Here’s to Five-Star Service and Adult-Only Playgrounds 

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Back in Vega$, again! This time for some 4th of July fun in the hot, hot sun. Everyone has their addiction and this town is one of mine. I chose to stay at the Mirage, as I think it’s pretty cool trying out all the hotels and experiencing them for myself first hand. Variety is the spice of life, right? 

While I had a sinfully fabulous time, as I always do, I want to focus on two major takeaways from my trip. Customer service and vacationing with children in Las Vegas. And while I’m sure the latter topic will only serve to annoy and irritate some readers, I feel strongly enough about it that I’m willing to take that chance. In the end, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so I will proudly and unapologetically express mine. 


Not feeling up to the impending travel logistics nightmare guaranteed at LAX, I decided to drive to Sin City. By the grace of the Las Vegas traffic gods, I made it in under four hours (fantastic time from the LA coast, actually) and headed straight to the hotel in hopes of lucking out with an early check in. And here begins my rundown of what I witnessed as top notch customer service, which is most definitely becoming a lost art in today’s world. I do think each and every one in the list below are worth mentioning, as they all went out of their way to go above and beyond the average level of customer service one usually receives. From the young lady at the front desk who happily checked me in three hours early with a lovely room with a full pool view (thank you!) to the woman at the concierge desk who was so helpful when we needed our 311 and Garth Brooks concert tickets printed out, 


to the young man at the valet who shared with us the AWESOME insider tip that our paid valet ticket works at all the other MLife hotel valets (you’re a Rock Star!). On to the very sweet cleaning ladies on the 12th floor who hooked us up with extra lotions and shampoos, the retail shop employee who lead me over to one of the most spectacular blouses I’ve ever laid eyes on. Continuing with the front desk clerks who answered my calls with a cheerful “Hello Ms. Miller, how can I assist you?” and to the hardworking woman who delivered our lunch from The Pantry…all so very good at delivering five-star customer service. Really. I mean they were ideal representatives of what excellent customer service should be.  Very impressive, and definitely on par with what you see at Bellagio, Caesars and Wynn. It’s comforting to know that this is a town where exceptional customer service still matters. A lot. 


The reason I think this topic is blog-worthy is because there are so many instances today where you go to a restaurant, hotel or boutique and are met with such substandard customer service, it’s almost become the norm. So when I DO experience superb customer service I feel that those who deliver, deserve a shout out. I make it a point to give my return business and positive word of mouth to those people and businesses who actually place a high value on treating each customer as if they were royalty. And who doesn’t like to be treated like royalty? When we spend our hard earned money going somewhere or doing something I think it’s fair to expect a high quality of customer service. In terms of this topic, kudos to you, Mirage! Really nice job! 

Now… on the the topic of children in Las Vegas. 

My thoughts are as follows: Way, way, way, WAY too many toddlers and babies. Strollers EVERYWHERE. Backups at the valet while Mommies and Daddies unpacked their car seats, pack n’ plays, bags of toys, cartons of goldfish crackers, and ginormous diaper bags. Children being drug around at 1 IN THE MORNING on The Strip, through the CASINOS, and out at late night restaurants. Cranky, tired and unhappy kids who would rather be at home, in bed, or at the playground… anywhere except the action-packed Strip or less-than-wholesome Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. Screaming, kicking, running and splashing everywhere at the pool as if they were at their local YMCA for swim lessons. I was told by a young man working at the towel desk that all too often he witnesses parents wrapping their children, including small babies, up in towels and leaving them on the lounge chairs while they get a beer and go in the pool. What? Seriously WHY? Even this individual at the ripe age of 16 KNOWS how ridiculous and negligent this behavior is. It’s like these parents aren’t going to let something like HAVING KIDS stop them from having their FUN in Vegas. 


