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Friday, April 20, 2018

Travelogue: Longleaf Vista; A Quiet Place

What does the future hold?
Also, does the future have hands? How is it holding stuff?
Some type of tentacle/prehensile tail combination?
What if it drops whatever it's holding?
Tuesday morning, I helped my son get ready for school, grabbed my backpack and hiking gear, kissed my wife goodbye. As I walked to the car, I thought about the great hike I was soon to embark on, and the rolling hills of the Kisatchie. Then my son and I climbed into my Jeep, and I immediately reflected on how horrible my life is. Gotta love depression. Woo!
As I dropped my son off at school, I suddenly realized I had a migraine. Generally, when I go for a hike, I like to be not depressed and not migrainetayshish, a scientific term, look it up. Since the pills for migraines work better for me than the pills for depression, I made an executive decision: before I could truly embark upon my journey to the Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail, I must stop at a gas station and totally annihilate my migraine with pills and massive amounts of caffeine.
I burst into Port Allen's elegant and sophisticated Wildfire gas station/casino like a man on a mission because I am a man and I was on a mission to Chuck Norris my migraine into oblivion just like Chuck Norris singlehandedly saved all our boys in Vietnam by Chuck Norrising the Viet Cong. Just kidding, Chuck Norris sucks.
All this stuff combined going down my throat from a funnel doesn't suck, though. It gets sucked. Down my throat.

I then drove 80 miles an hour down HWY 190 to the sweet stoner metal riffs of SUNNATA's Outlands and Appalooza's Appalooza, which is ironic, as I am neither a stoner, nor a metal, though my blood is full of iron. Wait.
Holy crap.
Our blood is made of iron.
Iron is a metal.
We are all terminators.
I just blew my mind. Or maybe that is just brain damage from all of the Monster and caffeine-imbued migraine medication I consumed. Either way, I rocked my migraine away, and all of a sudden, 2.5 hours had passed and I was looking at this.

Apparently, if you take I-49 100 miles north of Opelousas through Alexandria, everything turns to magic. Facing a new clarity of mind, as well as a ribald army of wildflowers (how do you think they procreated so much in the first place?), I felt like a new man. Also, I really had to pee. Thankfully, the great outdoors is the greatest toilet.
After driving around HWY 119, and asking an elderly woman where Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail was, I found the Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail, through no help of the old woman, who said "I don't know, I've only lived here a couple years." First, I don't even know why that old woman was hanging out on the heavily wooded, Kisatchie National Forest-shrouded highway, though I have a propensity for running into strange women in the middle of nowhere, but second, if you live near a place like Longleaf Vista, and she was less than two miles from it, you should probably be aware of its existence, even if you're an old woman who lives in a forest hut, and makes a tea out of wild turkey guts that shows you the future.

I don't know much about tea made from aves innards, but I can't stress enough that the average elevation in most of south Louisiana is about -50 feet. You can literally drown just by walking down certain streets in New Orleans. When I go on these hikes and see these hills that are, miraculously, in our Pelican State, hundreds of feet tall, my mind opens up like an unspooling caterpillar coming out of his cocoon if you play the footage of him making the cocoon backwards, because my mind is not yet ready to become a butterfly. I don't care if that sentence made any sense.
Longleaf Vista greeted me with a view you don't often see in Louisiana, and I don't mean one of honest, intelligent politicians working together for the betterment and well-being of their constituents. I mean one from a great height of rolling, vastly varying topography.

Sure, these views aren't impressive when they're compared to those of say, Central Colorado, but can you get a summer job on a shrimp boat in Colorado? Does Colorado have kingcakes? Is po' boy anything more there than the nickname of the guy who dumpster dives behind the Boulder Safeway, and will do anything for a shiny?
Like most of the hiking sites I visit in Louisiana, Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail was absolutely packed with people, showcasing both the average Louisiana citizen's inquisitive nature, as well as their love for physical exercise.

I'm glad I could find a parking spot.
Once I elbowed past the masses of humanity...who am I kidding, every time I do one of these, I am the only person who's arrived at whatever my destination. I didn't see a single soul, just like when I went to Poverty Point last year, or Hodges Gardens the year before that. Louisiana has abandoned the great outdoors, and that's just fine. Actually, it's not, it's giving me a god complex because I am starting to feel like no one else actually exists, and all of empty creation laid before me is mine for the taking. This is why you all need to start hiking. Thankfully, though, the proprietor of Kisatchie, like a downer absent principal, or, ironically, like most people's conception of God, left me a bunch of constrictive rules to follow before apparently vacating the premises without a trace.

