What does Route 66 sound like?

Much of it is probably pretty quiet these days. I know the remnant of the once great U.S. Route 66 running through the Cajon Pass in Southern California is an all-but-forgotten back road now: Interstate 15 roars with 8-plus lanes of cars and trucks 24 hours a day, while less than a mile away, the former divided 4-lane Route 66 has been reduced to a single 2-lane blacktop county road, with the abandoned southbound lanes left overgrown with weeds and populated intermittently with parked cars, their occupants wistfully dreaming of the glory days of the erstwhile “Main Street of America.”

My latest music project, entitled simply 66, is a 21-minute, 10-part suite that seeks to capture, in my own quasi-prog-rock fashion, some of the experience of cruising along the “Mother Road” from its origin at Lake Michigan in Chicago, through St. Louis, across the American Southwest (following, roughly, the path of current Interstate 40), past the Grand Canyon, into the California High Desert and on to the Pacific shore in Santa Monica.

Route 66 is in many ways a symbol of America, from its optimistic (if never so simple and wholesome as some prefer to remember) origins in westward expansion, to its decommissioning in the 1970s with the advent of bigger and better freeways, and its subsequent haphazard mix of abandonment and preservation. Route 66 represents the best and worst of the American prospect. It’s a fitting inspiration for an extended, varied, and ultimately unpredictable piece of music.

You can listen to the entire album online or download it for free at my official 66 album page. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.

I’ve seen this before

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremyengleman/158189094/I just finished reading an article in a recent issue of the New Yorker entitled The Ponzi State. It talks about the collapse of the real estate market in Florida, specifically in and around the suburbs of Tampa.

The talk of plotted out but undeveloped (or underdeveloped) subdivisions, with streets and street signs and street lights but no houses, or a few scattered houses surrounded by overgrown empty lots, all struck me as eerily familiar: it sounded just like Salton City, California, a place I’ve blogged about and made music about, visited once a decade ago and learned about in a great documentary called Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea.

You see, Salton City was once a speculator’s dream, a boom town that never boomed, a suburban paradise-to-be that never quite managed to happen. In the 1960s a city that would ultimately boast a population of well over 100,000 people was conceived, laid out, and to some extent even built — the streets are there, and in many places even the necessary water, sewer and electrical hookups — but now it’s virtually a ghost town, or at least it would be a ghost town, if it had ever really been a town in the first place.

The Salton Sea is a strange place, a cautionary tale to the rest of us, but few have even heard, much less learned from, its lessons, and it seems now that we’re watching the same story unfold — on a much larger scale — throughout Florida and elsewhere in the wake of the housing bust.

No, iPhone, my house is not located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean

Not the location of my houseIt goes without saying that I love my iPhone. I can geek out on just about any Apple device but the iPhone trumps them all. Yes, when I first heard the rumors circulating early last year that an Apple cell phone was in the works, I dismissed and denied them. “Impossible. That sounds totally stupid and Apple would never do something that totally stupid.” Of course, not only was I staggeringly wrong in my assumptions about the device, but by the end of the keynote I was already coveting one.

Fast forward to March of this year. Although no official word had yet come out that a 3G iPhone was on the way, it was fairly obvious. Nonetheless, the time was right, and I had to move on it, so I bought an iPhone while my window of opportunity was open. I certainly haven’t regretted it, and I admit I’m pleased that the 3G isn’t a revolutionary leap forward. That its most interesting feature — the new software — is fully compatible with the old iPhone means that not only did I not regret not getting a new iPhone this past weekend, it meant that in some sense I did get a new iPhone this past weekend. And it’s what I was waiting for since March.

But, sadly, the most peculiar flaw in the iPhone’s software, for me anyway, endures.

The Google Maps app has a cool little button that, when tapped, triangulates your current location from cell tower and public Wi-Fi hot spot data. Awesome. And it almost always works. But the one place I’ve discovered so far that it absolutely does not work is in my own house! For some reason, whenever I’m at home and I tap that button, I am dropped deep in the frigid depths of the Arctic Ocean beyond the northern coast of Alaska.

Now, given the fact that the map uses (*gack!*) Mercator projection, it’s darn near impossible to tell where exactly that’s supposed to be when you get that far up there. My guess is it’s simply dropping me into the default location it returns when both latitude and longitude come up null… probably 90 degrees north 180 degrees east (i.e. the “upper left” corner of the map, at least in terms of the coordinates they actually plot).

I am decidedly unhappy about this, far beyond any rational justification. That’s because it taps into my absurd and long-standing fear of blank spots on maps.

Top 5 Sandwich Places

5. Subway
OK, there’s really nothing that great about Subway, but at least you know what you’re getting. But really, Subway’s only worth going to if the following four places are all closed!
4. D. Brian’s
Notable for “Downtown’s Largest Half Sandwich”… only newbies and true chumps order the $1.50 extra full sandwich, as the “half” is really just full-size bread with one edge of the crust cut off! The service can be apathetic and/or tyrannical… but it can be worth it.
3. Quizno’s
They may be overpriced, but… “THEY GOT A PEPPER BAR!!!!” Enough said.
2. Jimmy John’s
Alas, poor Jimmy John’s. Bumped from your all-too-brief (but, in its time, rock-solid) position at #1 by…
1. Potbelly Sandwich Works
Even though SLP habitually refers to it as “Pork Barrel,” it is in fact the best and cheapest sandwich around. My favorite is the “Wreck,” and hot peppers are a must! And be sure to keep your eyes open for live music being performed in the “hay loft.”