I’ll be honest with you, folks. I. Am. Not A. Fan. I simply DO NOT understand who is having fun in these scenarios? The children? NO. The parents? Definitely NOT. Everyone else around within earshot? HELL NO. I fully comprehend and grasp that Vegas tourism is a money making venture, and in order to make the most money possible, you must market to every demographic available, HOWEVER… that being said… I really WISH Vegas would not market itself as a vacation hot spot for families. Does anyone else see what has happened here? Adults have nearly lost all control of THE ONE city in this country where you can run away and hide from things like dirty diapers, bottles, stroller jams and soccer tournaments. Can’t we just have ONE town where we can act out in sin amongst other sin-loving adults? A place where you can lie at the pool with your Bloody Mary or Pina Colada the morning after a long, hard debaucherous night of drinking, dancing and who knows what else, without having to hear the screams, squeals and tantrums of young children? A town where you can go out and enjoy a tasty dinner at a fine dining establishment without watching unruly children at the table across from you PUT THEIR BARE FEET UP ON THE TABLE and whine about how BORED they are while glued to an iPhone game, as Dad slurps down another beer and buries his head in his cell phone only to come up for air to ask his wife why the kids are acting out? It’s 9 o’clock at night. Kiddies need to be in BED. SLEEPING. Not out on the town in Las Vegas. Anyone in agreement with me here? 


Let’s not forget watching and listening to the parents argue, beg and negotiate with their kiddos to behave or else “no more iPhone for you.” Oh please. Who are you kidding? We all know how that will end. 

The truth is, parents, you can drink all you want, but we all know you are not going to have as much fun on vacation in Vegas WITH your kids in tow as you would if you LEFT THEM AT HOME with Grandma or the nanny. Do you really think this is an appropriate vacation spot for your children? Better yet, why not take the kiddos to KID FRIENDLY MECCAS such as Disneyland and Disneyworld, Legoland, Grand Canyon, or Universal Studios? These places are CREATED to cater to the needs of whiny overactive children of all kinds. Please, for the love of all that is fun in the adult world, LEAVE YOUR CHITLINS AT HOME next time you want to go party it up in Sin City and let us all enjoy our escape from reality for however long we are there. 


This is the foundation upon which Las Vegas was built. Escape from reality and play, spend, gamble, shop, drink, dine, dance, enjoy and go wild like there’s no tomorrow. I can assure you, when the Mob ran Vegas, it was not a town marketed for Family Friendly Vacations. Give us back our adult playground. I beg of you. Ol’ Blue Eyes and his predecessors like Benjamin Siegel would back me up on this one, guaranteed. 

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Timeless Tunes, Delectable Bites and General Sherman

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My favorite old school radio station, Cruisin’ 1430 AM, streamed out of Denver, is always playing hits from Johnny Rivers, and I love his music, so after a quick search I learned he was scheduled to play in Visalia, California on February 27th. As I checked the map, I noticed that it isn’t too terribly far from Sequoia National Park. Well shoot! That’s a doable drive, right? A weekend of live music and giant trees sounds like fun, so off we go! Decided to make Day One the long trek to Sequoia National Park so that Sunday could be a relatively easy drive back to LA. What I love most about my road trips is being able to drive freely on the open road with my co-pilot Elliott, some good tunes playing on my stereo, taking in all the scenery and not being burdened and annoyed by bumper to bumper traffic as I traverse the city streets getting from Point A to Point B. And that is exactly what I got. Easy breezing through the agricultural fields, orange orchards and small towns of McFarland, Delano, Porterville,Exeter, and on to Lake Kaweah where people were out boating and camping and loving life.


  

I decided to stop in Three Rivers for some nutritional fuel before heading into the trees and I could NOT have POSSIBLY made a better choice than to stop off at ol’ Buckaroo for some lunch. Equipped with a kitchen housed in a food truck that creates MAGICALLY DELICIOUS organic chow, an open seating area that faces the mountains and a rushing river, blue skies above, flowers and trees in bloom, AND a totally chill dog-friendly vibe. I was one happy clam. I ordered a blueberry basil soda (YUM) and the house-made lemon ricotta pancakes… dear GOD in heaven, these were TOO GOOD for words! I don’t think I will ever forget that whole scenario, so it’s definitely worth mentioning here. After sufficiently stuffing my face, we got back in the car and made our way into the park to meet this General Sherman that I’d heard so much about.