After absorbing the rules, I followed a stone path to a stone gazebo (they are really proud of the fact that they have rocks here naturally, the pompous, rock endemic jerks...if you see rocks almost anywhere else in Louisiana, they have come from somewhere else).

I didn't come here to look at no stinkin stone gazebo, though, I came to appreciate God's creation, and also to eat some cookies I packed. I found a stone path down the hill, but not before looking at Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail's helpful and informative plaques, which are closer to my conception of God's instruction for his people than the information wall's command from two pictures ago to "Put It Out...Every Spark. Dead Out!"

I know I didn't frame these well, but the glare by that point was brighter than a trout's belly in the sun. Trout's bellies are pale.
The hike started off well enough, with a cool switchback and a bunch of exposed rock, though that will get you at best a misdemeanor in the state of Alabama. I also cannot overstate the sheer amount of pine trees during the first leg of the Longleaf Vista trail, as populous as Baby Boomers at a MAGA rally, where they get to guilt you into thanking them for completely bleeding away what would have been your inheritance, spent instead on their hedonistic, self-indulgent existences.  Remember, the only reason any of them, even Bernie Sanders, who has fooled a lot of people into thinking he is not a politician, are so high on you giving an exorbitant amount of your money to save social security, is that they themselves squandered away the money that was supposed to go toward that when they were you age on whatever they wanted, knowing that they could always stick their children with the bill. Also, their own parents understood that social security was never meant as an old folks retirement fund, but a safety net for the most impoverished and at-risk elderly.  Once you start poking at their rhetoric, you'll find it's softer than a trout's belly, which is apparently the go-to comparison that I am going to be using for everything from now on.
Sorry for the completely extraneous political rant. Yeah, actually, I'm not sorry at all, but now back to your regularly scheduled travelogue.
After marching through some rugged wilderness (actual fact and not outright lie or exaggeration: the area is actually referred to as the Kisatchie Wildnerness Area), I came upon a strange mesa. A mesa is about as rare a find in Louisiana as a Baby Boomer who wants to sacrifice some of his fiscal excess to better provide for future generations. The mesa immediately made me feel uncomfortable, as nothing good happens on a mesa, but I climbed it anyway (Climbed meaning I walked up the well-manicured steps that led to its apex. Same thing, right?) That premonition was accurate, as for some reason someone had drawn some sort of arcane cymbal on top of the mesa with chalk, burned a fire in the center of it, and gutted and charred some kind of large bird.

This is exactly the kind of thing you want to see when you are alone in the wilderness with no cell  reception. My imagination ran wild with fires burning brightly in the night, pagan rituals, but then I realized that it was probably just lit by that old woman I saw earlier, as a means to make her turkey guts tea. Who knows. It's the wild, man.
I climbed down the mesa (meaning I walked down the carefully manicured steps) and continued on the path, though the wilderness. Another mesa had to be travailed, and more pine trees, and more pine trees, but then things started getting thicker and greener, like when millennials eat too many organic gluten-free kale-hibiscus cupcakes. Yes, millennials, I'm making fun of you, too, now, though I originally had a joke here about the Incredible Hulk getting an erection, but then realized it wouldn't get greener...well, actually, maybe it would. The Incredible Hulk's sexual morphology is incredibly ill-defined.
I surmised that I must be near some body of water, and sure enough, the dull trickle of a stream began to wind its way around the oaks and magnolias, like water dripping on a trout's belly.
Millions of years ago, a bunch of funky little streams carved all of these valleys into the Kisatchie Hills, and they're still carving today at the same rate that the current administration is MAGA'ing. Behold, Bayou Cypre.

Also, here's a picture of me MAGA'ing by bringing back the faux hawk. M'ingAGA? Yeah, actually that would be more acronymically correct. Anyway, who cares, I'm bringing back the faux hawk.

I very much dig that Longleaf Vista is a combination of several sub-habitats, as I don't discriminate.The middle portion of the 1.6 mile hike (I picked a short hike considering I had the flu just a week ago, and have only now again started eating foods that don't come out of a can) is far different from the opening, a contrast of hilly pine wilderness, and verdant, well-planted creekbeds. I must say, though, I did not see one living creature for the entire hike, outside of a starling that flit through the brush for maybe half a second. All sacrifices for the turkey tea? Must have been. After awhile, the terrain began to change again, to a strange hybrid of the first two. The coolest thing is that one of the stream's tributaries is going completely rogue, and now washing down this section of the path.
Yo do you, you M'ingAGA rebel.

