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Old 04-22-2012, 03:04 PM   #736
viola-tor OP
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TopicArt in Crisis

Sunday, Apr 22, 2012 8:00 AM CDT No sympathy for the creative class

Taxpayers bail out Wall Street and Detroit. But there's no help, or Springsteen anthem, for struggling creatives

VIDEO By Scott Timberg
(Credit: Benjamin Wheelock)





Topics:Art in Crisis, Editor's Picks, Great Recession
They’re pampered, privileged, indulged – part of the “cultural elite.” They spend all their time smoking pot and sipping absinthe. To use a term that’s acquired currency lately, they’re entitled. And they’re not – after all – real Americans.
This what we hear about artists, architects, musicians, writers and others like them. And it’s part of the reason the struggles of the creative class in the 21st century – a period in which an economic crash, social shifts and technological change have put everyone from graphic artists to jazz musicians to book publishers out of work – has gone largely untold. Or been shrugged off.


Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen write anthems about the travails of the working man; we line up for the revival of “Death of a Salesman.” John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson hold festivals and fundraisers when farmers suffer. Taxpayers bail out the auto industry and Wall Street and the banks. There’s a sense that manufacturing, or the agrarian economy, is what this country is really about. But culture was, for a while, what America did best: We produce and export creativity around the world. So why aren’t we lamenting the plight of its practitioners? Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that creative industries have been some of the hardest hit during the Bush years and the Great Recession. But when someone employed in the world of culture loses a job, he or she feels easier to sneer at than a steel worker or auto worker. (Check out, for example, the unsympathetic comments to a Salon story about job losses among architects, or the backlash to HBO’s “Girls,” for daring to focus on young New Yorkers with artistic dreams and good educations.)


The musicians, actors and other artists we hear about tend to be fabulously successful. But the daily reality for the vast majority of the working artists in this country has little to do with Angelina Jolie or her perfectly toned right leg. “Artists in the Workforce,” a National Endowment for the Arts report released in 2008, before the Great Recession sliced and diced this class, showed the reality of the creative life. While most of the artists surveyed had college degrees, they earned — with a median income, in 2003-’05, of $34,800 — less than the average professional. Dancers made, on average, a mere $15,000. (More than a quarter of the artists in the 11 fields surveyed live in New York and California, two of the nation’s most expensive states, where that money runs out fast. The report has not been updated since 2008.)


“What does it mean in America to be a successful artist?” asks Dana Gioia, the poet who oversaw the study while NEA chairman. “Essentially, these are working-class people – a lot of them have second jobs. They’re highly trained – dancers, singers, actors – and they don’t make a lot of money. They make tremendous sacrifices for their work. They’re people who should have our respect, the same as a farmer. We don’t want a society without them.”
Many of them, in fact, are effectively entrepreneurs, but have little of the regard of the lavishly paid, mythically potent CEO. A working artist is seen neither as the salt of the earth by the left, nor as a “job creator” by the right — but as a kind of self-indulgent parasite by both sides. Why the disconnect?


“There’s always this sense that art is just play,” says Peter Plagens, a New York painter and art critic. “Art is what children do and what retired people do. Your mom puts your work up on the refrigerator. Or the way Dwight Eisenhower said, ‘Now that I’ve fought my battles, I can put my easel up outside.’”


The reality is different. An ecology of churches, chamber series, libraries, on-call studio work and small and mid-size orchestras that neither pay a salary nor offer medical coverage keep musicians like Adriana Zoppo going: A hardworking freelance violinist who performs across Southern California, she’s played, over the last year or so, at a church chamber series, on “American Idol,” a Glenn Frey standards record and a scene of background music for “Mad Men,” and with her own Baroque chamber group. She’s also a regular player in the Santa Barbara Symphony, for which she drives 100 miles each way for four rehearsals and two concerts a month. “I just do a lot of driving, like every freelancer I know,” she says; every week, students come to her apartment for lessons. The economy — and the loss of audience and donors — mean her work is down by about a third. “There’s more and more time between jobs.”
It’s even tougher, she says, for people who rely on the movie studios. “Even before the economy went down, studios started doing more outside California; a lot of it is in Eastern Europe.” For those who made their living playing on records and movie soundtracks, “All of a sudden, they’re making about 60 percent of what they did. What I see is a lot of people looking for things outside music — a lot of people have gotten real estate licenses. I know people who’ve added massage therapist.” Some have dropped medical coverage they can’t afford, taking their chances.


