Monday, September 22, 2008

Kum & Go

On Saturday afternoon, my friend and I headed out to Mason City, Iowa to hear some hillbilly music from Grammy-award winner Vince Gill. It was a brilliant, sunny day as we left my place. Before leaving town, however, I wanted to have a good, filling meal. Translation: Friday’s. Mr. Shanon wanted to go to Old Country Buffet, but I said that would have to wait; since I would be driving 4 hours that day, I got to pick where we would be eating. He’s getting a bit sick of going there, but said he still prefers it over McDonalds. I had some chicken fingers as we discussed heading down to the Hawkeye state.

As usual before embarking on a trip, I printed out directions from Rand They said it would take 2 hours and 10 minutes to arrive there. I was hoping it wouldn’t take that long as I intended to go at least 5 miles over the speed limit throughout our voyage. Almost immediately upon getting on the interstate, there was road construction (the four lanes had been taken down to 2). I didn’t know how many miles we’d have to endure it, but, thankfully, I’d allotted us 3 hours to get there. Just a couple miles into the construction, I was very pleasantly surprised to see dozens of wind turbines.

Three words came to mind as I saw them: brave new world. This is the future of our country (if we’re to have one): clean, renewable energy. Shanon marveled and said he’d never been so close to one before. To keep the mood positive, we listened to Shania Twain’s greatest hits. After 16 miles, the road construction ended and I accelerated to 73.4 mph. We passed through Austin and Albert Lea (Spam Museum!) before making our way to good ol’ Iowa.

Just 5 miles into the state, we saw a casino named Diamond Jo’s. This is the portion where I tell you that I’ve never gambled (though I did vote for George H.W. Bush in ’88 and will elaborate on this in a future post). We were making good time. Color me surprised, but Iowa’s scenery wasn’t as boring as I thought it’d be. Probably have Shania to thank for that.

When we arrived in Mason City, it was just 1 hour and 45 minutes since we left Rochester. I love it when I arrive somewhere before I’m supposed to. I’ve the suspicion that these map websites deliberately add 15 or 20 minutes to their projections so that people can be happy when they come in under expectations.

With so much time to kill, we browsed at Best Buy for a bit before walking over to a Hollywood Video nearby. We were talking about some superficial crap when Shanon noticed that the video store had a “For Lease” sign on it. Turns out it was just the name of a new straight-to-DVD movie coming out for Halloween.

I kid. It was closed. The only video stores we have left in Rochester are two Hollywoods. Both Blockbusters are gone as is Premiere Video (a store I worked at in the late 90’s…I was so innocent then, but weren’t we all). I noticed something quite amusing as we drove through Mason City. I counted no less than 3 convenience stores that were named, well, take a look at the pic below:

What’s kinda sad is that I was already familiar with the chain. You see, in the early 90’s, I helped my cousin move to Decorah, Iowa and went to one of their locations for a tasty beverage. I’m not sure if I got the joke way back then.

We arrived at North Iowa’s community college (where the concert was taking place) at about 7, a half hour before the show was scheduled to start. What I saw as we walked to the auditorium surprised me: the age of the attendees. There was gray (or white) hair everywhere we looked. I would say that more than 75% of the people at the show were over 55. I haven’t seen that many old people congregating together since, oh, probably since the McCain rally I saw on telly a couple weekends ago.

I deflated a bit when I noticed on the concert program that Vince was giving an acoustic concert. The last two times I’d seen him, he’d played with a 17-piece band which included a horn section. Vince is a good singer, but I'd wanted to hear some electric guitar.

Just after sitting down, Shanon noted he was the only one in the entire auditorium wearing a ballcap. I looked at the hundreds of people gathered and sure enough, not one hat. A few minutes later, a fortysomething sat in our row who was wearing a cap. Shanon was a bit disappointed (he was feeling so special up until that moment).

7:30 rolled around and it was showtime. Vince came out, waved to the crowd, and then sat down.

He said he was pleased to be performing in the “great state of Iowa”. I got some crap for referring to Iowa in that way last week, but Vince gets away with it cuz he sounds so sincere. He said that he’d just had knee surgery which is why he was spending the entirety of the show on his duff. He mentioned that though only 51, the surgery was necessary as he’d been having problems walking of late. He said he was a bit down that his wife, Amy Grant, was playing with the Des Moines symphony a mere 120 miles away, but that because of scheduling, he wouldn’t be able to see her that night. All the men under 45 sighed, wishing they had someone like Amy to come home to.

Vince played with 3 others at the show: one guy on keyboards, another on this instrument that sounded like drums, but looked like an old washboard, and one other guy on one of those big bass things like Elvis used to have in his band.