I then reached apex scenery, as giant, largely treeless hills dotted the scenery, along with God's gift to ears, a waterfall, unless you hate that sound, in which case, along with God's punishment to ears, a waterfall. I sat by the waterfall for a while and got lost in my own head, which if you haven't figured out after reading anything that I've written, ever, even just one sentence of this travelogue picked at random, is not a safe, healthy place to be, so I immediately leaped out of it into present time, present time of course being now past time, because if I had leaped into present now, as in the moment I am currently writing this, it would mean I could send my consciousness through time, which to my knowledge I cannot do, so yeah, not that, just the boring old Tuesday at noon when I decided to not commit mental seppuku, and brought my mind back to focus on the stumpy little waterfall on the Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail.

That's pretty much it for Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail. 1.6 miles isn't a long hike, even with all the hills and mesas, and me wheezing from being out-of-shape because of the flu (EDITOR'S NOTE: Sure, because of the flu), so I still had quite a bit of day to burn. With Alexandria relatively close by and on my way home, I decided to hit the majestic Grand Theater to see A Quiet Place. Yes, the second part of this Travelogue title is indeed a pun, for though Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail is low on noise (outside of the sound of the wind rustling the pines), I went to the movies after my hike. First, though, I drove around the Longleaf parking lot jamming some tunes, then told Kisatchie Hills Wilderness adieu, though they're not French in that part of the state, so I'm not sure it understood me.

After driving out of the wilderness and onto the interstate, I was soon encroaching upon the great city of Alexandria, a place I like but cannot comprehend. Where does it start? Where does it end? Why does it have a better zoo than New Orleans? It just doesn't make any sense. One thing, however, did make sense. I burned plenty of calories on that hike, and now I hungered and thirsted for junkfoodness. Not having time to venture into one of Alexandria's fine sit down restaurants, I faced the three incredible options afforded to me by the movie theater interstate exit: Wendy's, Sonic, or Checkers. There's no Checkers around Baton Rouge, so I went there and got a Baconzilla, or Baconator, or Baconking, or Baconkong, or Baconopolis, or Baconarama, or Baconic Temple, or Baconolodge, or Baconeterium, or Bacondebacon, or King Louis de Bacon, or McBacon, or the Baconcheckerbaconburger, or whatever it was called, you know every place has a bacon burger now, and whatever, it was actually pretty good for a generically named, genetically engineered bacon cheeseburger, so bacon it, here's a picture of it.

I scarfed it down, and then definitely didn't get a bucket of popcorn, candy, and a drink when I got to the movie theater. I love going to movies in the middle of the day when no one is there because the Earth is the Nicsperiment's and the fullness thereof, wait, no it's not! I totally need to make sure I stay around people!
You can easily judge the plot of A Quiet Place based upon it's poster, which features Emily Blunt taking a leisurely bath, and centers on Emily Blunt taking a leisurely bath, see.

After the movie, which honestly reminded me of 2002-era M Night Shyamalan, including the coincidental discovery of the way that all of the alien/monster/genetic mutation villains can be destroyed at the end, and also, when you stand in a grain bin, the corn doesn't swallow you like quicksand, because if it did, I would have died in the summer of 1996...multiple times, my journey had almost come to an end, but I decided I needed to stop in Krotz Springs' Billy's Boudin on the way home to buy my wife some of Maggie Richardson's Louisiana Raw Sugar toffee,

and also some boudin balls, for me, to eat, and I didn't take any pictures of them, because they were all gone by the time I remembered I was human and could take pictures of my food and post it online.  That sentence ran on like a trout's belly.
And thus the journey ended, a day begun in pain and depression ended with a stomach full of pepper jack boudin balls and toffee, and if I've learned one thing today, it's that baby boomers have systematically transferred the nation's wealth from younger generations into their own pockets, squandering all that was generously given to them by the selfless generation that came before, neglecting infrastructure and public systems that are not their problem because they won't fail until after they've all been dead and buried on our dime, and also that faux hawks are in. But who can truly know the future, other than turkey gut tea lady, who is surely burning her flames high into the Kisatchie night. And the road winds ever onward.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Vinyl Pickups 4/13/18 (Legion, The Flaming Lips, Solange, and more...)

In the future of this series, I plan on generally showcasing just one or two vinyl pickups per entry, but as this is the grand premiere, here's a nice handful of vinyl I've just added to my collection.

