St. Louis, MO

St. Louis! Home of one of my alma maters! (I have several alma maters. It’s one of those confusing family situations. I also have a dura mater and a pia mater, but those are just in my head.) This particular mater is of course Washington University, a very excellent school and the place where I studied architecture for a couple years before I decided that, in the words of the 림정히 song, music is my life.

I still have a good number of friends from WU in St. Louis, despite not having lived there for about 8 years. The first of those friends that I was able to meet up with was May Yeh!

It's May!  And she's ON FIRE!

May is a super fun girl who manages somehow to be both hilarious and genuine, plus she has her own holiday. I was always jealous that I didn’t have a Zach Day. She’s also gotten married since last I saw her (8 years ago) to a happening fellow named Steve. They also have a cat, which they like to dress up like an owl. I already think owls are one of the funniest animals alive, but seeng a cat dressed up like one may have been even funnier.

May and Steve putting the owl suit on the cat. It's an owlcat!  The best mouser around. What I want to know is, who manufactures this costume and where can I send them fanmail? Well, SOMEONE is looking a little OWLY!

“Hahahaha!” laughs the mob of nearby teenagers, in an unusual fit of appropriate behavior.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I actually met May at my alma mater and her presenta mater (currenta mater?), WU. There she showed me around the old place and I was in awe of all the changes that have happened to the school since I attended. Some things are exactly the same, for example some of the dorms looks exactly the same and I felt 19 again. But other things were completely different and I felt 40.

For example, WU has added a TRAIN STATION to their campus!

Tell me this is not a train station.

Among other things. The library now looks like a Starbucks. There are now a billion places to eat on campus (as opposed to a mere 500 million when I was there), including places to get steak and haute cuisine. Amazing.

I spent a lovely evening eating a huge gyro with May and Steve, followed by playing with the owlcat. The next morning, I was off to rendezvous with Tim Dorsch, another happening peep I knew back in the day. We met disgustingly early for some bagels and good times catching up.

Zach and Tim, old friends, reunited at last.

After a nap to catch up on the sleep I missed from meeting Tim, I was off to another happening peep’s place. This happening peep was a happening peep by the name of Carrie Jones.

“How many times are you going to use the phrase ‘happening peep’ in this post?!” complains Attractive Girl. “Seriously.”

Do you seriously want me to answer that question, because I can totally –

“Never mind,” says Attractive Girl, “I’m going to go eat some 갈비살 while you finish this up.”

Dang, I love 갈비살. I’m going to have to finish up fast so I can join you.

Attractive Girl: (aside) “Exactly!” (she winks)

(exit Attractive Girl, stage left)

So, Carrie Jones. She is a singer and pianist, in addition to being a happening peep. Here she is pianating:

That's "playing piano" for those of you who don't know how to verbize.

And here she is singificating:


Carrie had some great ideas for parts on several of the tunes I threw at her, in addition to having great times since she was hanging out with me. Haha!

Then we went to Fitz’s, one of those St. Louis eateries that I had on my list of things I wanted to do. They bottle their own root beer and cream soda, and I used to always buy Fitz’s beverages using my meal plan when I was at WU. So we went there, and met up with Dave Costenaro!

“Him again?!” asks a nearby scary clown.

AAAHHH!! Geez, you scared me.

Clown: (smiles creepily)

*shudder* Yes, him again. Dave now holds the record for Person I Have Met In The Most Cities Who I Was Not Also Dating. It is a prestigious title, and I hope someone makes him a trophy. Someone besides me, because it would have more meaning that way. Perhaps a nonprofit organization? Anyone?

After that, Dave and I were off to a happening–

“DON’T SAY IT!” says Attractive Girl, peeking around the corner with her mouth full of delicious rib meat.

Whoa, hold on there AG. I was going to say “happening party.”

“Oh. OK then.” She disappears back around the corner.

This party was so happening. It was a house party, and the house was brimming with hap… cool persons! Highlights of the party:

  • I had a great conversation with a girl named Pam in a shower with a built-in TV!
  • I saw a praying mantis catch and eat a moth!
  • I got shoved and stepped on by a shirtless dude trying to catch a cup!
  • I met a girl named Amity with great karaoke skills and became her agent! We are going to meet in LA, where I will help her get a job working on the Ellen show.
  • A crazy curly-haired girl in a sundress named Erica Rangel shared a spot in front of the refrigerator with me for a good 10 minutes!
  • I met scads of happening peeps!

Next morning, May cooked me up some delicious banana pancakes!

Home cooking, a happening peep, and a cross-dressing rabbit.

There is a long and awesome story behind that painting which I won’t share with you since I am in a hurry to get some 갈비살.

