Des Moines, IA

I’m off on Leaf 2! Or, I should say, we’re off. My friend Jong-hun from Korea is accompanying me for the first couple weeks of my trip this time around. Awesome. Opportunity to see America, gas subsidization, positive emotions all around.

On our way to Des Moines, we saw signs for… a windmill!

A windmill!

Why not? It was 6 miles off the beaten path (by which I really mean the paved, controlled-access path), which isn’t far due to modern inventions like the car.

Jong-hun and... the windmill!

Speaking of cars, the Lovemobile has been doing a great job of carting me all around the country. Here we are, veterans of Leaf 1, next to… a windmill!!

Guess what was made in 1846?  Hint: not my car.

So, following the exciting trip to see a really old windmill, we drove to Des Moines and met a guy who has a great horned owl living on his property. It was my hope that I could record this owl hooting or squawking or whatever it does.

The guy was Nathan Stueve, cool guy and motorcyclist. We followed him

Follow, follow, follow the motorcycle.

to his house

The home of Nathan Stueve, motorcyclist and cool guy

and went to his backyard,

A backyard, home to owls.

where we proceeded to listen for a large owl sound. Nathan was a good storyteller and kept us all entertained while we waited for the owl to squawk. We also enjoyed some fine brats and beer, freshly grilled outside (meaning the brats).

We listened

and listened

and listened

but no sound did a great horned owl make. We heard plenty of owls, but Nathan waved his hand in dismissal, calling them “puny grey owls” and claiming they were a “dime a dozen… they’re everywhere in Iowa.”* Needless to say, I definitely did not record those insignificant owls, but kept waiting for Mr. Big Guy.

Mr. Big Guy kept us waiting, which is stylish, but he never appeared, ever, which is totally not stylish at all. By 9:00 or so we packed up and left. But our thanks to Steve and his awesome girlfriend Erica for offering their owl to us.

Then it was off to meet my host, Aaron Wiese. Aaron has cool stories from touring around with a rock band. What would be cool is if his band name was The Windmills. But it wasn’t.

Aaron lived in a house with like 6 other people, but they were evidently in and out at all times and there were only ever 4 people sleeping there, so by and large that translates to free beds. JH and I slept on various free sleeping-type places throughout the house.

A sleeping-type place.

JH and I had a great time chilling with Aaron and his roommates and random friends that would come over. The next morning, Aaron and JH and I were off to eat lunch with Julie Courraud, a charming girl from Nantes, France. We had a fine meal at El Bait Shop, which is kind of like a Mexican BBQ/seafood joint. I had tilapia tacos. FACT: it was awesome. I’ll stick a picture here if Julie sends it to me.

“What happened next?” asks a nearby onlooker.

Okay, that was a totally unneccessary narrative device. I was just about to say what happened next.

“So… what was it?” he asks, continuing to look on.

*sigh* Next, Aaron and I recorded some guitar!

Aaron laying down the mad guitar trackz.

Aaron came up with a sweet part for one of my songs, and then it was time to move on to Chicago!

NEXT: Chicago. Or, something else.

* Those quotes are actually paraphrases but make for better storytelling as quotes.

The Last Asian Wednesday

No, this is not a short story about Asia being destroyed on a Wednesday, or switching over to some crazy calendar that doesn’t have Wednesdays (although you are welcome to write one in the comments… I will give you a dollar if it’s good). Rather it describes an event, known as “Asian Wednesday.”

They are like stairs!

“Tell us about the origin of Asian Wednesday!!” clamors a mob of nearby teenagers.

Well mob of teenagers, Asian Wednesday has a long and glonous tradition — and cultual. Tuk under thurnb and held firmly.

“WHAT?!” they yell angstily.

Now you can pick up anything! …never mind. When I returned to Omaha from Seoul last March, I met up with my Korean friend Jong-hun, who had come over to Omaha to study English. He ended up living at an awesome place called Capitol Court, which is kind of like a dorm for international students, where he met many other internationals, such as Mina Kang and Rumiko Niijima:

A chingu and a tomodachi.

I and some of my friends decided to have a get-together with these people every Wednesday, wherein we would eat food and watch Asian videos. President Bush, upon learning of our weekly outing, said, “I like to say, if America can’t have Asian Wednesdays, it’s not the America I know.” The name stuck.*

President Bush talking about possibly instating Asian Wednesdays as an American holiday.

Last Tuesday (yes, Tuesday) we had a special Asian Wednesday — the last one of its kind. Mina was leaving the next day on a two-week vacation to see America before she goes back to Korea, and I was about to leave on my second Leaf. What’s more, Jong-hun is going to accompany me for several weeks of this Leaf, and Rumiko moved from Capitol Court just two days prior. It just goes to show that Things Change.

Some things, however, don’t change. For example, men like cars:

Nice car, Shusei!

Even better, cars and girls!

Fast car, Asian girls.  Idyllic scene?

And pretty much everyone likes great food.

Delicious food, Asian girls.  Idyllic scene.

