Mobile, AL

The next day I drove to Mobile. It was a long, epic journey. While I was driving I got a call from a Couchsurfer named Susan McLean, who came across one of my hosting requests and agreed last-minute to host me. Yay, I have a host! It’s always transforms an ordinary hum-drum day into a good one to line up a host. So, I met up with her and her boyfriend Bryan at O’Charley’s, before heading out to play some pool. After the poolage, a goodly number of peeps headed over to their house to hang out and let good times roll.

And, Susan likes fish!! As pets, that is. She is an aquarist. We talked nerdily about fish for at least half an hour, and I enjoyed looking at her tanks.

I had a great time hanging out with Susan and Bryan and all of the other peeps that came over to their house. They are both awesome and sadly I failed to take any pictures, because the next day when I woke up they were gone and I had to be on my way. But I did get a picture of the bed. Why? Because it’s not a couch or air mattress.

A real bed!

When you have been sleeping on as many couches, air mattresses, and car seats as I have, you have a new appreciation for real beds. I certainly appreciated this one.

And that was Mobile.

NEXT: Some Orleans, of the New variety.


The following three days (Sept 2-4) saw me driving around in the great state of Florida. As it turns out, is it a state, not a nation. Thanks to all the readers who emailed me with that correction.

Day 1

I spent the first day, which was also my last day in Savannah, driving down to Jacksonville and swimming at the beach. No one had contacted me from that area so I spent the day enjoying the sun and surf.

I love beaches!  Especially sandy ones! It just went on and on.

True and interesting story: I got absolutely pwned by a big wave! This one big wave was coming and I was ready so I dove through it. I came out on the other side only to see another huge wave coming in right after that one. I swear that wave was not there before. I was knocked off my feet, my 160-pound body tumbling along like a leaf. It scraped me along the ground, keeping me unable to regain control due to its strong current. Finally I stood, yards away from where I had been, with a bloody scrape on my back and not-bloody-but-still-painful scrapes on my extremities.

Conclusion: big waves are friggin’ sweet.

That way lies madness.  And by madness, I mean a dock. This dude was also friggin' sweet.

Yeah, so that one picture shows a dude landsailing, or paradriving, or whatever that’s called. He kept going back and forth up and down the beach, sometimes at incredible speeds. What’s more, sometimes the wind would be so strong it would lift one of his wheels, like it did one second before I took that picture.

Oh, also in Jacksonville I saw this amazing street name:

Just in case you were unaware that Florida is for retired people.

After swimming at the beach I drove to Orlando and found a nice out-of-the-way dead-end street where I could sleep in my car.

Day 2

The next day I poked around Orlando a bit before heading over to Lakeland to meet my friend from NCU, Josh Nelson a.k.a. Schwa.

“That seems like an unusual nickna- ohhhh wait, it comes from JoSHUA doesn’t it?”

Once again proving that you didn’t need to interrupt me.

“Well, look who woke up on the wrong side of his car.”

Haha. Anyway, instead of meeting Schwa I met his roommates, because Schwa was at work. I hung out with them for a while until he got back, whereupon we ate some tasty Steak ‘n’ Shake.

Day 3

The next day was busy like a schoolboy making an A. First, I popped over to Palmetto to record an old musical cohort, Chad Vice. I knew Chad from church back in the day, where we had played together in the worship band. But well before that, Chad was one of my piano-playing heroes when I was just a lowly middle-schooler. I loved to watch the band play at church, and in particular Chad’s great rock piano playing was something that greatly influenced me as a young musician. I would come home and figure out (or try to figure out) what Chad had been playing.

So it was a great day for me to record with another of my childhood heroes. Chad’s schedule is crazier than a hatter, but we were still able to work some time for me to come over to his place, where he happens to have a piano.

Chad wielding the piano.

We had a good three hours in which to try to get through a couple songs, which we barely managed to do before swarms of his family descended upon the house, rendering it unfit for recording, but also rendering it fit for good times and tasty dinner.

Bonus points if you can tell me what chord he's playing.

I enjoyed a splendid dinner with the Vices. Then it was time to head back to Lakeland to record with Schwa and friends, so I started to leave but as Chad was showing me off he pointed out a lizard! Florida has lizards!! They’re all over the place!!

