Travels With Babakar

The Badlands

Day 1

So we took off pretty early. We’d planned to leave at 8 but as we were ready and it was earlier we ended up leaving at 7:43. The sun was just getting up and we were driving west. This was good the sun was at our back. Babakar had agreed to join me. I’d had a trip to the Badlands of South Dakota planned. Initially I had asked PV to go but he couldn’t. Not enough vacation time. So I had made the plans to go alone. Then J. Kinslow had contacted me about working in a production role with the Consort. Of course I jumped at the chance to do that. Those folks are awesome. It was a matter of going through the many recordings we had of them at Mind Fry and seeing if there were enough to fill a release. I had to laugh at the notion. They always have enough material. It turned out that Babakar was being flown in from Senegal and J. Kinslow was putting him up in a cottage out east of Cleveland, somewhere in Amish country... Midleton, Middlefield or something like that. It allowed Babakar some space for quiet contemplation. Of course he is always welcome at the MFE complex. If any artist comes in we will feed and house them if necessary as space allows. We don’t get a lot of folks recording there besides me and the Consort. Even the Chunks haven’t been there in a bit. One day at the studio I had to let Babakar know that he would be on his own for a week because I had this trip planned. This was his response.

"Well, I really don’t want to do this alone. I like a second set of ears you know, how about if I travel with you to these Badlands. I won’t be a bother and can pay for a separate rooms at the hotels. After all J. Kinslow paid for the cottage I am staying at. It might be fun if I am not imposing much." It was so funny, he was being so polite all I could say was. "Babakar of course you are welcome. I think you will dig it. P.V. and Dan (of friend who fronted the band Vital Mines) and I were there 2 years ago and I knew then I would return. It was magnificent. Please join me. No need to pay for a separate room although we may need to get a roll away because on at least the first night there is only one bed. Nothing personal but I’m not sleeping with you Babakar"

"If you really do not mind that settles it, but you are sure?"

"Of course I am sure, I had asked P.V. but he couldn’t. I really, for a change didn’t want to go alone. I almost canceled it a couple weeks ago. Then I knew I would be disappointed if I didn’t, so I got every thing set. I’m following the path the 3 of us took on the way out as closely as I can. We will stay in Norfolk Nebraska instead of O’Neil cuz there weren’t rooms available at the Holiday Inn. But we can get some great Mexican food and Tecate Beer at this joint we ate at in Norfolk. It’ll be a blast."

"Thank you I am forever grateful, John

"Thank you Babakar,

So that was how things started. Then the night before we left he stayed at the MFE complex and we took off bright and early. By noon we were in the South Bend area. I tried explaining the concept of Notre Dame and all their supposed mystiques but I got the impression that Babakar didn’t quite get it. It was a great drive. The weather was perfect. The first day we covered over 500 miles and got to Davenport, Iowa by 3:30 Iowa time (4:30 Cleveland). We took our stuff up into the room and chilled out. I cracked a beer out of the cooler. Babakar made a pot of coffee. There were the coffee pods that came with the room but we also carried our own grounds and that was what Babakar drank. He too loved his coffee. Once we had settled a bit we took out the guitars. We both carried one. Babakar had brought his Alvarez while I had my Wechter. We jammed a little and then Babakar asked me to play one of my newer songs. I played him a song called "It’s a Problem I Have" which is one of a few songs I had written recently dealing with people who have nothing better to do than to demean and denigrate others. Of course I made him play something in return. He played an instrumental he’d not named and wasn’t done with but it was something he could play on acoustic guitar. After that we sat for a bit. Babakar went out to smoke a pipe and I was left in the hotel room alone. I broke out the Scotch and was sipping it when Babakar returned. I was starting to get a little edge on from the scotch and suggested we go use the pool. He said he would sit and watch but he didn’t feel like swimming. So we went down and I swam while he read from Kerouac’s "On The Road" which I had packed as reading material. It seemed an appropriate book given that we were indeed also ‘on the road’.

I dove in. It felt good being surrounded by all the warm water.