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Of course, those who continue to work in the creative class are the lucky ones. Employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show just how badly the press and media have missed the story. For some fields, the damage tracks, in an extreme way, along with the Great Recession. Jobs in graphic design, photographic services, architectural services – the bureau’s phrasing indicates that it is looking at all of the jobs within a field, including the people who, say, answer the phone at a design studio – all peaked before the market crash and and fell, 19.8 percent over four years for graphic design, 25.6 percent over seven years for photography and a brutal 29.8 percent, for architecture, over just three years. “Theater, dance and other performing arts companies” – this includes everything from Celine Dion’s Vegas shows to groups that put on Pinter plays – down 21.9 percent over five years.


Other fields show how the recession aggravated existing trends, but reveal that an implosion arrived before the market crash and has continued through our supposed recovery. “Musical groups and artists” plummeted by 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011. “Newspaper, book and directory publishers” are down 35.9 percent between January 2002 and a decade later; jobs among “periodical publishers” fell by 31.6 percent during the same period.
So why aren’t we talking about it?


Creative types, we suspect, are supposed to struggle. Artists themselves often romanticize their fraught early years: Patti Smith’s memoir “Just Kids” and the various versions of the busker’s tale “Once” show how powerful this can be. But these stories often stop before the reality that follows artistic inspiration begins: Smith was ultimately able to commit her life to music because of a network of clubs, music labels and publishers. And however romantic life on the edge seems when viewed from a distance, “Once’s” Guy can’t keep busking forever.


Yes, the Internet makes it possible to connect artists directly to fans and patrons. There are stories of fans funding the next album by a favorite musician — but those musicians, as well, acquired that audience in part through the now-melted creative-class infrastructure that boosted Smith. And yes, there have been success stories on Kickstarter, as well — but even Kickstarter accepts just 60 percent of all proposals, and only about 43 percent of those end up being crowd-funded.


Our image of the creative class comes from a strange mix of sources, among them faux-populist politics, changing values, technological rewiring, and the media’s relationship to culture – as well as good old-fashioned American anti-intellectualism.


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It was only relatively late in the evolution of the species – after we settled down into cities and began to accumulate private property – that food surpluses, and with them, specialization, developed and allowed the existence of a creative class for the first time. The resentment may have started there, in the Bronze Age.


We’ll probably never know its deepest origins, but we can clearly document the roots of anti-aestheticism in the very founding of this country: The Puritans who settled the Atlantic shores were austerity-loving religious fanatics who saw art not just as frivolous or womanly, but as idolatry: Before sailing here they’d become notorious across England for smashing stained glass windows and ripping the benches from church choirs. Much of this aggression was directed against the Catholic Church, but the Puritans were no more fond of the church’s support for painting and music than they were of other instances of papery.


And while much of the landed gentry who founded the nation were intellectuals and aesthetes, the frontier myth resonates much more loudly. “Noble savage”-loving Rousseau, critic Leslie Fiedler wrote, is our real founding father, and our early literature is about men fleeing civilization and book learnin’ for an unmediated experience with nature at its most raw. When – decades later — vaudeville, circuses and early motion pictures began to spread, they were denounced for their corrupting influence on the young and working classes. “They were considered a threat to the American way of life,” says popular culture historian Robert J. Thompson.


Europeans, says Plagens, have a very different relationship to the arts because of a high culture going back to the Renaissance and before. “Over here, America is more tied to pragmatism – clearing the land, putting the railroad through … And artists don’t really help with that, so we’re suspect.”


Novelist Jonathan Lethem, whose father was what the writer describes as “a non-famous artist,” sees the American artist as living in internal exile. American history is stamped with “a distrust of the urban, the historical, the bookish in favor of a fantasy of frontier libertarian purity. And the Protestant work ethic has a distrust of what’s perceived as decadence.”


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We don’t wear buckles on our hats anymore; even coonskin caps have fallen out of style. But these latent notions in human nature and the American mind have taken a great step forward – or backward – recently. Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were demonizing long-haired bohemians, know-it-all professors, journalists and other seditious types since around the time of Woodstock. But these seeds of paranoia really blossomed with the invention of the term the “cultural elite.” During the “Murphy Brown” wars of 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California, connecting the Los Angeles riots to a group sitting “in newsrooms, sitcom studios, and faculty lounges all over America,” jeering at regular people. “We have two cultures,” he said, “the cultural elite and the rest of us.”


This term redefined “elite” from its previous associations (many of them positive) with skill and accomplishment, or wealth and explicit power. (And Quayle was, after all, not only a vice president but a wealthy man from several generations of money.) It also oriented the resented group around education, culinary tastes (they always seemed to be described drinking white wine or lattes) and attraction to culture. Presumably this cultural elite was driving to the opera in its Volvos – somehow managing to both sip a cappuccino and laugh at regular people at the same time — while dreaming up ways to undermine the American way. While the cultural left has led assaults on the literary canon, or the race and gender of artists whose work hangs in museums, and so on, it’s rarely duplicated the anti-intellectual populism of the far right quite so well.