  
 Unfortunately, I am plagued with a propensity for vertigo and motion sickness so I will say that the 18-mile switchback drive from the entrance of Sequoia National Park to the point where General Sherman lives was a completely nauseating and un-fun experience for me… AND I WAS DRIVING. Thankfully, it only took about 45 minutes to get there and I was able to score a parking spot in the very puny adjacent lot, as I was not feeling inspired to take a long hike after that drive, especially knowing that I had to drive back down the same way I came. Fun. Regardless, breathtaking beauty surrounds and the aroma of fresh air in the woods was completely intoxicating. Quite a few people shared my plan to beat the spring and summer crowds on this chilly day, as I even had to wait my turn to take most photos, but well worth every minute. Finally, Elliott and I got to meet the most famous Giant Sequoia, General Sherman in person! The largest known living tree on earth. Whoa. That’s insane. This guy is 275 feet tall, 25 feet around and has had somewhere between 2,300 and 2,700 birthdays, No joke! I wanted to run up to him and give him a great big hug, but unlike the disrespectful group in front of me, I read the signs posted EVERYWHERE that asked people to PLEASE NOT step on the ground near the Giant Sequoias, as it damages their roots. I thought it would most certainly bring me bad karma to do so, therefore I chose to have a few photos taken from farther back which is fine by me if it helps prolong the lives of these bad boys. Being in the presence of such gigantic trees that have been living on this earth for so long was quite a humbling experience. I read somewhere that walking in nature actually changes your brain activity for the better and who could argue with that? While I was not excited to get back in the car for that 18-mile pin curve drive, I felt almost cleansed in a way after making the trek and spending some time amongst these splendidly enormous and ancient plants and was even graced with a waterfall sighting on my way down the mountain.





 Fast forward a few hours, after some much needed rest and relaxation at the hotel and I had gained my second wind to go see me some Johnny Rivers! And for the record, downtown Visalia is utterly darling. Eclectic, vintage, quaint and friendly area with boutiques, antique shoppes, restaurants, cafes and the historic Fox Theatre, which was the venue for the show. I am a huge fan of all historic theatres and love seeing live music performed on their stages. Built in 1930 this jewel was built as part of the Fox Theatre chain, where it showed movies for 66 years before closing down. Thanks to local efforts and generous funding, the Fox was restored and reopened in 1999.

  
Johnny took the stage around 8pm and opened with “Seventh Son”. I will tell you, from note one I thought to myself, “Damn, this guy has still got it!” I bobbed and sang along in my seat with hit after hit, “Tracks of my Tears,” “Mountain of Love,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Summer Rain,” a captivating rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” “Poor Side of Town,” “Route 66,” “Memphis,” and one of the best of the night, “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Blues.” His voice has been remarkably preserved, his guitar playing was raw, adventurous and spot on. Virtually impossible to say anything negative about his performance. I knew every song, except for a cover which I suspected was a Sade original? The guy still rocks it like he’s in his 30’s. Not bad for this 73 year old Louisiana boy. 



It was announced that Johnny Rivers would be giving autographs after the show, so I squeezed and weaved my way through the crowd as quickly as possible to get to the merchandise table in order to purchase a CD for Johnny to sign. It was there I met up with Chuck and Debbie, a likely pair of fun loving hooligans who were also in the front of the line for Johnny’s autograph. Debbie and I shared some laughs as we verbally wrestled which one of us would run away with Johnny if he asked, while Chuck acted as referee scoring our insults and comebacks. Highly entertaining. I always dig making new friends on my adventures. And here he comes! Johnny Rivers makes his way to the merch table and Debbie and I are ready to make our move. I give him my CD and say, “My name is Sally,” as he grabs my CD out of my hand while he hastily and carelessly signs the cover and replies, “I don’t do names. If I signed everyone’s names on their CDs I would be here all night,” and hands me back my CD. Well…damn. Really?


