Introducing Kevin and Nicole’s Bike Tour

Right now, two friends of mine — Kevin and Nicole — are furiously pedaling down the backroads of the East Coast on two bicycles.

Their goal: To bike from Maine to Key West. With about three rest days.

Seems a little crazy? Well, Kevin Miner is known for his bold behavior. He’s penned editorials that put him in the cross-hairs of the rabid Free Republic website. And in 2006, he ran for governor of Connecticut, quite possibly the youngest gubernatorial candidate in that state’s modern history.

His newest venture is equally audacious. After taking a leave from their jobs, Kevin and Nicole set out on a 2,600-mile journey to see the country, visit some organic farms and, well, basically say they did it.

The couple has already spent a few weeks out on the road and I’d encourage you to visit their blog. I know many bicycle fans read this site, so it would be great if you could show some support. Good luck Kevin and Nicole!


Smiley of Des Moines, Iowa

My ’80s hair metal friend Mike and I used to drive up and down the streets of Des Moines, just passing the time in a city known for its fertile women and large insurance companies.

We had a system: Mike looked out for the women and I looked between the insurance buildings for a job I might be able to keep for more than two weeks.

We passed by our friends’ houses, our rivals’ houses and the old folks’ houses.

We honked at the old folks. With a blind kindness particular to the Midwest, they just turned around and waved, never really knowing who it was.

We passed the Glendale Cemetery a lot. We both have friends buried there — one the victim of a tragic high school car accident, the other a recent war hero. Across the street is another reminder of death — the house where a friend shot himself to escape his life.

One spring day, we drove north up Hickman Road until we reached Merle Hay Road, when I saw, standing in the grassy median to our left, a glimpse of some shabby clothes with a black man inside. He was dressed in black jeans and a tattered red flannel, stooping at the waist, waving his long dark arms. It could only be . . . Smiley!

The Unemployed Life, Wanderlust

The story behind the Christmas Card

Every year, I send out a Christmas card. But I try and send something a little less like the traditional, boring here’s-my-baby/dog/family-for-your-enjoyment. Last year, I sent out a picture greeting card featuring an ex-marine waterboarding me. A few years before that, I sent out a photo and story about my night inside an inflatable newspaper costume. The year before that, well, let’s just say I have a lifetime ban from that coffeeshop. So, in keeping with my Gonzo tradition, here is the story behind the Christmas card:

So there I was – standing in front of a dozen Pennsylvania police officers in full riot gear, clubs and tear gas ready, with only a press pass to protect me. And even if that press pass was real, reporter credentials didn’t mean anything on the fortified streets of Pittsburgh.

Just minutes earlier, another phalanx of riot cops charged a group of protesters and bystanders a few blocks over. And that was just minutes after police rolled out L-RAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) — a crowd-control device strapped to a military truck that emits a piercing, debilitating tone. This was the first time such a device had been used in the United States.

Yep, the G20 Conference was underway and for the last six weeks, Pittsburgh city officials and the media had scared residents into allowing a small version of a police state right on the banks of the Allegheny River.

Behind the News, Wanderlust

Feral cats invading Pinellas County (and my backyard)

I first met Frisky about three weeks ago. It was a short interaction. I came crashing through my back gate with a load of groceries; she ran as fast as her little legs could carry her.

Oh, a new cat, I thought. Maybe it’ll make friends with the other stray cat that haunted this side of Crescent Lake – a large, tenacious stray tabby with absolutely no fear. His torn ear and smashed in face gave the impression the cat had been hit by a car – or several.

But this new cat seemed less street-savvy. She was dark grey, striped with darker grey, with a large head plopped on a much smaller frame. Her ribs stuck out. She had obviously not eaten as well as the other strays.

So, I began leaving cans of cat food outside. Last year, in one of my more unusual interactions at Crescent Lake, I inherited about a dozen cans of Nine Lives cat food from an odd couple staying at the motel across the street.  These very distraught folks had lost their cat, Tiger, who turned up in my backyard. I know this because I came home one day to find an older, shabbily-dressed man climbing out from under my deck.

