Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Tale of Two Rivers

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My most recent road trip/tour was a journey I’ve made several times to the upper Midwest, specifically Illinois. This time I made sure to book a couple of free days in Chicago as down time. Booking a hotel downtown Chicago on Hotwire I wasn’t sure what I’d get but it turned out to be an absolutely perfect set up. I was right downtown between Rush St. and Michigan Ave at the older Tremont Hotel with its rickety old wooden elevator, Mike Ditka steakhouse, right across the street from Starbucks and an “old school” staff. On the ninth floor I could see the condos next door, the foot traffic on Rush Street and so much more. The shower even had a thermostat that told you the temp of the water. That impressed me, as a practical yet luxurious touch. The simplest amenities seem to impress me.

Driving up NM hwy 185 along the Robledo mountains I crossed the Rio Grande and reflected that I would cross the Missouri, Mississippi and play at a festival right on the Fox river. I liked that thought. In St. Louis I was out late at night trying to find a place to eat that didn’t have the words Bell, Del, Kentucky or Burger in its name. I stopped to get gas and noticed a guy looking at me and my car. He said, “You look you’re living out of your car these days. Get kicked out?” I laughed and said I was a musician and he nodded knowingly. After explaining what instruments I play and the style of music (something I rehearse on long trips) he thought I was just passing through but I said I was actually looking for in interesting, reasonable place to eat other than those week-old hot dogs in the store. So he says, “Hey you like Sushi?” I say sure and he gets his iPhone from his car and speaks “Sushi” in the phone and spends about ten minutes looking up places nearby to eat and so friendly and helpful, even rubbing my neck a little—in a completely innocent way—asks for my website etc. He sends me downtown St. Louis to Wasabi which I eventually find after walking a few blocks but it is closed on Monday’s. Sigh. I approach to guys walking up the street and ask their advice so they say yeah there is an Irish like pub up the street, but they warm me there is some really loud Karaoke. I’m starving at that point so walk in and there is an older gentleman and woman with a suitcase full of CD’s and they are just howling away. I sit at the bar only to find out the kitchen closed about 15 minutes before. I had to laugh.

I decide to take some shots of the Gateway Arch and stop and the Mississippi River to pay tribute to the late singer Jeff Buckley. Just as drive through downtown a late Cardinals game gets out and thousands of people dressed in Red are streaming out onto the streets. The Arch is beautiful at night reflecting the skyline and casting shadows on the clouds. I ended up stopping at the quick mart next to my hotel and actually bought one of those mystery-meat hot links that spin on those rollers took one bite and threw it away. Ate some MORE tropical trail mix—oh yum, and went to bed.

Driving through the Midwest plains reminds me so much of the Llano Estacado where I grew up in southeastern New Mexico, except it is green in the Midwest. The Missouri Breaks are beautiful and the hills of western Kansas are inspiring. As I drove through the part of Iowa where the Bridges of Madison County are I couldn’t help feel nostalgic for the times my family would pile into the car and take the long road trips through seemingly endless country. My brother, sister and I would sing all the current hits of the day to alleviate the boredom. Passing car after car stuffed to the gills and families watching DVD’s I thought how technology is just another distraction to do the same thing. Of course my crazy GPS unit named “Susan” kept me company often yelling at me to turn around when possible. I swear she gets more assertive each time she repeats.

I had spent time in Chicago but never more than a day and not in downtown. When I found a hotel in the near north area that was affordable I was excited. Chicago is such a beautiful city and the air is kept clean by the massive Lake Michigan. There are so many things to do free there if you don’t mind paying for parking that is somewhere between $35 and $50 a day. There were small parks on either side of the block where I was staying. I took my Native Flutes and played right in the middle of those awesome skyscrapers. It just rang out and soon people would bring their dogs next to me to do their business (shows what they thought of my music) ha-ha, as an excuse to listen. It was magical. The food was amazing, plentiful and the choices up and down Rush Street were overwhelming. I found a cool happy hour right across my hotel with a bar menu of Tapas to drool over. I met such friendly people who would welcome me to their city. It is funny that when you say you are from New Mexico this glazed look comes to their faces—almost like a reverence. I did get that comment of, “Wow we whites really screwed your people didn’t we?” when they find out my Native ancestry and say something like, “That’s okay the casino slot machines only pay out to Indians” to make them laugh. I walked about 15 miles up and down the Loop stopping at Tribune Plaza, Starbucks, the Chicago River, the Modern Art museum, Starbucks, Pritzker Center, the Jelly Bean sculpture, Chicago Institute of Art, Starbucks, World Plaza, Oak Street Beach, Fullerton Beach, (where I entertained beach goers with my Hang) Lincoln Park, the Dog Beach, Starbucks, Crowne Fountain and ended up at the Starbucks across the street from the hotel.

I did play some along the way as well but the destination was the 2009 World of Faeries Festival in South Elgin. We had rain, wind and cold on and off the first day which made for a long day. We all hung in there though and I performed several times and met some beautiful people. The woman in the booth next to mine found out I was Mestizo like herself and we just got all Mexican….. Too funny. Now get this, we got to talking food—no surprise if you know anything about me—and she said I’m going to bring you some home cooking tomorrow. And she did! She made Chicken Mole with Spanish rice and packed in a Tupperware bowl. Wow! It was delicious when I finally got to eat it 15 hours later in the Quad cities. The second day was beautiful and being in the Oak trees along the Fox River is just magical and a perfect setting. I actually sold some flutes too. I was so happy about that. I’m now distributing Coyote Oldman flutes at festivals and concerts and it is a huge honor. It was reported to me that during my first set on Saturday an Eagle suddenly appeared and circled above the Park. Things like that happen so often to me that I almost expect it. Kudos to the Fairy Fest organizers Dave, Gloria and the volunteers for their work, passion and dedication. This year was just about seamless and that is saying a lot—even with the rain.

I’ll be performing in the Santa Fe area this weekend with performance poets Wayne Crawford and Wendy Baez-Brown. Check my calendar for more info: http://randygranger.net/calender.html. Also I'll be performing at the Indian Summer Music Awards in Milwaukee this September where I'm also nominated in the flute category.

Thank you for reading these blogs I hope they are interesting and entertaining.


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