So, now it’s Debbie’s turn and she says in her cutest most flirtatious voice, “Johnny are you happily married?” and… no response at all. She repeated her question and again was greeted with crickets as he rushed to hand her back her CD. SNAAAAAP! Wow, could he have been any LESS enthusiastic or friendly with the crowd of people that makes it possible for him to still perform live in front of audiences? I get it, you’re tired or you had a bad day and don’t feel like being chatty, but come on man! Humor us just a little, would you? We left the line and went out front of the theatre to lick our wounded egos and laughed heartily as we realized NEITHER of us would be running away with Johnny Rivers. I told her that’s fine with me, I will stick to my one true love, Tom Selleck, thank you very much. Funny stuff! Great meeting you two and I hope to run into you again somewhere. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the show but was admittedly a bit put off by the whole autograph incident, so I will give Johnny an A for his musical performance, and a D for his crotchety personality.



 As I walked back to my car, I stopped into this hip little coffee shop called Tazzaria just as they were closing and this adorable young man, Austin explained that they were closing for the night and aren’t open on Sundays. Hearing a brief run down of my efforts to get to the show that night and then getting snubbed by Johnny Rivers himself, and bummed out that I wouldn’t get to try this place out in the morning, Austin went above and beyond cool and not only let me have a cookie but made me a steamed skim milk with sugar free vanilla (on the house!) to go with it. Seriously, I absolutely love cool people. He had no obligation to say anything other than, “Sorry Ma’am, we’re closed,” but instead, took the high road and was super kind and cool to me. Thank you for being you, Austin and I will see you on the flip side! Open road, fresh air, pancakes, trees, good music, cool people and a chocolate chip cookie with milk before turning in for the night. And to quote Ice Cube…I gotta say it was a good day!

The Good ol’ Boys of The Marshall Tucker Band 

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Doug Gray and the members of The Marshall Tucker band just want you to get down have a good time at their show. And that I did. The stars  aligned as I was finally able to catch them live last night at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills. I’m really digging that venue after 4 or 5 shows. Yes, it’s a bit of a hike up the 101 but they get some super cool bands, offer plentiful free parking, awesome sound system and generally super laid back, fun-loving crowds. I feel like I’m on a field trip out in the country somewhere every time I drive down the dark, winding road approaching this place. They offer dinner seating at most shows, but realistically speaking, it would be a virtual impossibility to get there by 7pm, so I just opt for the standing room only tickets and aim to get there by 9pm to allow traffic to die down a bit. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! 

Since 1972, Doug Gray and a myriad of others have been making music. And not just any music, but soulful, bluesy, jazzy, Southern-fried rock music. After hitting all time professional highs, as well as sustaining the tragic loss of Tommy Caldwell in 1980, The Marshall Tucker Band is still kicking and they are here to entertain you. 

Opening the show with his deep southern drawl, Doug Gray says,  “Let’s get on down to it,” and I knew we were in for a treat. 

  
Their sound is so deliciously 70’s. The guitars, bass, drums, the FLUTE, ohhhh the amazing flute. Being a flute player myself, I was always a fan of the brilliant use of a flute in a rock band. And can this guy, Marcus James Henderson play a flute or what? As well as the saxophone, keyboards and outta sight vocals as well! And how can you NOT love any band whose lead singer plays the tambourine? The whole band jams and sings and are clearly loving what they do, and even said so… “We’re not afraid to stand up here and have a good time.” And you believe it too! You can just feel the good vibrations.

Playing hit after hit,  “Dog Eat Dog World,” “Take the Highway,” “Fire on the Mountain”. The crowd sang and cheered along. A quick side  note about the audiences at The Canyon Club, a bit older than the LA crowds, with a few bikers and cowboys thrown in the mix. Just another reason why I know I’m not in LA proper anymore. Love it!

  
“Desert Skies” resonated like a lonely cowboy singing beside the campfire. So so good. Gray explained it was from 1974, an classic country song while traveling around in an old dodge van. A new favorite of mine! 

“Heard it in a Love Song,” I recognized it in a millisecond. God I love that song! The PERFECT country roadtrip tune, with just a hint of a beers on a beach in Mexico. 

As the crowd hollered and begged for more, they left on a high note with a sincere, “Thank you very much for keeping us around all these years,” and broke into “Can’t You See.” Now this is a band worth seeing over and over again. Talent, showmanship, grace, good times and great music… Now that’s what I call a show! 

