DISCLAIMER

"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.





Sunday, November 22, 2009

AUS-TraIN

We flew out to Austin, Texas, Friday night and visited our friends, Dianna and Johan, and their daughter, Ella, and newborn, Amelia. Ashlee and Dianna grew up together in southern Georgia and have kept in close touch over the years. We had an ulterior motive to visit as well because our favorite band of all time, Train, was also in concert Saturday night in downtown Austin at a small musical venue called La Zona Rosa. The weekend was laid-back as we all slept in both Saturday and Sunday mornings (well, as late as Amelia would let us, but she's a dandy little sleeper). Before we headed downtown for dinner and the concert, we visited another great organic supermarket (we were introduced to Whole Foods on our last visit to Austin several years ago before it went nationwide). This one is called Central Market. What an amazing store. Incredibly fresh food at very reasonable prices. These Austinites are always ahead of the curve in terms of supermarkets. Next we stopped by a liquor and beer superstore called Spec's which was giving out free samples of their wares (Ashlee sampling tequila in photo above)...only in Texas I guess.

Johan's brother and his family were nice enough to watch the little ones and let him and Dianna join us at the concert. Uncle Kracker opened and put on a rowdy little set that was a lot of fun to see. We've seen Train live a half-dozen times, but this was actually the closest to the stage we've ever been thanks to the general admission set-up of La Zona Roza. We were about ten rows back when Pat and the boys took the stage and gave a helluva show enjoyed by us all. Besides a few choice cuts from their new album,, Save Me San Francisco, including their great new hit "Hey, Soul Sister" - the band cranked out hit after hit for close to two hours as well as their usual incredible covers of Led Zepplin as well as "Dream On" from Aerosmith. Lead singer, Pat Monahan (photo above), is still at the top of his game in terms of an amazing vocal range.

This was our first concert in Austin and it was everything we thought it would be. Like Nashville, Austin is a live music mecca and performers seem to bring their best game to these towns. The venue was great as well with good acoustics and great sight lines. We will definitely hop aboard the "Guitar Express" (six guitars brought on the Southwest plane going back to Nashville) if we get another good opportunity including one of our goals to attend the town's famous annual music festival, Austin City Limits, sometime soon. We won't have to wait too long to see Train again since we just bought tickets to see them again in a show they added on this same tour in Birmingham a week from Friday. See you fellas in Alabama next week!

Thanks so much to Johan and Dianna for the wonderful hospitality and generosity.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grace -n- Brett

It was good to see our old pals from this year's Bonnaroo Festival, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Brett Dennen, at The Cannery recently playing full plugged-in sets. We enjoyed both at Bonnaroo but the sets we saw there were short (3o minutes each) and fairly acoustic. GP&N technically opened for Brett but it almost seemed like a co-headliner tour because they played for a full hour and really blew the roof off the place. Their energy was amazing. Potter was especially dazzling with her searing vocals and omage to Tina Turner with a short, frilly dress that acentuated her beautiful legs while she twisted and gyrated to the beat her band was laying down. The band closed by surrounding the drum set on stage while each of them contributed to the percussion (photo below). The pairing of GP&N with Brett is a bit odd in our opinion since their music styles differ so much, but it actually works really well to give the listener a wide range of sounds, harmonies and style. Brett's a soulful singer/songwriter (photo bottom) with a Paul Simon-like sound. This was actually our third time seeing him this year since he opened for O.A.R. in Atlanta a few months ago (another odd pairing that really seemed to work well). This was the first stop on the new tour for both and Brett seemed a little perturbed at times when things didn't go as smoothly as he wanted. He even admitted it vocally when he said early in his set that "this is our first show on the tour...and it sounds like it." Obviously, he is a perfectionist because it all sounded great to us as he moved from one great song to another with style and earnest. His hour and half set was great as was our vantage point just a few feet from the stage. Thanks to our friend, Nate, and his new girlfriend (and our new friend), Ginny, for going with us. to this wonderful show.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Perfect Day in Chicago

