James Arr's responses are better than the questions and they even sent a long this awesome image by Tucson artist Mel Dominguez of the band and an owl! They'll be playing in Colorado April 7th-9th, so check them if you get the chance and you can buy their albums, "Dark Cells" and "In Sickness and In Health" here on their website.

How about we begin with a brief history of The Mission Creeps. When did you form? Where did the name come from? Who's in the band?

We started about 5 years ago over some pints of Guiness. We didn't know anyone else at that time who had even heard of bands like The Ghastly Ones or Los Straightjackets. Once we discovered our mutual love of surf and spooky music, the rest is history.

I had the name The Mission Creeps mulling around in my head, waiting
  for the right project. It's a military term that means being on an assured path of self-destruction which no one can do anything about - and that was just like every band I had ever been in, so I wanted to start a band called that.

Many people don't get that 'creeps' is a verb.

The core of the band is myself, James Arrr, and Miss Frankie Stein. We
currently are playing with Rikki Styxx on drums. She is from L.A. via Denver and works as a great fit for us. We have had many people come and go in the Mission Creeps and it always provides some measure of
unpredictability and excitement.

As I read reviews and profiles of The Mission Creeps online, it is immediately apparent that people have a tough time describing your sound. I'm going to be the Cowardly Questioner and ask you to do it. How would you describe your sound? Feel free to include influences, technical aspects (like equipment and recording techniques) or whatever else you think is relevant.

That's a good thing, right?

For the most part, our sound is composed of all the things and bands that we are fans of and that includes a lot of cinematic influences. We aren't 'trying' to get a specific sound, but we do like to focus on 'the songs' and the stories or ideas behind them.

I play guitar through lots of reverb and that can lend itself to a
'surf' guitar kind of sound, and there is no doubt that we are big fans of surf music. But we are not a 'surf band', especially since we
have vocals.

The sound has changed over time from a more mellow sound with a lot of
instrumentation, including congas, percussion, accordion, and keyboards in addition to our current guitar, bass, drums set up. This has been partially a necessity for touring economically and on a lighter carbon footprint but also for keeping people on the same page.

We like the intensity of playing as a power trio and how it is easier
to maintain the integrity of how the songs are written. We do still throw in other instrumentation in the studio such as melodica,
mellotron, weird noise generator, and sampler now and then.

If you put together any show with any line-up, including current or defunct bands, who would you want to play with and at what venue?

Frankie's first "dream" for the band was to play with Deadbolt. She told me this within 5 minutes of our Guinness and band-starting conversation. Six months later, we opened for Deadbolt in Vegas.

Since then, we've been very lucky to play shows like Tiki Oasis 8 kick
off party on the deck at the Bali Hai at night, looking right out over the ocean. Santa Fe Film Festival was another great one. We've gotten to play with and meet and talk with Peter Murphy.

We also got to play a few dream shows on our US tour last Fall.
One was on the lower East-Side in NY over Labor Day weekend with Des Roar and Doppelganger where we met Kerry Davis of Two Tears.

The energy in NY was so raw. There was that tension in the air of
people wondering what the Hell we were about and also us being nervous about how we'd go over in the Big Apple. And it turned out to be a blast.

The other dream show was in Atlanta with Andre Williams and The
Goldstars.  He influenced us not to give up on following our love of music, EVER. At 74, he's still walking the walk and talking the talk.

There are other acts we've played with, dug, and hit it off with. Last
year we brought seven of them together for Friki Tiki Garage Festival and Scooter Rally here in Tucson. It was like putting on our own dream show. Lords of Altamont headlined. We may put another festival together this September.

Of course, we'd also love to play a DREAM, dream show with Joy
Division or Sisters of Mercy or The Cramps or The Stooges in a tiny venue where everyone gets a sound check.

You played a steampunk-themed New Years party in Bisbee and you also played the Wild, Wild West Steampunk convention in Tucson. Can you tell us a little about steampunk or the steampunk scene in the southwest?

The Steampunk scene is pretty fascinating and still unfolding as its own separate subculture. For that reason, it isn't so rigid in peoples' expectations of what it should be, including musically.

Some of our lyrical themes lend themselves to futuristic, dystopic
imagery, and of course we are fans of HG Wells, Jules Verne, and Orwell.

It's a bit of a natural fit for us to experiment with. And it is nice
to be involved right now, but not be trapped by it at the same time. Though we're likely a bit more on the Punk side of Steampunk, anything goes.

Tucson is a cool town. What's it like being a band based in Tucson? I'm wondering if the town has influenced your music and, if so, how?

Tucson for musicians has its pluses and minuses. We're still learning as we go.

We have figured out that the space in the desert lends itself to our
music and bands from other cities have taken notice and remarked about it to us. We try to maintain that and not clutter things up which is easy to lose sight of and also difficult to communicate when we're working with other people.

You're a pretty busy band. Your third release, Dark Cells, came out last year and your website says you're working on new material. What can we expect from The Mission Creeps in 2011?

Experimentation is a continuous process for us. We're trying new ways to record and represent the music. We've written a ton of new material lately and are really excited about releasing and supporting a new album.

The songs are pretty gritty, having toured more and gotten more angry
at things we see happening in the world around us. While not getting too politically or socially-specific, things seem pretty grim
sometimes. We prefer to be sincere and acknowledge it and find acatharsis in it that other people can relate to, rather than gloss over it.

Of course we like to throw in a good danceable song as well to stick
with our motto that "It's always a scary fun time."

