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The "Bucket" List

I tend to view a glass as half empty, just the way I am I guess. At 57 years old I reckon I'm closer to the end than the beginning and that got me to thinking about what places I would really like to see before I "kick the bucket". Now I could go the "Great Wall of China" or "The Sphinx" route, but I'm gonna be honest here...my tastes are pretty simple and its not something I have given a helluva lot of thought to, but nonetheless, these are places that mean a lot to me. Compare it to your own, if you don't have one, get thinking. Of course, you may be lucky and rich enough that you don't give a shit about doin anything else...you've done it all... good luck with that. Have a shot of "Makers Mark" for me.

1) PNC Ballpark, Pittsburgh.
The new home of the Pirates and a really outstanding, fan friendly ballpark. The city of Pittsburgh is experiencing a renaissance of sorts and this place is the crown jewel. The setting of this park is awesome and just really pretty. I love underdogs and the Pirates are about as underdog as you get, but they are starting to turn the corner! Besides, it also has a Primanti Brothers sandwich stand! The sandwich with the fries stuffed inside...with a cold beer? Come on, do I gotta spell it out for ya?
2) Progressive Field aka Jacobs Field, Cleveland


Another new ballpark for an old, very cool team, in my opinion. The 1954 Indians have to be one of my favorite teams of all time with an amazing record of 111-43. Even with pitching greats Bob Lemon and Early Wynn, the poor tribesman were swept in the World Series by the NY Giants. They would not make the fall classic again until 1995. Perhaps two of the greatest things about the Indians is their mascot, Chief Wahoo, and the ball park mustard that sports the chief's mug on the label. Besides, I spent the night in jail in Cleveland way back, so I have a soft spot in my heart for the city...but that's a story for another time.


3) The Route 127 Yard Sale
Originally started as a way to stimulate business in one Tennessee town, it has grown in popularity and length to a whopping 675 mile extravaganza. It now stretches from Hudson, Michigan all the way to Gadsden, Alabama along Route 127. Yards, businesses, parking lots and more are jam packed with every oddity known to man. A great place to mingle with middle America and a great place to just put out your hat and strum away and maybe make a few bucks.

 
I bet there is some awesome food as well!


4) Blues Fest at Grant Park, Chicago
Usually held in the late spring/early summer, this legendary tradition is as good as it gets. Not only is it free, but there are multiple stages set up with every type of blues being belted out...from Chicago to Memphis to Delta Blues. Vendors abound selling all forms of local tasty things as well as t-shirts, Cd's and all forms of Blues paraphernalia. All the major players show up for this one, and all of the Blues Clubs in town have special deals with great acts appearing after hours in case you didn't get your fill all day. This could be heaven on earth!

5) Little Big Horn, Montana
American History is definitely my thing and this place combines tons of mystique, a great story and the beauty of the "Big Sky Country" of Montana. The "Last Stand", as it came to known pitted Col. George Armstrong Custer commanding the 7th US Cavalry with about 700 men against the combined tribes of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Sitting Bull & Crazy Horse, among other tribal leaders had an estimated 1800 braves, encamped in the Valley of the Little Big Horn, the Little Big Horn being a river by their encampment. Despite being warned by a scout that "this was the largest Indian Village he had ever heard of" as "he had been scouting Indians for years"*. Col Custer, (most times referred to as General because of his brevet promotion during the Civil War) divided his forces and attacked. The Indians were already aware of what was coming, scattered into groups, swung around each flank and piecemeal, annihilated the entire force.