Pink Martini: Trapped With No Way Out

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I excitedly purchased a ticket specifically to see Doc Severinsen at the Hollywood Bowl without even looking to see who he was playing with. When I learned it was Pink Martini, I thought, hmmm well I’ve heard of them but have never seen them so this will be a chance to check them out. Cool!

The Hollywood Bowl is without a doubt a spectacular outdoor venue, but as you may or may not know, it is not exactly known as user-friendly when it comes to getting there and parking logistics. Another interesting tidbit that you may or may not be aware of is the fact that they only offer STACKED PARKING. What is stacked parking you ask? Well, imagine a puzzle made out of 981729812479234 cars and your car is one piece in that puzzle. Once you park, you have committed to staying for the entire concert with no way out until enough car owners around you return and move so that you can forge your way out behind them. When asked what people do if they had an emergency and HAD to get out? A parking lot attendant told me “call a cab.” Ah. Peachy. Good thing I usually choose to take the shuttle and bypass all the parking madness. Wondering how any of this is relevant to the story? Hang tight and read on, my friends.

I have heard all of the hullabaloo about the much celebrated Portland band, Pink Martini and after thoroughly enjoying every minute of Doc Severinsen’s set (and wishing for more), it was time to finally see and hear what all the excitement was about. The band took the stage at 9pm. “We are Pink Martini. We are from Portland, Oregon. Please welcome the lovely Miss China Forbes.” At a glance, they are going for the Big Band era look, just to give you a mental picture.  First comment out of China’s mouth after the opening song… “How are you up in the cheap seats?” Did she really just say that? Was she trying to be funny? Not too sure, but my first impression is now based on a condescending remark made by the lead vocalist of a band I’ve never seen before. Not sure it’s a very gracious (or cool) act to call out your audience based on the price of their seats? Hmmm. Not off to a stellar start if you ask me, but let’s see what happens from here.

Yap, yap, yap, yap. Not sure I care how many times you’ve played Carnegie Hall, and all the other top venues around the world. Way. Too. Much. Talking. And not just talking, but self-congratulatory talking. Incredibly impressed with themselves, is what kept crossing my mind. A ridiculously long story about writing a song in French. Waving her arms around with her feet cemented to the stage, China’s voice was completely emotionless. I’m not buying into it. Now (bandleader) Thomas Lauderdale is reciting a story about the poetic meaning behind the next song. Talk, talk, talk, talk. Granted, Thomas is a talented piano player, but again, there is no authentic vibe or energy emanating from the stage for me whatsoever. They are coming across as flat and uninspiring.  A member of the band takes center stage with a bright red glockenspiel-looking instrument and sings in Spanish while swerving and waving his hips merrily. Crowd loved it. I however, did not. “Que Paso Yolandaaaaaaa…” yawwwwn. I am not into this at all. 

More talk of sold out Carnegie Hall shows and how China lost her voice so the next singer had to learn 10 songs in 5 languages in time for the shows to go on. Welcome.. STORM LARGE. STORM LARGE? Seriously? What in the hell kind of name is that? She comes out on stage. Pretty girl, but dark roots with cheaply dyed PINK stringy hair? WHY? How does this equate to a class act? How can you take a band like this seriously? I don’t get it. I will give it to Storm, she has a great voice. And is infinitely more entertaining to watch than China with her waving arms, but still, Pink Martini is not winning me over. I have seen thousands of live shows in my lifetime and I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of music and what is out there, but frankly, this band is doing nothing for me except WISHING that I could get the hell out of the parking lot and head home.

Now we get to hear another story from Thomas about how he mixed in Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” into the next song. Cheers from the crowd. Wow. I cannot believe how completely TIRED this band and their whole shtick is. Another elongated introduction and out pops Ari Shapiro. Apparently, I am the only person in the audience who is not an avid Pink Martini fan, because I have no idea who this person is. Who is he and why am I supposed to be impressed with this cameo appearance? Yap, yap, yap and more yap. “We have played in London, Paris and Istanbul. In amazing venues all over the world but none compare to the Hollywood Bowl, and I’m pretty sure Judy Garland felt the same way.” For the love of God would someone tell this band that they talk WAYYYY TOOO MUCH!?!?!? Yet another mention of their sold out Carnegie Hall shows. They bring out Doc Severinsen (thank GOD) and that was great. The highlight of their set for sure.