“Cultural elite,” says Lethem, is “a code word for people who are getting away with something for far too long. It’s a term of distrust – you can almost hear a plan for vengeance in it. Republican politics hardened these impulses and made them more virulent and paranoid.”


If someone who takes in culture – or who writes about it or teaches it, as in Quayle’s original formulation – is somehow “not like us,” the only person more discredited is someone who spends his life producing this stuff.


“There is a pampered class of artists in the United States,” concedes Gioia, who got to know a wide range of creative types during his years as NEA chair. “But it’s tiny. And they make insignificant money compared to sports people. We have this Puritan, practical tradition in the United States. Puritans would give to the poor, but not to the idle. Artists are seen as these idle dreamers.”


More typical than a celebrity artist feasting on enormous grants, he says, is someone like Morton Lauridsen, who is now one of the most performed living composers – after decades of scraping by, teaching and writing choral works. Or a writer like Kay Ryan, who, until becoming U.S. poet laureate in 2008 was known to only a small few. “She never applied for a grant, never taught writing,” Gioia says. “She taught remedial reading at a community college.”


It was the Coast Guard Academy band, in New London, Conn., that allowed Kelli O’Connor, a conservatory-trained clarinet and saxophone player, to make a living. These days she’s a principal in a nearby orchestra, plays with a chamber group at a Boston church, coaches at area high schools and teaches at the University of Rhode Island: None of these pay a full salary or significant benefits. “Freelancing is a hustle all the time,” she says. “You master the art of scheduling. Squeezing in as much as possible. There are some days when I’m not done until 11 or 12 at night, and then I have to get up at 7 in the morning.”


Like most musicians, she teaches private lessons, but her students have fallen by more than half. “Because of the economy, it’s really gone downhill. People are afraid to spend their money. You’re constantly sending your C.V. to local schools to stir up interest.”


“More than any other group of artists, musicians are getting a raw deal,” said a rare story on the crisis, in Crain’s New York Business.
The story of the struggling musician is nothing new, but with smaller orchestras like the Long Island Philharmonic and the Queens Symphony scaling back, and musicals and dance productions using fewer players or none at all, professional musicians — many who studied for years at prestigious schools like Juilliard — are facing an increasingly tough time. They are being forced to piece together bits of freelance work, take on heavy teaching schedules or leave the business altogether. Over the past decade, the number of members of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York Local 802 has shrunk to 8,500 from about 15,000.
Tino Gagliardi, president of Local 802, told Crain’s, “There are fewer opportunities for musicians, and as the work diminishes, people move on.”


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Most people get their ideas about artists and entertainers from the media – TV, the newspapers, radio and so on. When we see actors, musicians, and architects on the covers of magazines or on television, we think we’re getting a look at the creative class. But most often, we don’t see them at all.


Newspapers, especially, have long felt a romanticism, and sense of duty, toward a “man in the street,” a kind of salt-of-the-earth figure who could – depending on the location or era – come out of Springsteen or Steinbeck. “There’s the old saw about afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted,” says James Rainey, who reports on the press for the Los Angeles Times and is one of few journos who has written well on the damage to his own industry.


Coverage of the most vulnerable is among the noble things the press still does. But it means that some strata get overlooked. When papers have written about the recession, for instance, they’ve leaned very heavily on coverage of the poor and working class; professionals, say, losing their homes because of the unemployment or falling housing values hardly show up. One mainstay in recession-era stories about the creative class has been pieces about artists who have “reinvented” themselves – an architect brewing a perfect cup of coffee — in difficult times. Or artsy types who have pursued their “Plan B” – making vegan cupcakes or running a groovy ice cream truck. Fun to read, counterintuitive, more colorful than dreary unemployment statistics – and deeply unrepresentative of what’s really going on.


More honest – and harder to find — is the kind of thing veteran food writer Amanda Hesser just conceded on the blog Food52: That she can no longer advise even talented and diligent young journalists to follow her path. “Except for a very small group of people (some of whom are clinging to jobs at magazines that pay more than the magazines’ business models can actually afford), it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a food writer,” she writes, “and I think it’s only going to get worse.”


One side of the equation, though, is well represented. The celebrity-industrial complex has all but exploded since the 1980s: Rainey recently spoke to a magazine editor who complained about being held hostage by a marketplace that demanded more and more coverage of people famous for being famous.


“Part of this is because there are so many more news outlets than 30 years ago,” he says. “When I started out, you didn’t have Us, OK, so many supermarket tabloids that are big sellers and all about celebrity. On the TV side, there are hundreds of channels about celebrities, and you’ve got TMZ on the Web, Perez Hilton … That’s pulled some of the mainstream outlets in that direction.”


