Sunday, May 3, 2015

East River

I've heard it said that South Dakota should be split into two separate states - East River and West River. On a recent trip from the Black Hills to Sioux Falls I saw some evidence to support that proposition. It really is a different vibe over there. Not better. Just different.
A Sunday evening dinner with old friends started the trip off on a fun and positive note. That followed a rather uneventful drive across the state...with one exception. I pulled into a rest area near the tiny town of Wasta, and as I merged back onto the interstate I was convinced I had taken the wrong ramp and was heading back west toward Rapid City. The compass in my vehicle told me I was going east. The road sign said "I-90 East." But it just didn't feel right. Have you ever been so sure of something that, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary, you just know you're right? That's how I felt. After about a mile or two, as I was considering pulling a U-turn through the median (Hey...I've seen cops do it),  I saw a sign that read "Wall Drug - 11 Miles." That was the overwhelming evidence I needed to realize that I was actually traveling in the right direction.
The further east you go the more farms you will see. Mostly large family or corporate operations. Nothing wrong with that. However, spending some quality time at Good Roots Farm and Gardens on Monday introduced me to the concept of Permaculture. Here's how a Wikipedia entry describes it -  A philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system. 
I saw some wonderful examples of pesticide-free farming, effective balanced conservation efforts, and even free range chickens guarded by llamas. Pretty cool. The property was also a delight visually -

This old barn had a lot of personality, and waiting for me inside was a delicious treat fresh from the ground -

Normally I have trouble eating carrots and radishes due to a throat injury years ago, but these looked too good to pass up and I accepted an offer to try one. I enjoyed it without incident, and it was marvelous! 
After some discussions about milkweed, Monarch butterflies, how nature balances itself out, and that the way to start a revolution is to change the culture, it was time to go. I would like to return later in the year to see the full fruits of their labor. 
But now it was time to get back to the city and do a different kind digging...for vinyl. I had heard of a record store called Total Drag. I didn't like the name. No record store I've ever visited has been what I would call a "drag." So, I was looking forward to checking it out and was anticipating finding some buried treasure. That was not going to happen, though, because it was closed. So it really was a total drag.

Just like Arlo Guthrie never heard of a dump being closed on Thanksgiving... remember Arlo Guthrie? We're going to get back to him in a minute... I had never heard of a record store being closed on Monday. So with tears in my eyes I drove off to find another place to look for records. Didn't find one. Until I came to Ernie November's, which is usually a dependable place for at least one score. And that's all I came away with. A compilation of performances from the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, including a Bob Dylan - Joan Baez duet and a couple Tom Paxton songs. Not a great find, but not bad.

Now, about Arlo. He is the original reason I made the trip. He was doing a show that night as part of the Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour. 50 years. That's a long time. I don't think many people realize what a career he's had, recording twenty five albums containing a number of hits. Most may be familiar with "City of New Orleans." (No...Willie Nelson's version was later). I figured this might be my last chance to see him. It was a good show in spite of the fact that at one point he forgot the words! He recovered nicely and the rest of the concert went on without a hitch. The crowd was somewhat different than I expected. I only observed a few obviously old hippies. You know - the ones with gray hair tied up in a pony tail. Otherwise there were a lot of hipsters, men over 50 in Tommy Bahama shirts and Dockers, ladies dressed up in the latest fashions, even a few suits. I was pleased, though, during the song "Coming Into Los Angeles" to see a thirty-something chick jump up and begin dancing in the aisle. She didn't start a movement, however, as nobody else joined her. So she sat back down before the song ended. It was a valiant effort appreciated by me and perhaps only me judging from a few whispers and furrowed brows that I observed. It was then I realized a lot of people who came out for the show were there for a social event and to be seen, rather than to see a music my mind anyway. At least I hope they appreciated his stories of growing up with a famous father and him being very thankful for his good fortune in being able to hang out with some very colorful characters in a very interesting time in American history. 
It was a good trip, but I always like coming back to my Black Hills. I say that for many reasons, including the fact that the record stores here are so much better than in that other state over there...the one we call East River.

Roger O'Dea     5/3/2015

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