45 minutes into the show, much to my relief, Vince dug out his electric guitar and played a few songs on it. He played 2 hours and 20 minutes (no opening act). I took a bathroom break about halfway through to stretch. As the show wound down, Vince took a number of requests. One lady shouted, “Cowboy Up”. Vince hesitated, but said he’d do it. I didn’t know what the 70-somethings were gonna think of it, but looked forward to finding out. Here’s the first verse of it:

I'm putting on my favorite cowboy boots
Like a crazy bull rider coming out of the chute
Ready for some dancin', maybe too much beer
Like bare-back rubbin' going on in here

Hey little cowgirl leave the Stetson on
Let's cowboy up and down all night long

Another lady suggested Vince do a Christmas song, but thankfully, he politely declined. The show ended at almost exactly 10 and as the crowd shuffled out, Shanon struck up a conversation with a fortysomething who said this was her 23rd time seeing Vince play. Damn, I thought I was good, this being the 6th.

It took a while to get out of the parking lot, but once on the highway, there were very few cars. Though disappointed that Vince went the acoustic route, at least I got an idea of what it’ll be like when/if I get older and have to spend my days with those of an advanced age (SPOILER ALERT: the bathroom waits are significantly longer).


disestablishingpuritanism said...

Old Country Buffet is still my gluttonous paradise. I would've been a pain in the ass about going there. Their fried chicken, potatoes, and desserts are the best. It sucks they closed the one we had here.

I had a very similar experience when I went to see The Rolling Stones in Atlanta. There were so many over 50 people there. It just had a lifeless feel to it. Part of my concert going experience is also enjoying some crazy dancing and seeing what others do around me. It literally felt like I was attending a funeral rather than a concert. Everyone around my friend and I were very placid just like that McCain convention.

Iowa is quickly becoming more and more progressive. My cousin, who has always been like a little sister, lives in a tourist area in the northwestern part of the state. She tells me ethanol plants are popping up everywhere. It made me even prouder to see that pic of the wind turbines. That's where our innovation comes in. Instead of drill baby drill, we should coin, "Invent baby invent" and "New industries baby new industries."

Sarah said...

we have one of them in sioux falls. no one goes there. it's in the ghetto.

Timothy Smith said...

When driving from Phoenix to LA you pass the massive wind farm at San Gorgonio Pass. Its contains over 3200 units. Its very beautiful and does give you a little hope for the future.

Alternative energy sources are a complete waste of time unless we start conserving first. If we are not going to conserve then oil is the best bet.

If we started to conserve energy then alternative energy sources could indeed take over as our primary source of energy. If we had the Europeans MPG standards in place and used compact florescence bulbs that would be an excellent start.

Study up on ethanol, its a lost cause. It has actually led to an increase in global warming, increase in the amount of energy we use and caused food shortages. But our family owns farm land so personally it has been good to us. Corn prices have doubled in the last 10 years and land prices are sky high!

Conservation is the answer IMO. Why should we invest in alternative fuels that cant come close to solving the problem when we are still flushing energy down the toilet?

Glad you had fun in Iowa, that's not an easy task! :)

Nikki said...

TGIFriday's baked macaroni and cheese bites dipped in ketchup are a not-so-secret and extremely guilty obsession of mine. Good thing there aren't any of those restaurants near where I live or else I'd be a whale, ha!

I've never had fun at concerts with a lot of older people.. as disestablishingpuritanism said, part of the experience is seeing other people going crazy and getting into it rather than being placid. My best concert was seeing Tim McGraw for my sweet sixteen- I held up a massive sign with my step-mom, best friend, and aunt and he yelled out happy sweet sixteen to me. I would have felt ridiculous trying to do that if there was just a bunch of retired people there!

And yeah I am thinking tomorrow (well today, since I've woken up exceptionally early it seems) is gonna be a lot better! Darn Monday blues.

Rocketstar said...

It's too bad Kum and Go doesn't stay true to it's name. They'd be able to charge much more for their gas.

Thomas said...

Dis, I’ve not eaten at OCB for years, but like you said, I do recall the chicken and mashed potatoes being quite good. One thing that pains me about going there is seeing all the obese people. I want to get on my knees and say, “C’mon people, get it together. Don’t you wanna be around awhile? Don’t you wanna see Obama usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, free of the divisiveness we’ve become so accustomed to?” Yes, indeed, the difference in energy between the concert I went to on Saturday and the Prince one I attended in ‘4 was like night and day.

Sarah, Pity the only Kum & Go in your area is in an undesirable part of town. Perhaps we could do some canvassing there next month for Obama.

Tim, 3200 units? That’s incredible. I’ve also read about the downsides of ethanol, though I don’t have as deep an understanding of it as you do. Great points about conservation. I’ve never thought of it that way before.

Nikki, Shanon actually had the mac & cheese bites you mentioned on Saturday. I live about 6 miles from Friday’s and don’t know what I’d do if they ever closed down. Tim McGraw is also one of my favorite singers. I especially like his early stuff from the mid-90’s (Not a Moment Too Soon, All I Want, Everywhere).

Rocket, there’s a gas station here in Rochester which could also be construed as a sexual euphemism: Pump n’ Munch.

Timothy Smith said...

"It's too bad Kum and Go doesn't stay true to it's name. They'd be able to charge much more for their gas."

So true. Circle K would lose my business overnight.