But newspapers, who by some estimates laid off as many as 50 percent of their arts writers in the years after the 2008 crash, may not be in the best position to document the crumbling of non-corporate culture outside Hollywood and television (both of which consume the lion’s share of media coverage). In their urge not to seem elitist, they may shy away from the struggles of folks in the fine and performing arts especially.


It’s nothing as craven or cynical as “media bias,” but the full picture of culture in this country doesn’t get told. Says Rainey: “There’s more attention to celebrities than to everyday people who put together productions, or who struggle to make a living in the arts.”


To most Americans, this middle class of the creative class might as well be invisible.


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Technology has reshaped this issue in another way. “The stereotype of the creative genius has not let go when we look at people out of the past,” says Thompson, the Syracuse University historian. He lists a number of costume-drama images – crazy-brilliant figures like Mozart and Van Gogh – whose prestige is undiminished and whose work is still widely revered.


“But we are much less willing to apply this to people who are still alive. Because distribution has been democratized by the Internet, we tend to think that talent has been democratized as well.” If everyone can post their videos on YouTube, why are some filmmakers richer and more famous than others?


“I think it’s changed the way we look at the contemporary creative class. A lot of it is resentment: Why are you up there when I can do this too?”


This backlash against the creative class – when is the last time we’ve seen an artist or an intellectual in a mainstream film, set in the present rather than a romanticized past, who was not evil or pretentious? – is part of a larger revolt against experts and expertise. We’ve come a long way since the days of Sputnik, when education and intelligence were valorized in a burst of Cold War chauvinism.


Steve Jobs and technological heroes are still worshiped, says Thompson, but it doesn’t translate to creative people who do things that are intangible or hard to understand. “I’ve seen people walk into a museum and say, ‘I can do that,’” he says. “They can’t, of course. But when their computer breaks down, they know they can’t fix it. Creativity is a form of expertise,” something a nation that keeps insisting on its status as a democracy has never been entirely comfortable with.


- – - – - – - – - – - – -


There are other changes in sensibility besides rabid faux-populism that spell hostility to the arts and those who work in them. One of them is a kind of market fundamentalism – the idea that everything, whether education, culture or the state of our souls can be bought, sold and measured. “What Isn’t for Sale?” asks an article in the April Atlantic. (You can now buy “access to the car pool lane while driving solo,” rent a woman’s womb, “shoot an endangered black rhino,” and get your doctor’s cellphone number if you’re willing to pay for it, Michael J. Sandel points out. The growth of for-profit hospitals, warfare, community security and schools – which have recently gotten a sweet tax break – show how far we’ve gone in the last few decades.)


We see this same point of view in economic impact studies of the arts and the push for what’s called “cultural tourism” – museums and philharmonics arguing their worth based on the capital they generate. You see it, from the opposite side, when a cultural entity goes bankrupt. When a Kentucky paper reported the Chapter 11 filings of the Louisville Orchestra, the accompanying comments gave a sense of the way we think about culture and the market.


“Get rid of them, the Ballet and any other useless tax funded ‘entertainment’ that isnt self supporting,” one said. “Pack up your fiddles and go home boys and girls. Maybe find real jobs. Go to Nashville and vie for some sessions work.” A third: “Sale all of assets to pay these people off, fire them all and get rid of the Orchestra. It isnt popular with the residents or they would have packed crowds and not have to worry about $$$.” And unambiguous in its market fundamentalism: “The orchestra creates a product. That product has lost public appeal. Just like any business, this one needs to shut down. If your product isn’t selling there is no reason to continue in business.” Needless to say, classical music and other art forms originated and evolved in the age of patronage, well before the market economy.


It brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s line: “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
“Everything now has to be fully accountable,” says Plagens. “An English department has to show it brings in enough money, that it holds its own with the business side. Public schools are held accountable in various bean-counting ways. The senator can point to the ‘pointy-headed professor’ teaching poetry and ask, ‘Is this doing any good? Can we measure this?’ It’s a culture now measured by quantities rather than qualities. We don’t have any faith any more in the experts when they say, ‘Trust us.’”


Says Lethem: “These days everything has to have a clear market value, a proven use for mercantile culture. Well, art doesn’t pass that test very naturally. You can make the art gesture into something the marketplace values. But it’s always distorting and grotesque.” (The awkward fit reminds him of the Philip K. Dick story “The Preserving Machine,” about a scientist who tries to convert treasured musical scores into animals that can survive an apocalypse – with unpleasant results.)