So, after going back by his pool and seeing many more forms of wildlife (including huge spiders, brown anoles, tiny geckos, wasps, dragonflies, damselflies, and children), I was finally off.

Chad recommended I go a wee bit out of my way so as to drive over Tampa Bay. He alleged that there was a very scenic drive which included a huge bridge. It turns out that Chad’s claims were true.

The alleged huge bridge.

The bridge was also scenic, as Chad had claimed.

All up on the bridge. Descending from the bridge.  All around is Tampa Bay.

Then I was back to Schwa’s place momentarily, where we joined forces with Schwa’s bass-playing roommate Myca and headed over to the campus of Southeastern University (where Schwa is a student) to find us a place to record.

There we met Schwa’s other friend, a guitarist named Rob. We ended up setting up in one of the classrooms, which was quiet. Too quiet.

MPM: But all that was about to change…

Clapping on. Clapping off.

Group handclaps! I have mostly been recording people one-on-one and haven’t had a lot of opportunities to record groups, so it was fun to record a group of people clapping for one of my songs.

After the clapping warmup, it was back to the one-on-one recording. We began with Rob, since he had driven separately and had homework to do later that night.

Rob making his guitar sound like SCIENCE.

Rob specializes in bizzare noises and wacky sounds. He has a lot of nice effects pedals and knows how to use them to get a wide variety of noises. I had him make awesome spaceship sounds and crazy ambient noises over a couple tunes and then he had to go.

During that session, Myca had been inspired to look for an upright bass in the building. Happily, he found one, so we recorded him playing it.

No, he does not work for Boeing.

Just FYI: the part we put down is super simple but it sounds awesome in that song.

Then Schwa got out the fantastic-sounding vintage Martin that he was borrowing for our session and laid down some strumming on that same song.

Note that Schwa and Myca make the same face when they are concentrating.

He is a great rhythm guitarist who uses tasty chord voicings. Naturally, I wanted to record more of that, so we also recorded some strumming goodness on another song, and then it was late.

Lateness, however, is no obstacle when you are cool — which Myca certainly is. We set up the equipment again when we got back to their house and recorded some electric bass. Myca and I put a good bit of effort into coming up with a really great bassline for one of the tunes, and then it was so incredibly time for bed. The next day would see me off on an epic journey to Alabama.

NEXT: An epic journey in a few short paragraphs!

Savannah, GA

Savannah! When General James Oglethorpe came to this location in 1733, he had no idea that this city would eventually be the home of KD Blues, Joy Hougnon, and Scooter. But today it is home to those very people.

Also, Savannah is dangerous.

“Why, because of the high crime rate?” you ask, logically, since you are smart.

Nope. Consider this street:

The dangerous streets of Savannah, where the trees have eyes.

A very nice looking street. Savannah has many of these beautiful, pleasant-looking streets. It appears perfectly safe. But they are videotaping your every move! I got a letter in the mail from them with pictures of me caught in the act of being lost and making a last-minute decision to turn left!

You can see them too because the government of Savannah puts them online. I can’t link you directly, but if you enter in my violation number ( R068374 ) and my licence plate ( PNG685 ) you can see the results of their snooping. I must say, the Lovemobile looks quite nice from above like that.

When I arrived in Savannah, however, I had no idea the town was waiting for me to make a wrong move so they could photograph me and mail me tickets. Quite the contrary — the town seemed pleasant and charming, even welcoming. I met up with KD Blues, a singer and all-around awesome dude.

“Let’s see a picture!” says Attractive Girl, who is always interested in musicians.

Sorry, AG. Not only did I forget to take any pictures, but he is happily married to an awesome girl named Elizabeth, who has a fondness for words, such as ‘petrichor.’ But you can check out his myspace.

KD put in some nice vocals for a tune. Then I was off to rendezvous with Joy Hougnon, a happening peep I knew from WU. She is in the Army and is currently stationed in Savannah. Her job is to videotape unsuspecting tourists to make them never want to visit again! Haha, just kidding, she is not that type of person. She is, instead, cool.

