:: a heart so big it hurts like hell ::

iowa is the kind of place that makes you cry when you leave. it’s not
the kind of crying that you do at funerals or when girlfriends break up
with you, but the kind done at weddings and when your favorite football
team wins the super bowl. everyone that i’ve been blessed to meet there
has such big and lovely hearts. a place like that is unbelievably hard
to leave. i feel at home there. even when i’m sleeping on a couch in a
basement that’s 1,050 miles from my own bed.

the internet is a
crazy place. it was over a year and a half ago that wayde first sent me
an email telling me that he enjoyed my photos and that he too was a
starflyer fan. that lead to me exchanging emails with he and amy in the
latter part of last year. wayde and dana kept me informed of the band’s
plans to play in philadelphia and i had the opportunity to see general
sherman in july of this year, but i passed it up for an afternoon of
cliffjumping. two weeks later i was in iowa. and then again, a month
later.

to get to iowa, it is a good idea to pass thru
pittsburgh. i’ve decided that the two prettiest skylines i’ve ever had
the pleasure of viewing are that of columbus, ohio and pittsburgh,
pennsylvania. i’m not sure which one i prefer, but as i traveled west
on I-376, i came around a bend in the highway that revealed the
pittsburgh skyline just after dusk. i shrieked as a little child would
when handed more candy than he knows what to do with.

there is
no good way thru ohio. interstate 80 is unsightly and interstate 70 is
full of drivers who consider 66 mph in the left lane really, really,
really fast. i don’t like to travel thru ohio and i can only think of a
few good things to come from there: ben roethlisberger, the columbus
skyline, griffin house, and, well, i think that’s about it.

there’s
a giant bridge that goes around chicago that’s called the skyway. that
is a great name for a bridge. after the skyway, chicago was full of
unwelcome surprises. my ignition switch went bad at a 7-eleven in
skokie and it was $335 to replace. i got caught in the sidestorm of a
tornado and it took me the better part of an hour to find I-294 south.
most illinois drivers are slow and tend to get in the way, but around
chicago, they drive much like massholes. i err on the aggressive side,
but these maniacs needed to calm down. chicago never looked better than
in my rearview mirror that night.

things
looked brighter once i landed safely in iowa. i crossed the mississippi
and fell asleep in my car on a hill that overlooked the river. i woke
to overcast blue skies seven hours later and i filled my gas tank with
gas that only cost a dollar ninety-nine, 89 octane. i arrived in ankeny
two hours later to fresh brewed coffee and home made omlets. iowans
sure know how to greet east-coasters.

general sherman is
recording a new album. luke, from the envy corps, who just signed to
mercury records, arrived at wayde’s house later saturday afternoon to
record the drum and piano parts. becca came over and we all went down
to the basement. i took photos. i watched them record for a bit. it
wasn’t the most fun i had on my trip, but i’m glad i was there.

northern
iowa is home to fields of giant windmills. sunday, wayde and i got the
new starflyer album and drove an hour north on I-35 to wade thru fields
of soybeans, corn and windmills larger than houses. while there, we
made a lot of photographs. satisfied, we traveled down to ames to have
coffee with dana and becca. the coffee shop in ames is delightful. when
you order your coffee they prepare it on the spot, filling a filter
with grounds and dripping it directly into a beautiful hand crafted
mug.

iowa 80 is the world’s largest truckstop. on my way home,
i spent over an hour there perusing the many souvenir shops, dentist’s
office, barber shop and arcade. i made a handful of photographs and
headed directly to the mississippi river. while there, i waded in north
america’s greatest river while conducting business with asterik studio.
it was there that i noticed the irony of the shirt i was wearing. on
the front it read: “driving east” (who happen to be a band i
photographed about a month ago).

just over a day later, i arrived safely home. the clock read 3.43pm. ironic. i had left at 3.43pm exactly five days earlier.

:: vernal equnioxes, moonrises over the freeway, big trucks and minnesota in my sights ::

the
trip down the pennsylvania turnpike was quicker than normal. or at
least it seemed to be. one hour and fifty-seven minutes from exit one
hundred forty-six to parked. the moon began edging its way over the
horizon at about 3am. it was barely visible and it was extremely
crescent shaped. i stared at it until it grew brighter and brighter. i
thought of the ditty bops and equally good music.

something
about long drives late at night are bizarrely therapeutic – in this odd
melancholy sort of way. everything becomes increasingly introspective
and retrospective and you’re quickly driving thru your own miniature
biography. the music that crackles out of the speakers becomes your own
personal soundtrack…

there was a night when pedro played that
soundtrack and i couldn’t control anything, not even the volume. i was
stuffed in the backseat, on my way to a diner that i didn’t want to go
to with people i didn’t want to be with. there was that
loaf-of-bread-sized lump sitting right between both of my lungs and i
couldn’t swallow it. my one small victory that night was smashing
everyone in rummy five-hundred. no-one seemed to care. i was the
amusing afterthought.