In some ways, the obsession with economics – both inside and outside the arts – is driven by economics itself. “Forty years ago,” says Plagens, who chronicled the West Coast art scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s in a gem of a book, “Sunshine Muse,” “you rented an art gallery for not much money, and bought a few gallons of white paint. Now you need investors and backers and all sorts of digital technology. So there’s a bigger emphasis on having a business plan than the old bohemian model.”


The final irony is that these are times when we most need the arts but seem the most resistant to culture and the people who produce it.


Despite the crisis in the creative fields in general, mass-distributed entertainment is in a boom cycle. (Movies, because they cost consumers less than most live entertainment, is typically counter-cyclical.) “Popular art and commercial art is a form of escape,” says Plagens. “It’s what people want, especially in hard times; it’s what you got in the ‘30s, with movies about the heiress who disguises herself as a poor working girl, and so on,” which he sees as the precursor to the tidal wave of sequels, remakes and lame romantic comedies.


“Serious art – novels, what you have in the galleries – brings you back to reality and makes you look at your life. Serious art makes people uncomfortable – and during these times, we don’t need more discomfort.”


Scott Timberg is a former Los Angeles Times arts and culture writer who has also contributed to the New York Times, GQ and other publications. He is the co-editor of the book "The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles." He blogs at scott-timberg.blogspot.com/. More Scott Timberg
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Old 04-23-2012, 10:41 PM   #737
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The weather has been holding up pretty well so far, let’s chance it and have a run up Mt. Graham, on of the premier sport-touring roads in Arizona. Pack up the tent, let’s SHRED!

It’s a cherry-stem (dead-end) road, which is both good and bad from a sport-bike perspective. Good: Very little traffic and LEO patrols, especially during the winter (who would want to ride up there in the snow anyway? ). Bad: We’re not gonna cover much ground for the “touring” aspect of the ride, and there won’t be much in the way of winter maintenance since it’s not a through road. Good and bad, we’re still gonna ride the hell out of it!

Looking kinda chilly up there, the snow has already begun...




All the more reason to heat up these tires! Chicken-strips get no mercy. None. At. All.




Such great turns up here! A few dirty switchbacks that require care, but there’s plenty of lean angle to be had for the lower section and the awesome side-hill action near the “top.”

Snow. It may not seem like a big deal to many reading this, but for those that live in southern Arizona it's kind of a novelty.




Our suspicions are confirmed: It IS pretty damn chilly up top! A few flakes are swirling around, but we make it all the way to the locked gate at the “end.” We may very well have been the last riders of the year as this storm system is coming in. Success!




You may also notice that I’m sporting a new SPOT tracker on the front of my jacket. The Montana 1000 fiasco (when I got separated and “lost” from my group) did indeed result in a gift that will let people keep tabs on me. Not sure quite how I feel about all that, but I certainly like the emergency beacon capabilities it offers. I guess we can all sleep a little better thanks to a reasonable bit of technology along for the ride.

As per the rules and regulations of this trip we stop at the Mt. Graham gas station to get sandwiches and hot chocolate and warm our mitts for a while. What exactly are in these sandwiches?




We also observe that Paula standing is almost exactly the same height of the KTM on the centerstand. I think it’s hilarious and insist on this pic, but obviously she doesn’t see the humor to the same extent... Good sport though.




We’re all the way out here, we might as well do another “lap” of the mountain, eh? I just want to make double-sure those chicken strips haven’t grown back...

I’m also curious and slightly worried about this ugly weather, so we need to constantly modify our plan (which is of course FINE with me!). Descending the mountain I’m compelled to take the following photo. The road ends at a “T” junction. As a motorcyclist which way would you turn, based on the sky? Me too.




Really? The weather is not-so-subtly guiding us right back to Tucson. Sometimes ya gotta just go with the flow! I guess we sleep indoors and eat home-cooked food again tonight; we’ll “re-launch” again to the west in the morning, weather dependent.

We don’t escape the rain for the urban re-entry, or the darkness (I just LOVE that combo, especially when it’s also cold! ), but we beat the downpour, so life is good! I’m really looking forward to heading west tomorrow, country I haven’t seen yet.
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:58 PM   #738
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*Yaaaaaaaawn!*

You ready to try this again? West!




First stop is Sells Arizona, a small Native American community with a treat for gastric pleasure seekers: The Rainforest Cafe. The menu is supposedly inspired by ancient indigenous foods that were available in this region, and by all accounts this is an oasis of quality food that is sorely needed in enclaves such as Sells. This is a place we’ve talked about visiting a number of times (the perfect mission for a motorcycle!), but this will be the first time eating here for either of us.

It’s a small cafe in a strip mall with only three or four tables, but the food is quite good, and quite unique. The pork ribs are amazing... Local desert nuts and seasonings are in the salads and soups, and even some cactus!



