turning to the south…

Oh my. I’ve had an incredible 24 hours in Edwardsville with my friends. Right after I posted yesterday, we got in the Bug and headed down with no real plan or direction. Wound up on a gorgeous little stretch of highway known as Prairietown Road.  Mike drove, I rode shotgun, snapping pics with the old Pentax, and Ellen rocked the backseat in her little tie-dye shirt. We were simply having a blast, listening to the road, watching the amazing Illinois sky through the pushback softtop, the Bug singing along through its restored muffler. We aimed for nothing but feeling. I told Mike, “Take the next right,” and it just so happened to be…Southbound, Illinois 4, the oldest existing part of Route 66, decommissioned in 1932. How do you like them apples. Mike pulled over and said, “Ok. You take over.” And thus I turned my direction down the old two-lane, following the ancient alignment of the Mother Road. We wandered and wandered, I delighted in a longtime dream come true, of driving a perfect little Beetle on this highway. We stopped in at a rockin vintage car lot that encourages you to kick the tires, so Mike and I tried on a 1928 Chevy and some other rides on for size. Headed back through Staunton down some twisties; I got the ol’ Bug up to about 67 mph. Felt like 90!

Back in Edwardsville, we went back up to Cousin Mike’s, where we jammed out a lil’ bit, and then headed out to a little town right outside of STL, Fairmont, which apparently is Little Mexico up in these parts.  I’ve been sworn to secrecy as to where we actually went, but I can say that it was a restaurant in the back of a Mexican grocery, and we were the only gringos.  Cousin Mike lived in Mexico for a spell and speaks flawless Spanish, and it was obvious from the fact that the grandma who ran the place cooed over him and made and brought us our food herself that he was a regular and she got a kick out of this big gringo and his family.  All these Mexican families were also there having a lovely Sunday, and we lingered for a good long time, drinking Bohemia and Coca-Cola in glass bottles, eating ridiculously good, genuine Mexican food til we near passed out. Maybe the best Mexican meal I’ve ever had.

Headed back to the cabin, played more guitar, played with the dogs, checked out the garden, then we all pretty much zoned out and I got turned onto Tommy Emmanuel…a seriously amazing fellow. One of four people chosen by Chet Atkins as a “Certified Guitar Player.” Here’s just a taste.

We lazily lingered, ruminating on our vast repast, and then we headed back to Ellen’s house. Ellen’s Mike went to sleep, and Ellen and I took a very, very long walk. I saw a meteor! We headed back towards town and ran into Joey Rios, and hung with him, discussing Roswell and other such matters, then headed to my favorite bar in the country, the Stagger Inn (Again), right on 66. I’ve been coming there for years with Ellen, and in fact had my first real performances there. They have an amazing musical scene in E-ville, and the open mic Sundays is run by Butch, who is close with all of my people here, and has been a great friend to me and my various musical forms for a long, long time.  We weren’t planning on hitting the open mic as Butch was in California, which is why we lingered til almost closing to hit the bar. Caught up with Tim, the head bartender, over a chilled shot of Jager and a local brew, and then Ellen said, “Come here. There’s someone here you have to see.” I rounded the bar and lo and behold, it was Butch! Turns out he’d come back that morning..we all thought he was gone all weekend.

We caught up and then I played a few songs at the tail of the open mic; met a gent who’d been at the last Ramblers show at Stagger, a good friend of Ellen’s; we hung out for a spell, too. They kicked out all of the riff-raff and then we hung after hours with Tim, Butch, Butch’s nephew Bob, and Janet. (The last two were our bartenders.) Butch told me a bit about his life and work…he relatively recently began working as an investigator for mesothelioma cases, on the side of the good guys. He goes and interviews these victims, and forensically figures out where the asbestos exposure came from..he told me a terrible story about a woman who’d washed a lot of miners’ clothes, and couldn’t for the life of her figure out where the disease had come from. Butch does a lot of good for a lot of people. He’s a light in this world.

Ellen and I staggered out (shocked, aren’t you) and headed back to her place, where I made an interesting late-night pasta, by stir-frying cucumbers and tomatoes from her garden with garlic and sesame seeds. Was pretty durn tasty. Then I passed out hard.

Woke up reasonably early today. Getting ready to head to Louisville. Very excited. If you’re around the region, come tonight to Derby City Espresso, where I’ll be playing round 8 pm….http://www.myspace.com/derbycityespresso.

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