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Tuesday, May 4, 2010


From March 9 through April 8, 2010, I toured the Southeast US, doing booksignings, slideshows, school talks, and visiting comics shops and bookstores. It was great trip, maybe the best roadtrip I've ever taken! For what it's worth, here are some photos and recollections of my time on the road.

John P.

* * *


View from my bed.

So I woke up early, in the car, in the rain, at a truck stop off I-40, and after performing my morning ablutions, I made it into Nashville in no time.

One nice thing about going to a place you've never been before, if you have the time, is to allow yourself to just follow your nose, and get a little bit lost.  When I arrived in downtown Nashville, I simply took an exit that sounded nice (I think it was Church Street), and drove, thinking "I wonder where Music Row would be?"  Soon enough, I found Broadway, and figuring that sounded like a good, main, street, I made a left.  There on my right was the famous Ernest Tubb Music Shop.  I found a parking spot and hustled through the cold rain, to the store.

Inside is a country music fan's (and I am one of them) dream come true.  Tons of country music CDs, DVDs, posters, a wall of 8 x 10 glossies, and signed posters all along the ceiling.  And then, there in the back of the store is the original stage of the Midnite Jamboree, the 2nd longest continuously running radio show in American history (after the Opry).  It was amazing to look at that tiny stage and imagine all the great performers who have graced it:  Merle, Willie, Elvis, Johnny, Hank, Patsy, Loretta, and practically every other one-named country singer you could imagine.

When I was done shopping, I asked the lady at the counter, "Do you guys let people take pictures in here?"  She said: "Honey-- you take all the pictures you want."  I was really loving Tennessee.

Wall of 8 x 10 glossies.

Pete Drake's boots...

...and his pedal steel.

Original Midnite Jamboree stage.

Nashville in the rain.

After the Music Shop, I wandered in the rain a bit up and down Broadway, sad country music coming out of every bar and tavern on the street. Then I headed over to the nearby Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I was a little skeptical as I entered. I was worried that what I would find would be the sanitized, Hollywood version of country music. But I was pleasantly surprised. The museum touched upon just about every tidbit of country history, from Bristol to Outlaw and I highly recommend it to any music fans who find themselves in Nashville. I spent practically the entire day there.

Bob Wills' fiddle and hat.

Hank Williams' stage suit and guitar.

Elvis' 24 Karat gold-plated Cadillac.  I knew beforehand that all the trim was 24K gold.  What I didn't know was that the luminous, opalescent white finish was made from applying layer upon painstaking layer of... super-fine powdered diamonds.  Holy Crow.

Cindy Walker's painted typewriter.

Porter Wagoner's stage suit and guitar.

One of Tammy Wynette's gowns (plus: Johnny Paycheck's guitar on the right and Loretta's guitar on the left-- note the custom Formica pickguard!).

Lest you get the wrong idea from my photos, the Museum is a lot more than just guitars and sequins behind glass--  there were lots of great audio and video displays, and tons of information I had never seen anywhere else.

As I finished up my tour, I was excited to find out that Nashville was still in the Central Time Zone--  that meant I had an hour and a half to hit up the Local Comic Book Shops!  I got quick directions to the downtown Great Escape and was there in five minutes.  By this time I had my comics searches down to a science:  you start at the 'C's for Chamber of Chills, followed immediately by Chamber of Darkness, then Journey Into Mystery Vol. 2, and so on, all the way to Where Monsters Dwell at the tail end of the alphabet.  I didn't really find any monster comics here, but I did find out that Great Escape had TWO more locations in the metro area, and after getting quick directions and phone numbers, I headed back out.

The rain had finally stopped, and a lovely evening emerged.  At the shop on the west side I quickly found both Journey Into Mystery #14 and a Jack Kirby book I'd been looking for, used!  The guy at the counter tried to dissuade me from going all the way out to the Great Escape in the suburbs, saying they closed in 45 minutes, and it was at least a half hour trip by car...  "Not the way I drive!" I said to myself as I hurried out the door.

This stretch of road, out to the Nashville suburbs on a brand new highway, was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.  The evening light was beautiful, bright behind the fading bruise-blue stormclouds, shining over the green hills and valleys.  I made it to the comic shop in 20 minutes...  and it was ...  the treasure trove:  I picked up a couple Where Creatures Roam that I needed, plus Monsters on the Prowl, Devil Dinosaur, and lots more.

They locked the door behind me when I was finally done, and I wandered to the car in a blissed out state.  Got some cheap, satisfying Chinese food, and I couldn't have been happier.  I called up Dan and we made our plans to meet up at a motel out by the airport.  We'd awake super early the next day and continue the tour together.


Click here for Part Five...

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