My only complaint about the place is the wire-mesh tables that let anything you spill fall right through onto your pants. Plus I like snarfing up the crumbs if the food is really good! I am a starving artist, but I’m not quite to the level of eating of the floor (yet).


Yummy quesadilla-type thing with unusual beans and a smoky flavored corn tortilla.




And of course some warm tea for the bikers! Despite the welcome Arizona sunshine it is still chilly out, so we leave our electric vest switches defaulting to “ON.”




WHY??? WHY NOT, I ASK!!!




Our destination for this evening is the KOFA wilderness (which we learned about from dave6253), BUT we have to stop again for warm food before we head into the nighttime nothingness.

More hot tea and PIZZA! It sure seems like we are eating our way across the country... Well, that’s part of the deal for this trip! No shame in warming up and enjoying some local fare.

Wide-angle lens makes for CRAZY HEAD!!! Our gear takes up easily two full booths. I suppose it’s a good thing there aren’t many patrons tonight.




Lady Firebird is amazed at my night-riding abilities, she has an aversion to the dark when riding on her own, but when saddled up behind me we can cover much more ground (which was part of the decision to go 2-up on the KTM and leave her smokin’ Ducati behind). So after a border patrol check-point and selecting what we hope is the appropriate dirt road in the dark we finally enter the KOFA wilderness and make a camp in the rocks just off the gravel road. I can’t wait to see what this place looks like when the sun comes up!
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:16 PM   #739
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Man, I am getting fat from just reading this thread.
Guess I need to go for a run.

Quote:
Originally Posted by viola-tor View Post
*Yaaaaaaaawn!*

You ready to try this again? West!




First stop is Sells Arizona, a small Native American community with a treat for gastric pleasure seekers: The Rainforest Cafe. The menu is supposedly inspired by ancient indigenous foods that were available in this region, and by all accounts this is an oasis of quality food that is sorely needed in enclaves such as Sells. This is a place we’ve talked about visiting a number of times (the perfect mission for a motorcycle!), but this will be the first time eating here for either of us.

It’s a small cafe in a strip mall with only three or four tables, but the food is quite good, and quite unique. The pork ribs are amazing... Local desert nuts and seasonings are in the salads and soups, and even some cactus!



My only complaint about the place is the wire-mesh tables that let anything you spill fall right through onto your pants. Plus I like snarfing up the crumbs if the food is really good! I am a starving artist, but I’m not quite to the level of eating of the floor (yet).


Yummy quesadilla-type thing with unusual beans and a smoky flavored corn tortilla.




And of course some warm tea for the bikers! Despite the welcome Arizona sunshine it is still chilly out, so we leave our electric vest switches defaulting to “ON.”




WHY??? WHY NOT, I ASK!!!




Our destination for this evening is the KOFA wilderness (which we learned about from dave6253), BUT we have to stop again for warm food before we head into the nighttime nothingness.

More hot tea and PIZZA! It sure seems like we are eating our way across the country... Well, that’s part of the deal for this trip! No shame in warming up and enjoying some local fare.

Wide-angle lens makes for CRAZY HEAD!!! Our gear takes up easily two full booths. I suppose it’s a good thing there aren’t many patrons tonight.




Lady Firebird is amazed at my night-riding abilities, she has an aversion to the dark when riding on her own, but when saddled up behind me we can cover much more ground (which was part of the decision to go 2-up on the KTM and leave her smokin’ Ducati behind). So after a border patrol check-point and selecting what we hope is the appropriate dirt road in the dark we finally enter the KOFA wilderness and make a camp in the rocks just off the gravel road. I can’t wait to see what this place looks like when the sun comes up!
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:38 PM   #740
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Breaking camp as we exit the tent starts our morning, this Christmas eve-day, and we hustle up the road to a short hike that will hopefully warm our bones. The PALMS.




It’s only a half mile trail or so, but it’s enough to get my blood pumping sufficiently to shed some layers.

I don’t have my long lens with me, but in that notch are some real palm tress that have no business whatsoever being here in this part of Arizona. The theory is that the seeds were shat (shitted? ) out by migrating birds and the canyon walls sheltered the trees to maturity. Very interesting indeed!




The sun is in morning prime-time, so we just have to stop and fool around with the cameras for a while. It always amazes me how soft and cuddly those things look (and the cacti too! ).




I’m looking forward to coming back here sometime with my knobby tires and going exploring in depth. This definitely looks like primo KTM country! Muh-ha-ha-ha...

But for now, onwards to gas up at the bizarre “township” of Quartzite at the intersection of I-10 and hwy 95. I didn’t get any pics, but I do remember this land of RVs and all the services to support them. Every other business is an RV dealer, repair shop, or dumping station, and apparently there are “different” folks that kinda semi-permanently camp here year round. Not my idea of fun, but whatever floats yer, uhhh, boat? It’s cool to see people living alternate versions of “the American Dream” and making it up as they go along. I guess in a way I do the same thing... But WE know that two wheels will always triumph for the soul!

