"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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Windy City Birthday Weekend

To celebrate my (gulp) 45th birthday, we planned a long weekend trip to Chicago and invited several friends to come along with us.  While only a couple  of folks were able to actually make it up to the Windy City, we had a grand time nonetheless.  Thanks to our friends, Wayne and Rex, for joining us for the trip.

April 20, 2012:  Happy Birthday to me!
With the need for three bedrooms, we opted out of the hotel option
 for lodging and found this beautiful condo on the north side of
downtown Chicago (The Loop) in a hip, reviving
neighborhood known as Andersonville.  Per bedroom, this was
actually a better deal per person than a decent hotel room.
Highly recommended if you are in town.  Here's a link:
After working most of the day back at home,
Ashlee, Wayne and I got in late tonight and settled in to our new digs.
We wandered up the street to the Hopleaf Bar for some
late-night brews and tasty treats from their kitchen before
turning in for the day.
Saturday, April 21, 2012:  After Rex had arrived from Atlanta this morning, our first order of business was to check out Half Acre Brewing and see if we could snag a place in their limited-number, Saturdays-only brewery tour.  The weather was a bit cool but clear for our mile and a half walk and we were surprised at the large number of people in line waiting when we got there.  Our spaces were clicked by the official counter in the high 50's and we barely got to take the tour since the cut-off is 60 people.  The tour was lead by none other than company president, Gabriel.   The tour was informative and in-depth and was the first one we had done that included a live DJ mixing tunes during the breaks and while the beer was being sampled.  The beer was excellent.  More on that in Rob's beer blog.
One of the main reasons we chose Chicago as the place to celebrate my birthday over a few other nominees, was the fact that one of our favorite bands, Snow Patrol, was in concert tonight here.  We saw them back in 2009 at The Ryman and we were looking to see them again in a general-admission-style venue to get closer to the stage.  The Aragon Ballroom was just the "ticket" (pun definitely intended).   The historic theatre was just around the corner from our condo.  The sight-lines and acoustics were very good despite its gaudily-decorated  interior.
The concert had sold out fast.
Snow Patrol themselves were fantastic once again in concert. 
They performed all their hits and several songs of their new album,
Fallen Empires, including a snippet of the pulsating title track below.
Sunday, April 22, 2012:
Our only scheduled event today was a food tour
in Chicago's Chinatown neighborhood.
The tour was lead by Chicago Food Planet with whom
we have taken two other tours in the past in Chicago.
We rode the red line EL down to the Chinatown stop
south of The Loop and met up with our small group
and two guides.
Our meeting place and first stop on our tour for some delicious Dim Sum plates was Triple Crown Restaurant.  From there we moved on to the Ten Ren Ginseng & Tea Shop where we had a delicious iced black tea with mango flavoring.  We moved next to a different region of China (at least in food taste and style) at the Lao Sze Chaun Restaurant.  Next up was Mandarin-style at Lao Beijing Restaurant that including some delicious Peking duck.  We concluded our eating tour at the Saint Anna Bakery for a tasty dessert.
Of course, it wasn't just eating on the Chinatown food tour.
In between food stops we got to see parts of a vibrant Chicago
neighborhood that many people probably don't even know exist.
We stopped in an actual Buddist temple that looked like a common
storefront from the outside.  We also took a casual stroll over to the
Ping Tom Memorial Park (above).  This hidden gem sits right
on the Chicago River and is a nice oasis among the
hustle and bustle of the city.

After our food tour we wondered around Chinatown a bit more checking out some shops and stumbled upon the Wan Kow Restaurant, or should we say that since we were very full from our food tour,  that we stumbled upon the restaurant's tiny bar for a drink.  What happened next was a heckuva good time with lots of laughs and chatter as we all decided to take the plunge and order our drinks "volcano style."  Basically, that means they mix drinks in large bowls (see above) and set the center on fire for a flaming spectacle to be shared by a group.  Yeah, well, we all got our own individual volcanoes.  In the shortest and simplest terms from there on...hilarity ensued.

