Summer 2015 Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte, N.C., is a banking center, hosting the nation’s – if not the world’s – largest banks, very much a button-down white collar town.  A point to reaffirm this status: the city sanitation crews are not above polishing the lamp posts, and when a large street event – like, say, a St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl with 15,000 drunks – is done, within hours the city is clean, swept, pressure-washed and back to normal.  Most other cities are still thinking about cleaning up days later. Not Charlotte, where the business of commerce rolls on amongst flowers, clean streets and polished lamp posts.

Then there are spots like the Common Market, a patio attached to what is basically a hipster 7-11.  Cold Craft Beers, refrigerator magnets, a grand selection of wine, wine coolers, wine openers, a deli with great sandwiches, and more beer.  Everything you would expect from a hipster 7-11, with the bonus of the patio that hosts local and regional bands.  Such as a mom and dad with their pre-teen and barely teenage kids rock ‘n’ roll band on a national tour.  the RocknRoll HiFives.

I know it is not every Saturday you grab a Jalapeno Ginger Blueberry (JGB) craft beer, sit down mid-day and see an episode from “Glee,” however this Saturday I did.  I sat there looking at the band performing on the patio stage at the Common Market, took another sip from my 14th JGB, then another (it took a second or two to sink in).  Was the front person short and where was the drummer? I saw his drum kit, I could see drumsticks but could barely see him. The lead guitar and the bass player looked rock ‘n’ roll but…no way they just met and said, “Hey, gang, let’s form a band!”

My friend Tomeka sitting next to me saw my surprise and could see the wheels turning in my head. “Pete, they’re a family.”

Then Andrew sat down next to me. “Wow – it’s a family.”

Then I responded, showing my total command of the English language. “Cool.”

It now made sense. The lead singer wasn’t short and there was a kid behind the kit.

The rest of the crew joined us with various craft beers, national lite beers and a bag of chips.  The afternoon was set – cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres.  ‘Wow! It’s a rock ‘n’ roll family band’ was the general sentiment amongst the mid-day Saturday pre-party goers.

Enough of what nine pre-party goers were thinking after a day of imbibing – back to the band.  At first I thought, ‘How cool!  The family that plays together, literally.’  Then the fact that they were a family became overshadowed by the fact that they were good.  Really good.  The kid on the drums had the chops to be a class-A talent, Dad was no slouch on guitar and the daughter had remarkable stage presence for being just a teen.  Mom kept them all in line with her thumping bass and the family/band was complete.  All original songs, all sung with heart and feeling.  Let’s just say, as the band and beer kicked in so did the applause, a few standing ovations and a lot of hoots and hollers.  All kept to a PG level – after all, it was a family. At the reluctant end of the set, the kids had to do homework or something, we greeted the band.

Joe was the dad and lead guitarist and band manager and driver.  The kids were way too young to drive. Mom played bass and kept the home and road rhythm going.  The daughter getting ready for her last year of grade school was lead vocals and general personality of the band.  The son was the kit master at all of 11 years old.  Played like he started when he was pre-natal.  I can only imagine what he is going to be like in six years – maybe the next Dave Grohl, who started playing with Nirvana at 17 and has never looked back.  So I went ahead and got his autograph.

I started to talk to the dad about the travels and the band.  They would end up going to 10 different venues traveling over 4,000 miles in 13 days, going as far as Miami from their Northeastern home.  Mostly record stores, but a few stops like the CM with an eclectic crowd – a whirlwind summer tour.

Later on into the tour, I caught up with Joe via the Rock n Roll Hi Fives’ email and Facebook page.  He was nursing a tick bite he got while hiking through the woods in North Carolina; a shot and Q-tip seem to do the trick.  Since it was a shot of Scotch, the pain was minimal.  Not sure what the Q-tip was used for.  He told me that just four days before they left on tour the family decided to get an RV vs. a van to travel in.  Dual purposes – a place to live and to safely store their equipment while on the road.

Most would think a family of four traveling with all of their band equipment (impressive drum kit, guitar amps, mixing board, more amps, mics and Scotch for medicinal purposes) would be cramped.  It was, but not as bad as they thought it would be.  Joe explained this was his Field of Dreams moment.  His love of music and family all came together this summer in that RV.

Drive it and they will come.  The kids were old enough and greatly talented enough to be on this journey.  So they loaded up the RV and the dream began.  Of course, every dream has a few bumps and bruises along the way.  Besides the tick there was a trip through the Everglades with no AC, being sideswiped in Atlanta, a blown bass amp that had to be replaced somewhere in Florida, obnoxious drunks in Charlotte.  The usual stuff that you read about in Rolling Stone about bands on tour.

