Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In Memory of Robert Lockwood Jr.

Robert Lockwood Jr at the Regatta Bar 6/3/06

We just got back last night from our annual Thanksgiving trip to St Thomas to visit our good friends Marty and Tiffany. Details will be up on the web site soon.

When I got home and logged into my email, I had an email from our friend Francis, saying that Robert Lockwood Jr. had died at the age of 91. Craig and I first became fans of Robert Lockwood Jr when we attended the 2001 W.C. Handy Blues Awards in Memphis with our friends Kevin and Jenn. Robert Lockwood Jr was seated directly behind us, and he was wearing a very styling suit. He received an award that night, and when he went onstage to receive it, he made a cantankerous comment to the effect that "It's about time." We could tell that he was quite a character. Then, two nights later, we saw him perform at the Blues Aid concert at the New Daisy Theater. He was 86 at the time. He played a short set on a beautiful turquoise guitar. A highlight was "Stop Breaking Down Blues." He left us wanting more.

Robert Lockwood Jr, Blues Aid 5/26/2001

When we got home from Memphis, we started to research him. He was the real deal, and had learned to play guitar from the man whose very name is synonymous with blues: Robert Johnson. In fact, Johnson was the boyfriend of Lockwood's mother, and lived with them for a while. We started to collect Lockwood's recordings, and our favorite ones always seemed to be when he played Johnson's material. It was magic. Pure old-school blues.

Lockwood lived in Cleveland, and had a weekly gig at a nightclub called Fat Fish Blue. We wished we could travel there to see him, but his regular night was Wednesday, so that made a long weekend trip impossible.

On June 3, 2006, Robert Lockwood Jr played with David Honeyboy Edwards at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge, MA. Craig and I went to the show with Craig's brother Steve and our friend and fellow blues afficianado, Francis. Each man played two sets, just him and a guitar. Again, Lockwood looked totally styling. He played the same turquoise guitar, and put on an absolutely fabulous show. We put some photos from the show up on our web site here. We got to meet him in between sets and get his autograph. I told him that our friend Frank would have loved to have met him, maybe even did meet him at some point. Frank was one of our best friends. He had been B.B. King's bus driver for 20 years, and we took him to see some blues concerts while he was in a local nursing home. Unfortunately, Frank passed away in August 2005. I am in the process of creating a tribute page to Frank on the web site.

Anyway, I am so happy that we got to see Robert Lockwood again before he passed away. According to newspaper articles, he was doing what he loved right up until the end. He had performed on Nov 1, suffered an aneurysm on Nov 3, and then remained in the hospital until he passed away on Nov 21. On his website, his widow, Mary, invites friends and fans to attend his wake and funeral in Cleveland. We wish that we weren't so far away, or we would pay our respect.

RIP, Mr. Lockwood!
Robert Lockwood Jr at the Regatta Bar 6/3/06

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kenya Travelogue - June 25 & 26, 2006

We finished up the Kenya portion of our travelogue last weekend. On June 25, Craig went out on a game drive with Patrick first thing in the morning. I slept in, trying to shake off the stomach troubles I had been having. Craig and Patrick saw a pair of cheetahs this morning. They thought they might get to witness a kill as a Thomson's gazelle wandered unknowingly by them, but it was not to be.
Men dancing at the Maasai village
They returned from the game drive and we all ate breakfast. After that, we headed to the nearby Maasai village. James, who normally wears western clothes, dressed up in his traditional attire for the village visit. We were welcomed by the villagers with songs and dances. They immediately included us in the festivities, and we found ourselves jumping and strutting with these friendly and welcoming people. They were wearing traditional Maasai "shukas" made of brightly colored fabric, and elaborate hand-beaded adornments. We took photos and they eagerly looked at the digital images. We took some video clips of the singing and dancing and posted them on the web site.

We were invited into one of the traditional Maasai houses, a hut made of mud and dung. Inside were two platforms used as beds. I sat with a very sweet woman and her baby on the women's side, and Craig sat with her husband on the men's side. A small orange kitten (which the Maasai domesticate in order to keep rodents and snakes at bay) played at our feet. I showed photos of home to the woman and baby.

Our Maasai friend and her babyAfter seeing the house, we went outside and the women from the village had set up their handiwork. We picked out some of our favorite intricately beaded items and purchased them. Everyone in the tribe got a share of the money that was made. We gave the tribe a Frisbee as a gift, and taught them to play. The men were intrigued, and after a few throws, one of them actually caught it. We said our thank you's and goodbye's and got back into the Land Rover. One of the Maasai men posed with the Frisbee on his head as we pulled away.

