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September 29, 2004

Effingham, IL • Flying J Truck Stop

I am among the commercial travelers with their Marboro Reds and their truck stop shower bags. For the first time on this trip I have indulged in a Flying J breakfast (omlette and hot tea) in order to recharge my laptop battery. They are obviously short staffed this morning and the waitress, who has been here since nine last night, implored me to stay as long as I could to give her a rest. She calls everyone "hon" and smiles evenly at both the grumpy drivers and their tired wives, taking it on good naturedly the chin form men who jostle her. I want to give this woman a twenty. More after breakfast...

Posted by bethamsel at 9:15 AM

September 26, 2004

Columbus, OH

Columbus, OH is a midwestern oasis, and I am happily ensconced in Angela and Steve's house for a few days of recuperation time. This city has fared better than most Ohio urban areas, infusing its neighborhoods with a sense of cultural pride and individuality and actually re-investing its tax revenue into common sense development. One can still purchase a house in Columbus without having to first sell an ovary. That's a city I can rally behind! I could not acertain what manner of hope, if any, runs through Cinicinnati’s civil government. I look forward to getting a wider view of that river city the next time I come through.

The venue in which I performed last night, Cafe Apropos, is a new estabishment in a changing Columbus neighborhood. If you are in the city, I highly recommend you check it out, get a pastry or a cup of coffee. They also double as a wine merchant and have an incredible selection in the back. Plus, they’re a wi-fi establishment, bringing the world to your fingertips one byte at a time. That’s service!

The presidential campaign continues at a feverish pace and it is evident to me, as I make my way through Ohio, that the state is highly divided. Yesterday I drove through a sea of “W 2004” bumper stickers, which gave the impression that it is not much of a contest, but I refuse to be dissuaded from hope.

I was in a Target parking lot north of Cincinnati two days ago and I passed a woman who was getting into her car, a car plastered with Bush stickers. I asked her if she was going to vote for Bush and she replied, “I sure am.” I then asked her if she would mind telling me why. She replied, nearly verbatim, the promotional words written by Karl Rove, which was her prerogative, but which unnerved my faith in a thoughtful electorate. There is no point in pussy footing around the issue...I do not support our current president and I believe that he must removed from office before more damage is done not only to this great nation, but also to the international community. I know you, my dear listeners, are a smart and creative bunch and have your reasons for voting for whomever you so choose (I just hope you do, indeed, vote). But I can’t equivocate. That’s the beauty of the First Amendment!

Posted by bethamsel at 12:56 PM

September 22, 2004

Louisville, KY

I spent the most wonderful evening with The Weepies last night in Pittsburgh, PA. This is the first time I have seen them perform since last November and I was utterly and completely entranced. Not only is their writing evocative and moving, but Deb and Steve make the most lovely sound together, harmonizing beautifully and complementing one another with a grace rarely heard. I can't recommend enough that you check them out when they come through your town. You can find their schedule on The Weepies website: www.theweepies.com
I am typing this from the Atomic Cafe in Louisville, KY where I have arrived after a seven hour drive from Pittsburgh. It's a fantastic neighborhood space, white walled with local art hanging. And what is right on the main counter when you walk in? Voter registration forms. I am in love. More after the show...

Posted by bethamsel at 4:43 PM

September 18, 2004

Iowa, East of Des Moines

I am sitting in the Egg heading to Chicago after a night in Des Moines at java joe's. I remember so clearly the floods that wiped out downtown Des Moines in 1993, the rivers up over their banks, up over the roadways. Everything heals. The downtown architechture is riven with 19th century decorative stone structures which, thankfully, survived 1970's urban renewal and we spent most of the afternoon walking the town, looking upward.
Off to Chiacgo and tonight's show at Uncommon Ground. See you soon....

Posted by bethamsel at 8:26 AM

September 15, 2004

Home For A Day

I listened to a relatively new Robert B. Parker novel, Double Play, as I crossed the midwest from West Allis, WI to Boulder. A fictionalized account of the body guard who was assigned to protect Jackie Robinson in his inaugural year playing baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, it is a thug thriller much in the same vein of his Spenser series. It is also, however, a beautiful portrait of the man who smashed the color bar and a moving glimpse of how baseball shaped the lives of young boys in the 40’s and how it healed a post war nation. I can’t help it. I am a sucker for baseball.
I am home today on a cool blue sky autumn day, recharging before turning back around tomorrow and heading to Des Moines. Thanks to Danae & Caryn in West Allis for such a great night and for introducing my music to a great group of listeners.
See you in the Midwest!