What will be remembered is that the AC was fixed in short order in the Everglades, which all were very thankful for, and the dents and scratches will be there as a time post to remember the family hike in North Carolina that happened before the dent or swimming in the intercoastal, being greeted by dolphins in the Gulf, meeting up with family, learning about different lifestyles from folks they met along the way, experiences that happened a week or two after the dents.  A guidepost for their memory.

Joe summed it all up.  “As a band, we became really tight.  As a family, we will have stories to share for a lifetime and experiences that will shape our lives for years to come.”

I am sure as the kids went back to grade school, more than ready when the teacher assigned the first essay: “What did you do on you summer vacation.”

The tour began as most do in our own backyard and before the summer was over the RocknRoll HiFives performed in 10 venues covering 4,000 miles.  We met some very interesting people along the way, especially in Charlotte, N.C.…



Wilmington N.C. Fall 2014

“Go see Rock City”.  The iconic bird house with these words painted on every barn, tree stand and even bird house within two hundred miles of Rock City Chattanooga TN.  In all directions.  Guess want millions did.

The first overuse of the bill board alerting everyone that you are within striking distance of Rock City even 150 miles away, a reminder every five miles, then two, one, few hundred yards, feet, inches to the grand entrance and if you weren’t convince by Rock City overload to stop, when you passed by it there are signs to remind you, turn around, for the next few hundred miles.  This art form of advertising has now been copied by a strip club, gas station and a brewery.  Naked gas and beer doesn’t get any better than that or so the signs say for 167 miles in either direction of the establishments.

Front Street Brewery offers tours and free samples from 3-5 Monday through Friday, so says the 115 billboards that start 20 miles outside of Wilmington on Hwy 74.  As a road warrior I have seen the over use of billboards for such establishments as Pedro’s South of the Border just inside the South Carolina state line from North Carolina.  Pedro’s S. O. B. is nothing more than an oversize gas station with a large souvenir shop and a searpatarium  (you have to pay to see the snakes).  Then there is the Bare as you Dare strip club in Ga.  Both establishments start advertising on billboards hundreds of miles from their destination for every couple of miles, then every mile then every billboard as you get within 10 miles.

I will admit to stopping at Pedro’s several times and to say nothing about the Bare as you Dare club, which has a better souvenir shop.  I can’t say the constant drone of billboards forced me into these places or the promise of gas, snakes and naked woman pushed me over the edge.  The debate rages on.

Well into my 100th plus sign for the Front Street Brewery and I was a man on a mission. I will visit the Front Street Brewery, God as my witness.

Wilmington NC is port city which hosts the USS North Carolina, which is a strange site, at dock sitting there basically at point-blank range with its 16” guns pointing right at you, it AA guns at the ready, a war ship just begging you to try to do something, staring at you as you enter the Front Street Brewery.  I thought to myself this place is well protected, doubt that there will any fights in here.

The bar itself is long and narrow which a collection of bourbon and other distilled spirits lining the back wall.  Lighted so they catch your eye as soon as you enter.  A lot like most of the bars I have been into except for the Bare as you Dare, which to this day I don’t know if it was a bar, restaurant, truck stop, really don’t remember the bar that much, the staff on the other hand.   I will have to go back and see to improve my memory, I am sure there is a bill board within 10 miles of here to get me there.

Back to the bar, since Front Street Brewery was a shotgun style bar, long and narrow with plenty of bar stools, along with micro-brew blends on tap and bragging of a broad choice of Bourbons from around the region.  All the fare you would expect from a micro-brew pub bourbon bar restaurant watering hole, however something wasn’t right, something was out-of-place in this bar.  I took a stool near the end sat and looked around.  I still had this odd feeling, then I realize what was wrong, what that strange feeling was all about.  No one, not one person was on a cell phone or an I-device.  I hadn’t see that since 2011, yes that long ago, people were talking, enjoying the moment. I slapped myself to make sure I wasn’t in a billboard induced haze, what’s next Pedro showing up with a clothing optional lady?

I was so impressed I struck up a conversation with the person sitting a seat away, which turned out to be Ellie whom I found out was responsible for the bill board advertising campaign.

“Do you know Pedro that SOB.”  I asked as we introduce ourselves and she informed me that she was the marketing manager for the bar.

She thought for a minute “No but I have been there lured in by the billboards.  They work don’t they?”

Hmm, Dare as you Bare, Pedro’s now Front Street.  “Yes they do, do you get many people here for the tours.”

“We do, we will usually get 4-5 people every time.  In fact my boss told me to hold off on advertising the bar and build up the restaurant.”

I found out that Ellie had gone to the local university UNC Wilmington and earned her degree in marketing and a bonus, got a job actually using her degree in marketing.  One of the few people to ever graduate in marketing and get a job in marketing.