We went back to the lodge for lunch and ran into our friend Saitoti from yesterday. We chatted with him and then went on another game drive. Patrick was determined to find this morning's cheetah, so that I too would get to see them. We found them, lounging in the grass. All that was visible were their seemingly-disembodied heads. We then continued our game drive and saw buffalo, hippos, and elephants.

Saying goodbye to two good freinds: Patrick and James
We returned to the lodge for dinner. During dinner, we were serenaded by the staff with a Swahili song and a goodbye cake, as it was our last night at the lodge and our last night in Kenya. We would be sad to leave Patrick and James, they had become very good friends. But we had many laughs during our last dinner together. It was bittersweet.

The next morning they drove us to Namanga, the border town between Kenya and Tanzania. We said our goodbyes and embarked on a new phase of our journey...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Kenya Travelogue - June 24, 2006

Sunrise at Amboseli

We got another day's entry from our Africa travelogue posted on our site over the course of the weekend. This was our first full day at Amboseli National Park, famous for its elephant population. Patrick and James took us on an early morning game drive. We saw a large elephant lumbering by with a gorgeous sunrise in the background. It was amazing how light the elephant's footfalls were. It walked very close to our vehicle, yet barely made a sound. I don't know whether I expected the earth to shake or what, but if you had your eyes closed you probably wouldn't have even noticed that it was passing by.

After the game drive, we went on a bush walk with the lodge naturalist, Julius, and a Maasai warrior named Saitoti for protection. We learned a lot about the plants and wildlife of Amboseli, including the fact that the water which sustains life there actually comes from the runoff of Kilimanjaro's glaciers, 50 km away. We saw birds, bats, and a pearl spotted owlet. After the walk, we shared drinks with our guides and went back to the lodge for lunch.

Steph and Saitoti

After lunch we had a nice chat with Saitoti. I gave him a digital watch, and he gave me a nice beaded bracelet right off of his arm. We showed him some pictures of home and chatted with him and some other employees until it was time for our afternoon game drive.

On this game drive, we saw some buffalo (arguably the most dangerous animals you can run into), some elephants sparring with one another, a young zebra, and a herd of 52 elephants all together! It was amazing. We saw a wonderful sunset. Just like the sunrise, there was an elephant silhouetted in front of the gorgeous light.

Elephant dusting itself

I had some stomach troubles during the game drive, so I opted out of dinner and rested instead. Craig went with Patrick and James to the dining room for an East African buffet.

Read all of the details of this day here.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kenya Travelogue - June 23, 2006

Lunch at the Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi

We posted another day of our Africa journals on our website today. It wasn't the most exciting day, as it was mainly a get-from-here-to-there day, but there were still some interesting moments.

One June 23, we left Maasai Mara. We took off from a small airstrip and flew on a 10-passenger plane to Nairobi. The views from the air were very interesting, as we could see the various Maasai villages encircled by acacia branches on the ground below.

We arrived in Nairobi and reconnected with our guides Patrick and
James, who had driven up to Nairobi from Maasai Mara the previous day. They took us to the Nairobi tourist institution Carnivore Restaurant. We had heard of this place, and it is definitely not for vegetarians! When you enter the restaurant, you pass by an area where there are countless skewers of meat roasting over a fire. We were seated at the table and presented with a white flag bearing the Carnivore logo. When we were ready, we stod up our fkag, and that was the signal for the servers to start coming to our table. The servers were wearing straw hats and aprons with zebra stripes on them. They wandered around carrying one meat skewer each, and they would stop at all of the tables and carve some off onto each person's plate. The place is all-you-can-eat, until you "surrender" by lowering your white flag. We ate barbequed spare ribs, beef, pork, ostrich, alligator, camel, lamb, chicken...everything was delicious and had a smokey roasted flavor. I had been worried that I might not enjoy the place as much as I could have due to the delicate condition of my stomach over the past couple of days, but my stomach decided to play nicely. I had somewhat of an appetite and was able to at least sample most of the different kinds of meats.


After eating, we drove to Namanga, a town at the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Bill, the other traveler in our group, was moving on to the next part of his trip. On the way, we got our first view of Mount Kilimanjaro. It was breathtaking. There were a few clouds surrounding it, but the summit was visible. We dropped Bill at the border where he was met by his new guide, and then we continued on to Amboseli National Park, renowned for its relatively large elephant population.

This new road was a short cut across the dry bed of Lake Amboseli. It was amazing to see how flat the bottom of the lakebed was. This portion of the ride was quite smooth and the landscape all around us was stunning. Kilimanjaro was clear in front of us, and the setting sun was reflecting off of its capping glacier. Absolutely surreal for us and stunning! We saw wildebeest running and kicking up dust, some zebras, gazelles, and a hyena right on the side of the "road." Lake Amboseli fills with water during the rainy season, but we were now at the start of the dry season. We arrived at the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge at around 6:40.