Oh goody, another intro story from Thomas. This time about a man named David LaChapelle who became a famous photographer thanks to Andy Warhol and even though he has never sung on a stage before in his life, he’s going to do so now. Can’t wait.

Here he comes, all Rockabillied out and attempts to sing “Son of a Preacher Man,” with China and Storm backing him up. Look, I’m not saying I’m a world class songstress, but dude, don’t quit your day job. That was it. My fun meter had overflowed at this point and I could take it no longer. I walked out to my car and sat there in shock, laughing about how GOD AWFUL this Pink Martini show was, until I was freed from my stacked parking situation and headed home. Dripping with pretension and self-love, Pink Martini may have musical talent but they fail as performers. I would not see them again and if ever asked, I will be sure to share my two cents. Thank GOD for Doc Severinsen!

P.S. And to those of you who think I’m being a hater…sorry but it had to be said. I’m just being honest. #sallysopinionmatters

Doc Severinsen: Dig That Man and His Horn!

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When I heard that the Grammy-winning prolific musician and band leader Doc Severinsen was playing the Hollywood Bowl I knew exactly where I would be on September 2, 2015. Just the mention of his name takes me back to the good old Johnny Carson days. That iconic combination of trumpet notes that signaled the beginning of each show, his amusing and playful back and forth banter with Johnny and Ed. 30 years of classic entertainment that will be embedded in our memories forever.

Donning a blue jacket with multicolored rhinestones, a purple shirt and lime green pants in typical Doc style, he showed the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl that at 88 years of age, he’s clearly still got it!

Considered one of the best trumpeters, musicians and band leaders over the last 60 years, Doc Severinsen is highly respected across classical, jazz, and big band genres. His bright tones, upbeat rhythms and masterful command of the 16 piece band are phenomenal. He seemed so at ease and comfortable on stage, shared a lighthearted quip here and there, but knew he didn’t have time to waste, so kept the music coming and the talk to a minimum.

We were treated to “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “When You’re Smiling” (a personal Tony Bennett fave of mine) and a tasty mix of bongo, drum, violin and horn solos thrown in to spotlight the tremendous talent surrounding him. The guy has endless ability, flair, wit and spunk. What’s not to love?

We were graced with 38 minutes of pure musical delight, ending with an explosive and dazzling rendition of Harry James’ “Two O’Clock Jump” that absolutely blew our socks off!  Brilliant! Throwing a kiss to the crowd as he exited the stage, this cat has class! A+ performance! Only wish he was the headliner versus the opener so we could have enjoyed more time with him. Now THIS is music. Thanks Doc! See you next time around!

Lancaster and Palmdale: Footloose and Fancy Free in the High Desert 

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Staying true to my stubborn Aries self, I chose to overlook the stern warnings from a coworker about all the dangers of this area, threw caution to the wind and headed out to the “big bad” Antelope Valley Fair for some fun in the High Desert sun. And now that it’s all over, I have to say…Man! What a BLAST! 

My primary goal was to see Dennis DeYoung play a show at the AV Fair, but upon further research I discovered that there really are some cool things to see and do here.  Once there it’s hard to believe that you are still officially in LA County. Whoa… What a difference 78 miles can make!  

First stop, Antelope Valley Winery where we were warmly greeted by Candace and offered two complimentary samples of the locally made wine. Candace took in my feedback from the first pour and was able to pick just the right wine for me! The Runway White was exactly what I was looking for. A very chatty and informative hostess, she suggested I try some dipping pretzels with cheese. And you know what? She hit a homerun! Sitting outside in the shade of a big tree on the lovely Donato Family Vineyards, I got to chillax for a while and take it all in. Just what was needed on this toasty late summer afternoon. Too bad I didn’t arrive a few hours earlier, as they have a Farmers Market Saturdays from 9am to noon. But I did get to meet a really sweet, young couple who recently moved to the area from San Antonio and we chatted about all the incredible things to do in Southern California. Always up for meeting cool people and those kinds of conversations! Such a lovely and memorable afternoon. 