Babakar sat for a bit on the side of the pool reading but soon a lot of kids and parents were coming in and they were fairly rude and splashing others and what not. At one point I surfaced from a pool length scuba diving expedition (in my mind) and I looked to Babakar and he was standing with the book in his hand. He motioned he was going up to the room and I nodded. I wouldn’t have stayed either, in fact even wanting to swim, all the little bastards were making it difficult to enjoy . Still I wasn’t going to be pushed out by them. There were 2 slightly older kids who were ‘in love’ and used the pool as an excuse to hold their half naked bodies against each other. I was in the deep end (which really wasn’t at 5 feet...) I think they were waiting for me to clear out and they might have tried having sex. They seemed oblivious to the security camera and everything else for that matter. At one point it was just them and me in the pool. The real loud brats had left. I kept doing my lengths and they kept snuggling in the deep end. They weren’t moving much so nothing was happening there. They were just whispering things to each other while leaving as little space between them as possible. Typical teenagers in love. I sensed they felt soon I would leave and they’d have the pool to themselves. Not on your life. I was going to be an obstruction to their love. It was just my mood. They kept me from totally enjoying it and I would do the same to them. After fifteen minutes the brats returned. At first they were unable to get in because they didn’t have a room swipe card. As I was thanking God for keeping them out the female lover got out of the pool and let them in. Once the loud brats had returned I got up and returned to the room to shower. Babakar wasn’t there. But "On The Road" was on the table so I assumed he went out for a walk. It had been a great day weather wise so my only regret was that I wasn’t with him. I showered and sat reading the book. I just opened it and read. I wasn’t necessarily starting it from the beginning, although I think Babakar might have been. I read for a bit and then practiced the guitar. Babakar returned and we decided to get dinner. There was a sea food joint next door so we went there. It was adequate. Like a local version of a Red Lobster. We each had a glass of wine with dinner. He had Salmon while I had the halibut. Like I said it was adequate. After dinner we went for a walk together. I showed him the Davenport sign Dave and I had goofed around by in the previous trip. I took a second pic of the word DAVE in Davenport just to show him I had been there. Then we took a drive downtown to the Mississippi river. That was the highlight of the day as the sun was setting. There was nice walkway along the river and the temperature was perfect. We walked casually talking and just enjoying the view. To the west there were a couple bridges that made for a fine picture. I regretted having put my camera down and forgetting to take with me. Alas... Finally we got in the car and returned to our room and went to bed. It had been a long but good day. I’m so glad he decided to join me. It makes a big difference.

Day 2

The next day started early. I got up at 6:30 only to find that Babakar was already up and just coming back from a short walk. He had walked north on highway 61 a little bit and then returned. Breakfast was not until 7 at this joint so while I showered he pick up "On The Road" and read some more of it. When I came out of the shower he said to me.

" I was just reading this Kerouac book and the chapter I read had the main character in Davenport Iowa. Funny he mentions Rock Island. It’s such a coincidence, don’t you think?"

"Only to a degree, I chose that booked because I knew that somewhere in it he crosses Iowa and Nebraska at some point. I didn’t realize it was so close to the beginning. Great book though."

"It is a classic, the Beats or Beat Generation. It reminds me of the lost generation, it was Gertrude Stein who coined the term wasn’t it John?"

"Yeah, I think anyway. My grasp of history is always tentative ya know. Sometimes I can grab the most obscure thing our of my past while other times I don’t know when the War of 1812 took place, ya know?"

Yes, I understand what you are saying."

So we traded small talk and silence for a bit. That was the great thing about us. Never did silence seem the least bit uncomfortable. People like that I can live with. People like that are rare and special to me. I finally broke a silence and asked him if he’d like to go to breakfast. He seemed intrigued by the book and said he’d be down in a bit.

"What time do you want to leave John?" he asked.

"I was aiming for 9. Our drive today is about 2 hours shorter so I figure we can start 2 hours later and still get to Norfolk at a reasonable time."

"OK, I’ll make sure I’ve gotten something to eat and be ready by then. It’s a good plan"

"Whenever we are ready is also acceptable." I said smiling to let him know we were on vacation!

So I went out of the room and took the steps down. I went into the breakfast area and prepared myself a bowl of corn flakes, toast and took 2 apples for eating in the car. I also had a couple glasses of apple juice and some coffee. The coffee wasn’t great but it would suffice. We had brought some good ground coffee but it was more for the cabins when we got there. I even packed a mug. I’d forgotten to pack a mug for Babakar because of his late addition. We’d have to get one. Maybe a Wall Drug mug or something. Worse comes to worse I would insist he use mine and I would use a paper cup or something. Mugs were easily obtained for a fee in America so I really wasn’t concerned.

Just as I was throwing my Styrofoam plates and cups away Babakar appeared. We exchanged pleasantries and I returned to the room and finished packing everything. His bag was already packed and sitting on the end of his bed. When Babakar returned we hit the road. Heading first north on Highway 61 and then west, always west, on interstate 80. This would take us almost to Omaha where we would jog onto I-680 and then to the Lincoln Highway (US 30) to Nebraska 75 to 32 West to 275 and then on in to Norfolk, Nebraska. There was a good Mexican joint Dan and PV and I ate at the last time through. So we went there for a late lunch/early dinner and munched big time. I think Babakar may have even gotten a little drunk on the Tecate’s we were drinking. I ate a lot of rice and beans as he did so the room would probably stink to high heaven by morn. Hopefully it wouldn’t start until we’d fallen asleep. Still that meant waking to stink. It was worth it though as the food was excellent!