“So do you owe your success to bill boards and free beer?” I said as I once again looked around and still NO ONE was on a cell phone.  Weird, a fun group of people having conversation.  Wilmington was locked in a time warp.

“I think we owe it to our team, the brew master, waiters, bar tenders, staff.  We try to keep it open and friendly.”

I added “I am sure the tours and free samples help.”

“They do, now we want to be known for our food also, try to expand our market.”

We talked I noticed that there was always someone at the bar, one patron left another took their spot not crowed, pleasant.

Ellie and I talked about the nuances of advertising, how to bring in a local crowd and generate new business.  Success at one end, the bar, and how to parlay it over to the restaurant. Ellie’s food arrived, yes the staff eats the food and likes it. She grabbed her to go box of food and took off to head home and think of new marketing ideas to promote the food.  I settled back to enjoy a beer or three of a nice pilsner a “hmmm” after 8 of them I forgot the name, luckily the staff remember.  No one still on their cell phone so I enjoyed a new conversation with the gentlemen sitting next to me.  Solving the world’s issues, relationships and taxes.

Amazing what a well-placed billboard can do.

Savannah Ga Winter 2013

Life in prison only means a life sentence for the victims.

“The Coldest Beer and Hottest Juke Box in Town.” Sounds like my kind of place the Warehouse Tavern River Street Savannah Ga.

Savannah is a port city with converted and re-converted warehouse buildings along the docks on River Street.  Once they were home to products like, King Cotton, tobacco and various goods from around the South. Buildings of brick and mortar  standing along a cobblestone street, glimpses into history.   A look into tales of war and piracy, love, lust, riches to ruin and now a cold beer and a really hot juke box at the Warehouse.  Progress.

This night it would turn out to be more enlighten and sobering than most nights spent at such establishments.  The beginning, innocent enough, as usual, a nearly empty bar, tappers lining the wall, an inattentive bartender and two empty seats next to mine. Fortune smiled on me as two ladies came in and sat down next to me for what appeared to be a girl’s night out.

Time passed, a couple of glances, some quiet conversation between us and the other patrons and then the ice breaker from one of the ladies.

“Let’s do shots!”

A sure winner in getting the crowd and conversation going.

She smiled to her companion and then at me, with an empty hand raised in the air beckoning the bartender to mix something special for the occasion.

“What are we toasting?” I asked.

“We just came from a parole hearing.” Donna said.

Donna and Meriell where passing through Savannah on their way back to Gainesville Florida.  Meriell was Donna’s sister in law married to her younger brother.  Both looked to be in there late thirties early forties, with generous smiles and a relaxed demeanor.  They had spent the day in South Carolina and decided that Savannah would be a good layover for a couple of days of fun and recreation.

“Who’s parole hearing?”  I asked.

“My sister’s murderer.”  Donna replied as she held up her glass to drink the shot.

The statement didn’t immediately register, sister, parole, murder.  Then it sank in.  Their sister was murdered.

As I was still absorbing this info, the shots arrived.  We all held our hands aloft and then Meriell said.  “Another year in jail.”

“Well this a first for me, toasting to an unsuccessful parole.” I counter.

Then added.

“Salute.  My sympathies I know this can’t be easy.”

Donna sighed and put down her empty shot glass and ran her finger around the top of it making sure not to miss a drop.

“I am just soooo glad to have it over for another year.  For weeks my stomach gets tied up in knots knowing I have to go before the board.  It is over for now. Well until maybe next Christmas when I have to show up again.”

Then with a tear in her eye she lifted her cup turned it over and place it on the bar, indicating it was drained or maybe showing she was.

Not sure what we were drinking, a bonzi orgasm or something like that.  I am not a big shot drinker but this was one of those three part fruit drinks one part lighter fluid type drinks.  But it served its purpose, I was a little watery eyed as the implications of what they had been through sunk in deeper.  The shot sharpen my awareness of their pain as it numbed theirs.

Donna continued.

“Every 11 months a family member has to show up and provide a victims impact statement.  Been doing this for the past 14 years.  The son of a bitch spends another year in jail.  The fucker’s only hope is I won’t show up.  Dream on!”

Even though he was given a life sentence for the murder he was eligible for parole after 10 years in prison.  Then every 11 months he becomes re-eligible. Someone has to show up for the victim to plead their case as to why he should not be released.  The date for the hearing is ever changing.  Next year it will be around Christmas time when he is eligible again.  In two years it will be Thanksgiving time if he doesn’t make parole next year.

I could see tears welling up in Donna’s eyes again and her sister-in-law looked down at the floor, tough day I thought.  But no good could come out of remembering now.  Their task at hand done, they needed to smile, if not for just a day.

“Hey, here’s to partying in Savannah, you’ve done your duty for a year.  Another round starbender on me.”  I said.