   
  We said our goodbyes and made our way over to the Oxford Inn & Suites Hotel in Lancaster.   

This town, like most others, may have some less than stellar areas and residents, but I will tell you what… I have nothing but positive remarks when it comes to this hotel. The front desk staff were friendly, quick and easy check-in and as luck would have it, I arrived just in time for Happy Hour! Each room receives drink vouchers and access to the late-afternoon Scooby Snacks! I made a small garden salad for my little vegetarian doggy man, Elliott and a small bowl of chips and salsa for me! How cool is that? 

  
The room was neat as a pin and well appointed. 

   

Got little man settled in and headed out for the AV Fair!

Oh boy, me and my fascination with fairs and festivals. The wild rides, neon lights, fried food creations, the laughter, screams and electric energy. Intoxicating! I got an insider tip on the phone when I called to get ticket info on the concert. If you buy a General Admission Ticket to the fair, you can sit in the Grandstands (first come first served) for FREE to watch the shows. Well HELL! I’m all for free! Thanks for the tip! I cruised around for an hour or so before the concert. I love perusing all the booths and exhibition halls. I met Raul, a super interesting Peruvian man who was selling craft goods from his homeland. We talked all things Peru and he even turned me on to the hauntingly angelic voice of Yma Sumac and her song about fairies and spirits called Chuncho. Check it out! God, I love meeting cool new people! 

  
Snagged a perfect front row aisle seat in the grandstands and before I knew it, Dennis DeYoung took the stage! See my separate post on the show. But in summary, BEYOND AWESOME!!! He was everything I had ever hoped for in concert!! 

After the show, I strolled around a bit, snapped some shots of the neon lights, and indulged in the ultimate fair food… FRIED OREOS. OH MY GOD. So sinfully delicious! Like donut holes with melted OREOS in the middle. YOWZA!  Note: I DID give 2 of the 4 away to some kids in line, so as to save myself from complete gluttony. 

    
 As the cliche goes, it’s always best to leave on a high note, so I did just that. Got to my car without incident and made it back to the hotel to reunite with my furry little friend who was anxiously awaiting my return. 

Slept like a log on the ultra comfy bed and while enjoying the fabulous free brekkie in the dining lounge, I meditated on the day ahead. I had wrestled with idea of whether or not to take the trek out to the land of the unknown to check out The Kill Bill Church and finally decided WHAT THE HELL, WHY NOT? The adorable young man at the front desk chatted with me for quite some time and came up with two other filming locations for me to visit, since I would be all the way out there anyway. He even printed out maps for me to each one. So sweet! I had a full tank of gas, 3 bottles of cold water, snacks and Elliott by my side. I was confident that I could make this journey safely and have photos to share. And I did! And here they are! 

Out in the middle of NOWHERE…and I mean NOWHERE, if you pay close attention to directions and mileage, you will come across THE KILL BILL CHURCH. And let me tell you, the vibe is just as desolate and otherworldly as it was in the movie. LOVED IT! Beautifully isolated. Set against a deep blue sky. And no one around…anywhere. Can’t you just picture Uma now? 

  
A suspicious white van passed me, stopped ahead and began to back up in my direction. Without a second thought I took that as my cue to get the hell outta dodge. No sense in sticking around to see what he wanted. 

More peaceful open-road driving amongst scenery like this: 

 

  
And by the grace of the smart phone map, arrived at the next stop…Club Ed. Google it. A movie set built circa 1970’s and has been used in countless productions. Again, you are out in the middle of NOWHERE. Kinda scary yet so exciting at the same time. My adrenaline, along with the A/C was on full blast all day. 

   

   
 Two down, one more to go. I read about Four Aces Movie Set and someone mentioned “watch out for the caretaker, he doesn’t allow anyone to walk around or take photos.” Well as soon as I pulled up, there he was. I was a little nervous until he waved me over with a smile. I told him I was just passing through and was hoping to take a few photographs. Must have been my lucky day. Thanks to my Guardian Angel.

