Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Siren Song of the Open Road

A new adventure is afoot. This weekend one of my closest friends will be tying the knot in San Diego, and I got one of the backstage passes. But instead of score a quickie flight in and out of SoCal, I've opted to take advantage of my "permissive" work schedule and make a road trip out of the affair. The tentative plan? Down I-15 to San Diego, up the coast to San Francisco, back across I-80 to Home Base.

For the most part, the trip will be my own personal auto-walkabout, though I will be visiting a number of friends along the way. The whole production is kind of a red-headed stepchild to the plan BretO and I hatched years ago through a rash of idealistic missionary letters mailed between Chicago and London, a meandering voyage that was to take us throughout the continental United States on a Kerouacian vagabond tour without any scheduling restraints to contain our adventurous spirits. The closest we ever got was a spin out to Chi-Town and back that saw us stranded twice in Heaps' 1989 Pontiac 6000--the radiator was already leaking in the driveway before we left--but these days BretO has three kids and a wife to take care of, so Han Solo will be traveling one Wookiee short.

Whether it's blazing through the endless seas of corn that flank the highways of the Midwest or spitting cherry pits out the window as I weave along scenic Highway 32 in southeastern Idaho while the Teton range stands sentry in the distance, I've always favored a little quality time with the open road. My upcoming trip won't be quite as iconic as Hunter Thompson's race to Las Vegas in his gas-guzzling convertible Great Red Shark, though we will be covering the same ground. (For one thing, I won't have a trunkful of hallucinogenic drugs weighing down the back wheels.) As much as I'd like to make the run in a Mazda Miata or a classic '68 Mustang, the same flexibility that is allowing me to make the trip is also preventing any exorbitant spending sprees.

The trip will cover some ground I missed on another previous expedition. Back in the summer of 2002 my buddy Zach and I cruised a generous length of the Pacific Coast Highway between southern Oregon and San Francisco. That winding journey favored us with one of my most memorable driving moments when we emerged from a 20-mile weave through the depths of the Redwood Forest to see the Pacific Ocean stretch open before our gaping landlocked eyes. In order to make it to Huntington Beach in time to meet another friend of mine for the 4th of July, we had to detour onto the I-5 from the Bay Area down to Los Angeles, leaving the south end of the PCH for another attempt. Seven years later, Zach is managing a family of his own, too. His closure will have to wait.

There is one thing I'm looking forward to more than the scenic vistas and photographic opportunities of a West Coast road trip, even more than meeting up with the friends I plan to visit for the first time in several years. What I'm looking forward to most is perspective. On that first trip down through Northern California, not long after emerging from the forest into that first scenic horizon, I remember looking out over the ocean and thinking about all of the drama I'd left back home, all the fallout from the social and professional purgatory I was swamped in, and how completely irrelevant it all seemed now that I was hundreds of miles away. The headaches of 2002 feel distant and harmless next to the offerings of 2009, but I expect a few miles of highway will do the same trick now as it did then. Someday I hope to feel that perspective wherever I go, without having to drive across state lines or have the gift of a friend's distant marriage as an excuse to find it.

But for now, I'll take what I can get.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"What you talkin' bout, Willis?"

Another of America's urban icons has been given a name change. Chicago's Sears Tower is now "The Willis Tower."

(Insert your favorite "Different Strokes" joke here.)

The argument about architectural naming rights doesn't need to be repeated. I think most people understand the realities of our financially-driven culture, but long for a world where someone could build a massive tribute to human engineering genius and have the guts to name it "The Funkadelic Astro-Thunderdome" instead of "The Taco Bell Arena, brought to you by H&R Block."

It's not even that "Sears Tower" was such a great name in the first place. It was a commercial name as well. It's just that it feels like revisionist history to have to call it by some other name from now on. It's far from the most pressing issue of our time, but it is annoying.

On a more positive note, the (insert current sponsor) Tower just opened a new feature on it's observation deck: transparent glass "ledges" that let you step out over a 103-story vertical drop. It's pretty cool, in a masochistic kind of way.

Actually, people can call the tower whatever they want, as long as I can see stuff like this when I walk around the Loop.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Question of Semantics...

Sometimes I wish Facebook would change the "friends" application to an "associates" application, or at least send a boilerplate message to anyone who wants to add me as a friend. Because I keep getting these invitations from people I don't think I've ever met before, let alone formed any kind of strong relationship with. Generally, unless I can place them specifically within at least a tangental circle of mutual friends, I ignore the requests, and I feel like a jerk for doing so.

If Facebook let me send out an automatic message to potential adds, it would say something like this:

"Hello there, (name of prospective friend). I am flattered by your intentions. But please note that if I have never met or spoken to you before, I probably won't add you unless you click on the 'add a personal message' link and give me some context for your request. I don't mean to sound cocky--I understand as well as anybody that the 'friend' application is for networking as well as keeping track of my high school friends--but it just strikes me as weird to add someone you've never met before without giving them a reason for it."

Several months ago a girl I'd never met or spoken to added me to her network. She included a message explaining that a mutual friend had showed her some of my photos and she wanted to be able to see more. Aside from being flattering, it provided a reason for an association. A reason other than "you are a human being who is not on my network. Join my network."

I want to be your friend, I really do. I just want to know why you want to be mine.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Diversifying the Portfolio

I'm not a distance runner. Probably* never will be. The last time I ran more than two miles in one stint was during Sophomore Football Conditioning during the summer of 1991 at Viewmont High School. The only time my distance running gained any notoriety was during the first week of the 9th Grade, when my 5:57 mile time made Coach Pierce's top 10 boy's ranking at Centerville Jr. High.

