Ch-ch-changes: Part 2

I worked early yesterday morning and enjoyed a stroll through an empty downtown Iowa City with my camera. So let’s continue our tour of the “new” things in town.

1. No. 18. The site of the pre-tornado Happy Joe’s Pizza is now the home of one of the typical high-rises shooting up all over town. On the ground floor is No. 18. I initially thought the store front was a tanning place due to all the tiny rooms with individual doors. Turns out it’s not for tanning at all (Like we need another one of those)! It’s a karaoke place!!! According to this Patch article, the creation of this Chinese-style karaoke business was intended for the volume of Chinese students here in town, but it’s gaining popularity with Americans as well. It’s also an alcohol-free zone for those who are sick of the bar scene. Check them out if you want to get friends together for karaoke without all the humiliation of singing in public.




2. Veggies at the Iowa City Public Library. I am really pleased to see that somebody’s garden is doing well in this unforgiving heat. The ICPL has utilized the dirt that, in past summers, was habitat to flowers for producing food. The children’s garden is lush and full and sits right in the middle of the Ped Mall, across from the Bread Garden(not a real garden at all). The real garden is packed and proof that it doesn’t take much space to produce healthy, chemical-free food. It’s also a good illustration of how successful a raised bed garden can be. Do YOU have a garden? If so, why not? 



3. While we’re on the subject of the Ped Mall, I wanted to give a quick shout out to the artists adding to the interestingness of the downtown area. Many of you may have noticed the giant mural on the parking ramp at the corner of Burlington and Linn Streets. It’s huge, abstract and is already being defaced by assholes. Someone wrote, in chalk along the bottom, “I am a monstrosity”. I took that as it applies to the defacer, not the artwork itself. If you live somewhere that is lucky enough to have street art – don’t be a dick. If you don’t like something, you have the right to speak out, but don’t do it ON the art after someone has been commissioned to spend hours in the sun painting the side of a building. It says more about your character than their artwork. 



4. And on the subject of art/new art that has already been defaced, all the benches in the Ped Mall along College Street have been getting makeovers over the last several weeks. I think it’s great to live in a city that is paying people to do something artful, interesting and unusual. I took photos of the benches for the purpose of “laundry listing” them here. Some are cooler than others, and some have already been messed up by people (possibly kids, since the obviously defaced one is by the playground- though I don’t think a kid would rip a paper dolphin’s face off). Again, I say that people who deface public art suck. I’d like to see what superior art they could create….and if they can, why are they not? Are they worried someone will tear it up. Hmmm? Anyway, enough bitching about defacement. Take a peek at the designs. Which is your favorite?





Live Music at Pizza on Dubuque

Here’s another old post that I am dragging over from my blogger account.

March 13th, 2012

Folk Night at Pizza On Dubuque in Iowa City

Pizza on Dubuque has recently started hosting free folk nights in their upstairs seating area, a very nice, very underutilized space. I’m not quite sure if these events are hosted on a particular day of the week, but it’s a good idea t peek in next time you’re hanging out downtown. There are usually well-drawn fliers in the window announcing the next event. These shows are low-key, BYOB and have so far featured both well-established musicians like Pete Balestrieri and some artists new to the local scene like Rachael Marie, shown in the photos below. Rachael may look small and unassuming, but she has a powerful voice and a special ability to write songs that tell a story.  In the last photo, you’ll see her singing into the body of her banjo, which caused a haunting echo to consume her voice. Keep lookout, as I am sure you’ll have a chance to hear her play again soon.


I Am Scattered All Over the Internet

It’s time to consolidate my web presence. I have two blogs, my other being a blogspot blog, but I am thinking it’s time to give it the axe and bring what little content I have to this space.

I’ve been thinking about how trying to start blogging is a lot like trying to quit smoking. You can manage to keep your promise for a little while, but then you inevitably fall off the wagon and either resume smoking or quit blogging. Then after more time has passed, you decide to try again and see how long you can last. Both are a continuous cycle that I am going to illustrate for you now.

In the first transplanted blog post, notice that I immediately start talking about how infrequently I post things. Why exactly do I feel the need to be persistent in trying again? Is anyone really reading this shit or do I just happen to have a public journal that I rarely ever write in? These are the questions of the modern Age. heh. But I’m not going to pick apart the psychology of my desire to blog, I’m just going to slap some stories up here and call it a day. 

But if you ARE reading, give my digital ego a stroke and comment at the bottom.


SEPTEMBER 19th, 2011

Blogger ADHD and A Reminder That I Am Appreciated

Despite this blog being dead, dead, dead…or rather, never really brought to life in the first place, I really do have quiite the web presence. Over 75 blog posts for Little Village Magazine, 199 youtube videos, and over 11K photos on flickr – it borders on insane. I have a twitter account, a fresh tumblr account and a wordpress blog that has been as neglected as this one. I feel like I have found the ultimate way to spread yourself thin over the limitless surface of the internet. The digital way to say nothing in a maximum amount of kilobytes.

