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.

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.