Day 3

Day 3 begins. We get up later than preferred but alas we don’t have to be anywhere. We’d like to get to the cabins around 3. You can’t get in until after that. So the breakfast was pretty good. There were eggs and biscuits with sausage gravy. As they were probably eggs laid by tortured chickens neither I nor Babakar had any. Still, you normally don’t see that. Juice and toast were on the menu. Of course we’d steal whatever fruit looked good to take on the road. Apples were preferred. They were the easiest to eat while driving. Bananas were ok but there was the peel and you have to eat them quicker. Oranges are just to big of a pain in the ass to deal with while driving. Babakar would take them though. He was an artist when it came to peeling an orange. He would just caress the peel off the orange. A true master. There were times after a slow careful peel he would look at the fruit and then take out a segment and offer it to me. Of course I accepted. It always tasted great. I’m convinced it was because of the care he put into peeling it.

So today we get to the cabins. We can settle in a little. It is difficult settling in with the computers and all this. Prepping a place to live even though you only live there for an evening. Still it has been productive on some levels. We’ve been listening to a lot of music. We rock out when the windows are down and when its cooler out drive with the windows shut and the sound allows for more intricate things to be heard. When we play "Dark Side Of The Moon" we will probably ride and use the AC if necessary. On ‘low’ of course. I still have to go over the map. I know that we start on 275 which is where we left off but somewhere after Valentine we take a right and head north. I’ve got it mapquested so I should be OK.

So we drove and drove. It seemed longer than it was suppose to. Then again we bypassed Mapquest’s directions because it was taking us through area with roads called "broken foot trail and some other special names that were not on any map I had. Thus to get lost meant no directions to become unlost. We headed north at Valentine on US route 83 and that takes us to I-80 at Miroda, or something like that. We hit a scenic overlook which isn’t all that scenic given we are about to hit the Badlands but none the less we decide to make peanut butter and cheese sandwiches and drink a beer. We are both sated and the beer really hits the spot. I decide to pour one for the road and put it in my travel mug. Babakar, always the prudent, mentions its against the law. Once he knows I am aware of what I am doing he does not bother me. We pull out and soon we are at the front gate to the park paying a tall, at least she seemed tall in her both with me looking up at her, black women with a courteous but a not friendly demeanor. She takes my 15 bucks and I take her instructions to the cabins. I get to where they check in and this women who is courteous but not really friendly, sent us. I’m thinking she smelled the beer on my breath, so is less pleasant. Too bad for her. She should just lighten up. It’s like the women you can hear on the video track of Dave shooting when we were there as the unholy trio. You can hear her say something to the effect of "this is how stupid people die" referring to me walking out on a ridge that is clearly safe to walk on. She was just too tightly wound. There was no danger short of an earthquake and then she’d be taken also. One of those annoying folks I always seem to run into in the world. I know... it could be me and not everyone else... Naaaaaww.

So we get to the rooms and they are fine. Spartan as advertised but quite nice. I take the smaller bed while Babakar insists he take it but I win and jump under the covers and rub my body all over the sheets so he has to take the other one. He smiles in defeat shaking his head at my childish display. So we sit for a minute. I need a whiskey. I need a whiskey to celebrate finally getting back here and doing it in such a wonderful way. Only having PV along would it be better, or, God willing, Dan

So after I had my whiskey we decide to head out and take in the late afternoon views. We head out to an area near the western end that has a boardwalk. We stroll around there and then I get a little antsy and want to head out on the other side of the road where there are no trails or boardwalks. Babakar says he will wait there and remains standing at the end of the boardwalk looking out. I head across the street and wander into the scrub. I get to an area where the earth lifts up. It’s like if you cut a piece of cake and lift it that is how the earth rises. On the top where the frosting would be is grass and more scrub. It was irresistible and I had to climb this even though I had only worn sandals. We were saving the serious hiking for tomorrow. I got on top of this area and walked its perimeter. I eventually got to where you either had to jump down or turn back as the jump was more than I had climbed to get here. I walked on and just as I was to the area I climbed up I hear it. The rattle of a snake. I see it and it is curling up into a strike pose and it rattles again. While it is doing this I am jumping back putting a good 10-15 feet between us. I fumble for my camera and this just makes things take longer. I turn it on and aim. The amount of time I am taking is annoying Mr. Snake and he gives his tail another good rattle. I manage to get a couple pictures and then figure it wise to jump down and head back to the boardwalk. I get there and I am all excited. "Babakar, I came face to face with a rattlesnake." I say as I walk up to him at the same spot I had left him. His face lights up with a smile

"I take it you were not "Bitten By A Snake" he says referencing one of my songs.

"It was so cool, it sounded just like it does in all those old westerns. He rattled at me a few times and I got a couple pictures."

"That was bold, to hang around just to get photos." Babakar said questioningly.

"It was safe. Believe me Babakar I would not endanger myself just for a picture. He was a good ten feet away." I showed him the pictures on the camera. We hung out at the boardwalk for awhile, the sun eventually set and we felt like a drink so we headed back to the cabin.