Mt. Kilimanjaro from the dry bed of Lake Amboseli

We were greeted with warm towels to wash our hands and face, as well as cold glasses of orange juice. We checked into our room (#42!) and then went to the dining room. After my big meal at the Carnivore, I didn't have much appetite for dinner, but I ate a little bit. Patrick and James joined us for dinner, and it was great to chat with them. We showed them some photos we had brought from home, and they were quite interested, especially the ones that showed snow. We had a nice evening of cameraderie before heading back to the room for some sleep.

Read the full details at our website.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Kenya Travelogue - June 22, 2006

Filling up the balloon
This weekend we also managed to get another day's journal and photos up onto the web site from our Africa trip. One June 21, we were up at 4:30 a.m. for a hot air balloon safari over the Maasai Mara. It was a huge balloon (the basket held 17 people, including the pilot). We started our ascent before sunrise. The motion was so gentle that we never would have even felt it if our eyes were shut. We watched the sunrise and were then able to see animals in the grass below us. We could see other balloons way off in the distance and the Mara River near the escarpment. The landscape was so vast. After an hour of gentle floating, we landed in the tall grass. The landing was also very gentle, and the basket stayed upright. We climbed out and were met with an authentic English bush breakfast - like you would see in "Out of Africa." We were served champagne and they were serving omelettes to order, crepes, breakfast meats, fruits, etc. We chatted with Masahiro and Haruko from Japan, and Rodolfo and Ana from Portugal while we ate our leisurely breakfast. We also chatted with the pilot, a Kiwi named Milton.

View of Maasai Mara from the balloon safari
After breakfast, we returned to the Sarova Mara Game Camp, where we were staying. After lunch and a rest, we took a nature walk around the grounds with Kelvin, a Maasai warrior who works at the camp. He taught us about the natural remedies used by the Maasai, and we really learned a lot from him.

We had dinner and really enjoyed chatting with the camp staff. They are so nice and friendly, and always have a smile for everyone.

For more details, see our full journal from this day.

Nature walk with Maasai warrior Kelvin

Sunday, September 17, 2006

If You're Ever in Guatemala...

Lake Atitlan
We got email from our friend Humberto in Panajachel, Guatemala on Friday. He took us on a volcano hike during our trip to Guatemala in 2004. We have kept in touch with him, and since our visit, he has struck out on his own and started his own guiding business called Lago Aventura (Lake Adventure). He offers tours of the Lake Atitlan area. We are the webmasters for his website and he sent us some updated information so that we could put up a Spanish version of the site. If you are planning a trip to Guatemala, we highly recommend his services. And he's a really nice guy, too!

Lago Aventura

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Happy birthday, Zurura!

Baby Elephant at Sheldrick Orphanage
Today we got our monthly email update from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya. When we visited there on my birthday (June 19) we adopted an orphaned elephant named Zurura. He was the smallest and youngest (at 9 months) elephant in the orphanage in June. He had fallen into a ruby mine when he was 8 or 9 weeks old, and had been rescued and brought to the Wildlife Trust for care. He joined the six other orphaned elephants who were residing there. There is a 1:1 ratio of keepers and elephants there, and the keepers are with them 24 hours a day, even sleeping in the paddock with them!

As foster parents of Zurura, we get monthly updates on his well-being. He is a healthy little guy but is a bit of a mischief-maker. It is always fun to read about what he has done next. But he has a big heart, and is often doting on his injured friend Kora.

Zurura at Bedtime

The big news out of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is that they have rescued another baby elephant, a 5-month female named Chyulu. The rescue of an elephant is always bittersweet. They are able to provide wonderfully effective care for animals which would undoubtedly have died if they had been left on their own. They successfully re-introduce them into the wild, and the elephants forever treat them as "family." But it is sad that so many elephants are orphaned. Some are from natural causes, but far too many are from poaching.

Zurura celebrated his first birthday on September 3. (Well, his ceremonial birthday, anyway. They don't know exactly when he was born.) Our little man is growing up so fast!