“Uh, who are you and what are you doing?”

“Oh, Tiger, Tiger, my cat, she’s escaped and under-”

Hi reply was broken by sobbing from his girlfriend standing behind me.


They left after I assured them I would capture the cat. Tiger must’ve thought they were as crazy as I did because he came out about five minutes later. I scooped him up and dropped him off at the couple’s hotel room. They were so happy I found Tiger that they gave me a dozen cans of cat food, for what use I don’t know. Perhaps to offer to Tiger when he showed up again.

I never saw Tiger, or the couple, again. But I did begin to see this new grey cat,  usually for just a few seconds at a time. Every other day, I left a can of food for her. I never saw her approach, but the can was always empty the next day. That cat was so skittish; in fact, I almost stopped leaving cans out, fearing I was giving the possums or raccoons a free meal.

Which is why it was so surprising when, one day, the cat suddenly came right up to me, purring, meowing loudly and trying to force its furry little body inside my house.

Immediately, I began to see a lot of her. She brushed up against my leg every time I stepped outside. She purred and tried to jump in my lap when I sat down. And she meowed. Constantly. For hours on end. When I went out to my car, she followed me meowing. When I stepped out on the porch, she followed my voice around the house and began another round of meowing. One night, when my friend Sal stopped by to chat on the porch, she meowed for over three hours straight.

It took me two days to figure out why. This cat was, well, feeling frisky (hence her name). She was in heat. Sure enough, over the next, Frisky presided over her own harem under my deck. I saw a lot more of the tough tabby, a fatter grey cat who only appeared on the weekends and a few other felines I’d never seen before, no doubt attracted from blocks around by Frisky’s incessant meowing.

“Great,” I groaned. Little baby Friskies all meowing on my back porch. I shuddered at the thought. Unfortunately, I was (and am) working constantly and there’s just no time to take her to the free spay clinic.

Coincidentally, feral and stray cats are in the news again.

According to a report by the St. Petersburg Times, there are an estimated 100,000 stray cats roaming Pinellas County. County officials have known about the problem for years, but this year they decided to create a focus group to study the issue.

From the article:

Tuesday, the group presented the results of the yearlong study at a special commission work session at the Pinellas County Courthouse. Commissioners agreed to take the group’s suggestions to promote spay and neuter education, support and expand the spay and neuter programs for low-income citizens at Pinellas County Animal Services, and share resources like the county’s Animobile with nonprofit animal groups.

Doesn’t it seem like this should have been done years ago? After a year-long study, you’d think they’d have some more, uh, innovative ideas. Well, at least they aren’t going to go around killing them all as the Clearwater Audubon Society suggested.

I’m happy to say Frisky is no longer in heat. But she is still hanging around, meowing and generally trying to adopt me as her owner. Unfortunately, I can’t have a cat. Too many reasons to list here. So, if anyone can help, please e-mail me.

She’s very loving, I can assure you.


Introducing Routes Music!

For all the bad rap unemployment gets, there are a few advantages.

One, you get to join an exclusive club of 15 million. Two, when panhandlers ask for money, you have the best (honest) excuse ever: “Sorry man, I’m out of a job, too.” And third, you have the ability to take on risky projects for little or no pay that add something important to the cultural fabric.

The latter is Routes Music.

For the next month, I’ll be working on a music documentary with my friends Philip Bardi and Terrence Duncan. Routes Music is a documentary film acting as a roving music census, taking in the true musical passions (and disgusts) of folks like you and me, and folks like him and her, all across a place we like to call America.

Beginning in Florida, we’re traveling across the country — and generations — to find out the music Americans are listening to right now. Our journey began in Orlando on Oct. 19 and we’re making our way west across the states to California, stopping along the way to interview local bands, take footage of live performances and chat with anyone and everyone –- punk kids, grumpy grandmas, teenage hippies, soccer moms, seasoned scenesters, rednecks and roughnecks, straight-edgers, middle-aged conservatives, middle-aged liberals, carpetbaggers, scallywags, music lovers, music haters and telepathic animals.