I admire those that have honed their focus enough to have blogs that people actually look at, and again I am attempting to refocus myself onto this space that I have designated as my own. Whether or not anyone will actually appreciate my attempts is best left unscrutinized by moi.

As for what to say, I always have things to say. It’s often hard for me to stifle my opinions – they just seem to fall out of my mouth at the worst of times. And then when I pop my netbook open, ready to unleash my hard-earned wisdom or anecdotes on the world, nothing comes out.

Then tonight I had a little jolt of inspiration, er rather, an eye-opening experience about letting go. Both actually. I was feeling totally bummed out, like gum stuck to the bottom of someone shoe. I broke my rule of always leaving the house tarted up at least enough that I’d not be ashamed of myself if caught in a photo, threw on a hat and a t-shirt that I picked up off my bedroom floor and left my house. I didn’t touch up my eyeliner or painstaking check my silhouette in my floor length mirror 100 times like I usually do….i just grabbed my bag and was out the door. Well, lesson learned. Two lessons actually.

As I approached the tobacco bowl, I caught a smartly dress young woman out of the corner of my eye and kept getting the feeling that she was going to say something to me. I ignored the instinct, charged on to the Tobacco Bowl and bought a half ounce of my vice to roll into papers and burn. As I was leaving, the woman actually did approach me and asked to photograph me for her fashion blog. While in my head I was thinking “Are you joking? In this?” but my mouth said something in agreement and I haphazardly stood there while she focused her sharp-looking silver camera on my awkward stance.

I tried to babble some words of wisdom, as though I have any to give, and sauntered on my way. She made me smile. I was in jeans, black flats, my pink Kurt Cobain t-shirt and blue hoodie. I had my thrifted grey wool hat on solely for the purpose of covering up my shaggy hair and the green earrings I had been wearing since 8am. I never thought I was a beacon of Iowa City fashion.

Lesson 1: When you are feeling low, the world is going to try to balance things out. And you’ve got to let it.  I could have easily told the girl no, stormed off and continued feeling terrible about the events of my day. I could have locked myself into my self-deprecating mood. I was feeling unloved, invalidated and underappreciated. Then a total stranger appreciated something about me, regardless how superficial it was…..and I remembered that I am more than just the sum of all the terrible things I can add up in my head.

Lesson 2: There is great freedom in not giving a shit. I looked at her blog post when I got home and for the initial 5-seconds, I scrutinized myself – critiquing everything I hated about the photo…about myself….and then….it passed. I though, “who gives a shit?” No one is going to ridicule me. No one’s going to whisper about my smudged mascara or the width of my hips. In fact, this blog post was raving about my color blocking and understated style. There comes a time when you have to stop trying so hard and just be yourself. And in that moment, someone will recognize the inherent beauty of that attitude.




Make it up as I go….

Being a novice photographer, I am still kind of surprised when I get exactly the shot I intend. Don’t think I am tooting my own horn- there are plenty of ‘happy accidents’ where I am shooting into a dark warehouse and capture a great milisecond of a show. There are even more shots I disposed of upon first review because I didn’t set my camera right, or bumped the dial on the back while clapping. I know I still have a long way to go. Still I can’t help but get excited when I feel like I got some good shots and it wasn’t coincidence and it wasn’t the camera doing the thinking. And I am very glad at least a few people have noticed.

I strut like a peacock when I say that I am a ‘contributing blogger’, if that’s the right term, for the Little Village Magazine online….the go-to, free publication for Iowa City entertainment talk. I’ve read it for years. I even have a pile of old ones sitting under a chair somewhere. So needles to say, I am geeking out a little bit. It happens anytime I get to play with my camera, only now I get to show my photos to a bunch of strangers instead of forcing all my friends to look at them.  Check  out the Little Village,  if you’re not already a faithful reader.

The August issue is all over Iowa City right now. Pick them up in the doorway of your favorite downtown business or the rack of free publications at Hy-Vee.

Now that I’ve bragged, back to the photos. On 7/29, I saw Cheyenne Marie Mize at the Mill. and was happy I didn’t stay home on a Monday night. She played a long set, switched up instruments a bunch of times and ended strong with some pretty powerful folk-queen vocals and guitar playing. It was a true shame that there was hardly anyone back there listening. Shame on all of you responsible folks that have jobs to wake up early for….this was a good show. Cheyenne was joined onstage by Joan Shelley, making up two-thirds of their other musical endeavor, the Louisville trio, Maiden Radio.  Cheyenne was followed by Portland band, Archeology. They were energetic, melodic and gave us a good set. I think a band does well to start a set with an a cappella song — it grabs the audience and soothes them into submission. My only complaint is that the high-energy of Archeology makes them harder to photograph in the red lights of the Mill stage. haha. You decide how I did.

p.s. I LOVE getting comments and feedback on my photos. head over to flickr and blabber to me.