   
    
    

This set was built by a Santa Monica man, who actually built Club Ed way back when. He purchased over 250 acres here and built this multi-faceted movie set. A diner, a mechanics garage and a Route 66-esque Motel. SPECTACULAR down to every single last detail.  

  
  

After a good long visit and chat session we headed out with smiles on our faces and creative spirits buzzing from the thrills of the day. 

The last item on my to-do list was a visit to the world famous Musical Road. Honda engineers actually built grooves into a 1/4 mile stretch of pavement in such a way that when driven over at approximately 65-70 mph you will delight in the sounds of The Lone Ranger Theme song! 

Honestly, how much fun are you allowed to have on any given day? 

All this to say, get out and explore, discover, see, hear, taste, do, experience & live! That’s what we’re here for, right? 

  

Dwight Yoakam & Eric Church: Dwight Ruled the Night

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Eric Church may have been the headlining act at LA’s Staples Center on January 23, but Dwight Yoakam roped that baby calf with undeniable ease and rode away with the trophy. Regardless of the fact that today’s youth seem to view anyone over 40 as completely insignificant, Dwight has been honing his craft over the past 30 years, which yields a powerful performance highlighted by an understated confidence, knowing that he doesn’t have to prove a damn thing to anybody. He’s been there, done that and he just wants to play his music for you. Oh and do a little boot scootin’ and twistin’ here and there in those oh so well fitting tight jeans of his.

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Dwight has deservedly earned his title of reigning king of contemporary Honky Tonk music. With 21 albums under his belt, 12 of which are Gold, and a staggering 25 million records sold, this wrangler ain’t no one-hit wonder. Outfitted in a sequined jacket and his signature low-riding, wide-brimmed cowboy hat, Dwight simply sparkles inside and out. He has that one of a kind appeal that youth or money just can’t buy.

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Although his set was sadly shorter than I had hoped, he gifted us with his iconic “Little Sister,” a beefy rendition of the Johnny Cash hit “Ring of Fire,” his twang filled “Honky Tonk Man,” yodel-icious “Little Ways,” the always crowd pleasing “Guitars, Cadillacs,” and my personal all time favorite, “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.” His music is raw, unfiltered and sincerely genuine. He oozes talent and he lets his hillbilly star shine for all to see. He doesn’t have to TELL YOU he’s an outlaw or a bad ass. He just IS his own unique person. Period. Love it. Love Dwight Yoakam. Always have. Always will. He put on a phenomenal show.

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Which leads me to Eric Church. I will start by saying that I saw him open for Kenny Chesney two summers ago at Angels Stadium in Anaheim and he put on a totally outstanding show. He really did, and I was a solid fan from that point forward. However, watching him headline this show nearly two year later, I couldn’t help but feel as though his bad boy attitude is somewhat contrived and unnatural. It struck me as over the top and dare I say, egomaniacal. This photograph is a perfect example of the level of self-adoration I’m speaking about.

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I struggle to connect with people anywhere who are obviously going out of their way to impress others and show everyone what an anti-establishment rebel they are. Over-self promotion tends to grate on my nerves and I was unable to escape the feeling that Eric Church purposefully makes a point to prove to his audience what a renegade bad ass he is. Frankly, I find that kind of attitude to be yawn-worthy and quickly lost interest in the show. Undoubtedly, he has his own style and is a talented singer and played some of his cooler songs like “Talladega,” a banjo-pickin’ “Give Me Back My Hometown,” “Creepin,” and a far out version of a “Bruce Springsteen/I’m on Fire” mix, I can’t help but be a little turned off by his seemingly obsessive self-love.

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I dig his music, and I honestly hope that Eric Church will grow out of this phase and into a more unpretentious and humble performer as he progresses in age and experience. With all that being said, this is just my two cents worth. You can take it or you can leave it. Music is my passion and being the passionate and animated individual that I am, I like to call the shots as I see and feel them. Nothing more. Nothing less. And on that note… Happy trails to you, until we meet again.