James the barkeep knew none of us were driving anywhere so the night was ours.

“How long you staying in Savannah?”  I asked.

“A couple of days to take it easy.  What’s going on in town, anything exciting?”


“We figured that.” They both said in unison and then smiled.

The conversation took a pleasant turn their trauma showed up in looks, a quick sentence about an anniversary, or a remembrance of a little sister taken so early in life.  We finally talked about what happened. The victim, was 16 years old, and wanted to get her drivers license. A family acquaintance took her.  She was not seen again for two weeks.  The exact facts are uncertain, but what is known was that she was murder that night by the acquaintance and possibly two others.  Her body was dragged across a field and buried under a barge where it would have stayed for years but for torrential rains in the weeks to come.   The barge lifted and her body floated out from underneath.  The Police thought she might have been raped but time and weather destroyed any evidence.  The family acquaintance was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

But life ain’t life.

“After ten years he is up FOR PAROLE!”  Donna said in absolute astonishment. “If he sold drugs to school kids he would have gotten more time.  It is better to kill a child then sell them drugs.”

“I can’t imagine what you all go through, I have no bases for anything close to what you all must be feeling.”  I guarded my words as I don’t know what they are feeling and I don’t want to bring up pains that have been put away long and deep.

“It was worse on my mom, I know it took years off her life, she died at the age of 62, the emotional stress of everything killed her.  That night he took more than just my sister’s life he took her family.”

The evening came to an end with hugs and promises to keep in touch.  In any small way that I could help I would.  There were laughs, and they made plans for their free day in Savannah which I am sure would mean more bonzi orgasms or what ever the hell we were drinking.

Tragedy comes in many forms. One of the most hideous is for the people the murder victim leaves behind.  They must now live with the loss along with the constant reminder the court system impales upon them, a system which will not let the victim rest in peace. Nor put the guilty away and gone out of their lives.

Family and assailant are now connected in a morbid scenario that must be played out every 11 months.  A time and place they must go back to, to convince strangers that the murderer of their love one does not deserve freedom, birthday celebrations, family milestones.  To have anything he took from them.  Each year they are faced with possible freedom for the murderer but it will always be a life sentence for the victims’ family.  Then one day he will be freed, the end of his life sentence just another year in their’s.

That is just the way it is.

When you’re out of milk, you have two choices:

Go to the corner gas station about half a mile away and pay $5.10 for the gallon of milk.

Go to the Walmart Super Center nearly 5 miles away and pay $3.97 for the gallon – a perceived savings of $1.13.

Your kids go through milk like they have a cow in the back yard so you get into the car, fight the traffic, and find a parking spot a half-mile away from the store to save $1.13. Of course, you need those coat hangers you saw on sale 24 for $5 and a variety of other stuff that you absolutely did not realize that you had to have until you wandered into the Walmart.  At check out, the bill comes to $50.45 a net loss of $45.35 but you’re happy with all the money you saved. Never mind that you could have purchased only the milk you needed for five bucks.


Mooresville, TN – 1988

Walmart started in Bentonville, Arkansas, and expanded rapidly throughout the country during the seventies and eighties.  Their business model was to go into small communities and put everyone else out of business through lower prices and margins until they owned the market. Then, they’d increase prices and margins.

I sat at the bar eating my Ruben sandwich, next to Roger, a local businessman who was in for an after work beer. I would later find out that Roger was the owner of a local vacuum store. He had been in business for 12 years.  After Walmart moved in, his business dropped by 30% and continued in a downward spiral. He was in a race to the bottom.

“I hate Walmart,” I said to everyone and to no one, in particular, as I sat at the bar looking out the window at the new Walmart across the street and the conversation began.

Walmart had just started building the super centers. This  Walmart was just an oversize five and dime.

“Brother, you are preaching to the choir. I can’t stand the bastards,” Roger concurred.

I turned and look at him with surprise, most people defended the bastards to the death.

Then I added, “I know. I just lost a big account that is buying their supplies from a cut-rate Chinese company due to the pricing constraints that they put on them.  Another customer just closed their factory due to Mexican imports.”

“Tell me about it,” he said.  “I own, well, I should say, I temporarily have a vacuum business in town. Probably got about a year before I will have to shut my doors.  My rep who I have been doing business with for 10 years just informed me that they won’t be extending me terms and, on the side, he told me that Walmart’s price is 20% below mine.  I buy more vacuum cleaners from those assholes than that Walmart does.  He told me that Walmart said if his company wanted to do business with them they get the lowest price, period, no matter how few or many they buy.”

My bar mate took a swig of his beer as he shook his head.

“I guess your rep has to be happy about that getting credit for the stores in territory,” I said shaking my head in sympathy with his plight.

