Portland, OR

Portland! How cool is it that I have now been in two Portlands on opposite sides of the US?

WAY COOL!” shout the teenagers en masse.

Wow, right on, guys.

I ended up staying in Portland almost a week, mostly due to an awesome friend of mine, one Ramón Chaparro, a good friend from college with whom I’ve always been able to connect very easily due to his unassuming frankness and humility. You may remember his parents from such posts as: Little Rock, AR.

The elusive Ramón, good friend and happening peep.

Ramón was very enthusiastic about the project and incredibly helpful as far as musical contacts. He helped me line up quite a few people to record that he knew in the Portland area, as well as hooking me up with the aforementioned Jenny Rose in Sealth. He had even taken a few days off work to traipse around Portland with me, and I was glad of his company. I offered him a deal traveling with me for the rest of the Tour, but he wasn’t able to make it work, sadly.

My usual channels gave me two or three contacts but only one of them actually recorded with me, the rest of the peeps were Ramón’s, which he generously shared for the project. The first of Ramón’s peeps was a girl named Shelley Bowers.

Oh clarinet, you had me from Henry Questa.

We spent a while coming up with delicious parts for her to play, and recording them, before we had to be on our way. I would also like to mention that she made some exceptionally delicious banana pancakes for us while we were there! I would also also like to mention that she and I are going to hang out in Korea, since she is planning on teaching English over there soon.

NOTE TO TIME LORDS: Unfortunately it’s been a while since I was there (it was the first week of October) and my memory for events is great, but my memory for sequence of events is terrible (this is why I did badly in history class). So this recounting of recorded peeps may be out of order, but you can count on there being no “factual embellishments.”

Another peep I recorded one of the evenings in Portland was a great soul singer named Lucy Hammond.

Lucy bringing it.

Lucy had a very versatile voice and added some great vocal colours that were otherwise missing from the project. Not only that, she is witty, chatty, and very personable, possibly helped along by her experience working in a salon, which is where we recorded. When Ramón and I arrived she was finishing up a manicure. Check this place out:

Andy Warhol would be proud.

We had a blast recording and chatting with Lucy.

Then — or possibly before — I’m sure it was a different day, actually, because this guy was first thing in the morning — we were off to record Peter Chan, a saxophonist specializing in free jazz and working on branching out into straight ahead stuff (kind of backwards from the norm).

Peter Chan honkin' the honker.

Peter added some really great stuff to a handful of songs, and did a nice solo thing on the bari.

Peter Chan, Saxophonist.

Our final peep from Portland is a fellow by the name of Ross Davis, who is quite a competant jazz bassist. He plays

— wait for it —

— keep waiting —

“Oh come on already,” groans a nearby old man on the corner, sitting smoking his pipe.

“Hey!” pipes in AG. “Those were lyrics from one of your songs. Are you trying to subconsciously prepare people for the release of your albums by including–”

No. I just wanted a delay to increase the suspense for what Ross plays. Anyway, he plays-

“That’s a juvenile tactic.”

Yes, my mind and my body appear to be maturing at different rates. But back to-

“Tch. Seriously.”

You realize you’re playing right into my hands by continuing to talk, right?


Anyway. Ross plays THIS:

Yes, friends, that is a 5-string upright bass.

Upright bass was one of the high-priority instruments on my wishlist. At the time of this writing (with one state left to go) only two instruments remain high priorities: french horn (Or should I call it “freedom horn”? Ridiculous.) and glockenspiel. I also still need a baby crying.

Ross added some fantastic upright parts to several of the songs. His playing needed very little feedback from me, and didn’t require a lot of my “acceptance of the unfamiliar” mindset. He pretty much played exactly what I wanted.

THE VERDICT: Ross Davis saved the project!

I must reiterate that I had a fantastic time reconnecting with my good friend Ramón the whole time I was there, and both I and the project owe him a great deal for his wholehearted comtributions of time, energy, and resources to the project. Thanks Ramón!

NEXT: The long arm of Ramón.

Portland, ME

ME! Not to be confused with myself and I, ME is actually the northeastmost state in the Union.

We arrived in Portland to find a pleasant city with a healthy dose of “small bayside shipping town” feel. When we got the the edge of the State, it was our first time seeing the Atlantic Ocean so we found a beautiful spot along the Eastern Promenade to watch the ships come sailing in, etc.

I saw three ships...

We sat and enjoyed the salty air, cool weather, and the great view for a good while.

I've been watching the ships, I've been watching them sail.

In particular, I liked the one with the cool sails.

List of people who dislike cool sails: idiots, fools.  Short list.

Then it was time to find the house of Phil James, shakuhachist. A shakuhachist is a person who plays the shakuhachi.

“Didn’t you, in fact, make up the word ‘shakuhachist’?” asks Mr. Yerfulovit.

Yes. Anyway, more information on shakuhachi can be found on Phil’s site. It’s a cool instrument, and Phil is quite skilled at playing it.

Phil employing his considerable shakuhachistic talent.

By the way, we saw this great sign while trying to find Phil’s house.

I am so smart, I am so smart...

Now back to Phil. We recorded some shakuhachi on several tunes, as well as some solo shakuhachi, using a larger, lower-piched one.

Riding the input volume knob. Record, record, record the shakuhachi.

Phil was a great guy and a pleasure to work with. Then, after packing everything up, we were on our way out when I saw something that looked like an instrument sitting near the door.

“What’s that?”
“A harmonium.”

So we set all the stuff back up and got him on harmonium for a couple tunes.

Super cool instrument.

Then we packed everything up again, and suddenly on our way out I noticed something resembling a piano just sitting there by the door.

“What’s that?”
“A piano.”
“No, it’s actually nothing.”
“Oh okay then. Take care!”

After recording Phil, we were off to dinner with fellow Couchsurfer Alissa Greenberg, who was in Maine for a bit before returning to her home in Boston. She recommended a place on the coast called the Lobster Shack. I was the only one of the three of us who had lobster. It was incredibly fresh and delicious. Also expensive, but I figured it was probably my only chance to try Maine lobster in Maine.

Alissa and JH at the little old shack.

It was dusk. It was also beautiful.

As with all my nature shots, it looked roughly 700% better in person.

Then we made a short drive to the place she was staying, which happened to be private property very close to the sea. Evidently due to some sweet familial hookups she can sometimes live at this amazing house on this amazing location. More stunning views ensued.

This place is called The Point.

The mosquitos were feasting on our warm flesh, so we couldn’t stay long. But it was lovely.

Then we were off north to a remote place somewhere between Bucksport and Bangor to meet our hosts, Molly and Shawn Mercer (pictured with children and pets):

The clan assembled.

Their house was off the beaten path. Also, off the power grid. They use solar power, drink well water, keep animals for food, and even made their own house using wood from their property! Don’t worry about deforestation in this instance. They still have far more than their share of trees.

View from their doorstep.

They have chickens, turkeys, cows, and dogs.

Some of the cows.  These are not like the cows in Texas.

Shawn is also a singer/songwriter, and does a bit of traveling to play various places. We had some good discussion about music and teaching (he’s a teacher, and I was before this project).

Next morning, we loaded up,

Autobots roll out!

followed them out on their long, long “driveway,”

This "driveway" is probably half a mile long.

and were off to our next stop — Boston!

NEXT: San Fransisco!