You can read more about our visit to the Sheldrick elephant orphanage on our web site.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kenya Travelogue - June 21, 2006

5th grade students at Siana Maasai Boarding School
This past weekend we posted another page in our Africa travelogue. On June 21, we went for game drives in Maasai Mara and also visited the Siana Maasai Boarding School. The boarding school visit was very interesting. We met with the head teacher and visited 5th and 6th grade classrooms. The students learn English and Swahili as well as their native Maa tongue. They were very polite and had a lot of questions for us. The head teacher apologized that they were unable to perform songs and dances for us, but they were in the midst of exams. We understood; studies come first.
Lioness, Maasai Mara
After the school visit we did a game drive. We had seen a lot of animals the previous day (elephants, giraffes, zebras, gazelles, jackals, and hyenas) but so far no lions. Something told me that we were going to see lions tonight. And we did. Our guide, Patrick, was an excellent wildlife spotter. He found a lioness with three cubs, and got us close enough to see the cubs playing and skirmishing on the mother's back. We then saw several other lions (male and female). It was another amazing day in Africa.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tom Waits Travelogue

Tom Waits at the Orpheum in Memphis
We love to combine our love of travel with our love of music. Seeing a concert can be an excellent "excuse" to take a trip. Tom Waits is one of our favorite performers, and he performs so rarely that we have taken that we have been known to build short trips around his shows. We are members of the Raindogs Email List, and have made friends with many fellow Waits fans online. We always enjoy going to shows and meeting up with our Raindog pals.

This summer, Tom Waits did 9 shows in the U.S. None of them were in our area, so we chose a pair of weekend shows in Tennessee and made a long weekend out of it. We were lucky enough to get tickets. Our friends Tom and Karen would be driving up from Florida to see the shows, and our friend Kevin decided to go with us. The shows were at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis and the Ryman in Nashville.

Tom and Karen had an extra ticket to the opening night show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. It was on a Tuesday night, and I couldn't take the time off from work. But I convinced Craig to go. We just posted his account of his solo journey on our web site. Highlights include visits to Little Five Points Pizza, Wax n Facts, Criminal Records, and a seafood dinner at Ray's in the City. The Tom Waits concert was fabulous, of course, and Craig even saw the "statue with no butt" that Tom refers to in his between-song banter. The evening was capped off with a drink with the Raindogs at the Sidebar. Matt, Helen, was a great reunion.

Then, a couple of days later, we went to Tennessee together. We flew into Nashville and spent the night there. We checked out some honky tonks and ran into Rich Gilbert, a guitarist who used to live in the Boston area. We had seen him play with Tanya Donelly before. He is pretty distinctive-looking, and we recognized him and had a nice chat. He told us to check out his band when we were back in town on Saturday night.

The next morning, we drove to Memphis. When we arrived we went to the Rendezvous for Memphis dry-rub ribs. The experience wasn't quite as good as it had been the last time we were there. The Southern hospitality was a bit lacking. Prior to the show we hung out with all of our Raindog friends at Alfred's on Beale St. The show was absolutely amazing! We were in the fourth row and had a great view. Some of his song choices were totally unexpected. "Yesterday Is Here" and "Circus" were exciting surprises. After the show we had another Raindog party at Pat O'Brien's. It was an excellent time.

Between the pre- and post-show parties, we got to hang out with Matt, Helen, Jarlath, Sarah V., Shane, Shawn, Dawn, Ben, Laurie, Ken(adian), Tom, Karen, Kevin, Ida, Rebecca, Shannon, El Rayo X, Karren, Jim and Tsyganka, Tim and Sharon, Mark, Phil and Cathie, Craig M., Mark and Jerry. It was an amazing time.

The next morning, we ate breakfast at the King's Palace Cafe. We went to the studio of photographer Ernest C. Withers, who is well-known for his photos of the Memphis music scene as well as the Civil Rights era. It was great to meet this 84 year old man. He had photographed our friend Frank back in 1955. Frank passed away last year, but he was B.B. King's bus driver for 20 years. We had seen the photograph in several books, and it was great to be able to talk to him. He signed a copy of the photo for us.

Ernest C. Withers showing Craig the photo of our friend Frank

Then we drove to Nashville and got there pretty much just in time for the show. We were in the second row of pews at the Ryman, and once again had a great view. The sound was phenomenal. The set list didn't seem as adventurous as the Memphis one, but it was still a fantastic show. I am splitting hairs here.

After the show we hung out with the Raindogs at Buffalo Billiards. Most of the same folks who went to Memphis also went to this show, with the addition of our friend Eric. A great time was had by all.

After that we headed to Layla's Bluegrass Inn to watch Rich Gilbert play. The band rocked. We had some hot dogs and a few drinks, staying until closing time.

The next morning we ate at the famous Pancake Pantry, went record shopping at The Great Escape, did a drive-by of the Nashville Parthenon, and then headed back to the airport.

For full details, see our writeup on our web site.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Hello world!

Hi! We're Steph and Craig and this is our brand new blog. We decided to start a blog mainly to notify people of updates to our web site, Travel is our favorite thing to do, and we post detailed journals and photographs from our trips on our site. On this blog, we plan to give overviews of some of our trips with links to full write-ups on our site for more details.

We are also very big music fans, so we will also probably post some concert pictures from time to time.