The frivolity that started with the late-afternoon volcano drinks continued deep into the night as we headed to Roscoe's Tavern in an area of Chicago simply known as "Boystown."  Figure it out and draw your own conclusions, folks.  But remember, "judge not, lest ye be judged."  We had great night there and met a lot of nice people including Ashlee's new best friend "Sparkles."  (photo above). 

Monday, April 23, 2012:  The big scheduled event for today was attending a Cubs game, but that wasn't until the evening.  We decided to start the day with a Chicago staple-food for lunch, deep-dish pizza!  And the best we know of in Chicago (thanks to a previous Chicago Food Planet food tour) is Bacino's.  We started with and shared their caprese salad and Tuscan-style bruschetta and then split their signature "Spinach Supreme"  large pizza.  Wow! So good!
To walk off some of the fabulous lunch and to take in
the exceptionally lovely weather, we took a long stroll
around downtown including over to Navy Pier which
still had a lot of its seasonal stuff closed, and then up
to Michigan Avenue.  Above is an interesting shot of
the four amigos among the skyscrapers of the Windy City.
At least this distorted view doesn't show how bloated
we really were from our huge lunch!
One of the newest (and strangest) downtown sites is the 26' tall statue of Marilyn /Monroe in her iconic scene from the classic film, "The Seven Year Itch."  What the ????.  As evidenced from the photo above this new landmark is ripe for the taking of goofy photos, bad puns and overall embarrassment to the city of Chicago.  Well, at least it isn't permanent.
While an early-season twilight baseball game between
the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs had no
real rooting interest for any of us, the fact that it was
taking place at lovely Wrigley Field while we were in
town was reason enough for me to want to include it
in my birthday visit.  Everyone else was gracious enough
to go along with it and even plunk down a pretty penny
to experience the game from the rooftop bleachers across
Sheffield Avenue.  Unfortunately, the experience turned
out to be a bit disappointing for several reasons.  First,
we got bumped (unknowingly) from our "VIP status"
when we got moved to a different building due to a
"company function."  Secondly, the unlimited food was
ho-hum at best.  Third, it was very crowded despite it
being a downright cold Monday evening.  And lastly,
it was a downright cold Monday evening.  We toughed
it out until the 7th inning stretch with the Cards leading
2-1.  (We learned the next day that the Cubs came back and
won the game 3-2 in the late innings.)  While we try to
keep this blog as positive as possible it is important to note
our disappointment in this endeavor and to say we don't
recommend it to others based on the price you pay vs.
what you actually get in return.
EDITOR'S NOTE:  We did receive a quick refund for the VIP portion
of our tickets after we complained to them online about our
 poor experience.So that was decent of them.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Junkies for Butch Walker

Wednesday, April 25, 2012:  Trying to catch two different concerts on the same weeknight in Nashville doesn't sound like a good idea in theory...unless it works.  And it did for us tonight as we were able to swing over an hour of performance at two different Nashville venues by two drastically different artists.   What can we say, we like to embrace the moniker "Music City" as much as we can.

Margot Timmins and little brother, Michael , one half of the subtly brilliant
and long-admired Canadian indie rock band, Cowboy Junkies,
slow it down a notch in the first set of their show at The Belcourt Theatre.

VIDEO below:  In a drastically different style, Butch Walker (left) and
and Black Widow band-mate and bassist, Jake Sinclair, take it deep into the
night at 12th & Porter.   This last-minute-scheduled performance was
following the premiere of the documentary focusing on
Butch the previous night at the Nashville Film Festival
(see previous blog for more on that).

oFF to the NaFF

We attended some of the 2012 Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) this year by taking in three different films all with the same focus:  music.  Kind of makes sense in "The Music City"...

Thursday, April 19 - We went on the opening night of the film festival and caught a showing of "Music City Underground": a documentary focusing on eleven different independent, unsigned artists in Nashville including one band we are growing to really like, The Apache Relay.  The theater was fairly full for this entertaining film despite it not being one of the designated "openers" for the festival.    Several members of the different bands were in the audience as well.   The festival itself was very busy on opening night despite the fact that no really big celebrities were in attendance (at least that we saw) as was the case in the last few years we have attended this film festival.  It was reported the next day it was the biggest opening night in festival history with over 2,000 people in  attendance.

