Book Tour Recap: Dixie-Narco edition

It’s been a while since I got back from my husband’s book tour, but a lot of photos later I am finally updating about it. Needless to say it was a blast and it timed well with our 13th wedding anniversary. Got to see a lot of old friends and made some new ones, too.

We did 7 dates in total. Of course, everyone at first thought Ben was also a musician or that we were also in a band. Anytime we saw bands who were clearly on tour at a rest stop, they looked us up and down trying to figure out who we were and our deal was. Every stop on the tour went well except for Birmingham, AL thanks to tornadoes (which being from Michigan I would say they were weak). At the same time I can’t call that night a total dud, because one woman came out just to see Ben, buy some books, and get a photo with him! We ended up at a dive — who weren’t afraid of the storms enough to close — where a man asked me if I wanted to smoke pot with him out of a toilet paper cardboard tube, outside in the rain, near an underpass. He was not happy I said no to this offer. In the end, the lights did go out in the dive, all except the jukebox which was on a Thin Lizzy kick, and we did not complain about that one bit.

Charlotte was a great time as always, and it turned into a karaoke Odessey of sorts by the end of the night. I had some video footage of Ben doing 24 Hour Party People at Snug Harbor, but I deleted it to spare him the embarrassment. Bryan Pierce who runs the karaoke at Snug did a great job of picking songs to go with Ben’s book. He had just tried out for “The Voice” and judging by what I saw, he should make it onto the show no problem! Benji Hughes also came out that night, and he bought Ben’s book as well!

The real start of the whole trip was my brother’s wedding in Chapel Hill. And why yes, my husband and I DID shut down the reception slow-dancing to AC/DC if you must know. We figured a while back that we may as well extend it into a book tour if we were going to be driving anyway; the West Virginia stretch being the most painful. But, driving in the South is a lot more pleasant than any other routes I have taken, and aren’t half as boring. Of course the desert is the best, but I take what I can. After years of traveling cross-country on multiple occasions, I also ate at a Waffle House for the first time ever, in S. Carolina. It wasn’t bad, actually. The only weird thing was people were allowed to smoke in there, and it was so…damn friendly. I’ve learned since that the company is owned by the Ritz-Carlton and this may be part of their success as a chain? If you are wondering, no, I didn’t get a waffle but I did try the hash browns.

Next we went on to Meridian, MS which of course I can’t ever talk about without referencing “Hell on Wheels” and the main character doing his whole “ever been to Meridian?” thing. We were treated like royalty thanks to our friend Bill who owns not only several cemeteries and a flower shop, but did a full-on “Bar Rescue” on a place called the Brickhouse that had 64 regional beers on tap. The bar in it’s previous incarnation was a haven fro bro’s and had a reputation for roofing girls. Not anymore! In fact there was a running joke how the Brickhouse was the werewolf bar and the place across the street was the vampire bar (yes forgive the “True Blood” reference) and thus clear lines had been drawn. Despite the clear sections of poverty mixed with a slight college town feel, Meridian had an almost desolate downtown that looked ripe for a comeback. We hope it will rise the way the rest of the South has been doing.

Onward then was New Orleans (duh!) where we got to meet up with many of our friends, some who flew in to meet us, others who had been there, and some who had just moved to the city. Ben’s book event was at Bailey Smith and Greg Dulli’s, R Bar, which had made up a special cocktail menu just for us. Three Sheets to the Kevin Sheilds was an absinthe base, and the Swervedriver was Ben’s favorite which was mezcal based. If you are into shoegaze music, you get why these were so exciting to us. Sure, Ben was the “opener” for the crawfish boil but that is still better than opening for a puppet show — not to mention he got free crawfish! Terrible street side vegan burritos; brunch at The Columns; nuns at an art show; drinks in the 9th; a brunch fight club I may or may not have joined; poolside at the W hotel; record shopping between Desire Street and Piety Street (that must be a punchline to something); and all the usual we seem to get up to when we visit are just some of what I can remember. This was also my first time driving in New Orleans and I’m happy to say it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Sure we missed JazzFest and NoizeFest, but I was a little sad we missed AzzFest. Only after driving past the Hi-Ho Lounge as the girls lined-up for that event were we a bit sad we didn’t go after all. Next time perhaps?

Onward to Nashville! I had never been and we met up with an old friend of mine from high school who showed us around. We were staying a bit out at Opryland, which is a bizarre site that seems a bit like the Trinity Broadcast Network campus mixed with Graceland or Six Flags. The good thing was the free shuttles and the fact that cabs can be found everywhere as means to encourage tourists to go downtown and beyond. The bookstore Howlin’ Books was amazing and also part of the infamous Grimey’s record store. A music town it is for sure, not that I expected less. We toured the Johnny Cash Museum which is small but somehow perfect. We also went to Jack White’s Third Man Records which was nice enough but gave me a creepy Scientology vibe! It didn’t help that the women on staff all had the same red color and hair style to go with their uniforms (yellow and black is his new white and red, btw). I never got around to buying some cowboy boots, but we’ve been invited back to the bookstore for the next tour, so I’m sure I’ll find something when the time comes.