Posted by bethamsel at 11:35 AM

September 11, 2004

Madison, WI Part Two

I am pleased to report that the TA Truck stops are also Wifi, so I am able to drop in a note before moving on for the night. Madison was a wonderful evening, thanks to Jon Hain, The Onion, and Sybil Augustine at WORT-FM. I was so surprised and pleased to see so many of you. Thank you for welcoming me back to Madison!
I saw the St. Paul Cathedral in Minnesota this morning, thanks to my dear friends Heidi and Andrew. It is true spectacle, awesome in scope and design. Having not been raised with a sense of religion, I am always amazed to see such monuments built in the name of god. More on it from Milwaukee...

Posted by bethamsel at 11:49 PM

Madison, WI

I am sitting in Mother Fool's Coffehouse, a killer joint in Madison, drinking iced coffee and relaxing after the day's drive from St. Paul. Thanks to everyone at the Collected Sounds House Concert last night for making my solo return to Minneapolis such a total joy. Thanks to Amy and Greg for having me in their incredible movie set of a house. I was exhausted when I arrived at their house after driving 7 hours through construction and gruesome clear-blue-sky auto accident traffic (how does that happen?) from Lincoln, NE (though I did listen to a great book on tape, Miss Wyoming, by the guy who wrote Generation X and whose name is currently escaping me). What was the first thing amy granted to me upon my arrival? She led me to their HUGE bathtub where I promptly melted in for a soak. Now, when I say HUGE, I mean it. This thing could easily sit four and I had it all to myself in which to do laps and wash off the interstate. It could not have been a more wonderful beginning to a great evening.
I have no idea if anyone will come to tonight's show here in Madison, but this has been one hell of an adventure so far.

Posted by bethamsel at 5:34 PM

September 9, 2004

Omaha, NE

The world is a wondrous place! I am lying in the back of The Egg parked at a Flying J truck stop after driving 500 miles across a griddle hot Colorado and Nebraska. I am actually lying in the back of the Egg while simultaneously typing to you because (and this is where I am astounded) the Flying J's are all WiFi! I feel more and more like a long haul trucker every single day, crossing this astoundingly large country and getting a first hand look at an economy of Wal-Marts and McDonalds infiltrating what were once dusty isolated towns. This afternoon I realized I was beginning to recognize the function of those previously enigmatic, enormous shrink wrapped rubber and metal parts one sees dangling from cluttered peg boards in any truck stop. These exotic fetishes have always seemed to me to be curious relics along the lines of asphalt kachinas, intricate paraphernalia of another world. Then one day you realize a rubber gasket is just a rubber gasket!
More soon from another Flying J...on to Minneapolis!

Posted by bethamsel at 10:14 PM

September 4, 2004

Missoula, MT

I am sitting in the Raven Cafe in Missoula, Montana, where I have landed to open for Catie Curtis at the Crystal Theatre after three days of camping on Wyoming's BLM land and in The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. I have lived in the West for the greatest portion of my life, yet I had never before been in Yellowstone (which I called Jellystone my entire childhood due to an obssession with Saturday morning cartoons). I had, prior to three days ago, always turned my nose up at the notion of the summer crowds slow RV rolling through the wilderness. Well, I have been properly rebuked. IT IS INCREDIBLE! Bison! Elk! GRIZZLIES! We saw mineral hot springs reshaping the surface of the earth into white stepped terraces and Old Faithful (along with 250 international tourists). Steam vents burst grey plume veils through the earth's crust like subway grates on a cold New York day. Never has the smell of sulfur been so full of wonder.
Wednesday night, Jim and I pulled off 191 heading north through Wyoming (dark, very dark) to find a place to camp for the night. Ten miles off the road along a washboard dirt two track, we came to the Boulder river and a big swath of BLM land. The next morning we woke up in the midst of a wide group of cattle grazing along the river, the first sound we heard, a long, low, 'Moooooooooooooo.' I love the cow. I could not have been happier.

Posted by bethamsel at 12:27 PM