Then I was off to the home of two more happening peeps, Caleb and Irene Chou! I had known both of them from my WU days. (In fact, I claim some of the credit for their meeting… but they probably would have met even without my intervention… whatever.) Caleb and I had been involved in musical pursuits together, so I was happy to catch up with him and get some of his guitar playing on the project.

Caleb, Irene, and the not-so-little little one.

Then I was off to Kansas City to drum with Serbians!

Attractive Girl: “Mmmm, that was some good 갈비살. Would you believe I ate it all?”

Dang it.

NEXT: Those Amazing Serbians.

New Orleans, LA

The next day saw me scenically driving.

Light filtering through the clouds like delicious gourmet coffee through a filter.

To what city was I scenically driving? Why, New Orleans.

Coming in to the city. Dirty but still dignified.

New Orleans! A historic city in the development of American music. Also a prominent target for hurricanes. I arrived as they were recovering from Gustav, but things seemed to be pretty well in hand. Some people were still without power, but they had an astronomical number of electrical teams from all over the country working on it, so they would not be powerless for much longer. Most of the neighborhoods had been cleaned up pretty well, and the only evidence I saw of a recent disaster was the broken trees, and piles of tree parts lining the sidewalks.

Most of the neighborhoods I drove through looked like this.

New Orleans is also the home of Michael Raeder, a zydeco/cajun musician and enthusiast.

Mike with his zydeco accordion.

Mike plays a wide variety of instruments and has been playing with various cajun bands and musicians since he moved to New Orleans, picking up many of the genre-typical instruments along the way. First we put down some of the accordion (pictured above), then we moved on to some percussion, such as rub board, which is very loud.

Rubbing the board.  I wonder if that's where it gets its name. Seriously, someone make an animation out of these.  Please?

He also put down some triangle, which has some other name in the zydeco/cajun circuit, where most everything is still in old French. And after that, some electric guitar. It was a busy evening, and Mike’s family was very helpful in being quiet, like little mice. Except for one very loud incident.

Rubboarding is a much safer hobby for young people than snowboarding.

They also graciously treated me to dinner and offered me a place to stay. Furthermore, and I swear this was the real conversation:

Mike, out of the blue: Do you like Mojitos?
Me: … (in shock)
Mike: If not, that’s fine, but we grow our own mint so we could make some up if you like.
Mike’s wife: He makes a great Mojito.
Me: …

I had not told them anything about my hunt for an American-made Mojito that compares to the ones made by Lovo’s in Korea. But here was Mike, picking mint and making me one.

Mike the Mojito-making maestro.

Let’s go in for a closer look.

The majestic Mojito, a refreshing summery drink.

After refreshing ourselves properly, we were back to record a bit more before his children were off to bed. After that, we listened to music. Mike played me all kinds of zydeco and cajun music, showed me books on the subject, and talked about it at great length. It was very educational for me and a great look into one of America’s old but persistent musical subcultures. These styles are in some danger of dying out, but as long as people like Mike draw breath, they will live on. Every music style needs its champions — way to go, Mike.

I was listening back to some of the stuff we recorded, and I feel like some of the spirit behind that music was captured on this project. Exciting.

NEXT: Multi-instrumental mathematicians in Mississippi.

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’.

Knoxville, TN

Before we commence with the text-only Knoxville section, I would like to describe a happening peep I chanced to rendezvous with en the route to Knoxville — Jeremiah Nave, owner of East Coast Mobile Recording. He has the coolest truck I have ever seen in my life:

Jeremiah and the coolest truck in the known world.

Movie Preview Man: It looked like an ordinary truck…

But inside are all kinds of goodies, including a complete recording studio. Definitely check it out in more detail on his website, linked above. It’s kind of like the Lovemobile times 10. Or, squared. Or times ten and then squared. Yes.

(Lovemobile * 10)^2

They both look nondescript, but inside are some serious technological goodies. I was pretty awestruck.

Jeremiah contacted me because he thought my project was awesome, and since he was kind of on the way for me, I made a bit of a jaunt through the Tennessee mountains to pay him a visit. He was showing me around his place when we came across a pretty amazing organ in his garage. He has one of the rarest leslies around for it too, which sounds appropriately trashy, as a good leslie should. He told me about a recording artist who denied that Jeremiah actually had this leslie, since he thought he had the only one left. Ha. Look at this picture, recording artist!

One rare leslie, two nice mics.

When he turned it up to a nice garage-floor-vibrating level, the tubes got nice and warm.

This picture makes a certain type of person happy.  You know who you are.

Of course, once we had dialed in some great sounds, I had to get this organ recorded, so Jeremiah let me include his organ on my project.

Recording some sick organ sounds!