“Ha! He gets NO credit at all.  Walmart is a house account and one VP is the only one they talk to.  The conversation is, ‘Your pricing is too high.’  He figures it will be about two years when they move the plant to Mexico and he is out of a job.”

“Doesn’t that kill you? The people they are putting out of business are the ones shopping there.” I said

“Get this. My supplier delayed a shipment of 40 units by six weeks but Walmart got their 20 the next day, priced to sell below my cost.   So, I went over to the store at midnight bought out their entire stock of vacuums at a 15% savings from my cost.  Marked them up 20% and gave away free vacuum bags and finally had one of the best months in over two years.”

“Playing them at their own game, huh?”

“The security guard looked at me as I was checking out but wasn’t able to do anything. The next day I found out they put a limit on the numbers you could buy.”

“How do they get away with this?”

“Capitalism at its finest. The market is supporting them.  I can’t be too hypocritical. They are becoming a power to be reckoned with.  They will own the U.S. retail market and our jobs will be exported to Mexico or China.”

“I know. Every day more and more of my customers who sell into retail are hurting  The Walmart slogan of buying US made products is bullshit – only if they are cheaper than what is made overseas.  Sam isn’t stupid. He is not going to sacrifice Walmart profits to support U.S. inefficiencies or bloated corporate wages.  Hey, we live in the South. It used to be the textile capital of the world. When was the last time you went to a clothing factory that actually made the end product?”

“At least we still make beer in this country!” he replied.

We introduced ourselves, raised our glasses, and toasted. I didn’t have the heart to tell my new friend who was drinking a Heineken and I had a Budweiser, both foreign owned but I got the point.


Since then, Walmart has grown to dominate the U.S. retail market becoming one of the largest companies in the world.  They stick to the dictum if they can get it cheaper they will.  Estimates vary how many jobs have been lost to Walmart’s importing policies from hundreds of thousands to millions. Reliable sources say about 200,000 manufacturing jobs were exported to China or Mexico.

I can’t fault Walmart. I am a business man and this is a free market economy. Folks can shop where they want and Walmart seems to be the choice for hundreds of millions of people.  Walmart is, no doubt, the dominate retail outlet in the world making the Walton family one of the richest families in the world. Forbes reports that Christy Walton is the richest woman in the world.

Personally, I get my milk at the local gas station and my vacuums direct from the manufacturer via the web.  I haven’t been able to locate a private vacuum store in years.  I have not stepped into a Walmart in over ten years. I bought some real charcoal there about 10 years ago and that is all I bought.  I have no idea of how many thousands of dollars I have saved by spending a few more bucks with the local guy.

Nashville TN, 2008

Adventures come in many forms.  Sometimes I am just sitting non-chalant at the end of a bar enjoying a wine spritzer, wearing my chinos neatly press with a cuff, a lavender shirt, short sleeve rolled to highlight my biceps, legs crossed knee over knee, reading Vanity Fair when a gentlemen may approach me and ask me out.

I couldn’t get laid in a woman’s prison.  However as the wandering sort I am, most nights I eat, I drink, I read and leave and that is how it is. Most of the time,  these are my evenings spent while traveling, not much for permanency.  Instability, the quality that  every woman wants in her man.  Yes there have been the occasions when I have enjoyed a conversation with a lady, mostly about her husband, kids, and pets, innocent enough with departures in different directions at the end of the night.

Then there have been the times when a friendly conversations turns to “I’m gay are you interested.”

The first time I was a little taken aback, not insulted nor grossed out or any homo-phobic experience like that, just now what do I do.  So did what any normal heterosexual man would have done presented with this situation.  I apologize for being straight.  Why I felt the need to, I don’t know but I did.  Conversations would continue for just a short bit and it was over.  I know knew how woman felt when approach and pursued, I was just being nice.  I am such a victim.

Travels continue and men tried to pick me up, maybe I should stay away from bars with the word rainbow in them.  This one night it was a sports bar, with a cheeseburger, chips and Monday Night Football.

The end zone, the 19th hole, fourth base, Jocks and Jills the nomenclature of the sports bar world just as the Fifth Quarter in Nashville is.  A bar dating back to the 80’s era of the Old English Steak Houses variety bar restaurant attracting a largely local crowd for popular happy hours.    Castle motif, lots of wood, stone and wenches serving beer with a friendly local crowd making Monday Night Football lively and fun.

Sitting there with my two new buddies Jim and Jake we talked football, SEC, playoffs and other guy stuff.  Jim was an interesting character who claimed to be Janis Joplin’s roadie at Woodstock, worked in the entertainment business and was friends with Tanya Tucker.  That tidbit alone made him worth getting to know. I always thought Tanya Tucker was hot.