We ate at a place called Jam’s American Grill. Not only was it ranked highly on websites about Omaha restaurants, but it had the word American in the name, which made it an excellent place to take international students for a final, special outing.

I posed them, like plastic toys!  But one of them moved.

I would like to mention that Rumiko is an excellent girlfriend. She has been my girlfriend for a while now, and I am her boyfriend number two, after Kim Jong-Il (President of North Korea). My efforts to oust Mr. Kim have thus far been unsuccessful. She is always interested in more boyfriends, so if you are interested let me know and I’ll submit your information to her. Unqualified applicants can expect to be boyfriend 500 or more, but applicants with appropriate qualifications (lots of money, President of a totalitarian nation) can expect to rank higher. Rumiko reserves the right to reject all applicants for any reason.

Rumiko is also a popular toy! Everyone likes to play with Rumiko.

Following our adventure eating at Jam’s, we went to the Shark Club. We were totally not sharks, but they let us in anyway. We played a fun game known as “pool.” We tried to act like sharks while we were there.

Rumiko the Pool Shark.

We also sometimes acted like humans.

Asian Wednesday's Asians

And aliens.

"It's like E.T." -Jong-hun

It is my wish that the spirit of Asian Wednesday will live on.

How to Have Your Own Asian Wednesday

  • Find an Asian.
  • Eat some food with the Asian.
  • Maybe watch a movie or something.

That’s it! Note that it does not even have to be Wednesday. Good luck!

* That part about the President is a lie.

Serb Fest!

In the tent by the beer garden which was hot.  Meaning being in the tent was.

Hundreds of people thought I was Serbian last Saturday.

“Why?” asks Attractive Girl while eating a delicious snack.

“Ooh, what is that snack?” I ask.

“It’s 호떡!” she says, smacking her oh-so-kissable lips.

“Oooh, I love 호떡!” I say. “Can I have one?”

She assumes a flirtatious motherly pose. “Only if you answer my question.”

Fair enough. The reason people thought I was Serbian is not because I’m Serbian. I’m not. It’s because I drummed for a Serbian folk music band (Majstory, pronounced like my story) at Omaha’s Serb Fest on Saturday! We were basically the dance band for the evening.

“What is Serb Fest?” asks Attractive Girl, handing me a nice greasy 호떡.

Besides being the reason I had to come back to Omaha, it was an all-day party for, of, and about Serbian things! Things including music, history, food, and of course, people. There were tables with Serbian items on them, interesting historical trivia about Nikola Tesla (he was Serbian by the way) and the Serbian Orthodox Church (priests must marry and grow beards), and singing Serbic children:

Serbs listening to Serbian childs singing Serbian songs in Serbian at Serb Fest!

Also, these children danced. Serbishly.

Serbian children can feel 7/8 just as well as adults!

You can’t see any shots of me playing with the band (I forgot to ask someone else to take pictures), but you can see our stuff set up there behind the childs. There was also a ton of super delicious Serbian food.

“What did you eat?”

Roast lamb. I think I should say it again: roast lamb. It was roasting for almost an entire day. Super good. Hey, you’re drooling!

“Oops! *slurp* But… I want to eat roast lamb!”

Don’t we all!

“Actually,” says a passing vegetarian, “I don’t.”

Well… um. Okay. But all normal, omnivorous people want to eat it.

“Are you saying vegetarians are abnormal?!”

Um… no. Dang it, I don’t even know who is talking anymore! Narrative devices aren’t supposed to be confusing! Let me talk more about Serb Fest.

“Okay.”

So there was food, and drink, and history, and tours of the church, and dancing, and music. The music was provided not only by Majstory but also by an acoustic group, pictured both above and below.

Play, play, play the Serbian folk tune!

That guy playing the upright bass is also the bassist for Majstory. What’s more, he is named Joe Brudny and he came over to my house yesterday and recorded some of that medium-sized guitar (which is actually not a guitar per se but rather a Serbian instrument called a brač) for me. Awesome.

IMPORTANT NEWS: I’ll be drumming again with Majstory for a similar event in Kansas City on September 13th! Come on over! Say “shta radish tea!” to people and they will think you’re Serbian too.

Now I am going to go before Attractive Girl or Vegetarian Girl confusingly interrupt again.

Peoria, IL

I am pleased to report a successful completion of the first Leaf of the Tour. I am writing now from my room in Tour HQ (Omaha), where I will be for the next week as I prepare for Leaf 2. This will be my final post dealing with Leaf 1. The Peeps page has been updated to include all participants, and I will now discuss the final city in which I spent time: Peoria.

A disappointing shot of a totally not disappointing view.

Peoria! They say if it’ll play in Peoria, it’ll play anywhere. They really say that; ask them. Peoria comes out of nowhere when you’re coming in on 74W — you’re in the middle of nowhere, you crest a hill and suddenly you can see in the distance a bridge across a river with a city on the other side. It’s a nice sight, and elicited an “ooooh” from me. In fact, I instantly liked Peoria for that reason.