Joy and I popped over to a coffee shop, where we imbibed some beverages (I had bubble tea!!1!) and caught up with each other. It was a pleasant time. Also, she is doing language stuff, and is a self-proclaimed lover of language, so I taught her Korean in about 10 minutes. I even gave her some homework and by the end she was getting it right without even looking at the guide. 조이, 잘 했어!

Joy is also very mysterious. I tried to get a picture of her, but this is best I could manage due to her amazing stealth skills, which no doubt she learned in the Army, because I don’t remember her being that stealthy at WU.

Joy's car, which has a name, driving off.

Then it was back to KD’s where I spent a lovely evening hanging out with KD and Elizabeth.

The next morning I was off to get a secret moving violation and record a fellow that contacted me by the name of Scooter. Scooter’s super power is the ability to play the guitar so fast that his arm gets blurry.

Look, it's blurry!

He also writes and records his own songs in his room there. I had a listen and he has recorded some great stuff.

Scooter put down some guitar for a tune and then he had to be off for work. But we had a very pleasant time chatting about music and recording stuff. What do you think, Scooter?



NEXT: The nation of Florida!

South Carolina

I spent two days in Greer, SC recording with my friend and musical co-conspirator-in-crime Brad Tretola. You may remember Brad from such posts as: the previous two posts.

Brad Tretola, guitarist extraordinaire.

I drove with Brad from Atlanta to his parents’ house in SC, where we spent a pleasant if busy two days recording. Brad is a technically brilliant, emotional player and was an absolute pleasure to work with. We spent a good two days laying down parts for probably 10 songs or so, before the time was up.

Brad playing what is undoubtedly a brilliant lick.

It’s amazing to me how fast the time went. It felt like we were just getting into it and then the day was over and it was time to sleep, and then it was the same thing the next day. Brad probably felt the opposite since I kept him in the “studio” all day long, violently whipping him if he tried to take a break. (Ask him sometime about those scars on his back.)

“You know,” points out AG, “there may be lawyers reading this.”

Oh, you’re right. For the record, I did not whip, flog, or otherwise cause any physical harm to any people or animals during the duration of this tour. I do not endorse or otherwise condone violence, unless it is in movies and is therefore perfectly OK, even for impressionable children.

“What about that beetle you stepped on accidentally? I remember you felt bad about that.”

Oh, let’s just add “intentionally” in there. Good?

“I think you’re safe from the lawyers now.”

So, Brad’s phenomenal guitar playing is now all over the project! We hadn’t seen each other in years and I really wish we could have had more downtime to just hang out, but I would have felt like I was letting the project down.

Before you say anything about improper personification, I might add that the moment I had this idea, I was its slave. That’s the problem with the creative spirit and incredibly good ideas. They must be brought to fruition, through whatever means necessary. Even if it means going into debt. Even if it means not hanging out with a good friend. Creative people are driven by ideas, by visions of completed projects which only they can see until they make them real in the physical world. But the idea is very much real to the creator. I’m not really making this project happen — the project is using me to make itself happen. I am a creator driven by my creation.

So Brad, next time I hope we can have more time for just chillin’ like the villains we are.

Speaking of chillin’, the Tretolas had the most amazing inflatable bed I have ever seen in my entire life:

This, my friends, is an Aero Bed.

Looks like an actual bed, right? Even feels like an actual bed. But it’s really just a glorified air mattress. Remember earlier when I mentioned that amazing air mattress (see Indianapolis, IN)? This is made by the same people. Aero Bed. I support and respect Aero Bed, and would gladly accept a sponsorship from them, in return for regularly using and endorsing their fine products.

NEXT: I get recorded on video by the city of Savannah!

Atlanta, GA

Guess where I went next?

“Um, Atlanta?” you guess.

Correct! Great guess!

“Um, it’s in the title?” you point out.

Still, a great guess. Yes, I went to Atlanta. Guess how many musicians responded to my ads?

“How about two?” you guess again.

Looks like you need answers to be in the title to guess correctly. (Ooh, punk out!) The correct answer is zero. Cero. Zilch. Nada. 공. I know for a fact that Atlanta is a bustling music city so, despite previous similar happenings in other big music cities, I was surprised by the lack of response from Atlanteans.

At least I did find a host. A truly awesome host.