However my appearance must set off some guys “gaydar”, I am tall, thin, somewhat a neat dresser and alone at a bar with a bunch of other guys.  I don’t have the sophistication to know what jamming signals I should be using to shut done the gaydar so the conversation turned.

“Pete, I am gay and want to know if you would like to join me for a drink after the game.”  Jim said as casually as if we were discussing the score, which I am sure he wanted to do.

Since this wasn’t the first time this had be asked of me I was prepared, no apology just.

“I am a rant raving hetrosexual, thanks for the invite, but that is the way it is.”

I maybe straight but I am not narrow, I realize the best approach was to get to the point, nicely.

“Hey your nice guy thought I’d take a chance, but how do you know you’re a rant raving heterosexual?”

Jim had a point, since that is all I have ever experience, except for that Boy Scout camp trip, I just assumed I was.  But for now that was good enough for me.

“You’re right I don’t know but for right now I am happy with that status.”

“No problem, don’t ask don’t know.”  Jim smiled and we drank our beers.

Then he added, “It’s writers night at the Down Under in Hendersonville want to join us’”

“What’s writer’s night?” I asked

“That is when all the writers of the country music industry get together and perform their own songs.”

If you have read the Machine, it is how country music works.  Every aspect of it is contract work.  The writer writes, the talent picks the songs, the label puts together the band and a hit is made.  Everyone is happy and rich, except for the writer, talent and band.  But the label is happy and the machine rolls on.

With a bar named the Down Under I was to say the least suspicious.  Jim left to use the restroom so I had a chance to ask the bartender and in fact it was a very popular spot kind of the “in” place for local Nashville talent.

So off we went.  I followed them for about 10 miles and we arrived at vacant strip mall.  As we entered the empty parking lot they started to turn to go behind the mall. I admit alarms went off but I followed, a little more cautiously now.  Down an incline towards the back of the mall I could see the lights from the Down Under and sure enough the back parking lot was full, all ten spaces.  But there it was the Down Under named so because it was down and under the mall.

The Down Under was there to entertain not impress, concrete floors and patio furniture, the only structure of note the stage.  The bar, wooden planks with several well lit glass upright beer coolers with an abundance of beer.  Liquor on the shelves with plastic glasses sitting on the bar and ice in Igloo coolers.  Very low overhead.  We arrived just in time for the first set.  A guitarist, a stage and a microphone, house lights were the only lighting to illuminate the stage a pure setting to show off the talent not the glitz.  Beer in hands, settling back on the patio furniture the show, the talent began.

The first song was a slow melodic piece about a pick up truck, divorce after prison, and his best huntin dawg, just kidding I don’t remember it but by the time he played the third song the main guitarist was joined by another guitarist and a bass player and they launched into “Rhythm of the Night” a song that the first guitarist co-wrote.  That is when I was transported, the setting, the clarity of the sound, the masters at work at their craft.  I went to a Zen state the music had carried me away to another place it was just me and the sound, a beautiful sound.  As they played the band grew tighter by the finale they had the sound, they were an instrument, not three, but one.

This is what the music industry should be the celebration of talent not glitz.  Talent in its rawest form, no over producton, no over hype, no over exposure to make up for the lack of talent.  The musician and their audience in tune with each other.

In the cool of the early morning the bar closed and Jim, Jake and I departed company, along with everyone else, no one left early, all stayed for entire show.  The night did have a rhythm as I left, the crowd probably just less than 100 or so was still in a partying mood, it was summer the air was pleasant in the tween hours of the early morning, everyone just felt alive.  We were all part of something that too few see today,  raw talent.  A group of us hung around talking about what we were just a part of.  Then with hand shakes and hugs we all departed.

I looked as Jim and Jake headed off to their car and yelled thanks guys’, I didn’t give them my phone number but was glad I took a chance on a date with Jim.

Now where is the closest Waffle House or that woman’s prison.

Somewhere in the Southeast USA

Summer 200?

The vast variety of ways to make a dollar have always astounded me.  We generally think of those that go off to cubicle land during rush hour traffic as the typical worker bee.  However I am sure they make up a small portion of the working populace.  There are river boat captains, penguin care givers, gui (graphical user interface) programmers for play station, tilapia wranglers, sewer cleaners, power plant operators, greese pit cleaners and

Professional Vaginas.

No, this isn’t what you think it is.  I guarantee it.

A brief history lesson:

Since barbers were the surgeons and grave robbers the first medical supply houses, the dead have given of themselves unselflessly in the advance of anatomy and medical procedures.  Modern day medical students studies begin on a body now willfully donated to science, putting most grave robbers out of business. Their body as they call it,  allows the student the opportunity to hold and feel a real organ vs the text book version.  They will probe their body and examine it in minute detail.    Kind of ironic that the healing sciences first start with the dead.