But Peoria got better. When I got there I met my zany friend Dave Costenaro at his hotel. (He’s one of those people where you have to use the word zany and not the word crazy.) We met up with another of his friends who was in town also. It was fun; three people, all not from Peoria, hanging out in Peoria. We walked around downtown and had some late lunch at the Riverside Tavern, or Tavern on the River, or something.

“Okay, wait. I’ve got too many questions now not to interrupt you.”

Okay, what are your questions, A.G.?

“First, haven’t we seen this Dave guy before? Second, what? He owns a hotel? Third, you are totally bad at remembering the names of things by rivers aren’t you? Fourth -”

Hold on there. Let me answer those three. Yes, no doubt you remember Dave from such posts as: Indianapolis, IN, in which he appeared as a zany dude playing with candy. Second, no he does not own a hotel — he was there on business so he stayed in a hotel, and I hung out with him there. Third, yes, I am. Also, I’m bad at remembering the name of Dave’s friend.

“It’s okay… I’m sure she would understand, since you met like 5000 people over the course of this Tour so far.”

Yes, I think she would be understanding. What was your fourth question?

“When are you going to tell us about the musical recording goodness?”

Hold your horses, A.G. I was in the middle of explaining why Peoria got better. So we were eating lunch on an outdoor patio which was actually on the river (which was definitely indicated by the name of the place, whatever it was), and I was seeing an old friend, making a new one, enjoying fine pizza and fine beer, and the weather was fabulous. Also, Peoria, unlike many cities, doesn’t have an ugly riverfront. It is instead rather quaint and Midwesternly charming. It was one of those “life is good” moments.

Now, recording. Dave put down some guitar and, on a lark, some super awesome freestyle beatbox. I’m pretty sure it will end up in the final project, it is so awesome. After that, we went to check out some LED streetlights. Evidently some place in downtown Peoria put up a few LED streetlights in their parking lot.

Unfortunately, in pictures they kind of look exactly like normal streetlights.

A closer shot gets rid of some of the halo so you can at least make out that there are four separate LEDs.

It's a bird!  It's a UFO!  It's -- wait, why would you think that's a bird?  Weirdo.

If you don’t understand why this is awesome, allow me to elucidate: it is pretty awesome because they are waaayyy more energy efficient, and they last forever. They are, however, much more expensive.

“Totally interesting!”

I know, right? The only downside of converting to LED streetlights is that one of my songs (“Watching the Streetlights”) would become irrelevant since LEDs don’t flicker, burn out, or otherwise indicate they’re not long for this world. That’s a bummer I’m willing to live with if the world is all better and stuff though.

Anyway, Dave works for an energy company and is totally interested in this stuff, and I thoroughly enjoyed picking his brain about stuff like this. He has some great ideas for helping humanity and making the world a better place. I think everyone should copy (or at least be influenced by) his great worldview. He is considering making a blog called Dave’s Awesome Ideas (actually I just made that name just now but that’s what it would be about), which I will definitely link to if he actually makes it.

Me with Dave, Haver of Awesome Ideas

Also, the LED streetlights looked totally cool in person. They looked like Science. The pictures just fail to capture the excitingness. To compensate, on our way back I snapped a shot of this, for no reason in particular other than the slightly odd title and the high Musical Interestingness Index.

Musically interesting!

Next morning, it was off to meet with songwriter/actor/musician Slyman Dan. First I thought it was a nickname, then I found out it’s nis name: Dan Slyman.

I found him like this...?

Okay, so he doesn’t actually sit around in his house like this. But it was so surreal to actually be recording a guy bound in chains that I had to take a picture. He is a prolific singer-songwriter himself, and he was chock-full to bursting with awesome production ideas, so I spent most of my time with him talking through the songs and brainstorming, which was fantastic. He had so many crazy ideas to try. (Actually, I think he’s more insane than crazy. I would consider myself crazy, but Dave is definitely zany and Dan is definitely insane. Oh semantics.)

“No seriously. Why the chains?”

We were recording them, of course. He was simulating a person bound in chains for maximum authenticity. Anyway, I got loads of great ideas from him for Leaf 2. Fortunately, we also had time to record some stuff. Not only did he do some fun voice acting, we also recorded a bunch of random other things, from rattling chains to a coffee percolator to a Speed Racer toy.

“So he only recorded bizarre household noises?”

No, he also laid down several tracks of nice vintage electric guitars, as well as a track of cornet (from the basement).

Dan learning one of the tunes.

I had a blast the whole time working with Dan because of his great outside-the-box ideas, which somehow still respected the songs. I listened to some of his own tunes with him, and came to realize that we think similarly in enjoying things that are edgy without losing form. Speaking of Dan’s tunes, he’s very involved in music. I recommend you check him out in more detail.

NOTE FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO RECORD A COFFEE PERCOLATOR: On tape, coffee percolators do not sound like coffee percolators until the very end. Before that, they sound like something else entirely. Something awful. Save yourself some time and just start recording at the end. With the cover on. Trust me.