We sat outside our cabin. I was sipping a whiskey while Babakar had a glass of the cheap Carlo Rossi Burgundy I’d packed. The night had cooled considerably from the day. It had been hot during the day. An early rise and hike seemed very possible. We sat in silence with only the ice in my scotch making any noise. Babakar got up and went into the cabin. He returned with his guitar and started to gently strum. It was a simple progression but it was nice. He went on for a bit. It fit the scene, it fit our moods. After about fifteen minutes I put my drink down and got my guitar and returned. He looked at me smiling with a "its about time" type of look on his face. I started to improvise a melody over what he was playing. This led to a different progression and then I took over the rhythm part and Babakar started playing a little lead. He doesn’t do this very much. With the Consort it is almost always Barney playing lead. He’d even asked me to do one when he thought Barney wasn’t going to be able to make the session (in the end Barney did do it ... I think they were nominated for a grammy in best instrumental, or something like that). When he started to play it was a simple lead. Nothing fancy, or fast and fiery. Just a melody. A very beautiful melody. Soon a head popped out of one of the doors, then from another cabin a lesbian couple (my assumption...) Came out. Soon we had an audience of 7 folks. They all seemed to be holding a beer or wine or cocktail and were just standing listening. We let the improvisation come to its natural end and a gentle applause broke out.

"They didn’t tell us about the nightly entertainment." one of the alleged lesbians said. "That was great"

"Where do you hail from." an older man who was with a women I’d guess to be his wife.

I’m from Cleveland, I’m John and this is my friend Babakar, he’s from Senegal."

"What bring you out here?" said the other lesbian.

"We were working on the next release by Babakar’s group when this vacation I had planned came up and as he was in the country and I wasn’t going to be able to work so I asked him to join me and..."

"Actually I invited myself and John was gracious enough to allow me to join him" Babakar interjected.

"So here we are. No point in 2 guitarist traveling together and not have their guitars."

"Play some more" a very pretty young girl said who was sitting closest to Babakar. She seemed to be here with her parents in one of the bigger cabins. She seemed the most entranced by what we were playing and that was the only thing she said so far.

"OK, lets see, would you like to here John sing. He’s a marvelous singer. I have learned some of his songs without him knowing it so this is all new to him too. Come John lets play ‘Weighs On My Mind’ I know it. I’ve learned some things from your albums. Lets give them a little concert."

"Yeah, a concert, yeah" were things heard for those gathered. So I agreed but if anyone complained from any of the other cabins we would quit immediately. So we played that and "Into Your Bones and "Goodbye" from my first album and then a few from my second and then at least a half dozen from my 3rd. I wasn’t sure when he learned these but he had them down. I would say he played them better than myself. It was a blast. The people sat in rapt attention and after each song we’d all talk for a bit. Sometimes about the music sometimes about the Badlands sometimes about Nietshcze (seriously, the young girl was big on him. She taught us a bit about his works... me anyway. I now know he’s peachy!) Eventually after about an hour to and hour and a half of playing we were tiring although the crowd had gotten into double figures so that was cool. A few more married couples arrived with folding chairs and set up shop with their cooler and a very pleasant demeanor. What a gas. I just thought we were coming to observe nature. To wander the Badlands and now we have an audience.

This went on fairly late. Lucky most of those in attendance were older and needed to crash on the earlier side of things. It gave me and Babakar some time to talk before bed.

"That was a great jam Babakar, we should do this more often." I said.

"Well this is true but we are rarely in the same spot at the same time, although luckily when this does occur there are instruments around usually. Today was no exception."

"These folks loved it. We were just making it up off the top our heads at times. I could have sold 10 CD’s tonight. That so gratifying."

"It was a kind gesture to give them all copies. The young lady in particular seemed to glow when you gave her a copy. She just held it and stared at it like it were a relic or jewel."

"You flatter me, she probably was deciding on whether to scream and throw the thing away from her or be polite and feign gratitude, I gotta admit I’m glad she chose the latter, my ego and all its fragility,..."

"You make me laugh." And the conversation drifted into silence. I eventually tossed back my last Irish Whiskey and went to bed. It was about an hour later I heard him come in and go to sleep.

Day 4

The next day we rose before the sun. I wanted to get pictures and told Babakar to sleep but he wanted to get pictures for his mind he said. He never took a camera anywhere, don’t think he owns one. Doesn’t let me photo him either. I gotta respect his wishes. I’ve never taken a picture of him and I probably never will. So off we went. I chose a hill on the eastern side of the park. Seemed logical given the sun rises in the east. It was perfect. That is until my batteries started to run out. When it got to the point where it wouldn’t take a pic I would take the batteries out and put them back in. That bought me another 4-5 pics Still I had to get back to the cabin. I apologized to Babakar but he was nonplused by it all. We rode back and given that we were there we did our bathroom stuff (probably didn’t want to know that did ya???) and got back out to hike on of the trails It was still cool and we didn’t want to hike in the heat of the day. "Mad Dogs and Englishman" Babakar would always say when the subject of the afternoon sun came up. He knew what he spoke of.

