"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.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Looking Again at The West Memphis Three

Thursday, January 26, 2011: 

We attended the SOLD OUT screening of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival entry, West of Memphis, tonight at The Belcourt Theatre in Nashville with our friend, Brenda.  The documentary takes another look at the case of the West Memphis Three,who as teenagers were wrongly accused (proven now thanks to new DNA evidence) of killing 3 eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, back in 1993.  The case, the trial and the seeming injustice that imprisoned these three young men for 18 years has gained worldwide scrutiny thanks to a trilogy of HBO documentaries entitled, Paradise Lost.  Thanks to a tireless effort from a grass-roots organization formed to help free the West Memphis Three that included well-known and powerful supporters such as film director, Peter Jackson; Pearl Jam lead singer, Eddie Vedder; actor, Johnny Depp; and Dixie Chicks lead singer, Natalie Maines, the three were recently freed on a deal with the state of Arkansas using the little-known, little-used and very strange Alford Plea, in which you profess your innocence yet still plead guilty to the crime but are released on probation with time served and the agreement to not sue the state for wrongful imprisonment.

This was our second time attending a Sundance Film Festival screening at The Belcourt.  The famous festival now expands to audiences across the country for one special night of film and dialogue in eight different cities.  We feel fortunate that Nashville has been chosen as one of those outlets. 

We arrived early and got great seats right in front of the reserved spaces for  West Memphis Three member and former death-row inmate, Damien Echols and his wife, Lorrie Davis, who were also producers on the film.

The Sundance Film Festival theme "Look Again" took on a whole other  meaning in terms of West of Memphis, which is asking the state of Arkansas to "look again" at the case of the West Memphis Three as they push for full exoneration and the pursuit of the real killer(s).  Pictured above during the post-film showing Q & A are West Memphis Three member, Jason Baldwin (second from left), film director Amy Berg (third from left), West Memphis Three member and film producer, Damien Echols (fourth from left).
It was an interesting and thought-provoking evening at The Belcourt.  We all grabbed a quick, but tasty, dinner at Taps & Tapas just across the street beforehand.  A news crew from Memphis was on hand as well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"These Times" and This Night with SafetySuit

January 7, 2012 - We attended the SOLD OUT CD Release Show of the great young band, SafetySuit, of their new album "These Times" at 12th & Porter in Nashville tonight.  A couple of other good, young, Nashville-based bands, Chasing Change and Throwing Gravity,  opened for them.  Thanks to our friends, Chris and Tarryn, for attending the show with us.

We first saw these guys on one of the two music cruises we took last year and we were really impressed with their energy on stage and the strong voice of lead singer and front-man, Doug Brown.

Before the show we had an excellent dinner and some tasty drinks at The Whiskey Kitchen in downtown Nashville just up the street from the music venue with Chris and Tarryn as well as our friends, John and Monique.  The main topic of conversation over dinner was our upcoming trip to Aruba all together next month.

About six songs into Safetysuit's set, lead singer, Doug Brown, abruptly left the stage.  He came back on a few minutes later and admitted he was racked with a stomach flu and just could not go on.  This was definitely true based on the photo above that I took a few minutes before he left the stage.  The dude looks sick.  As mentioned before, all of Doug's energy is spent on stage during every performance we have seen by Safetysuit, and he still gave a valiant effort tonight despite the illness.  The rest of the band bravely decided to keep playing and let the crowd sing along.  Then members of the two opening bands, Chasing Change and Throwing Gravity,  took the stage as well and led the crowd in singing several Safetysuit songs in a tribute to Doug and the rest of the band.  It's was one of those magical nights that only seeing live music can give you.  Below is a snippet of the Safetysuit "tribute" band in action.  Probably the most amazing thing about the incident is that no-one in the packed venue seemed to leave despite the "star" not being there.  That's a testament to the town of Nashville that really loves their music.