summer closes in on itself in just two
days and in the spirit of symbolism i will celebrate the death of our
greatest season by galavanting thru the midwest one final time. friday:
chicago. saturday and sunday: iowa and minnesota (accompanied by dana
and becca). monday could take me to nebraska and colorado. a short stay
in denver would be hi-lighted by trips to paris on the platte and my
brother’s bar with zach, jp, tbone, lu, adam and karen, and i can’t
forget foz. st. louis is a target for the return trip and i couldn’t
call it a trip thru the midwest without dropping by in bloomington,
indiana; the birthplace of all my midwestern adventures of the past
year.

soon i’ll be walking thru doors that i’m uncertain i want to be walking thru. last night jon b said that those really
are my doors and they offer me the best opportunity to continue doing
what i was built to do. maybe even minnesota and its giant windmills
will tell me the same thing. but in case they don’t i’ll bring my ring
pops and sweat pants.

:: my weekend with general sherman, as told on 8.28.06 ::

iowa is a friendly place. they say ‘hi’ to you as you pump your
gasoline; the kind that’s 89 octane, 10% ethanol and five cents cheaper
than regular. i arrived some two hours early, 1.04pm central time to be
exact, ate at subway and meandered around ankeny gazing at corn, big
white clouds and the john deere assembly plant.

i parked in
wayde’s driveway at the assigned time and i arrived just as one of his
brothers was returning home from work. i told him i was from
pennsylvania. he said he’d heard about me. my legend was growing.

wayde
is a tall young man and it was hard to decipher that from his myspace
photos but nevertheless, i enjoyed his company. we talked of
photography and music while i slid large sheets of film into plastic
holders inside of a light-tight bag. dana soon came over and we were
off to her place of former residence to load up the equipment in
wayde’s vw eurovan (i was thoroughly impressed that it was a five-speed
and i arranged a barrage of random questions for dana to answer as we
traveled to the venue).

i made nice photographs of these
lovely musicians in the hallway of an old school building turned
church. there was little room and little time but i was able to capture
a few successful shots (individual portraits) on the four-by-five. we
then cleaned up the photography gear and i was able to spend a little
time talking with wayde (who plays drums) and becca (who sings and
plays piano) during the sets before general sherman was to take the
stage.

just before general sherman went on i met the members
of ryne watts’ band and i interrogated alex on what it was like to play
the upright bass. i told him it was the most manly instrument i could
think of. general sherman interrupted our conversation and i stood
there in a state of uncontrolled giddiness (if that is a word). i could
not believe that i had just driven 1,200 miles to see them play about
eight songs and capture about 30 images of them on light sensitive
silver. i laughed and i smiled and i danced inside.

after the
show i learned that wayde had to work, scott was busy, dana was moving
to college and becca was working the next day. becca asked me to come
see her at her work and i did so. i arrived at 11.49am and left around
1.30pm. it was a delightful two hours which was followed up by six and
a half hours of uncontrolled boredom.

at this point it
probably would have been a good idea to travel back to indiana or go
all the way to nebraska. i did neither. i made it to exit 100 on I-80 W
and drove thru the iowan countryside making a few random pictures and
drinking coffee which i purchased at casey’s general store, the iowan
equivalent to turkey hill. i thought i may get to see the girls that
afternoon at iowa state university, but neither could be reached by
cellular telephone and i ended up in a walmart parking lot for several
hours reading and calling friends from home who refused to push the
little green button on their cellular telephone. it was a rough few
hours.

the time finally came for wayde to return home from work
so i met him back at his residence and amy and seth came over and we
watched a video of yo-yo hi-lights. we then all crammed into wayde’s
eurovan and headed to downtown des moines for coffee at java joe’s. on
the way there i talked to becca and decided that i may go visit she and
dana at iowa state before i returned to indiana later that night, but
by the time we made it back to ankeny, it was too late for another
visit. it would have been nice to see them both before i left. (though
there is always next time – only a scant 26 days away.)

des
moines seems to be a lovely town, though i cannot tell how much there
is to do there in the evenings. the coffee shop was lovely and they
even sold beer there. i was surely taken aback by this fact, since
nothing of the sort is legal in pennsylvania.

i left wayde’s
house and bid farewell to my new friends. i then proceeded to a gas
station where i purchased more “corn gas” at the low price of $2.63 per
gallon and headed back to the hoosier state. i only made it two hours
before i had to pull over and fall alseep. the bright blue sky woke me
up at about 6.30am and i realized i wouldn’t make it back to b-town
until lunchtime. i drove and i drove and at 8.16am, somewhere in
illinois, at least one tear was shed as i fondly looked back on the day
and a half i got to spend with general sherman.

the end.