Onward we ride, through Parker, then Lake Havasu. Seemingly everywhere there are off-road trails snaking away from the paved road, but I cruise on past with lust in my heart, because our parameters are touring with street tires and we do have some destinations in mind... I will be back.

Dam!




Historic.




It’s Christmas time in the desert, and as we go deeper we find some holiday cheer! Fun.




We're riding seemingly alone for quite some time when out of nowhere appears a guy in a Santa hat riding a Ducati Hypermotard. Friggin’ cool! Laughing and pointing at the spectacle we are highly entertained, but the oncoming Desmo-Santa offers not so much as a nod, seeming oblivious to the hilarity of it all. The desert brings out the weirdos...

And speaking of weird, we’re heading for Sitgreaves Pass, the infamous stretch of old Rt. 66 that challenged man and machine before the Interstate Highway system was built which bypassing the treacherous road. Treacherous passes are what we WANT! The decorated cactus become more abundant as we approach the mining town of Oatman which has been “preserved” as a Wild West town for sake of tourism. I’ve never seen anything quite like it! We come around turn and are abruptly thrust into a holiday rush-hour traffic jam in the downtown square. I have to negotiate through ATVs, cars, a FED-EX van, wild burros, dirtbikes, pedestrians, all in rapid succession while also trying to see what all the fuss is about. It’s quite a shock after the lull of desert cruising for hours.

Apparently these wild burros are quite tenacious and regularly invite themselves into the local establishments to look for handouts. Nobody around seems particularly phased, much like the Ducati-Santa, but we are beside ourselves. I guess this kinda thing is business-as-usual in Oatman Arizona.




And let us now have a look at this Sitgreaves Pass, shell we? Unfortunately there has been unseasonal flooding here in the past few days (the same storm systems we were dodging in eastern Arizona), so the road is an absolute MESS with gravel, dirt, and even mud about in all the turns. Not a problem per se, but we’re hoping for a sporting/leaning good time up here! The road is as twisty and tight as you like, and I zoom along as fast as I can under the circumstances.

I feel a pressure from behind, a feeling I’m not used to often when riding a twisty road. The FED-EX van that we saw back in town, it is right on my tail! I’m leaning, leaning as far as I dare with the gravel on the road and even slipping the rear wheel a bit in the corners, and yet this confident delivery man is keeping the huge van on my exhaust pipe, making me kinda nervous about braking. I finally spy a spot to hop off the road and let him pass, and I can hardly believe what just happened! While riding my exotic-all-terrain-cutting-edge-highly-modified-KTM I just got schooled by a delivery box van on a true twisty motorcycle road! L.F. was oblivious to it until I pulled over, and she laughs when I explain the magnitude of what just happened. To feel better about myself I point out that the road has lots of debris, and the van has four tires for traction, and this is probably the driver’s usual route he knows backwards and forwards, and he just wants to get it over with to get home to his family for Christmas Eve dinner. Yeah, that’s it...

After the excitement (and some embarrassment) of Sitgreaves Pass we hop back on the highway and head towards Lake Mead to find some camping for tonight. It gets dark, it gets cold, and we end up eating Christmas Eve dinner in a Chinese joint (which is quite a hopping place to be on Christmas Eve if you speak Mandarin!). Hunting down a campsite in the dark again I guess; A state park. I’ve come to enjoy FREE camping on public lands in the Wild West, and in fact I’m shocked and outraged to have to pay for camping anymore, especially for only a few hours of sleep on the ground, but what are ya gonna do?? It will be nice to have bathrooms to clean up in I suppose.
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:01 PM   #741
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Cool Palms.

While the official trail ends you can continue up to the palms, although I hear it's a steep scramble. I figured a mountain goat like you would've bounded up for a closer look.
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:03 PM   #742
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Originally Posted by dave6253 View Post
Cool Palms.

While the official trail ends you can continue up to the palms, although I hear it's a steep scramble. I figured a mountain goat like you would've bounded up for a closer look.
Funny, it didn't even cross my mind! I guess I was already thinking about breakfast... So you and I need to go make a movie out there, eh?
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Old 05-14-2012, 09:27 AM   #743
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I've been following along on your RR for a while now and I just wanted to say, thanks!

The quirky spots in AZ definitely interest me, my folks are out there, and for some reason I've never been to half of these places! Time to add some spots to my destination list!

Keep up the good work!
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Old 07-10-2012, 12:30 PM   #744
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Question What's Up Viola-Tor?