Monday, January 9, 2012

SoCal, So Fun

After securing an incredibly cheap airfare ($160 RT!) to LAX earlier in the year, we built ourselves a trip over the New Year's holiday to Southern California.  Our friend, Emily, joined us as well.

December 29, 2011 -The first thing we secured was lodging as we got a very sweet deal
at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point about an hour south of the airport
overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Above is a view out of our first floor room with an open balcony
that took us straight to the heated pool, hot tub and the ocean beyond.

December 30, 2011 - Dana Point has one of the few natural harbors on the California coast.
 It was a beautiful place to take an early morning walk with the fog rising.  It was just a few minutes
walk from our hotel.  As one of her Christmas presents, Ashlee got a hour-long massage back at the
hotel's spa when we returned from breakfast and our walk.

 Today was "Brewery Day" as we had a fairly long list of craft breweries we wanted to check out in the north San Diego area about an hour south of our hotel.  The area is known for some great award-winning beer.  For more on the beer itself, check out my beer blog.  Our first stop was Ballast Point Brewing which was great.  We moved on to the smallest brewery of the day, AleSmith Brewing, which was nearby.and equally good.
Next up was the popular and quickly-growing, Green Flash Brewing.  These guys bottle their beer and
distribute it nationally as well, some of which is available locally back in Tennessee.  We took a break after this
stop and went on in to San Diego's downtown for dinner at The Field, a very authentic Irish pub in the city's
popular Gaslamp District.

After dinner, we finished off the day with visits to Stone Brewing, one of my personal favorites.
 They are the forefathers of craft brewing in northern San Diego and produce exceptional, medal-
winning beer known around the world.  Their beautiful facility includes a nice restaurant as well.  We
concluded the evening at Lost Abbey Brewing which was excellent.  Much thanks to Ashlee for being the
designated driver today and for being a real trooper despite battling a nasty head-cold. 

December 31, 2011 -  Another great early morning walk from our hotel to Doheny State Beach,
next door to Dana Point Harbor.
At noon we boarded the Dana Pride for a whale-watching trip.  Despite it being mid-day and sunny
when we left the harbor, we moved in and out of fog banks during the trip off the coast.

Our first sea-life encounter on the cruise were these sea-lions taking advantage of a harbor buoy
 to lounge about on.  The ship captain said these guys can almost always be found here unless its
bad weather.  Apparently, sea lions can get seasick in rough water too...who knew??

Grey whales migrate this time of year from Alaska down to Mexico and the ship's captain knew
exactly where to find them.  This large beauty popped up out of the fog a 100 yards or so from
the boat.
After our whale-watching trip, we loaded up in the rental car (another good deal)  and drove about an hour and a half north to the LA suburb of Agoura Hills.  We had tickets to see Five for Fighting for a New Year's Eve show.  Before the show we had dinner at Cigale Cafe, a French-style bistro in nearby Oak Park.  The food was delicious and the ambiance was very nice despite it being located in a strip mall.  The show turned out to be excellent despite the rather strange venue, The Canyon Club -- kind of like a local VFW hall on crack.  We have seen 54F twice before but both shows were acoustic.  This time lead singer, piano-man and band founder, John Odrasik, was accompanied by a full plugged-in band.  He admitted that he vowed to never do a NYE show unless he could walk to it, and since he and his family only lived a mile or so away, this worked out great.  He played all of the band's hits and ton a cool covers including a great version of The Police's  "Message in a Bottle."  It turned into a real family affair as John brought his young daughter, Olivia, on stage for some song accompaniment plus her own solo cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."  After her stage debut, we saw Olivia running around in the crowd with her schoolmates.  Yep, the whole event had that kind of small-town, company-picnic kind of  feel to it despite being an "LA show."  After the show was over,
and the new year was rang in thoroughly, we crashed in a hotel nearby instead of trying to drive all the way
back down to Dana Point.

January 1, 2012 - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  After driving back down to Dana Point, we spent the first
day of  2012  just lounging around the hotel pool since the weather was perfect.   What a great way
to start  the new year!  Above is the sunset that day, I was hoping to capture, or at least see, a
green flash (hence the nearby brewing company name) that occur rather often at sunset on the west
coast, but it was not to be this day with so much cloud cover.