I picked up this awesome double-vinyl of the soundtrack for the first season of the FX/Marvel show, Legion, from Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble have been featuring some awesome exclusive vinyl versions, and this one in particular is a limited run of translucent purple.

The records themselves look awesome, as the purple is injected with some cloudy swirls of darker purple. They also sound great. Legion is a head-trip, pure psychedelia, and the soundtrack follows suit, with some beautiful blends of strings and electronics, and a little rock and several other genres tossed in. It's got a real 70's vibe, and the thick bass, feel of the music, and how it's mixed make it perfect for vinyl. The brilliant packaging, featuring trippily altered photos of key scenes, along with the gorgeous records, and brilliant music make this a must have for the LP-collecting fan of the show...or for people who just like to have cool stuff.

This was actually my second choice...I originally purchased a limited B&N edition of Marco Beltrami's soundtrack for Logan, However, when I opened it, it somehow had major water damage, the store didn't have another copy when I returned I walked out with Legion. If you can't tell, I am not at all upset about the exchange of items.
Now that I think about it, Barnes & Noble has played heavily into my vinyl purchases lately, perhaps because it's a place I've received a lot of gift cards for...and also because of those delicious limited editions.
The next vinyl I want to display is also a gift card purchase...from Amazon. I bought White Moth Black Butterfly's Atone last year because it came with a free download, it was cheap, and I really wanted to hear the album immediately, considering I am a fan of several of the players' other bands.

The album on download is okay. It's an attempt at fusing modern prog rock with dual-vocalist medieval pop, if that makes any sense, and it actually works when the album is leaning into that sound. However, sometimes Atone more heavily focuses on more modern electronic sounds, which throws off the album's cohesion. I only listened to the vinyl version recently. I don't know why, but on vinyl, Dan Tomkins, the male vocalist, sounds far more vulnerable (female vocalist, Jordan Turner, still sounds incredible). The strings (there are a lot of them), somehow sound far more lush and full. I'm starting to feel like digital isn't a format that benefit's this band's fact, I am now having to reevaluate this entire album. As for packaging, it's simple, yet handsome, with a front and back cover that typifies the band's ancient, natural sound, a sleeve with the songs' full lyrics, and my favorite, a vinyl catalogue from the band's record label. That's going to be cool to leaf through in the future, if we don't get nuked, plagued, or downsized.

I used the rest of that Amazon gift card on a couple other records.
The first is a picture disc version of The Flaming Lips' classic album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

Confession: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is the only Flaming Lips album I actually like. The limited run picture disc version comes in a clear plastic holder. That's all you get. I already have the CD version, which was also fairly minimally packaged, so that's okay with me. The album also doesn't sound any better on this particular version...the album art is fun, and it just looks cool. My fascination with picture discs (where the vinyl is literally a foil picture the grooves have been etched into) actually started with the Christian children's folk-rock record, Adventures in Agapeland. I'm sure this would be of interest to The Flaming Lips aggressively anti-Christian frontman, Wayne Coyne. Yep, Wayne, you only got my business on this one because of a record that helped indoctrinate me into the religion I still hold today. In fact, I still have that record 30-odd years later, and here's some pictures of it.

The final item I used to burn off my Amazon gift card balance is a red-clear limited run of Solange's A Seat at the Table, my favorite album from 2016.

In all honesty, A Seat at the Table sounds great on vinyl, but the digital version sounds great, too--there's not a huge difference here. It's more the cool factor of listening to it this way, as well as the foil numbered stamp on the back of the record. I got number 6242...not sure out of how many.

And finally, I'll bookend this with another Barnes &Noble special edition vinyl soundtrack. You might remember that I marathoned Game of Thones a few months back. When I was in the middle of the sixth season, I noticed the soundtrack for the seventh season at B&N in a limited edition "Dragon Fire" version. I literally could not pass up something described as a limited edition "Dragon Fire" version, and immediately purchased, even though I actually waited til I finished the seventh season to open it, so that I wouldn't spoil anything.

The records themselves look quite spectacular. I really enjoy the divergence between the two LP's, as the first is darker and more orange, while the second is a bit lighter and features a more reddish hue. The sleeves themselves are just generic white ones, and the inside of the gatefold is just the requisite character photos, but the back cover is super badass, and the overall package is pretty sweet. Plus, the vinyl sound great--I've heard this stuff digital, and the vinyl version sounds more full and ancient, the orchestrations more epic.

Plus, the crackle and pop is like dragon fire deep in the background. Keep the B&N special editions coming!