A beautiful serene spot, it has been a place I have wanted to see for ever, just to tramp about and to sit and contemplate.
*Macnab, David B., A Day to Remember: Introducing the Drama, Irony, and Controversies of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, iUniverse, 2003, p. 45, based on Abstract of the Official Record of Proceedings of the Reno Court of Inquiry, 35





6) Red Lion Cafe, Lawrence, Kansas
This is one part of my "Bucket List" that is more of a dream and a wish then a place that I can actually go to. You see, it is long closed, but in its short heyday it served up some of the best food at the most reasonable prices ever encountered. The tiny little place was conceived by "Bill", don't remember his last name, who was a cook in the Navy. He was a big burly dude who didn't take shit from anyone least of all his customers. You paid one way...cash. The Red Lion served up lunch and an early dinner before closing for the day and the line always stretched out the door and a ways down the street at times. There were perhaps, 5 or 6 tables, seating 2 people each against the wall, then a a counter with about 10 bar stools. So you hung out and waited, but it was worth the wait....just before Christmas and Thanksgiving, Bill's lunch would be absolutely free. Turkey with all the trimmings loaded your plate, along with a cherry, blueberry or apple homemade cobbler. The only thing that was required was to donate something to fallen fire fighters and fallen policeman's families...so you gave what you could. It was around most of the 70's. No pictures of it exist that I know about anyway. I can still smell the aroma!


The original sign from inside the Lion (above). Found, purchased and placed in bar on Mass. St., Lawrence in the Red Lyon tavern (no relation). Discovered on a wonderful trip to Lawrence in early Sept. 2014


7) 3 String Cigar Box Guitar
If you remember Bo Diddly's guitar, it was based on an original "CGB" that he had made as a kid. Now, there is a whole underground of artisans bringing this primitive, gutsy, low down, swampy, Delta sound to the unwashed masses. Now its possible for an urbanized white boy to try his hand at a sound first heard in a "Shot-Gun" Shack in Mississippi. The masters took bailing wire or wire that was wrapped around a broom (to keep the bristles in), nailed each end on a wall, shove or wedged a piece of wood underneath to make the wire taught. A knife or bottleneck or bone was used to slide out a tune of sorts... Later a neck was slapped onto an empty cigar box, 2 or 3 or more strings were added, the tuning was secondary, you could make anything work....Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom....Gonna Sake 'Em on Down....indeed.
I'm still practicing and waiting for the day to be taken to nirvana on the wings of a chitlin.

8) Stouffer's Entree's
Someday I need to have my freezer always stocked with two specific Stouffer's entree items. Welsh Rarebit and Creamed Chipped Beef. The Chipped Beef I can find fairly regularly, the Welsh Rarebit I have not seen in these parts for many years although the site claims they still make it.


This stuff is true Hofmann family comfort food. My mom always had it in the fridge. It's not something you ate every day, but when I do I clean the plate 100%.

9) Europe '72 Mammoth Box Set
In 1972 The Grateful Dead headed for their first European tour and what followed were some of the most memorable shows they have ever done and have achieved legendary status among "Dead Heads". In 1973, a 3 record album was released just giving a taste of some of the best performances during the tour....but there was so much more! Fast forward to 2011 and The Dead and Rhino records released the ENTIRE tour on 70 CD's housed in a steamer trunk style holder along with books and tons of other stuff. Only a few thousand were made and it is long sold out, but one can still try and aquire it via Ebay. Phew! Un fucking real!



10) Ghost Hunting
For the past few years I have been engrossed in the various reality "Ghost" shows on TV, among them, "Ghost Hunters", "Paranormal State", and "Ghost Adventures". I would not really call myself a believer or an enthusiast, I just really like the drama of the whole thing. I have belonged to the "New Jersey Ghost Hunter Society", but havn't really done much with them yet. I would like to make the effort this year (2012) to go on some cemetery hunts and earn my "degree" so I can participate on some full blown cases. Another annual stop by the group is Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Long closed, this place is supposedly a real hot bed of activity.



11) I have spent 16 years of torture with our "front" lawn. Here in the Radburn section of town, the lawn facing the common park or path leading to the park is considered the "front" of the house. Very few, if any of the homeowners treat it as such. As far as I'm concerned, the side of the house that you enter the most often is the front. Not that any of this matters a damn, it doesn't.
Anyway, this particular lawn has been a source of torture in trying to make it look somewhat presentable. So, with that in mind, one thing I'd love to accomplish before I "kick the bucket", is to turn the yard into a shade garden replete with wildflowers etc.