What can you do with a weird mid-week holiday? Why not take a day-trip to The Windy City? It's only an hour flight from Nashville. You can ride The El in from the airport to downtown for $2.25. Then do a little shopping. Then do a little sightseeing. Then take a food/architecture/history walking tour through two of Chicago's best neighborhoods. Then do a little more shopping and sightseeing. Another $2.25 ride back to the airport. Another hour flight back home. Sound good? Well, it did to us and that's just what we did today for Veteran's Day along with our friend, Joy. And it couldn't have been more perfect.
First off, the weather was incredibly perfect for early November. Sunny skies and mid-60's. The weather added to some perfect photo ops for sightseeing downtown especially in and around beautiful Millennium Park which included the very cool Cloud Gate (photo above) or what the locals call "The Bean". Next, we had some perfect shopping with everyone finding a little something for themselves (Rob -shirt, Ashlee - boots, Joy - scarf) at Nordstrom Rack and Macy's. Saving the best for last, however, was an absolute perfect tour through the beautiful Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods north of downtown. The tour started at George's Hot Dogs in Bucktown. George's has been cranking out real Chicago-style yumminess since 1948. We met our wonderful tour guide, Kent, there along with 13 other folks ( a full group). Kent is the best kind of tour guide - the kind that loves the place he's showcasing and everything it entails. He got us started out right by serving up a loaded dog for each of us. It was delicious. The tour headed out on foot back down Damen Street to Hot Chocolate. Despite its name, this full-service restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, but yes, decadent sweetness is their specialty and we got to sample a cup of their namesake and a homemade marshmallow....not even close to what you buy in the supermarket in plastic bags...these things were amazing! We walked (slowly) from Hot Chocolate on down Damen Street and found Goddess & Grocer, an upscale deli and grocery store owned by a former Hollywood caterer where we tried a tasty sample of antipasto salad. It was here that we were shown what is said to be a new "sensation" around Chicago and beyond - bacon-flavored chocolate??? Don't know about that one yet, but might have to give it a try sometime. Moving on, we next turned onto North Avenue and technically entered into the Wicker Park neighborhood. Our fourth stop was Piece - a pizza kitchen and microbrewery (hooray! says Rob - see his beer blog for more info on that). The beer was great by the way, and the pizza was just as good. Instead of the deep-dish style that Chicago seems to be known for this was thin-crust "New Haven style" - that is, no tomato sauce, just cheese, toppings, garlic, oregano and olive oil. After this stop we were really getting stuffed, so it was time for a longer walk before our next stop. Kent weaved us in and around the neighborhood streets of historic Wicker Park showing us some incredibly beautiful private homes (photo below). A half-hour later or so our next stop was Sultan's Market, an authentic Mediterranean restaurant where we had our first felafels - a pita stuffed with chick peas, hummus, tomatoes and cucumbers. These sandwiches are very popular and now we see why. They are quite tasty and refreshing. We finished this great tour at one of the most unique places on Earth...in fact it's the only place like it on Earth...for now. The place is called I Cream and it's an amazing concept. It's great tasting ice cream with dozens of flavors to choose from and their isn't a freezer in the place?? How's that work? Well, a little milk in a bowl, drop in a few toppings of your choice (we had Nutella, cream soda and hazelnuts) and then BLAST IT with liquid nitrogen and a few seconds later....waalaaaa!!! ice cream!! Very cool concept (pun definitely intended). Store owner/creator, Cara Broward, (at work in photo above) has been up and running for nearly a year now. Sure wish we had some investment money laying around to buy a franchise because this stuff is gonna be the next big thing. Bet on it.
We got home around 10:30 PM just in time to go to bed and get up for work tomorrow. Yep, kind of perfect.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Brews and Booze

Saturday, November 7, 2009
Today we attended the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival in downtown Nashville at the Municipal Auditorium and had a great time. This festival travels around the country with stops in major cities highlighting 60 beers and 40 bourbons to sample. It was here last year, but we missed it. We attended with our friend, Nate, (who attended last year and gave it good reviews) and his new girlfriend, Ginny. We got a great four-pack deal of $25 each to attend the festival which included a commemorative sampling glass, a T-shirt and all the beer and bourbon one could sample in a 6-hour period. The BBQ part was not included but they had some great choices for lunch and we chose Pig & Pie out of Nashville and their skewered shrimp covered in their delicious sauce.. Yumm-o!
Admission also included some lectures on the bourbon and beer-making processes which were quite interesting except for the fact that the speakers were having to compete with live music being played nearby (also free with admission). We learned a lot about bourbon whiskey from "professor" Steve Cole with Knob Creek that included samples of four of their products. We also sampled some three concoctions from the brewers out in Colorado known as New Belgium Brewing with a brief introduction to each from "beer ranger" John Gartner. As far as other sampling goes, Ashlee stuck to the bourbon trail for the most part and tried 16 different varieties. Rob went the beer route trying samples of nine new brews plus a half-dozen old favorites (see his beer blog for more details). Since we've been low-carb dieting over the last month or so, this was a fun reprieve from our regiment. Now it's back on the diet to get to our goal weights.