January 2, 2012 - We got up extra early this morning to make the hour drive north to Pasadena
to attend the 123rd Annual Rose Bowl Parade.  We had bought tickets to sit in some temporary
bleachers set up on Colorado Avenue and had parking close by.  We expected a lot of traffic,
but it was rather a breeze to get to our assigned parking lot before the 8 AM start of the parade. 
The photo above was of some very cool skywriting that entertained the crowd before the start of the
parade.  A stealth bomber also streaked (very quietly, of course) down the parade path to signify the
start of the event.

Rose Parade Grand Marshall, J.R. Martinez, a wounded vet and actor, who has became a star
when he won "Dancing With the Stars" recently, was still enthusiastic in greeting the crowds even
though our seatswere already 45 minutes from the starting point.  As the photo shows, our seats were
great with a unobstructed, elevated view of the parade.

The nearby San Gabriel Mountains made for a stunning backdrop to the parade.  Here the very
largeUniversity of Wisconsin Marching Band makes their way down Colorado Avenue.  Wisconsin
topped Oregon in the Rose Bowl game later that day in what was said to be an exciting contest.

The parade floats are bigger and grander than TV or this picture even gives them credit for.  There were
44 floats in total at this year's parade, a score of marching bands and a dozen or so equestrian teams.

Our favorite float, and clearly a crowd favorite, was the Surfing Dogs presented by Natural Balance
Pet Foods (note the dogs actually surfing).  This beauty also broke a Guinness World Record for the longest,
 heaviest float at 119 feet, 7 inches long, with an 85'-long water tank that holds 6,600 gallons of water.  It weighs
a total of 138,000 pounds.

This year's parade theme was "Just Imagine" which is just what we did with this memorable visit to see
 this iconic event live and in person.

Amazingly, for only $10 extra we were able to go see all the floats after the parade up close and personal.
The detail and painstaking design of these floats is simply amazing.  We were told every flower is put in
 by hand by volunteers on each float.

The real stars of the show.

Another cool aspect to the Rose Parade is that while roses are the main things used for decoration,
many other types of flowers and other organic matter are implemented as well including as seen above,
apples, oranges, beans, berries, etc.

We got back to Dana Point after the Rose Bowl Parade and float-viewing and enjoyed our last night
at the resort.  We loved this place and the fact that there were very few guests around most of the time
 made it even more special.  We practically had the heated pool and hot tub to ourselves most of the time.

January 3, 2012 - We headed back to LAX this morning for our flights home, but had enough time to seek out Patrick's Roadhouse on the Pacific Coast Highway north of the airport near Santa Monica.  This quirky little hole-in-the-wall has been featured on the TV show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and their spicy breakfast burritos are pretty darn good.  We had some other excellent food while in Southern California including some highlights like a yummy swordfish sandwich at  San Pedro Brewing,  great burgers and fries at In & Out Burger,  yummy pizza at Stuft Pizza & Brewing, fancy oatmeal at Vue (our hotel restaurant) and some authentic Italian at another "DDD" alumni, Mama Cozza's in Anaheim.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011 - The Year of Twos

Well, the new 2011 collage is done and it looks pretty darn good.  This the 13th one now hanging in our den.  Upon assembling it and looking back over this blog for the past year, it came to our attention that 2011 was a year of twos.  That is, we did a lot of stuff more than once in this same calendar year.  Here's a few examples:

Saw Grace Potter & the Nocturnals perform twice

Saw Augustana perform twice (on the same road trip)

Saw Jack's Mannequin perform twice

Saw Brett Dennen perform more than twice

Saw The Dirty Guv'nahs perform twice

Saw two Nashville Predators playoff games

Saw two home games for the Tennessee Titans

Took two different music cruises to Cozumel, Mexico

Took two trips to the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Two trips to Las Vegas for Rob

Saw Mat Kearney perform more than twice

Saw Alpha Rev perform more than twice

And finally, we want to do twice as much in 2012! 