OBGYN types do pelvic exams on their cadaver before they ever examine a live patient.  This didn’t work very well.  The cadavers rarely complained and didn’t comment on the bedside manner.  Another practice was to examine anestize patients without their consent.  Still the only comments they received when the patients recovered from their surgery and unknowing exam was, my butt is sore.

All in all women became fed up with what the med schools were turning out.  Mostly male gynecologists with their awkward and clumsy bedside manner.  Women who found a good gynecologist guarded their secret with their lives.  Their fear that if word got out they found a good gynecologist, the doctor would become too busy to treat them.

Med schools took notice, well they were forced to take notice as women’s health groups complained about the product that these revered institutions turned out.   At first they hired prostitutes and drug addicts as “pelvic models”.  Women who would allow themselves to be examined by med students to help them with dealing with their patients as they moved beyond med school.

Most OBGYN types didn’t cater to the underworld of prostitutes and drug addicts and the women weren’t there to educate the students but get paid and leave.  Then a sisterhood of sorts developed.  Women, average women for the sake of their mothers, daughters and woman kind in general became non MD pelvic instructors, the professional vagina.

“You do what, where?”  I am sure I didn’t hear what my friend’s friend, friend did. As we were all gather at the bar. One of those groups were someone knew someone and all joined together.

Marcie (not her real name) was a 40ish woman, average build, earth mother type and very open in her conversation.

“I am a pelvic instructor at the local med school, or as it also referred to a professional vagina. I allow med students to do pelvic exams on me and instruct them on what they are feeling, use of exam instruments and their bed side manner.”

OK I did hear what she did.

“WOW I never thought about that but yea, I can see where that would be a real service.  Do you get paid for this ?”

“Yes, and it is a decent wage but that is not the reason  I do this.  Do you have a daughter?”  Marcie asked.

“I do, why?”

“Was she looking forward to her first gynecological visit?”

“Well her mom handled that but I am sure it was not pleasant.”

“OK would you want her treated by some Neanderthal doctor who trained on corpses and drug addicts?  Or by someone who instructed him and had every recourse with the support of the professor to grade him on his bedside manner?”

“Corpses, drug addicts.” It is at this point I got my brief history lesson which began this story.

“Well yea!”

I always thought that these docs were highly trained but come to think about it, when a woman finds a good gynecologist they usually go out and party afterwards.

“Most definitely.  I would want my daughter treated with respect and compassion.”

“That is where I come in, when they are examining me I give them feedback, I am considered one of the faculty and my word carries the same weight as the professors.”

“How does it feel?  Wait let me rephrase that, I mean how does it feel to be, you know, out there and examined by the docs?  How many exams do you go through?”

“I will admit at first it was uncomfortable, but I looked at the students and they were more nervous than me.  I was the first live patient they had and the professor introduced me as the instructor and that they were to pay close attention to what I said.  In my first class there were five, but I usually average 8-10 in a class.”

“Ten students in a class, don’t you get sore?”

“Nope,it is my job not too.  If I do my job and they learn from me how do their job, then I walk away from a nights work, comfortably.  Plus the students are very appreciative. I try to make it a positive experience, helping them so they will carry these skills, well, to your daughter.  Some even hug me.“

“Are you the only one at the school, I mean are you the only professional vagina, I mean pelvic model?”

“No there are three of us.  All body types, these docs are examining women, real women, none are going to be OBGYN in Beverly Hills and from what I hear you don’t want to, unless whine is your favorite color!”

“Obviously I am not a woman so what do you instruct them in, anatomy, touch, procedure?”

“To start with I tell them, you are at my cervix.” Marcie smiled

“Funny, I get that.”

“They don’t, remember they’re med students, they have no sense of humor, I have to instruct them that it is OK to smile.  To be at ease with the patient, be comfortable and gentle.  Once the exam begins I start on what they will be looking for in the exam, what they are feeling.   I might ask them to find my cervix, how to use the instruments properly.  What every, well woman, exam should be.  Then on to the next one and start all over.”

“How long have you been doing this, and how many times a week do you, do you, model?”

“Four years now, it really depends on the rotations and what women they call, up for instruction, could be once a month or twice.”

‘Are you married?”

“Yes and that has nothing to do with what I do.  I perform a service and my husband is proud to be married to a professional vagina.”

We both smiled I bought Marcie a wine, telling her this one is from my daughter.

After that evening I told several women friends of my encounter.  Their reaction.

“She is a saint.”

“Sometimes I look around and feel like I am living in 1592, that, this is what it must have been like.  I’m not here in the now, I am there, in the then.