But in the time since, I've come to suspect the accuracy of the CJH course, and in my advanced age, even my usually notable sprinting skills have become suspect.

So when my buddy Jon called last Friday and asked if I'd be interested in joining him and some friends for an early Saturday morning run through downtown Salt Lake City, my response was "thanks, but no thanks."

However, when Jon told me that the race required the wearing of business attire, the event proved too promising to pass up...as a photo subject. So early last Saturday morning I found myself on Capitol Hill while two-dozen of Salt Lake City's future business leaders--dressed in an assortment of suits, ties, skirts, and sensible shoes--prepared to run in the first annual SLC 4.01K.

The race was designed to come down Capitol Hill along State Street, veer West at Broadway, and finish on a straight shot up through the heart of The Gateway to a triumphant finish at the Olympic Fountain. So I hopped in my car, zipped out ahead of the runners, and captured the passion along the way...

*Have to use the qualifier...one never knows when a girl, a heart attack, or a sign from God will change my mind.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Zen of Josh: Philosophy #51

Never Park in Another Man's Driveway...

Of course, this axiom also applies on the female side. I wouldn't want to suggest that there was any kind of a double-standard going on. Or worse, that in our advanced and enlightened times, women are still unable to legally possess their own driveways. It's just that "Never Park in Another Man's Driveway" sounds a lot sharper than "Never Park in Another Man or Woman's Driveway," and more assertive than "Never Park in Another Person's Driveway," so I just kind of figured that the gender equality of the philosophy would be implied.

The point is that when you visit another person's house, just park on the street. People who park in other people's driveways inevitably block someone in who is trying to leave, or block someone out who is trying to get in, and there are few things that annoy me more than arriving at my driveway to find that some mystery vehicle has camped out in my path. A man's driveway is sacred, as is his rhubarb. Just ask Jack Nicholson. He's the one who inspired this comment in the first place.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Relay for Life

A couple of weeks back I was asked to help do some photo coverage of the Relay for Life event out at Murray High School. It's an awareness event put on by the American Cancer Society, so I got to feel like I was doing something good for the world while taking a few photos. Now that you are looking at these, you are more aware.

Mission Accomplished.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Ultimate Tribute

The last couple of weeks have been heavy with tributes to the recently deceased King of Pop, with fans reminiscing about listening to "Thriller" for the first time and critics wondering why everyone seems to be giving him a free pass on the last fifteen years of his troubled life.

Here's my favorite tribute so far: a T-Shirt on Threadless that illustrates the Thriller Dance. Even though I think the dance has become too cliched over the last couple of years, the idea of illustrating the whole thing on a single T-Shirt is pretty funny. Plus it's got zombies, and you know how I feel about zombies.

How I feel about Michael Jackson is a little harder to categorize. "Thriller" was one of the only albums I listened to as a kid that wasn't already twenty years old the first time I heard it, and I still love tracks like "Human Nature" and "PYT", with its Chipmunk back-up vocals. On the flip side, all the childhood issues in the world can't justify his actions if he did what people say he did as an adult. There have been a lot of times I've wished the last fifteen years were an elaborate publicity stunt, but they weren't, and it looks like in the end, Michael Jackson is going to become my generation's Elvis Presley: An early meteoric rise to fame that surpasses any mere role as a musician, then a gradual descent from cultural icon into a troubled outcast that ends in a medically-related demise.

If people seem to be giving MJ a free pass on all the skeletons in his closet, it's because the kid we all knew and loved has really been dead for twenty years. This is just the final nail in the coffin.

New Strategy

Someone once told me that the best way to increase traffic to your blog was to post lots of pictures of babes. So here's a start:

Friday, July 03, 2009

What Happens in Vegas...winds up on Facebook

Last weekend The Josh's* were able to take a swing south to check out the Eric Clapton-Steve Winwood concert at the MGM Grand in Vegas. It was special because I had seen Clapton and Winwood in concert separately, but never together. It was also special because the concert was held in the MGM Grand's Garden Arena, which is the same place that Mike Tyson used to beat the crap out of people in 90-second increments.

Before attending said concert, we walked (literally) out to the local Hard Rock Cafe to grab a bite to eat, since we can't do so in Salt Lake anymore. There I enjoyed my long-missed chicken fingers and Hickory BBQ Sauce while taking in a few relics from rock history as I drifted into a smooth level of meditation in preparation for my blues guitar salvation.

(mental note: omit all clever rhyming schemes from future posts)

The concert itself was excellent, blending a number of individual hits with the handful of songs-most notably "Presence of the Lord" and "Can't Find My Way Home"-Clapton and Winwood played together when they were in Blind Faith. "Presence of the Lord" was especially nice, a longtime favorite that I listened to for the first time the weekend before I entered the MTC back in the Stone Ages. (Also the same night of Randall Edwards' immortal Elvis impersonation in the Dick's Market parking lot.)

The longest-and most impressive-jams were reserved for epics like "Voodoo Chile Blues" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy," with a lot of obligatory blues numbers from Clapton in-between. Winwood stayed away from the solo work he showcased at The Depot two years back, and drew most of his numbers from his Traffic catalog.

I didn't take my camera into the Arena-which was probably a good thing, given the constant rotation of alcohol, marijuana and BO odors that would have undoubtedly vaporized my SLR-but I did pull out my trusty 40D afterward on a modest tour of The Strip after the show. Here are a few highlights:

*I attended the concert with my other friend Josh, who we agreed was an old friend from college.