Tuesday, April 24 - We got back from our Chicago trip just in time to catch the premiere showing of Butch Walker: Out of Focus, a documentary on one our favorite (and one of the most underrated in our opinion)  live performers out there.   This showing sold out extremely fast.  Butch himself was in attendance for the film.  The two young directors said this was actually the first time even they had seen it on the big screen.  It was a pretty good film and a lot more personal in regards to Butch's private life than we were anticipating.  There was a brief Q&A with the directors afterwards, but Butch slipped out kind of quick after the credits rolled, possibly due to the personal nature of the film and not wanting to take the spotlight away from the filmmakers..  We were hoping to get a picture with him and even went over to the post-film party (free entry and free beer!) at the nearby Greenhouse Bar which is a neat place.  It literally is a bar in a greenhouse.  We waited an hour and a half to see if Butch would show but he didn't.  We would have to settle for seeing him again the next night in concert over at 12th & Porter (see next blog entry for more on that).

Thursday, April 26 - The co-headlining film to close the 2012 NaFF was Big Easy Express, a documentary that followed three great bands (2 of which we are familiar with and one - Mumford & Sons- that we absolutely  love) across the U.S. from Oakland, California, to New Orleans aboard a train playing shows at stops along the way as well as having impromptu jam sessions while aboard.  It was a very good film with terrific performances captured from all three bands.  Our friends, Ryan and Dawn, joined us for this showing as well.  There was a Q & A session following the film with none other than Nashville's own and 1/3 of the headlining "stars" of the movie, Old Crow Medicine Show.  The guys answered several questions and were quite witty, honest and sincere with their answers, setting a great rapport with the audience and wrapping another great NaFF experience for us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Predator Playoff Win Drought Quelled!

More Nashville Predator redemption for us!!  We recently broke our curse of only attending losing games in the regular season and now we have also broken the spell for playoff games as well!

April 11, 2012 - We finally got to see an exciting 3-2 playoff WIN for the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Quarterfinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs vs. the Detroit Red Wings.  We had great seats in the lower bowl of Bridgestone Arena and even NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, was in the house and evidently sitting in our section.  Thanks to our good friend, Wayne, for attending with us.  Before the game, Ashlee even got to hob-nob with Preds mascot, Gnash, outside the arena.

After the game Ashlee got to meet another minor Preds Celebrity, Big Ben, who's beer-belly messages are always flashed on the big screen to fire up the crowd during the games.
Unfortunately Friday, April the 13th, was bad luck for the Preds as we also attended  Game 2 of the series, only to see them lose to the Red Wings 3-2.  Oh well, our streak of three winning games in a row came to and end, but we had  great, affordable seats again in the lower bowl, hung out with our good friends, Wayne, Chris and Tarryn during the game, and, of course, there is always the fact that the Wings still suck!

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The Preds did go on to win the series against Detroit in six games and moved on to the semi-finals vs. Phoenix.

Dances with Wolves and Sings in a Band

April 14, 2012 - While we didn't know any of his music, the thought of seeing one of our favorite actors, Kevin Costner, front his band, Modern West, at one of our favorite small music venues in Nashville, The Exit/In, was just too interesting to pass up.  That was also the case of seven of our friends who tagged along to check it out as well.  Thanks to Brenda, Danny, Chris, Tarryn, John, Monique and Wayne for going with us to this unique experience.

We met for dinner next door to The Exit/In at a ho-hum Mexican restaurant beforehand, and were surprised to already see people lined up at the door two hours before it even opened.  The show had sold out a few weeks prior, so we knew it would be a packed house, but didn't expect this kind of response. We were also surprised at the number of much older people who were going to the show.  It was probably the first time any of them had ever been to or even heard of this mostly-college-oriented venue.  We lounged around the restaurant's patio until the doors opened, even spotting a glimpse or two of Costner himself preparing for the show next door behind the venue.  When we got inside we were still able to find a good area to watch the show about 20' from the stage.