The hike was excellent. Again we shared a lot of quiet time. The scenery was magnificent. The only problem was when I initially insisted the trail went a certain way and indeed I was wrong. Babakar eventually pointed out that there was a marker off to the west that seemed to indicate the trail we wanted to follow. In the mean time we meandered around one area for about 45 minutes. But as Babakar put it, "we were still out here in this wonderful country. Taking it all in." Indeed we were. I think Babakar could have sat in one spot and meditated on the landscape and been as happy. His ability not to get flustered or frenzied with things is a way I wish I were. Alas, it is something to shoot for I suppose. A goal... On this day we saw no rattle snakes although I did make up a nifty little ditty about "Rattley Snake". A song of mirth, at least my type of mirth, to share with the world. As we hiked I would periodically break into it adding words as I went.

The landscape was amazing. The rock formations. The wildlife... bunny’s who didn’t fear you, mule deer, I even saw some weird badgeresque critter. Not sure what it was. I took a lot of photo’s while I was there but none of them do it justice. It reminds me of when I was in Ireland. Want a good picture? Just aim the camera. It is almost that easy. Even then the pictures don’t do the experience justice. Perhaps that’s why Babakar eschews camera’s. We put a lot of soil under our shoes that morning. It was a glorious hike in so many ways. Babakar was almost silent the whole time. Me in my usual way had to spout off every now and then and release the absurd thoughts that so often go through my mind when I am wandering.

We got back to the cabin and it was later than we thought it was going to be. So we washed up and headed into Wall. We went to Wall drug and picked up some sliced cheese and snacks for dinner and before dinner. Babakar was going to drink some wine while for the time being I was going to start with beer. Wall Drug was interesting. Not THAT interesting. Given all the hoopla I think that it should’ve been a little more interesting. Alas... I got PV a T-shirt from Wall Drug and of course we found a Wall Drug wine glass for Babakar. We decided to eat dinner in the room with cheese sandwiches and an apple and a beverage. The restaurant just isn’t very good and you have to tip and so this seems reasonable. The waitress had a cuteness to her. Not so much that I want to eat there. I think we will jam again tonight. Maybe not outside... maybe though. The wind has kicked up so we’ll have to see. Having your guitar sandblasted is not the best idea ya know.

Indeed we did jam again. We improvised more tonight. I was trying to avoid us just playing my songs, although I was flattered Babakar had learned so many of them. He was thinking we might do an open mic somewhere along the line, and who knows maybe we still will. His music is usually hard to play without a group. He writes his stuff for an ensemble. Me I am a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Though I write wackier stuff than that. No sooner were we outside warming up than the folks from the other cabins started walking over. It seemed they were ready and waiting for us. They were bringing coolers tonight. It looked like a full blown concert. Woodstock, the mini, or something. It was the same folks as last night only there were others who hadn’t been there. Word had spread. If only word could spread like that internationally. This was a good example of how mass communication killed the musical lives of so many. If it were not possible to make music in Cleveland and have it heard on the other side of the world shortly after the local musician would be a much more valued commodity. You would have your local stars and a show like we were about to do could be as satisfying as having U2 (or whoever) come to your local stadium. Maybe better. The young girl this time was accompanied by her father. We started playing again with an improvisation. Babakar started out droning on an A note while I peppered a lead around it. Pretty soon he developed it into a progression that had a fast Spanish flair to it. This was a style I was well comfortable with. I soloed for a bit, finally I looked up and Babakar wasn’t even watching me. He had his eyes closed and was grooving, so I continued to play the lead. Eventually that bit ended and everyone clapped and hooted and hollered. We were both beaming smiles like spot lights. Someone yelled out "Play that song you played last night...’Weighing My Mind" or whatever it was. So we played "Weighs on My mind" and this time I signaled Babakar to take the lead which he did playing a beautifully melodic line that hinted at the vocal melody but with enough lines of his own that it was pure Babakar. We played a couple more of my songs and then I took the rhythm and started an improvisation. This left Babakar to take the lead. He kind of looked at my like "are you sure" and I nodded vigorously. So he took off and played some very hot licks. I’d rarely heard him rip like that. Barney better be careful or he’s gonna get the boot from the Consort. Song followed by improv followed by song it was a mad crazy night. Plus we started sooner tonight and so folks were getting a little more intoxicated. One of the rangers even came by to check what the commotion was I think. She didn’t say anything but just must have noticed the crowd and the noise all gathered in one spot. Perhaps she had to make sure we weren’t fighting pit bulls or having cock fights or something. She stood and listened while we played when the improv ended Babakar asked her "Are we too loud"

"No, no and it seems everyone who could complain is here listening anyway.. Sounds great." And with that she drifted back to the welcome center she had come from. Finally after sunset Babakar and I had just had too much and we called an end.