From there it was off to Knoxville, where due to my forgetting to take pictures the world was text-only. Let’s begin now.

Knoxville! Oddly enough, sometimes referred to by locals as Knoxvegas. Actually, some people in Nashville said that too -- Nashvegas. Can you just add "vegas" to placenames like that? I guess I'm from Omavegas, NE. Anyway, I arrived in Knoxville in time to meet my host for a late dinner.

"Who was your host?" asks AG. "And hey -- why does everything look funny? And why aren't there any pictures??"

Calm down, Girl. The funny-looking-ness is temporary. Everything will be back to normal after Knoxville. And my host was my buddy since high school, Paul Coker. We haven't actually seen each other in a number of years, so it was great to reconnect with him and his snappy wife Kris. (Snappy in the "quick perceptive skills" sense, of course.) Paul and I had good times over some fine tex-mex before joining forces with fellow Couchsurfer Julia Zagaya. She and her friend were over at a bar to listen to one of their friends play some music.

Paul and I continued the tradition of great times by also having great times with Julia and her friend. Do you like how I keep talking about this person as a "friend"? That's because I can't remember her name. I'll just come right out and say it.

After a pleasant night's sleep on Paul's couch, I met up with Neel, a guy with a long Indian name that I can't remember so I'll just write Neel.

"Dang," says AG, shaking her head. "You can't remember pictures, Julia's friend's name, Neel's name... I bet you can't even remember the capital of Poland!"

Hey! That should be capitol with an 'o'! HA! Gotcha!


Is it Krakow?

"No, but it used to be. It's Warsaw."

Dang. Anyway, I met up with Neel, a reasearcher at UT who is also a multi-instrumentalist who plays awesome music with a very sensitive, meditative bent. He recorded some guitar, voice, and hand drums for me. I learned a bit about Indian music as well, in particular some interesting things about modes -- which modes apply to which emotions and topics, which is not the same feeling or sense that Western ears have for those modes.

This topic came up because, of course, I wanted him to do a "romantic longing" introduction to a song in Mixo b2 b6, which he didn't feel as easily as he would have if the song were in regular old major. Super interesting.

After that, Neel recommended an excellent Turkish restaurant, where Paul joined up with us again, and where I had an absolutely fantastic beef kabob! Mmmmm.

NEXT: Normalcy returns to the blog, as we re-enter the world of words accompanied by pictures.

Niagara Falls (on its face! haha!)

I’m pretty awesome at keeping my word. Every time I say “NEXT: blah blah blah” at the end of a post, I always deliver in the next post. If anyone cares to make me a trophy, perhaps saying “Internets Teaser Satisfying Champion” or “2008 Promised Topic Delivery Leader” or something, I’m pretty sure it would rival Stephanie’s leg wrestling trophy. (And if it’s better, then I get to make myself a “Best Trophy” trophy. Sweet.)

Anyway, as promised, here is a post about Niagara Falls (and can’t get up! haha!).

We looked all around both the American side (great!) and the Canadian side (better!), and even managed to get JH back into the US. Yay paperwork!

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

I would like to make this an awesome collection of bad Niagara Falls (head over heels! haha!) puns similar to the ones in this post. If you can think of one, please post it below. Thanks.

NEXT: another awesome post where I deliver on this promise.

Chicago, IL

We can see it, the golden city on the horizon.  The city of wind.

We spent four busy and fun days in the windy city. I’ve been behind on posting due to having so many pictures from Chicago and so much to report, so I might be a tad terse. Forgive me.

Chicago Chicago!

July 26th

The first night we met up with my old friend Stephanie Axne:

Me and my old buddy Stephanie!

We had a good time chilling with her and her friend and her brother.

Chilling with some homeys.

Then we called it a night.

We slept here.  I totally took the couch because Koreans can sleep on the floor.

July 27th

The next day we ate some breakfast at a really cool breakfast joint, the name of which I have forgotten. (Steph – if you read this, totally say the name of the place in the comments OK?) Besides the delicious eats, one of the highlights was this picture in the bathroom.

This picture was in the men's bathroom at a popular breakfast joint.

All the other pictures were roosters.

After breakfast, Steph put down some nice vocals for one of my songs, and then we were off to Gino’s East to introduce JH to Chicago-style pizza.

You have no idea how I’ve been craving Chicago-style pizza. The only place I could find it in Korea was at a Pizzeria Uno in CoEX mall, which had “Chicago style pizza” as a single menu item! Omaha doesn’t even have it. Not even at Old Chicago!! Seriously. Needless to say, the pizza was a huge highlight for me.

“What’s so special about Chicago-style pizza?” asks Attractive Girl attractively.

Actually, the fact that you don’t know decreases your attractiveness.