St. Augustine Florida

Summer 2011

Historic St. Augustine, the oldest city in the US, founded in the late 1500s, three hundred years before we ever even became a country.  Therefore making  St. Augustine a Spanish City longer than it has been an American City.

A little history lesson, Columbus did not discover America.  Native American’s discovered a lost Columbus, or at best he rediscovered America, in fact he never stepped foot in continental North America.  However he was the first to tell everyone about his destination and not keep it a secret, like the Vikings, the Chinese, the Polynesians, the Irish, and the rest of the world who stumbled onto this land and left it as it was.  By telling every one of his adventures to the far East (not the West remember he did not know where he was) he opened the New Land for trade with the Old World.

Ponce de Leon spotted the coast of Florida in 1513 whereupon he named it La Flordia (land of flowers), this was a hundred years before the English settled in Jamestown VA. Not to be outdone the French beat everyone setting up a permanent settlement 1564. The French were the first non native Americans to successfully settle in the US.

The Spanish did not really take a liking to the French having settlements so close to their trade routes so in 1564 Menendez with about 600 sailors and soldiers beat the French out of La Flordia and started the settlement of St. Augustine La Flordia.  The oldest permanent settlement in the US.

Now 447 years later people are still drinking and partying like a bunch of ship-bound Spanish Sailors on leave at the Tavern in the Old City.    St. Augustine has done a remarkable job of preserving an old Spanish settlement within cannon-shot of the old fort.  They employe hundreds to act as period characters, acting out life in late 1500 AD St. Augustin, Joyce the barmaid was one such character, dressed in period costume, serving a variety of local  beers, chilled, to sooth the modern taste, along with a grog of wine and spirits.  Between servings she showed all how to play a variety of Old World bar games,  one being the forerunner to back gammon.

Throughout the evening, cast members would come and go, all in period dress to do repairs, to farm the garden in the back courtyard, to make brooms, repair and rebuild trying to make it as authentic as the history books and diaries told them what life was like in 1592.  The day-to-day goings on of a  Spanish settlement.

Joyce dressed in a flowing dress with a loose-fitting white blouse, with a concession to  comfort she was wearing leather shoes.

“Don’t you get hot?”

It was 101 degrees outside with high humidity, I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and I was sweaty HOT.  The tavern was not air condition and the only cool was an occasional breeze that blew through.

“No, I am wearing loose-fitting cotton cloths, just as the early settlers would have, it’s really comfortable.  Plus I am use to working in this so it doesn’t bother me that much.”

“Would you wanted to live in 1592 La Flordia?”

What makes you think I haven’t?”

“You don’t look that old.”

The bar was closing and I was just about ready to head out when a family came in that were friends of Joyce and her husband Tom .  At the moment the party began.  They invited me to join them in the courtyard for another beer.  As we all walked back Joyce’s husband, Tom,  a carpenter in the Old City, dressed in period clothing of baggy pants, a white cotton shirt with no buttons, tied in the front, came in and we were transported back to 1592. Without use of the “Wayback Machine”  thank you Sherman and Peabody (Sherman and Peabody were a boy and his dog feature on the Bullwinkle and Rocky cartoons of the late 60s, the wayback machine was a time machine that took the pair on their adventures).

Tom, Joyce’s husband and Joyce, a family that had known them in their earlier life circa 2011 and myself.  Sitting in the cool of the evening enjoying the breeze and a beer.

“Tom I asked Joyce if she ever thought that she was back in 1592?”

Without hesitation Tom answered,

“Everyday, especially in the morning, when it is quiet and no one but the characters are at work.  I walk to my job pass by the broom maker, the teacher, my tools in hand, seeing and feeling what it would have been like then.  I know I walk in the footsteps of half a millennium and I am lucky to be a part of it.  Yes I really feel like I am back there.  I am not modern day Tom but Fernando the carpenter.”

“You from Pennsylvania right, Dutch country”

“Not anymore I am from the New World.”

Talked continued on, mainly on the cast of characters the work daily in the historic section.  Their pride in keeping it as authentic as they can.  Using old nails and not replacing them.  Serving travelers as they would have over 400 years ago.

“How do you know what it was like, what do you base it on?”

“Augustine has been around continuously for over 400 years, day to day traditions carry on.  They had a school and was the main mission for Florida so there is a lot of documentation.  Plus you have this feeling that this is what it was like.  I know folks who parents were around when Flagger built his railroad into St. Augustine turning it into a tourist destination.  They tell stories like it was just yesterday.  So it is not hard to go back even four hundred years and imagine what the sights, sounds, even smells were part of the everyday.”

I sat and listen as they talked about how they ended up here their friends a bit envious of Joyce and Tom’s retirement.  In a cool breeze in a courtyard in 1592 St. Augustine I listen.  I looked around and was there in 1592.