The halfway mark is Phish 8, a three-day festival in Southern California where thousands of music fans will unite to enjoy the live sounds of a single, seminal jam rock band. After the festival, the documentary meanders through the Midwest and South to further explore the influences that keep America rocking.

(Read more about the basis for the documentary at routesmusic.com)

Routes Music will be filmed in two parts. What does this mean? Besides the standard film, we plan to keep a record of our daily experiences on the road via regularly updated posts and videos uploaded.

Since we need gas money, we’re looking for ways to make money with the content we produce while on the road. So, we’ve partnered with Creative Loafing and we’ll post regular updates/videos/articles about our trip to CL‘s Daily Loaf blog. If we get enough hits on the posts, they’ll send us a check! Although some of my readers are not hip on the Loaf, I’d urge everyone to click on what we write and help us get all the way across the country.

I hope you’ll be following me on the road!

Become our Facebook or MySpace friend! Follow updates as they happen on Twitter!

Behind the News, G20 Protests (2009), Wanderlust

Best of G20: The People’s March

On September 25, the last day of the G20 conference, several groups organized a “People’s March” from the University of Pittsburgh campus through downtown. Weeks ago, the city granted a permit for the march and accompanying rally, but that didn’t stop scores of riot cops from escorting the estimated 5,000 protesters through the city. At one point, the crowd stretched eight blocks long, the hodgepodge collection of activists chanting, beating drums and holding every manner of protest signage. Here’s the people that stood out:

G20 Protests (2009), Wanderlust

Best of G20: The Resist G20 March and Rally

On September 24, the first day of the G20 summit, activists affiliated with Resist G20 gathered at Pittsburgh’s Arsenal Park for a rally and march to downtown. The organizers did not have a permit to march; in fact, they never even applied. They had this strange notion of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which allows people to assemble and petition the government for grievances. Nothing about a permit in that document.

But city would not be outdone. They sent a phalanx of bike cops, state troopers and riot cops to prevent protesters from leaving the neighborhood. To prove their point, they blocked several streets not allowing activists or residents out or in, and then rolled out the newest form of crowd control: the L-RAD or Long Range Acoustic Device. The device — popular with the Communist government of China and the repressive former Russian satellite country, Georgia — emits an ear-splitting siren. The L-RAD had never been used in the U.S. before the G20 summit.

Eventually, a stand-off ensued between protesters and police. After a few anarchists stoked the tension, police fired teargas, cordoned off the protest and waited until factions of anarchists took the police to another part of the city.

Best Pittsburgh Photo Op

Best Assassination Threat on a Bed Sheet

Best Undercover Cop

The woman in the middle
The woman in the middle.

Best Use for a Stuffed Bird

Most Annoying Riot Control Device

G20 Protests (2009), Wanderlust

The Best of G20: Best Use of an Inflatable Creature at a Protest

On September 23, the day before the G20 conference began, several unions held a “Green Jobs Rally” at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Three Survivaballs showed up for a little satirical humor. Created by the Yes Men, Survivorballs are the newest answer to climate change. Instead of dealing with climate change now, goes the joke, Survivorballs are self-heating, self-cooling and self-powered pods designed to weather any climate catastrophe. Of course, only rich people can buy them.

Kelly, my G20 partner in crime, shot the above video. Below is my own interview with another Survivaball:

G20 Protests (2009), Wanderlust

The Best of G20

The G20 is officially over.

All the delegates from various countries are gone. Last night, President Obama left for the airport via motorcade (and severely screwed up my exit of the city, I might add). And most protesters have left the couches and squat houses of Pittsburgh. Well, at least those that are not still in jail.

Everybody is calling the event a success:  President Obama, the other G20 members, the city of Pittsburgh, even the perpetually angry anarchists. I’m not so sure about “success,” but that’s for another blog post I’m working on.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of electricity where I was staying for the week, regular updates of the events surrounding the G20 were not possible. But I did attend numerous protests and meetings, some more successful than others.

To let my readers digest the myriad of groups and causes, I’ll post a guide of the most important, interesting or humorous aspects of the protests surrounding the G20. All of the photos and videos were shot by me unless otherwise noted.