We just filmed two new videos with local Directors, one for Monster
and one for a new song called Any Good Zombie. We are really stoked to see the final product.

April 7-9, we're doing a run of shows in Colorado - Pueblo,
Co.Springs, and Denver.

We have an unreleased take of Monster that will be featured on Rue
Morgue Magazine's free downloadable compilation, out May 1, followed by an album in June and summer shows in L.A. and New York.

You mentioned in an e-mail that you "have a few owl stories." Lets hear 'em! Any other scary or creepy stories from shows or on the road?

When we first met things were so exciting and moving a million miles an hour. We had just finished going to a killer and very inspiring show featuring the Flametrick Subs from Austin, TX. We were heading back to our practice space at the end of the night to our respective cars, when a giant white owl swooped down and landed right in front of our car. We had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting it.

We just sat there looking at it and it looked right at us for what
seemed like a very long time. Then it flew away. We've heard several interpretations along the lines of, "Stop, look around you. You are in the midst of spiritual chaos and you need to recenter yourselves." Maybe it just stopped there for a pit stop. It is hard to tell with owls since they don't speak.

But believe it or not we have a few MORE owl stories too. So it is
  definitely a theme or icon that has presented itself at some very odd times in our existence as a band.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


One thing I miss about living in Massachusetts is chickadees. They're really fascinating birds to watch. If you've got a feeder, spend some time watching the chickadees.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

...On President Obama's Op-Ed in AZ Daily Star

Tucson's local paper, The Arizona Daily Star, ran an interesting op-ed today about gun laws and public safety written by none other than President Barack Obama. You can read it here - it's called "We must seek agreement on gun reforms". The President argues for common sense safety measures, like more accurate and effective background checks. Publishing this in a local Arizona paper is an interesting move, politically and rhetorically. His speech following the Tucson shooting was generally well-received, but there are many Arizonans who hate nothing more than gun legislation, so I doubt this will go over well. In Arizona, if you know what kind of gun you want, it takes less than 15 minutes to walk out of a gun shop with a high-powered weapon that you're free to conceal. NWA might have coined "Fuck the police," but Jan Brewer & Co have made it a reality.

It might gain Obama some miniscule bit of credit on the national stage when people learn about this op-ed, see that he remembers Tucson, remembers the tragedy, and is trying to remain engaged in the conversation about gun safety in our state. He's giving Arizona a chance to do something level-headed for once, to model for the country that, in the face of tragedy, good, logical people can come together and do the right thing. Unfortunately, he doesn't understand that many Arizonans are happy to sacrifice a liberal representative, a judge, some old people and a couple of kids every so often to maintain their easy access to unnecessary weapons. If you'll excuse the pun, the President's message is likely to backfire locally, earning him perhaps more enemies than supporters. And there is a 0% chance of Arizona actually listening to his words, considering them, or enacting sensible gun laws.

Oh, and I suppose I should point out that I'm not anti-gun...at all.  If you assume anyone who supports laws to prevent people who are documented threats from easily buying guns is trying to take away your Second Amendment rights, then I'll see my way out of that conversation before it starts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Green Tunnel

Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo.
In 2005, hiker Kevin Gallagher hiked the Appalachian Trail. But he didn't just walk; he stopped and took thousands of photographs along the way. A few years later, he's now compiled the footage into this shot stop action video called "The Green Tunnel." You can read a lot more about Gallagher, his hike, and the movie in this article on Wired.com. Gallagher takes you through the AT highlights in less than four minutes and the music is cool as hell! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reader's Oasis Books, Quartzite, AZ

Situated near the Arizona/California border, Quartzite, AZ is an unusual place. Though in the middle of nowhere, it attracts RV enthusiasts from all over the US and Canada and has a reputation for hosting massive gem and mineral shows, flea markets, and RV shows. The main street is lined with gift shops selling tourist-trap items, such as airbrushed t-shirts, mini-crossbows, magnets, and other junk. It's a weird little town that is proud of its idiosyncrasies and it's full of interesting characters.

Chief among the interesting characters is Paul Winer, the owner/operator of Reader's Oasis Bookstore. Originally from New England, Paul spent years performing as a musician. He recently returned to the Northeast and played a sold out show in his old stomping grounds, Salisbury Beach. His primary focus these days is running Reader's Oasis. Visitors to the bookstore immediately notice the wide selection of cool, used books, magazine, ephemera, local memorabilia, and the attire of the manager. Paul is a nudest who wears footwear, a hat, glasses, necklaces, and specially-made covers for his...well...you see the photo. He's a hell of a nice guy with a welcoming attitude and great stories to tell. If you're ever driving on I-10 to Los Angeles, stop by and meet him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Yarn Owl Album Out Today! - Montaña Y Caballo

A few months ago, I became acquainted with a band from Pullman, Washington called Yarn Owl. We even chatted here on MOCS about their music and work; you can read that interview here. Well, Yarn Owl have a new album out today called Montaña Y Caballo. They recorded the album in a barn near Moscow, Idaho. How cool is that?

Montaña Y Caballo is wonderfully mellow and upbeat at the same time. Yarn Owl offers many of the best parts of the Northwest sound - full instrumentation, subtle production, and that certain something that makes you feel like taking a ride through the mountains. After a few listens, I'd say "Seashell Wind Chime" and "Embrace Our Place (Montaña Y Caballo)" stood out to me, but if you like those songs, you'll dig the whole album. It's only $5 bucks and you can buy it here on the Yarn Owl Bandcamp page. While you're there, download their previous album, Stay Warm. I've been humming that Bicycle song since I heard it. It will get you too.