A typical Tuesday night at Robert’s in Nashville, even my husband got up to dance for a moment. I was surprised not only how crazy it was on a Tuesday on all of Broadway, but also the fact that at 3am we had cabs lined up to take us back to the hotel! We met some interesting rockabilly guys from Germany who were on a tour through Vegas, Memphis, and Nashville, so of course we shut Robert’s down with them. But I tell you, that’s the last time I let a couple a Germans buy the beers late at a honkey tonk; my head was pounding fierce the next day.

The last stop was in Cincinnati where we got to hang out with dear old friends. I feel dumb I didn’t get a picture of us all. The DJ for the event played all the great old and new shoegaze-inspired bands, and I think I had one too many bourbon and ginger ales! I liked that the venue had a medical theme going on as well. Someone who my husband hadn’t seen in 30 years even came out to buy a book. Crazy.

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The Rake’s End in Cincinnati.

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The Verve print at our host’s home.

At the distillery for the liquor we got each other drunk on the weekend we got together, 14 years ago that week. Romance!

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If you are thinking of doing a book tour I would suggest to make it coincide with a vacation you had already planned, or other trips you feel you could tie it in with. I have heard from some very well-known authors and very not well-known authors about how your experience and the sales can be all over the map. For instance, the Meridian, Mississippi date was the most sales because a book club was meeting and librarians came; I expected that date to be the dud — not Birmingham. I’ve also noticed people just really don’t dig book signings the way they do rock shows or even art shows. It just isn’t exciting. We did our best to make it about rock ‘n’ roll and have raffle prizes and drink specials in the non-bookstore venues, and I think those went way better. So, unless you are a best-selling author or a cult hero, I’d look at your book tour as a vacation. We were lucky in that we knew people in each city who helped us decide on venues and all of that — especially cities we didn’t know well. It is much like being a touring band: get a thick skin and if a city is a dud, you go back next time anyway! Every book store and venue treated us well, so there is no reason not to.

Also be prepared for crummy amounts of press no matter how far in advance you do it. Calendar listings are fine, but the fact I sent out review copies of the novel that were requested and I got no results was annoying. This was to both to every arts & culture events blog I could find (most did at least post a listing), as well as print media to the literature editors and the music editors. Then again, one bookstore owner told me that when a rock critic starts to write fiction — let alone gets it published — those who are also music writers or rock critics get resentful and won’t write about it or promote it because that’s what they aspire to do. A musician writing a book seems to be no problem, but music writers writing a novel apparently isn’t welcomed by certain journalists. Hmmm.

Whatever the case, it was nice to hear people had read it in one sitting or gotten copies for their friends. As a rule men tend to not read novels as much as women do, and it was funny to hear over and over again, “no you have to read this, I know you don’t like books but you’ll actually like this one!

Drawings for May

I’ll be participating in the Monster Drawing Rally again this year at SPACES in Cleveland. If you have never attended, it is a pretty wild and fun night. I have decided I will be drawing boobies. Lots of them. Info and artist list is here. It goes down May 4th and I’ll be drawing from 6-7pm.

Speaking of boobies, I posed yesterday for portrait artist Judy Takacs as part of her Chicks with Balls series. This is by far the fattest I have ever been in my life, but that didn’t stop me from going topless for her! I wore my slut shoes and all.

I also just completed 2 little postcard sketches for a benefit in New Orleans at Graphite Gallery on May 17th. This will go towards the Talented Artist Program.

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When I Can’t Leave the Country, I Go Back to New Orleans

And from the warmth of New Orleans, I’ve come back to Cleveland. Snow on the ground, a nasty cold, and some trying work assignments. Welcome home! Although at this point I think we can call New Orleans my other home — this was my fourth trip this year alone!

The original plan was to go back to Ireland, and one of my dorky reasons was that Simple Minds were kicking off a tour (shut-up, I like the stuff that came out before this song!) since I hadn’t seen them live since I was about 12 years-old. Well, that wasn’t going to work out, so I told my husband, “oh, why don’t we just go back to New Orleans and you can see Super Sunday?” totally forgetting that St. Patrick’s Day was the same weekend. But that worked out well! In all honesty, if you can’t afford a trip to Europe or Africa or the Caribbean — just go to New Orleans. It’s practically another country anyway, and you’ll get that exotic vibe without the need of a passport.