‘We need to drink some ourselves." I said as I could tell Babakar was now as drained as I was. If it weren’t for one of the originals audience members standing up and saying "they need to drink people... they’ve played for almost 3 hours..." and then busting up into this wild, hilarious, manic laugh, we might still be playing. I went into our cabin and poured a stiff Bushmills (or is it a Stuff Bishmills???) and got Babakar a glass of Burgundy. "Got some Irish whiskey if anyone is interested." I said offering some up. No takers. It seemed a beer crowd primarily. So we all sat and talked for awhile. The initial core group hung out the longest. There was Jed and Alice from O’Neil, Nebraska, the young girl’s name was Allysa and she was from Cincinnati. When I heard that I added "I’m from Ohio myself, Cleveland. Find me a gig in Cincy and I’ll come and play there. And she actually took my e-mail and said she’d send some links to coffee houses that do stuff like I do. Her father looked on protectively. I think he was worried his daughter my get carried away with the ‘musician’. Never quite got that. It’s a myth as far as I can tell , or perhaps I am really lame... probably the latter. There was also the young couple who first heard us playing from the cabin next door. Janie and Chris. Nice folks. She and Chris sat pretty close. Could’ve been newly weds though they seemed to have been together much longer than that. They still seemed to have that lovey doveyness to their relationship. That kind of stuff normally makes me sick to my stomach but tonight it was really cool. I liked them. All in all it was a great night. Again it ended with just me and Babakar sitting on the bench in front of the cabin talking into the night. He’s a great person to talk to. He doesn’t need to talk and is a great listener but if he does say something, you can bet your ass its worth hearing. He’s a special dude. And tomorrow we leave. That leaves me feeling kind of sad. Leaving places where I have had special moments always leaves me feeling sad.

Day 5

So we rose early because we knew we wanted to cover a lot of ground the first day returning. The goal was to get back to Cleveland on Saturday and do all the shuttling of rental cars and what not and then have Sunday to recover. Not that we need recovering because that makes it sound like someone was wounded or hurt or something. Far from it. Healing indeed, harmful no. I wanted a receipt because J. Kinslow had said Mind Fry might cover some of the trip seeing as Babakar was going and it might add to his art thus would be an investment. Hmmm...

So we left the park listening to Dark Side of the Moon. Very cool. We both sat in silence and just enjoyed the music. Because it was early and still cool we rode with the windows up but no AC. If it were hot and we wanted good sound we would roll the windows up and use the AC but most of the time we were fairly content to allow the wind noise to be part of our environment. It is an area of agreement between Babakar and myself that the sound of life can be immensely beautiful in its own right.

Leaving the Badlands, crossing south Dakota to Iowa and then south then east, a hard east, the drive was long and the highway was feeling lonesome with just us cars riding it. At one point, I think it was cutting across Iowa toward Des Moines (La Quinta in Clive. I’d stay there again... got the pool and hot tub to myself ... excellent) there were all these wind turbines, windmills whatever they are called and it was really a beautiful sight. They are so HUGE it is amazing. They stand like giants. Spinning their blades at the wind and looking out across the great vastness that is the plains. Wide open, endless, seemingly infinite, and here they are giant, white with 3 blades turning. Then you look at the nearest tree and it doesn’t even get half way up the side of the it. THAT is how big these things are and why they seem so amazing. Like friendly versions of the War Of The World invaders. ( I can just imagine it all....... "They came in peace to create energy for us with our natural resources. Soon they will be sending their distant relatives the Solar Panel People who will come and use the Suns energy for mankind. Unfortunately mankind doesn’t trust because after September 11th trust was a sissy term. Trust was something only fools did. They trusted and got 4 planes hurled at them. Killing thousands. So they turned on the solar panel people and killed them all. Then they chopped down the wind turbine species. They were helpless as they were fixed in the ground. If they had blood it would have been a blood bath..." but I digress..............) Stunning to look at as I drove east across the plains. The plains themselves are often described as boring but I found them fascinating. The amount of land you cross driving to the Badlands and back is stunning. Everywhere you look there was just endless land. You could tell returning that you had gotten into Illinois because after an hour and a half or so there were a lot more signs for Motels and hotels and gas and food and all the rest.

We stayed in Des Moines, as I mentioned at the La Quinta, and again I swam and Babakar sat reading Kerouac by the pool side. There were no kids this time. It was just us. I went from swimming to the hot tub and back several times. Babakar just read. We left there and returned to the room where I showered and then we went out to dinner. We tried Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Poor hostess, good waitress, and my Lobster Spaghetti could have been a lot better. The Lobster was fishy (and that which came from a shell was worse than what was mixed in with the spaghetti) and the grape tomatoes had a hide as tough as Rambo. Ended up with Tomato hides in my stool the following day. Those were some tough grape tomatoes. (I know you didn’t want t know that but...)