The new year is shaping up nicely already with several concerts including The Dirty Guv'nahs (again!), O/A/R, Gaelic Storm, Roger Waters and Trevor Hall. We got a couple big trips planned to Aruba with some friends in February, and a 3-country tour of Europe in May for our 11th wedding anniversary that will include Poland, Italy and the Netherlands, and yet another trip back out to The Outer Banks of North Carolina in July.

Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Predators & Stars Under Glass

January 5, 2012 - We decided to get off our wallets and check off an item on our bucket list and sit "on the glass" at one Nashville Predators hockey game in our life.  After some research on my part I found a pretty good online ticket broker (sorry Stubhub, we prefer TicketsNow...uh, now) and began watching the price of a certain set of 6 seats that seemed available for almost every game.  I noticed that they went for a higher price on the weekends which wasn't surprising, so we decided that a weeknight game would be the most economical.  Next, I noticed the price of the tickets went down as the game date approached.  Obviously, they want to get rid of them  if they don't sell early.  Finally, I noticed that if you looked at certain tickets on TicketsNow.com and entered your email address, but decided not to buy just then, you would get an automated message from them an hour or so later giving you a chance to complete your order and save 10 to 15% (Stubhub doesn't do that). 

I surveyed a few folks who I thought might be interested if the price was reasonable and got a rather surprising amount of interest.  Our friend, Wayne, was a go from the start which we figured he would be since he has gone with us in the past on road games to see the Titans and last year to the Indy 500 (see blog entry).  Our friends, Danny and Brenda, were also keenly interested, as were our friends, Chris and Tarryn.   Unfortunately that totals seven and as I mentioned there are only six seats available and you can't buy just five.  They only sell them in sets.  Danny and Brenda confirmed first (by only a few minutes) and Chris and Tarryn decided they did not want to see their first game on the glass without each other (totally understandable).  Our friend, Emily, who just went with us on our fabulous Southern California New Year's trip (see previous blog) was willing to take the sixth ticket and joined us as well.

The tickets were available a week before a Thursday night game vs. the hated Dallas Stars and when the price dipped below what we all agreed was the maximum price we would pay, we pounced on them before anyone else could!

The seats were amazing.   The speed of these guys on the ice and the
physicality of the game itself is incredible this close up. 
The roar of the crowd is mind-blowing down this low,
 and was at its maximum evidently when  it was announced
that the game was a sell-out.
Although not mentioned in the ticket description, our seats were kind of on the "sub-glass" as they were right behind the opponent's penalty box which actually turned out to be quite a hoot.  Here the hated Mark Fistric (he gave Preds captain, Shea Weber, a cheap-shot concussion during their last meeting which Predator brawler, Jordin Tootoo, reminded him of by putting his ass on the ice early in the game and sending him to the box also for retaliating).  We gave him as much verbal pounding as we could since our hitting of the glass behind him was quickly no-no'ed by security.  Oops.  Lucky for you, SISSYtric!!

To say a good time was had by all is kind of an understatement. 
Who knew cotton candy could bring this much joy to people over the age of six?

I guess fame has its advantages. 
Note that Preds mascot, Gnash, is not being  reprimanded
for smacking the glass behind  beloved PA announcer, Paul McCann.

Much thanks to our friend, Chris, for capturing this TV-grab
of Emily and me grinning like possums behind Dallas Star defenseman,
Trevor Daly , as he serves his time in the box for being naughty.  Fang-fingers, punk!!

The only sour note on the night was the 4-1 beat-down that the Stars put on the Predators unfortunately.  Still solidly in contention and playing well currently despite tonight's hiccup, the Preds are hopefully bound for bigger and better things.... like the playoffs.

Above is a lucky shot by me of the Preds first (and only, unfortunately) goal of the evening by the young left winger, Gabriel Bourque.  His first in the NHL!!