This time my friends Keith and Veronica came with me from Cleveland. I have a feeling I never shut-up about the place so they had to come check it out for themselves. They miss it already, too. My fellow NOLABounder, Jen Dubin, put it correctly in saying you get a homesick feeling about the city once you are gone, even if you have never lived there. There is still so much of the city I haven’t seen, but I still feel like it is my backyard in a way, and it appeals to my pagan sensibilities on several levels. I may not be able to move there for good, but going there several times a year almost makes up for it.

Here is another photo-heavy post for you. I omitted a lot of the parade pictures because most of it was kind of a ‘you had to be there’ situation, but I think you’ll catch the drift. Speaking of catching, I’m really awesome at catching throws from floats, with my left hand. I was also lucky enough to have a private tour of St. Louis #1 by an old friend of Ben’s from Michigan; he now owns two cemeteries in Mississippi, so he knew his stuff and was quite passionate about it! Some fun facts I learned? You can stack 127 bodies in those tombs, it is the most environmental way (vs. cremation or a coffin), and about 60% of mortuary students in the US, are goth!

It was great meeting Eric T. Styles of Quarter Rat fame, and even though I didn’t meet Big Freedia, thanks to Eric I did meet Big Sexy (and I will spare you a photo of him). Sat in on an open mic nite at The House of Blues for some comedy and support my pal Jake (oddly a lot of Ohio people at that one too, and John Mayer stopped by!). Caught up with Stan Gill who is another fellow NOLABounder that has now moved to New Orleans from Los Angeles, and we even attended an App Development panel together that, of course, Chris Boyd steered. All in all, I caught up with as many people as I could and so it went. As I said to my mom when she asked how the trip was, “oh it was the usual”. Six days is never enough.

I sort of jinxed myself by bragging about it on Twitter, but because the city is so flat, I went an entire 4.5 days without my cane! Muscles in my hip got worked over for the first time in over two years, and it hurt! But halfway through day four, I couldn’t deal with the knee and back pain. But hey, it is a start!

New Painting: “Night Shift”

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Oil on paper, 11×14 inches.

Maybe it’s the time I spent in New Orleans this year — or the fact I’m wishing I could be there when I’m not — I have been having a common theme of masks, lately. It’s very hard to get the colors right on things when I can’t scan direct, but I think you get the point. Here they are framed…

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They are available for purchase here.

NOLABound: the film

I’ll be flying down during the New Orleans Film Festival for the premier of this!

So if you are in NOLA in mid October come on out and watch me on the big screen with ‘Monica in Hawaii’ hair; I also get the sads because I feel disrespectful in the Lower 9th Ward being a looky-loo, and I act like a jackass in general (probably). That week should be fun because I’ll also be getting up to trouble with my husband, some of my NOLABound cohorts, and my family. I’m pretty excited this is taking place at the Joy Theater, because I walked past it almost everyday on my last trip down and was dying to know what the renovations looked like.

This documentary will also be available on DVD, stay tuned for details on that.

Summertime Artworking

There is a nice article in GOOD Magazine about the events I attended in New Orleans back in March. At the time I was quoted, I was doing my research, but sadly the salary ranges weren’t too hot so I’m staying in Cleveland another year. Honestly, I’m still having a lot of things go wrong health-wise, so I’m sort of held hostage by the fact I seem to have visits to a doctor more often than I’d like. My husband and I will be headed down to New Orleans again in October for the film fest, though he was also honest in saying he wants to die in Dublin and not New Orleans.

Speaking of Dublin, I had a nice little feature on Surface & Surface.  I hope I can go back there next year.

This will be my 2nd modeling for a painting class (the first was when I was 13 because the model didn’t show up!) Judy will be running her workshop at BAYArts starting June 14th, it should be a fun time, so go read about it over here. There will be an exhibition tied in with the class as well.

The 50/50 Show is upon us, and it’s been many years since I have done it. I’ll have a little color study available for it, and it all goes down at Dredger’s Union on E. 4th downtown Cleveland this year. Go buy some art instead of flushing money down the toilet on slots at the new casino; I lost a whole dollar when I went in there, so you are welcome, I contributed to economic recovery!

I’ll also be participating in Author Alley this year during the Larchemere Festival. Myself and other local authors will have our books on hand. Also, if you already have a copy, please do add your reviews to the Amazon page for my book. It looks so lonely.

I’m currently starting my piece for this exhibition in San Francisco, CA this coming October. Having trouble deciding what to do, I have too many ideas!

My First Trip To New Orleans

I arrived home sweaty, stinky, covered in Sharpie marker (don’t ask) and completely unused to the amount of activity that this trip provided. Boy was my husband so glad to have me home!