Day 6

The next day is September 11th. We want to get to South Bend and farther if we can. Time is on our side today and we can feel more relaxed. We don’t encounter much traffic at South Bend like we thought we might given what we saw heading west in the east bound lane so that is good. We finally stop for the night in Fremont/Angola Indiana just west of the Ohio state line. The Comfort Inn. 9-11-09

I go to the pool alone. Babakar doesn’t feel like joining me and decides to go out for a walk. There isn’t much around this area. The pool however is all mine. I have it for over an hour. No one comes in. Finally I get out and am drying myself off when a lovely young thing comes in and peels of her top and takes a shower and then dives in. If I hadn’t gotten out already I might well have kept swimming on the chance that this sweet young thing may be interested in an old troll like myself. None the less it would be too obvious if I jumped in and then the dirty old man syndrome kicks in and I feel guilty, I so hate feeling guilt. So I go back to my room and Babakar is sitting sipping a cup of coffee. There is a cup left and he offers it to me but I declined. I shower and then it’s a whiskey for me. For dinner the woman at the front desk said to head up the road behind the hotel and we will run into a bunch of places. We end up at a Ruby Tuesday. It’s adequate and the waitress’ are rather attractive considering the size of the town. I have a Cajun Tilapia while Babakar also has Tilapia but prepared differently. Afterwards we decide to take a walk through the Wal-Mart that’s across the way from the Ruby’s. Neither of us have been in one in so long and all the shiny lights and stuff are rather amusing sometimes. We wander aimlessly.

"You know, John" Babakar starts "These prices are amazingly low. At least for this country. I can see where one’s financial circumstances would lead you to shop here despite where the stuff is made and by who and how its closing the mom and pop places etc. I mean if you didn’t make a lot of money and had a family you really, for their sake, would be almost required to shop here. Certainly there would be a lot of personal pressure. Don’t you think?."

"Yeah, I can see what you are saying. But I do know folks who manage to get by without supporting this place." Then as we are walking past the sporting goods section Babakar stops and starts looking at putters. He selects the cheapest one they have and carries it with him. I give him a questioning look and he responds

"I need to practice, perhaps I can make your tournament this year."

"So you are going to buy it?"

"No I am going to threaten the cashier with it and if she does not let me leave without paying for this...POW up the side of her head."

"Right, that’s you Babakar, Mr. Violence..."

"I’ve been learning a lot over time about you Americans. One thing I have learned is that while there are many stereotypes one must never subscribe to them. You will probably be wrong." I could only shake my head.

So we went back to the hotel and I wanted a whiskey. I looked at the ice bucket and it was all melted so without me saying anything Babakar grabbed it and said he’d fill it. In a couple minutes he returned with a couple bags of pretzels from the vending machine to boot. I took one of the plastic cups, (I would occasionally use plastic I was too lazy to go to the car and get my ceramic mug, but never Styrofoam.) Filled it with ice and poured from the bottle of John Powers that I had just cracked. I watch the liquids swirl and mix from the top. Then I noticed Babakar wine into his new Wall Drug wine glass. He held it up and said "To an excellent trip, I thank you for allowing me to join you."

"The pleasure is all mine, my friend." I said and we drank. Then he suggested we take our drinks and go for a walk. It was warm so we didn’t need a sweatshirt or anything and we headed out trying to be discreet about our drinks. Our room was near the exit at the end of the hall so we went out that way and then across the parking lot and across the street. I was in front when I heard Babakar say "Cross the street." so I led the way. We crossed the street and lo and behold it was a very large putting green. I turned and Babakar stood holding the putter up and one of the balls he had purchased at Wal-Mart. He was tossing the ball up and down in one hand casually. "Shall we invent some type of putting game?" he asked. Of course I burst out half squealing and half laughing at the concept. He’d had this up his sleeve for a bit. "When did you find the green?" I asked

"When I went out earlier while you were eating breakfast and at the time it had made me think how fun it would be to play some putt putt. When we were in Wal-Mart, while I didn’t want to spend money there it seemed a sacrifice worth doing, so I bought the club and balls. The excuse about making your tournament is probably hogwash. I am pretty sure I have to be in Dakar the first weekend of October, it’s the 3rd isn’t it?" he said.

"Yeah it is." I said then thinking further "Well shall we?" So we decided to play a game where we would start at the edge of the green from 18 points and shoot toward the hole. Initially it was fun but after about 6-7 ‘holes’ we decided to alternate turns making up a hole. We used rocks and twigs, mainly as markers because we had no intention of doing the green any harm. We played for a couple hours, although at one point I ran to the room and retrieved our bottles. Babakar impressed me with his imbibition that night, for him anyway. Eventually we returned to the room and crashed. I think it was after 2 a.m. Checkout wasn’t until 11 and we only had 3-4 hours of driving so we could sleep in.