“Really. Did you know,” she asks coquettishly, “that I want to discover everything about the world, including Chicago-style pizza? Also, I value correct spelling and grammar.”

Okay, you’re still pretty attractive then. But I can’t answer your question.

“Why not?” Blink blink.

Chicago-style pizza must be tasted, not explained.


No. That is my final word. You just have to go eat some. I would totally take you out on a date to eat some but you are only a narrative device. Too bad for you.

“Sigh… I wish I were real.”

We all do, believe me. But getting back to this post… after dinner we headed out to meet our next host, a happening dude by the name of Matt Lederhosen. We had some milkshakes, went to his house, chilled with him and our laptops, went to sleep. (INTERESTING FACT: that is not actually his last name, but it does start with L.)

July 28th

The next day we were off to see the city. We drove to the south side (where I had a session later),

JH & Lovemobile @ UC

hopped on the train toward the city,

About to take the train into the city.

got off said train once we were in the city,

Getting off the train, seeing this.

and proceeded to take random pictures of stuff:

A river runs through it. Cirque du Soleil! Best basketballer of aller.  He's also... taller? JH and MJ. Dude, Michael Jordan is totally jumping onto a fence! Some city, with some tall buildings.  Also some trees. I'm in Chicago! It was hard to flag this taxi from the bridge.  It didn't stop. Building images. Look, mankind made some tall things!  Yay mankind! I always liked this one. Who doesn't love the lake?  Only fools, that's who.

Not pictured: I had a good time taking JH to Ed Debevic’s, where the serving staff is rude to you. It was quite a change from polite Korea.

Then we were back to the south side to record my old friend from WU, Rob Leveridge. Rob and I used to make music together back in the day, when he had long hair and we were rock stars. Rob now has short hair, but he’s still a rock star. In addition to being a rock star, he works for Chicago Theological Seminary. We recorded in his office:

Rob Leveridge is here, but he is invisible.

Rob had brought all kinds of fun toys, like a wave drum (never heard of it before), a frog (kind of like a guiro), and of course his guitar. He layed down a nice assortment of tracks for a few songs.

After that, I went downstairs to record this absolutely nasty-sounding old Steinway I had seen down there. The room wasn’t climate-controlled, and I believe the piano hadn’t been tuned. Ever.

This piano sounded like absolute garbage.  I absolutely had to record it.

There was also a chapel in one of the older sections of the building which sounded amazing. I wanted to record the Pakistani drum that Rob had brought with him in there. Unfortunately, there weren’t any power outlets nearby, so we weren’t able to record. Here is a nice bittersweet view of the space:

The chapel.  The chapel of love.

Finally, it was off to our next host, an extraordinarily helpful fellow named Taylor Brennan. We shot a few holes in the breeze there before going to sleep.

Couches and air mattresses and chairs, oh my.

July 29th

Taylor is a singer (with a broadcasting degree… how cool is that?), and he broadcasted some nice vocals for several songs.

Recording Taylor.

We took a break for food with Taylor and his girlfriend Kim and their other roommate Nicole.

On our way to brunch. I'm pretty sure it was actually on our way back.

After lunch, Kim joined in to do some group vocals with Taylor!

Taylor and Kim laying down some hot vocals.

Then, it was back into the city for some more sightseeing!

We totally drove by here in a bus! Sitting on the dock of the bay. I checked and there were more than three coins in it. I wear these shorts so I don't get hit by cars at night.

Seriously, friends, we walked a lot. My feet and legs were already killing me from the day before, and then we walked several more miles seeing the city again. We walked all the way up the Magnificent Mile too. And, we were really hungry. Would you believe there are no restaurants on the Magnificent Mile?! It’s pretty much true. Finally, near the John Hancock building, we ate at the food court in Macy’s, at California Pizza Kitchen.

We ate this food so hard it's not even funny.

Then, we hopped in the John Hancock building up to the 96th floor for what is considered the best view of the city (for people without airplanes).

And they're all made out of ticky-tacky. View from the 96th. The streets of Chicago.

We came outside as a storm was busy beginning. We got rained on pretty hard as we ran for the subway station, where we discovered that the northbound train we needed was rerouted due to construction, and we had to go to a different station. Another run in the rain. Then a ride on a train. Then we walked back to Taylor’s place, passing closer to Wrigley Field this time.

The closest we got to Wrigley.

July 30th

On this day, we woke up, loaded up, drove out, ate some Chicago-style hotdogs, and were off to Kalamazoo.

I am proud to report that we never had to fill up the tank in Chicago, where gas is like 40 cents more expensive. Yay not doing that!

COMING SOON: Another exciting adventure! Stay tuned!