This was one of the more amazing experiences of my life, and mainly due to the people I have met as a result. I had a jam packed itinerary and still only saw a fraction of what I wanted to! You can read some more about this trip, some new things I learned, and what the whole shebang was about over here. I want to thank all the individuals and organizations who made this possible, as well as the film crew who followed along.

New Orleans has realized it has to go beyond just marketing 4 blocks of the French Quarter, and this entire project was just another piece of those efforts. It is still very much a pirate town with the old aristocratic hold overs; lots of new things are being done, while at the same time a lot hasn’t been done if you drive through areas where a house might still have a boat through the roof! The devastation is still palatable. It has been described as the wild west right now for several new industries (film, medical, tech) and new people are moving there, but, I was warned by several individuals in the arts and/or economic development who had left recently that I’ll probably feel the sting in 3 years or less. They could all take it for a few years but got fed up, worn out, frustrated, scarred and had to cut their losses and move elsewhere. It’s a very hard city to live in, in ways that are different to how harsh NYC or L.A. can be, so I think it takes a certain type of person to be able to handle it. At the same time — I think I might have mentioned in the film —  it felt like what London in the 1960s was probably like. It has risen to the number 2 slot for most film production outside of Los Angeles, and a 2.2 billion dollar medical facility is under construction — which for me, that’s kind of important being that my medical condition is going to always trail me. Over all the city seems like a good fit for me; the question of how long I would stay is another issue since I have a bad habit of getting bored or frustrated and moving places. I think it is funny nothing seemed all that strange to me in New Orleans. One big art school is how I would describe it.

I’m sorry this is going to be a somewhat heavy photo post, but I’m under the gun: I leave to fly back to New Orleans tomorrow! Yes, bringing the husband along to see what he thinks.

Other things:

– me and humidity don’t get along, because OH MY GOD MY HAIR.

– Talking to the homeless as well as people part of the whole Entreprenuer Week programing of “come drink our Kool Aid” was a good balance.

– No really, the homeless are super nice in New Orleans

– I feel safer in downtown NOLA than I do in downtown Cleveland or Los Angeles.

– Kermit Ruffins joining a little dance party in the middle of the street, while blocking traffic, and a band covered Nirvana inside the one club? Yeah, that was awesome.

– If you lose a 2 karat diamond from your wedding band on Frenchman Street, chances are a friend will find it in a dirty crack the next morning and return it to you (true story).

– I have talent: I can spot the back of Samuel L. Jackson’s head courtside at a Hornets game while I’m up in a suite. *eagle eyes*

– Super Sunday was amazing, and the fact people could sell liquor out of their trucks and nothing got out of hand was astounding. Anywhere else there would be fights and vomiting all over the place (oh hi Boston).

– Keep reminding yourself you are in America, because many times, it doesn’t feel like it.

Weekend in Cleveland: a few art shows and a race

We had both the faculty show and juried show at BAYarts, as well as Mallorie Freeman’s solo show at William Rupnik this weekend. A great turn out for both and it was fun catching up with people.

A little miffed about the placement of my painting “Drip” as it was a little embarrassing to have people comment on it. You couldn’t see it properly aside from the top being caked in dust (I couldn’t even bend down low enough), so anyone who wants to come look at it properly, you can come find it at my studio sometime. Hey, at least it didn’t get stuck in the bathroom — I know people that’s happened to!

The next morning I went and drank pints with my friend Dave during the St. Malachi Run. My husband ran 28:50, all while I walked up and down a hill to have morning beers; I’m getting in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day, what can I say?

I hope you all have a fabulous week. I am leaving for my NOLA Bound trip this week, so if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m busy (and not just kitten busy). My itinerary is packed! Lunches, cocktails, dinners, panels with industry leaders, a job fair, gallery visits, interviews, a Hornets vs. Lakers game, and dinner with band leader and trumpeter, Irving Mayfield, at his home. There are some arts conferences going on as well, so I’m sure it will be crazy. Did I mention I come home and then fly right back down to New Orleans 2 days later? The month of March really is going to be mad for me!

Calling Artists and Galleries in New Orleans!

If you or anyone you know is an artist or gallery based in New Orleans, please contact me so I can add you to my list of places to visit with during my stay as part of the NOLA Bound program this coming March 14-18. I will probably have a documentary camera crew with me (just FYI). Those working out of studios that are housed in former warehouses or oddball commercial properties are of interest to me, too.

This is partly for the film, partly for research for economic development purposes, and also for my own research when it comes to the art scene in New Orleans — to see what it is like to run an arts-based business there. It’s also a bit of an audition, to see if New Orleans and I would be a good fit in the future. Either way, I love making new contacts and friends!

Hit me up at arabellaproffer(at)gmail.com and tell me the haps!