“What was this person’s name?” asks the unattractive passerby from earlier. (He could use a name. Any name suggestions for the unattractive passerby?)

This person’s name was Trinh Huynh (might help you pronounce it if you read it like “Trin”). She was hospitality incarnate to Brad and me.

“Wait, Brad?”

Ah, yes. The friend who I mentioned was flying in to Atlanta.

Backstory: Brad Tretola is an absolutely phenomenal guitarist who I met when I was a music student in Minneapolis. There is a great story of how we met, which we always tell to anyone that asks how we know each other. In a nutshell, he thought I was a classical, printed-notes-only girl, and I thought he was a guitar poser hippy, and we were both incredibly wrong.

I had arranged earlier to meet Brad in SC at his parents’ home, where he was then staying. (Brad travels like a fat kid eats. That is to say, a lot, all the time.) But he had a tour cancel on him and somehow he found himself up in Jersey with some great musical prospects. He wanted to honor our gig but wasn’t sure how he could make it work. We ended up getting him a ticket back to SC for a couple days, and his flight had a connection in Atlanta, so we thought it would be cool if I just picked him up in Atlanta and he drove with me over to SC.

So that’s Brad. Now, back to Trinh. She is an accepting and quick-witted girl with a great place and an even better little dog named Henry who is a funny, friendly, enthusiastic little fellow.

She was going to have a dinner party that evening, so we helped her shop for food, then sat guiltily in her house while she cooked after she refused to accept our aid.

As it turns out, it’s probably good we didn’t help, because the meal was phenomenal. She made bowls of some delicious Vietnamese concoction with noodles, pork, apples, and veggies in a spicy fish sauce. But what really set it apart was the fresh mint leaves! Totally unexpected, but super delicious.

Dinner party at Trinh's!

Everyone is there in the above picture. Trinh on the stool watching everyone enjoy the fruits of her labors, Henry enjoying the people on the couch, and Brad sleeping next to Henry (in the middle of a party!).

One of the guests had brought a guitar, and we managed to coerce Brad into playing it (“Brad, want to play?” “Sure”), which is always a treat. He even tried using a glass as a slide, but it was too big, so next they tried a shot glass, and finally, Trinh found the perfect solution: a test tube!

Brad is a doctor.  A doctor of blues.

The next day, the three of us went to 순두부, a Korean restaurant specializing in, you guessed it, 순두부. It was delicious. Super delicious. I had been craving that very dish (it’s like a spicy tofu soup) for a while, and when she mentioned that as a possibility I perked right up.

And that was Atlanta. Better luck next time, Atlanta.

NEXT: Recording at the Tretolas’.

Birmingham, AL

Birmingham! I like to pronounce it like “Bummingum.” Also, on the way there I saw a rocket ship!

It's probably real!

Amazingly, I had three people contact me in Birmingham and I was unable to meet with any of them.

I played email / phone tag with one fellow, and one time I think he answered but he sounded far away and crackly and I couldn’t understand what he was saying.

Another guy who plays funk/R&B guitar was actually in Huntsville but I had forgotten his location and mistakenly thought he was in Birmingham. I drove right past him on the way down, but by the time we connected again it wouldn’t work out for him schedule-wise.

The third guy, a singer, actually set up a session with me for the next morning, but I was set to pick up a friend from the Atlanta airport two days later.

“So how does that–”

I was getting to it. When I double-checked his ticket I saw that it was actually arriving in Atlanta the next day! So I had to leave Birmingham not too long after waking. I could have recorded with the singer, but then my friend would have been waiting for hours at the airport. I sadly made the call to cancel the session.

“So did your time in Birmingham suck?” asks AG sympathetically.

Not at all! I stayed with an awesome bloke by the name of Richey.

Richey, proud owner of this plant.  It has a name.

Richey retired not long ago, and has plunged into the world of Couchsurfing, meeting new people and hosting many travelers in his comfy home. He was a great host, and we had a great time chatting about everything under the sun over some great new (to me) beers. Naturally, we sat on his balcony for this, since his backyard is pretty awesome and features a lake. Well, kind of a pond. But a big pond.

Another failed attempt to shoot the lake.

NEXT: My doctor said Atlanta.

“Wow, is that a 90’s medication commercial reference?”

Haha, yep.