12) Refurbished "DE-classified" missile silo.
At one time they were going for around $40K out in prairies of Western Kansas. Now with the "doomsday" craze you can't hardly touch one for less than $550K. Still in all, it's a pretty cool idea to have a couple of acres of flat land surrounded by a chain link and barbed wire fence with nothing showing but  a mailbox and a manhole cover entrance. The tunnels alone would make for awesome acoustics for playing my harp!


13) Route 66 Sojourn. The ultimate "hitting the road" field trip. Travel the length and see what this country was like in the 50's.

Addendum 
Last spring I was able to check 2 things off the list, well 1 1/2 anyway. I was able to take in a game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and while there I had a Primanti Brothers famous sandwich. While the park was gorgeous, the game comfortable, enjoyable and affordable, the sandwich left a bit to be desired. A bit "dummied down" from the one you would get from their brick and mortar establishment. So I give that bucket list item a 1/2.

14) Uncle Floyd DVD Compilation. Any way that I can get the UHF 68 shows is a major bucket list project. These shows were classic TV and were 1/2 hour shows on everyday from 6 to 6:30 PM Monday through Friday. For awhile it seems there was a DVD set "The Best of" but that seems to be out of print. The originals, whats left of them anyway, are somewhere in a hermetically sealed vault, Floyd is working on getting a hold of them. Unfortunately, many of the shows were erased and newer shows taped over them. Let's hope for the best!


15) The Shack Up Inn ~ Clarksdale, Mississippi
A tourist trap turned inside out. Instead of the various old timey shotgun shacks being torn down, (the Delta Blues is filled with stories about these share croppers shacks) this witty entrepreneur saves them from the wrecking ball. He then hauls 'em back and revamps the insides leaving the rickety outside intact. You can relax in relative comfort inside (AC, nice bed etc) and then sit on the porch in your overalls with a Tall Boy beer and your National Steel and recreate the sound you love in the place you ought to be. Heaven!





16) Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. Yet another new ballpark that I need to see.


17) Buck Owens Museum, Bakersfield, California. If there is one artist that I love it is Buck Owens.


18) Lawrence, Kansas. Where I was King of the World for 10 glorious years. Just to walk the streets on a cool Fall day and sit in it's parks holding hands with my girl, Susan.


19) Road Trip - Route 66. Such an iconic road, it oozes Americana and traverses some of the greatest sites from the Mid West to the Pacific.


20) Grow my hair. I actually started on my last hurrah hair adventure. Been a year since I had it cut....a bit thin on top and I wear it in a ponytail. I'll be damned if I'm gonna look like the rest of tired, beaten down 60 year old's I know. Below: Me, circa 1973.


21) Storm Chasing. I love the plains and, after viewing thunder heads up close, I'd love to go back and spend some time driving the lonely roads of Kansas looking for twisters. The country is subtle and breathtakingly beautiful.


22) La Tropicana, Lawrence, Kansas. Only the most special women in my life, at that time, were taken to my favorite Mexican restaurant on "the other side of the tracks" in Lawrence. Run by a Mexican family, the food was delicious, plentiful and affordable. Wash it all down with a Dos Equis? Brother, that's what living is all about! Don't forget to bring your best girl.



A few weeks ago I made it to La Tropicana, the food was as awesome as ever and the company was even better out on the patio.....before the skeeters set in, anyway.







23) Po' Monkeys, the cotton fields, Mississippi. The last Juke or Jook Joint left. A ramshackle building in the middle of a cotton field where you can still smell fish frying and hear live blues music from local artists.








24) The Lincoln Highway. The 1st Trans continental highway in the U.S. Traversing it's entire length would be a great trip.


It starts at Times Square, NYC


Traverses all kinds of awesome American scenery 


And winds up in San Fran.


and, of course, this historic stretch of original brick road through Omaha, Nebraska


 It was marked, throughout, with painted telegraph poles