I should go to bed soon instead of sitting in front of the computer wondering if I am going to wake up with the Iowa River flooding in my front door.  Anybody got a boat to lend me?


New Virtual Beginning

This is my official changeover to wordpress, and so far I am happy with my decision. But what do I do about all this empty space I now have allotted for me…..recap the month of July, which I can’t believe is nearly over. I need to tighten my grip on summer. Let’s start from the top…

On the 3rd, I took a mini road trip with my favorite people to the 80-35 Music Fest in Des Moines. While I am sure there were likely many great acts that I overlooked, I was there to see William Elliott Whitmore and Holly Golightly.  They both played in the same afternoon, back-to-back on the free stage. So not only did I get to see them both perform, but I didn’t have to pay listen. Whitmore was amazing, as always, conversing with the crowd more than any performer I’ve ever seen, yet still being right on the mark with his songs. Holly Golightly’s set was lovely, though I am disappointed that the fellow that played with her outsang her a little bit. Maybe it was the sound man’s fault. Just the same, I’d have liked to hear more of her. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. All around, it was worth it to go to a festival  and deal with the heat and the crowds of Des Moines just to see these two.

That night we zipped over to the Vaudeville Mews to catch another great performance by Iowa City’s Lonelyhearts, full band in tow. The Mews is such a great venue and though much of the crowd potential was still down at the festival, the Lonelyhearts pulled off a great, high-energy show that kept the crowd moving. I’d head out of town to see these folks play anytime.

Three days later, the Lonelyhearts took the stage at The Mill in Iowa City and, of course, I was there. John claimed they were doing a set that was a virtual carbon-copy of their Mews show, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was not. They mixed up their setlist a bit, performed a new song and packed the Mill in the process.

But, wait, I can’t fail to mention the openers from that night, Emotron and Larry Sievers. They were both sights to be seen. When I first got to the Mill, Larry had already taken the stage with his series of burning candles and sudden, sporadic shots from his smoke machine as he sang along with his impressive keyboarding. I am a big fan of the feather in his hat, too.  Emotron was one of those acts that I don’t quite understand, but oddly enjoyed. His wall of tvs behind his fenced in kennel-like setup and crazy ‘wardrobe’ initially distracted me from the quality of his music — which was actually a very good combination of electronic melodies and his interesting voice. He even touched my heart with an Oasis cover that sounded nothing like the original except for the lyrics. Definately a sight to behold.

Three days after THAT show, I was a proud attendee of the Sam Locke Ward release party for his album Barely Regal Beagles. My sweetheart, Douglas Kramer Nye, opened with his powerful, sometimes catchy repertoire of sad bastard music. He was followed by the great Ed Gray, who performed my favorite of his songs, I Can Chew a Bone. Sam wrapped it all up with his usual style of witty lyrics and all-over-the-place, yet amazing, guitar abuse. Three of my favorite local sad bastards, all on one stage in one night. ❤

During the above show, I snuck out to get a few shots of Euforquestra, who was playing in the Ped Mall, and somehow ended up on a co-worker’s roof. Consequently, I missed Alex Body’s set, which was right after Ed’s. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t left the Mill and missed Alex and his newly chopped locks.

Here are the Euforquestra shots from the Friday Night Concert Series in the Pedestrian Mall.

On the 10th, I raced down to the Ped Mall again, this time to catch Cirque Stupendo and Dr. Eli Calico’s Medicine show. I was delighted to have some time in the setting sun watching them juggle,  belly dance, roller skate, and play tons of instruments while singing through victrola horns like megaphones.I had a dinner date, though, and was super bummed that I missed the firedancing that happened after the sun went down.

On the 18th, I stepped into a crowded Prairie Lights bookstore for the first annual roast of Iowa City. It was funny, with speakers poking fun of all the standard things people think are ridiculous about this City of Literature….newly adopted city ordinances on busking and smoking, binge drinking college students, the over-education, or rather lack of employment for those with degrees, etc… Funny, nothing unexpected, but overall a great event to initiate in our fair city of literature.

Last Saturday, the 24th, Downtown Saturday Night Concert Series featured Will Whitmore. Let’s just say the Ped Mall was packed, his show was amazing and the pink sunset was the perfect cherry on top.

And, finally, for now, Saturday Night at the White Lightning Warehouse was shocking and delightful. Old Scratch Revival Singers performed, complete with painted faces and green lighting, with every member plugged into an amp….what a fucking awesome show. They were followed up by Cirque Stupendo’s rated R show which can not be explained in a way that does it justice. The photos include juggling, (only this time in very little clothing), suspension, erotic dance, loud guitars and phallic imagry left and right. AGAIN I missed the firedance. And I left at 3am. Makes me wish I had stayed up til Sunday’s dawn to take it all in.

And the month has yet to be over….coming soon….

Cheyenne Marie Mize at the Mill……TOMORROW! Thursday, July 29th. Be there! I will.