Our hero rode off into the sunset ISO economic stability and has left us hanging for 2 months...Hoping all is well & would appreciate an update from summer concert series, rock 'n roll in the free world or whatever. Photos welcomed, update needed. Writer's block? Boogie burn-out?

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Old 08-16-2012, 07:43 AM   #745
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Check in man. People are asking "where is Diek?" Just say you're still beathing.
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:45 AM   #746
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Originally Posted by viola-tor View Post
VIOLA-TING AMERICA - Chasing the dream of music and motos

Hello inmates! I’d like to formally introduce myself to the Asylum: I’ll be “viola-tor“ to YFFs. I’ve been lurking for a while, moderately active for a time, and this is my first ride report. It’s gonna be a doozy, one of those long journals I hope, though I can’t claim that mine will be as entertaining or as good of a read as some of the round-the-world riders’ reports, we just have to see how the adventure pans out, eh? I’d be really pleased if as many chicks are featured in my reports as there are in the Viking’s, but statistically I’m not sure that’s even possible! I’m taking some turns (literally and figuratively) in my life that could bring everything together in a sublime way, or it could turn out the other way, the dark way, but I don’t think so. It’s just crazy enough to work! I keep thinking there will be defining moment to start the report, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen, since the wheels are already in motion (pun intended). There’s no sense in putting it off any longer, that would just mean more reflecting and catching up on what’s happening at an already fast pace.

Here’s the pitch: A talented but struggling musical artist defies tradition and combines his passion for motorcycle travel with the art of classical music to chase his dreams across the country (and beyond?). I know, I know, it probably doesn’t sound so grand to the ADVRIDER community here, but in the realm of classical music this is pretty crazy talk! I have a very real chance of combining my quest for a major symphony orchestra position with adventure motorcycling into a whole lifestyle, and THAT to me is very exciting indeed!

“Outside?!? What if there’s a spider? OMG!”

“Ride a motorcycle? What if it rains? OMG!”

Over the course this ride report I also hope to bring a little culture to YFFs. I know a lot of the motorcycle community isn’t into classical music, and anything I can do to bring more fans to this great genre one inmate at a time can only help the cause. I’m exploring the idea of a parallel report geared more towards non-riders and musicians which will expose them to the trials and tribulations of the motorcyclist, for many of THOSE lofty artists are ignorant of the dark arts of adventure motorcycling. I’m working on some blog webspace for the non-FF’s civilians.

In case you hadn’t guessed from my name, I play the viola (get it? Viola, Violator, VIOLA-TOR!!!). For you ignorant FF’s it’s like a violin in appearance and is played up on the shoulder, but it’s considerably bigger and sounds a fifth lower than a violin. It’s pronounced VEE-OH-LA, which doesn’t really make sense when you think about it, but that’s the way it is. Violas typically have a more mellow sound, darker tone, and have a rich resonance that fills the role between the more well known cellos and the violins in the orchestra and in string quartets (which have two violins, a viola, and cello). Violas and violists are also the butt of many musical jokes, more so than probably any other instrument, kinda like blond jokes! It’s part of the tradition and all in good fun.

Q: What’s the difference between a viola and a chain-saw?
A: You can tune a chain-saw.

Q: How do you know when there’s a violist at your door?
A: You know because they can’t find the key and don’t know when to come in.

Q: What’s the difference between a violin and a viola?
A: The viola is bigger, so it holds more beer! (Alternative answer: It burns longer.)

There are hundreds if not thousands of these jokes...

All the rest of the details and back-story should become clear in the first few posts. Some of the motorcycle related subjects will seem redundant or self explanatory, but I hope that there will be non-riders reading my reports too. Likewise some of the musical content will be elementary for a musician, but I’ll try to make this educational and entertaining for everyone. I’d say I play music very well (pro for 10 yrs), I’m an experienced rider (fast approaching 100,000 mi), a decent writer, a decent photographer, and my video skills are growing too, so put it all together and it should be a good ride!

Whatcha think?


Highlights of what’s to come:

THRILLS!



TRILLS!!!





SPILLS!!!



CHILLS!!!



i hope u know by now that everyone loves your RR.

bring your violin on our alaska tour! we can play the bach double together!
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Old 08-17-2012, 02:13 AM   #747
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Yeah man, where you been? Hope all is well.
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Old 08-23-2012, 07:55 PM   #748
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Old 09-12-2012, 05:45 PM   #749
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Laugh One bike to rule them all...

Quote:
Originally Posted by viola-tor View Post
This place looks like Mordor, only happier, and without Orcs...
One does not simply ride into Mordor...unless on a Katoom!
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Old 09-14-2012, 02:54 PM   #750
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Question So, are you still out there in the desert???




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