Visiting Adam in Arlington, Virginia

I got back today off the Amtrak (320 Central Ave.) after visiting with my brother Adam in Arlington, VA. For the most part, our visit was more to see where he lives — in fact, he sent me a link to a humorous video about Arlington. We visited only one landmark: The Pentagon Memorial which is very tasteful and pleasant.

We stopped at a number of restaurants and bars. I particularly liked the salami/Gorgonzola pizza at Piola Restaurant (1550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA); their drinks and desserts were also excellent. We also visited Galaxy Hut (2711 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA) which is a really cool bar — much like Lux LoungeMySpace link (666 South Ave.) in its casual atmosphere, outdoor patio, interesting clientele, and absence of advertising and televisions (well, except for one).

On both sides of the trip, the train stops in Manhattan and it's an hour and a half before the Rochester train leaves, so I had a chance to get lunch. I stopped at New Pizza Town II (360 7th Ave., New York) which was pretty good — nothing like a slice of ziti-topped pizza with big glops of ricotta. On the way home, I learned that Amtrak's Business Class is not worth much: the seats are a little bigger with curtains on the windows, free soft drinks, and most importantly, the car is located at one end of the train so foot traffic is minimal.

Story Slam at Writers and Books

It's been a while since I did something outside my comfort zone. Part of that is that my comfort zone is much larger than before, so finding new things is itself a challenge. Nonetheless, performing still panics me, so I decided to go to the Story Slam at Writers and Books (740 University Ave.) It's hosted by Carol Roberts and organized (for now) as a way for people to tell a 5-minute true story. It was fascinating to enter among a room of strangers and leave feeling quite a lot closer to them through just one personal story. I decided to tell the tale of the $20 I found after the High Falls Film Festival in 2003 that led to me losing my job — I wrote about it when it happened as well.

Anyway, the idea is similar to The Moth StorySLAMs, although minus the competition. Some were better than others for various reasons, but it's not so much a "slam" as it is just a way for people to connect. I'll probably go back next month, although I expect it to be much different as I would feel like I met half the people there this month.

Jon Moses and Les Shelleys at the Bug Jar

Once again I found myself back at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) This time it was an extraordinarily light crowd — even for a Sunday. Shelley ShortMySpace link had apparently canceled most of her tour due to some issues that kept her wanting to stay near home.

Jon Moses started things off. He's clearly more comfortable improvising and being inclusive and seemed a little off being on-stage separated from the sparse audience. Nonetheless, he showed his acoustic soloist skills admirably. Then it was Les ShelleysMySpace link turn which shrank the audience notably further since Jon relinquished the stage to once audience-members Tom BrosseauMySpace link and Angela CorreaMySpace link. They provided an impressive display of their elegant vocal harmonies and evocative lyrics — the only other instrumentation being Tom's guitar and Angie's percussive clapping and stomping which gives exactly the kind of minimal-but-not a capella sound you'd expect.

Dave Donnelly, Daryl Fleming and the Public Domain, and Hinkley at the Bug Jar

I was pretty psyched to go to The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) tonight. I knew I couldn't go wrong with HinkleyMySpace link, I had good memories of Daryl Fleming and the Public DomainMySpace link, and recently saw the excellence of Dave Donnelly who started things off. This time on the Bug Jar's main stage, he brought a mix of original and classic country songs with a well seasoned skill and the perfect voice to do it.

Daryl Fleming was next and played his own style that is loosely an interesting mix of lyrical, groove-rock-ish country/folk/rock. He was saying beforehand that he's recently been fascinated by the unusual chord progressions in some fairly popular 1960's songs — he demonstrated it with a vocoder-enhanced cover of The Seekers' "Georgy Girl". You really never know where Daryl's mind is going to take him on stage.

Finishing up was HinkleyMySpace link who I consistently re-experience as excellent, deceptively mellow, complex rock-and-roll. I never catch on right away, but quicker-and-quicker I'm swept into the nuances of this excellent band.

Soft Star Shoes Kinda Suck

Soft Star Shoes custom "Ramblers" designed by me.

The unique and comfortable Soft Star Ramblers I designed

Back in February of this year, I found out about Soft Star Shoes (521 Southwest 2nd St., Corvallis, OR) from the The Running Barefoot Yahoo! Group. I was impressed that they were minimal shoes to begin with, but more that they could be day-to-day shoes that could be worn comfortably. I actually ordered off-the-shelf to start with in two sizes which they shipped out and allowed me to return before designing custom Ramblers. They were even nice enough to send a swatch book of leather so I could really get a feel for the colors. I picked chocolate brown and purple. I had a minor problem after just a short time with them: one the split uppers was more split on one side than the other. They happily took the return and made a minor fix that corrected the problem.

Well, after just about 1 month, I had worn a hole clear through one of the soles. I don't think I was being unusually hard on them — I probably walked no more than 50 miles. I had also made a point of mentioning that I was looking for a long-wearing sole, as they had several options available. They suggested their thin rubber sole which they said is "durable and will last a long time". Maybe we just disagree on what's meant by a "long time", but I am very disappointed. As such, I decided to make sure "Soft Star Shoes" and "Suck" appear in the title, as that's how I assess new products with a simple Google search.

Car tires cut as shoe soles.

Bridgestone Potenza RE-92 soles are H-rated for 149 miles per hour

However, since I liked the style, I decided to have car tires cut to match the soles and stitch the uppers to that. I had made tire sandals before using a reciprocating saw with a metal blade, but the edges weren't well defined and I wanted holes to stitch through. I decided to go with Nifty-Bar, Inc. (450 Whitney Rd., Penfield) who I use for work for their water-jet cutting services. I provided an outline and asked that small holes be laid out along the edge about 1/4" apart. The water-jet machine made nice cuts through the rubber and various steel belts in the tire.

I took apart the Ramblers and reassembled them successfully with tire soles. I don't think I'll have to worry about wearing them out anymore.