The next morning I got up. Babakar slept in a bit. I think the wine had gotten the upper hand on him. He almost always rose early. I didn’t want to bother him so I went down to get the free breakfast. It was pretty good. The usual suspects. Cereal, fruit, bagels, pastries, juice etc. While I ate cereal and drank juice and coffee, I loaded 4 pears into my pockets along with 2 apples for the ride to Cleveland. As it turned out Babakar went to breakfast while I was back at the room showering and also grabbed 4 pears and 2 apples so we had plenty of road food for the last leg of the journey. In fact we’d probably have leftovers when we got to Cleveland! We hit the road around 10:30. We headed a little north to catch the Indiana turnpike and then headed east to Ohio. Before long we were seeing signs for Toledo. I asked Babakar if he minded a slight detour and he didn’t so I headed north on I-280 and jumped off on Route 2 in Oregon, Ohio. This took us along the wetlands near the Lake Erie shore. It was a nice farm country/wetland mix and I thought Babakar might like it better than the stale turnpike. He did. I often drove this way when heading up to see family in Michigan but he had never been along here. I regaled him with my tales of traveling this road and the stretch along Route 2 that went through Bono, Ohio (which I told him had an annual Bonofest in honor of the U2 singer... he didn’t believe me, and shouldn’t have... I was lying). We eventually got to the Ottawa Wildlife Refuge and I pulled off the road and we went back there and walked for a bit. He seemed in a reverie. He was quiet but seemed to gaze intensely at the wetland. It was a warm day though the bugs weren’t too bad. I was there once at sunset and was besieged by bugs to the point I had to leave. I wanted to show him this because it was where I had gotten a recording of ambient sounds that the Consort was using on their newest release. There was a song called "Sonic Wetland" they were doing and they were using all these bird and duck and bug sounds I had recorded here. He said he was glad to be able to see where they had come from. We stayed about an hour walking perhaps a mile or 2. There was a full 5 mile circuit you could stroll but we were fine walking casually and taking in the sights and sounds and scents. Finally we climbed back in the car and continued on.

"Thank you John, thank you, for taking this way." he said after we had driven for about 15 minutes.

"No problem Babakar, I thought you might dig it. I also wanted you to see the Ottawa. It’s special place for me. I’m not sure why I just really love being there."

"It’s because it is beautiful. Also it’s not that far from your home. The Badlands also are a special place but it takes 2 ½ days to get there. It is good to have special places so close."

"Yeah, sometimes I forget that."

"The Cuyahoga Valley too is special isn’t it?"

"Absolutely. If the Consorts mixing sessions have you here at the end of October we will have to take a picnic down there and revel in the fall splendor."

"Yes and with any luck I will see the first snow fall here." he said, he loved snow and he loved to make snowmen.

"Let’s not rush things Babakar, I know you like the snow but we Clevelanders are in no rush for that to get there. It’s a long cold season. The last few years have seemed longer and colder. I’d trade you Senegal’s heat for Cleveland’s cold any day." I said matter of factly.

"I suppose what you don’t have is always often more appealing." Babakar said and with that we remained silent just watching the countryside go by. Eventually we crossed the causeway over Sandusky Bay and were back on the part of Route 2 that was split like the turnpike. We stopped one more time at the Vermillion rest area. I had to pee and I also wanted him to see the cliffs that were there. He suggested we climb down but I said we might get in trouble and he didn’t push the matter. Plus at this point I was eager to get home, I suspect normally I would have been all for climbing down, PV had even chastised me for suggesting it once, yes PV, chastising me for breaking the rules. Besides Erin (my cat in case I’ve not mentioned her so far...) was waiting for me and I was missing her. Despite some traffic we got back by 3 and returned the rental car and were back in the house by six. Babakar was going to stay at my place that night and the next day I’d drive him back to the place out east J. Kinslow had rented for him while he was in town. P.V. stopped by that evening and I cooked a dinner of black beans and rice and peas and turmeric and we drank wine and ate cheese and I showed P.V. the photos I had taken. It was a fine night after a fine trip. I had the next day off and didn’t have to work until Monday. This was good.

Day 7

The next day we both rose early. We ate coffee and bread and cheese for breakfast and then Babakar was off. I would see him in a few days as we had a mixing session at Dark Tree Studios on Wednesday. Me, I went for a bike ride and then just chilled for the rest of the day. It was weird not being on the road. I had to get used to this new old way of life, although it didn’t take long. Upon returning from my ride I showered and drank a beer and lay on the couch. Erin climbed on to my chest and I took a long welcomed, but unplanned, nap. I was home. Erin was happy to have someone to sleep on and I too was happy to have my little buddy sleeping comfortably on my chest. But then also I missed the road. It had gotten into my system and now I was unfamiliar with not traveling. Still at that moment I felt happy and content. What more could one ask for?