Kevin and his band did not disappoint.  The band's music style is best described as country-rock and you can tell he's doing it for the love of music and not as just some gimmick.  Costner, whose voice is just so-so, has wisely surrounded himself with some top-notch musicians (his fiddle player was on fire!) and good vocal accompaniment. They put on a lively hour and half set of original music that the crowd loved.  His opening act, Sara Beck, was great and also joined the band on stage for a couple songs as well as Costner's daughter, Lilly, who has a lovely singing voice herself. Everyone in our group had a great time and agreed that what started out to be just a curiosity and a chance to do a little star-gazing turned into a pretty darn good night of music.  Costner was very interactive with the crowd and seemed to really be enjoying himself up on stage.  At the age of 57 himself, he's actually a pretty good inspiration since he looks great for his age and has been doing this traveling band gig for several years now which isn't easy for people who are much younger.

A real bonus of the night was being able to zip over to The Mercy Lounge after the Costner show to catch the last half-hour of the conflicting show by one of our favorite bands, Augustana.  Thanks to Chris, Tarryn and Wayne for sticking with us and attending this late night affair as well.  It was worth it as lead singer, Dan Layus (photo above), along with some new band members, sounded great in the the small, but packed, venue.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blasts from the Past

We "relived" a few things from our past this weekend that are worth a mention:

April 7. 2012 - We were in Chattanooga for the weekend to celebrate Ashlee's Mom's birthday and for the Easter holiday.  The weather was perfect on Saturday morning, so we took an hour's drive north to just outside Spring City, TN, to the Stinging Fork Falls State Natural Area' and hiked the mile-long trail down into the narrow canyon that holds this beautiful cataract.  Ashlee had never been here before, and I hadn't since way back around 1990.  Thanks to Ashlee for snapping this picture with her IPhone since my camera battery was dead.  Thanks to our nephew, Matt, and his (and our) friend, Jeff, who was visiting from Florida for tagging along with us.

That same night we flashed back to 1997 and caught the new 3D re-release version of Titanic along with our friends, Mike, Elizabeth, Lavonda and Tim.  The new 3-D effects weren't all that much, but seeing this epic on the big screen again reminded us of just what a good film it is, and what a ground-breaking triumph it was in filmmaking.  We had a great dinner of delicious fried chicken beforehand at Champy's downtown on MLK Street.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fun & Free

We had a couple of notable excursions this past week that didn't cost us a dime (other than some gas and some concessions):
April 1, 2012
We took a nice hike in Taylorsville Hollow up in Sumner County today.
It's about a half hour from our house.  The wildflowers in this little
cove that is owned and protected by The Nature Conservancy
were in their full and gorgeous display.  The little creek running
the length of the small canyon was fairly low in terms of water level,
and the waterfall at the head of the hollow was dry.  We hope to return
sometime during wetter weather for a look at it in its full glory.
We were alone in our exploration of this beautiful  area expect for a lady
doing some landscape painting along the creek bed.
April 3, 2012
The curse is broken!!  We finally got to see a Predators win in person this season! 
Thanks to some free tickets to the Nashville Predators hockey game vs. the Minnesota Wild
from our friend, Sarah, we not only got to see a victory, but we also witnessed our first-ever overtime
shoot-out in person.    Back-up Preds goalie, Anders Lindback, turned in a whale of a game allowing
only one goal in regulation, none in overtime and then stopped three one-on-one attempts by
Minnesota during the shootout.  Recent Preds (re)acquisition, Alexander Radulov, put the Preds in
the W-column with his shoot-out goal.  They were great seats in the lower bowl.  Thanks again to
Sarah for hooking us up. (NOTE: Sarah also got us a deal on some good club-level seats at a low
price for the final regular season game on Thursday, April 5 vs. the Dallas Stars.  It was another
2-0 win for the Preds and revenge for an earlier loss to them back in January that we attended. 
Thanks to our long-time friend, Wayne, for going with us to the game, and thanks to The
BridgstoneArena for providing the delicious mac-n-cheese with buffalo chicken.  Yummm!!