Have Irma, Will Travel

When the storms came a-knockin’, two Creative Pinellas contributors hightailed it out of state and discovered some choice sights and people in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.


All photosξby Daniel Veintimilla unless otherwise noted.


Julie Garisto with our dog, Obi, in Oak Mountain State Park, just outside Birmingham, Ala.


Irma really put a spin and twisted around all our plans and plants. After packing the house and securing all our belongings we decided to travel to Nashville with our beloved animals: three cats and one dog. Thankfully we had proper travel feline carriers, but it was quite an ordeal. We had to go slow and stop every so often to feed the animals or quench their thirst, and to set up the litter box; So, we took the long way and stopped in state parks and so on. Not much interstate driving. My arms are very scratched, cats are way too free to listen, Obi, our 32-pound half pit/mutt, was great. He was a faithful companion even though he didnäó»t have much space and got a little heated too.

With the Fritschs ξat Rosepepper Cantina.

The 12-hour trip was a 16-hour trip for us, which took us about two days to complete. We stayed in a cheap motel in the middle of nowhere and paid only 45 bucks. It was well worth it; the cats were very happy to stretch out and chill. But unfortunately, the next morning I had to tear the room apart looking for them, until I found them all, they hid so well, at least our Siamese, Veronica, the Hemingway cat. We learned some lessons on just how to pack the car and coerce clawed cats into carriers.

Anyway, Nashville rocked! Our hosts: independent Music Producer/multi-instrumentalist Eric FritschŒæand wife Sarah.Œæwho has a supertalented rock star-in-the-making teen daughter). A friend of Julieäó»s childhood friend Victoria äóì Victory Hennaäó Wenners, Eric and his family were welcoming and gracious. And Eric’s studio is amazing! Though playing a lot of sitar right now, he is a full on music producer, with quite a collection of stories and instruments, including aŒæmandola.

East Nashville is the place to be in the city. There are tons of labels, indie establishments and media business in general. We frequented RosePepper Cantina, where our hosts treated us to a great dinner and margaritas. In West Nashville, we visited ŒæMiss Saigon — which not only had a 30 percent discount for Irma evacuees, but an anonymous customer paid our tab and left before we could thank him or her.ŒæŒæ

White Stripes Lego


The weather, overcast but cool and lovely, inspired us to play with Obi outdoors. We headed back to downtown to stroll through Centennial Park, which has a replica of the the Parthenon, built for the 1908 World Fair, plus a beautiful pond and botanical gardens, followed by a misty jaunt through historic Music Row, where country music, gospel, bluegrass, Christian, country rock and blues performers play bars all day and night.

You can record yourself on vinyl for $20 at Third Man Records.
More Third Man merch.

We decided to visit Third Man Records.ξ The space is small but the design and bumblebee color scheme a favorite of rock-star proprietor Jack White. Back in his pre-White Stripes days, the multi-instrumentalist ran an upholstery shop with the same colors; even the delivery van was yellow. The little shop was so alluring, you can press records right on a little booth and of course they have tons of different instruments for sale, cooky collectibles and tons of records.

For a souvenir, we purchased a vinyl pressing of a live recording by The Kills, recorded during one of the many studioäó»s performances. The band will be performing in good oläó» O Town at The Beacham on Friday, Dec. 8 — should be a hell of a show.

On our way to and from Nashville, we had to do a lot of driving through Alabama. We discovered much to write about passing through its small towns/college towns/suburbs/metros but had to focus on keeping our animals (and ourselves) sane. Three major takeaways about theŒæseemingly interminable longleaf pine tree/Northern Flicker state: Eufala is a cute, if uncelebrated small town; there’s a fascinating and disturbing number of Confederate memorials and statues, and the nature is stupendous throughout. A respite during rush hour traffic in Oak Mountain State ParkŒæsoothed our weary souls on the ride home.

Furthermore, if you take the back roads through Georgia to Alabama, you’ll find the majestic West Point Lake Park straddling the border between the two states. It’s remote and ultra serene with bald eagles soaring above. Quite a discovery. We enjoyed some calm before the storm there on a sunny, crisp Saturday afternoon.

The people along the way were kind. Julie received a hug from a retired woman outside the Dollar Store in Bainbridge, Ga. When the GPS stopped working, the gentlemen in West Georgia gave concise directions that begin with “You’ll want to ..”

Somewhere in Montgomery County,ξ Ala. Photo by Julie Garisto.

Now going back home to the hurricane aftermath, I feel very grateful that our awesome art community has not been hit that hard. That said, some felt Irmaäó»s wicked backhand, includingŒæfreeFall Theatre, which is undergoing a Raise the RoofŒæfundraising campaign to help with their extensive roof repairs/replacement. ŒæOne ofŒæDunedin Fine Art Center’s works, featured in DFAC’s “Etch-a-Sketch” show, got wet but was undamaged; quickly returned to its pristine state and embellished with hurricane-related ephemera. Kudos to Catherine Bergmann and Nathan Beard for their efforts in protecting the facility’s many works in advance.Œæ

Interior flooding from Irma at freeFall Theatre. They also had extended roof damage. Coutesy of freeFall Theatre.

Sadly, the natural disasters aren’t abating. I donäó»t mean to foist my environmental values on others, but this whole idea of Mother Nature as this ever-giving mother that is balanced and a safe paradise on earth; the goddess just seems more and more flawed to me. ŒæFrom an earth-shattering quake in Puebla, south of Mexico City toŒæHurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico,Œæwe do not live in a complete equilibrium, and should be prepared to suffer the consequences of, not only carbon emissions, but also mining, fracking, mountaintop removal, extreme pollution like heavy metals in the water and so on. Letäó»s not forget also all the other äóìprogressiveäó ways to extract energy from the earth while we transform whatever speck of natural balance we had to an extreme mess. Iäó»m one of those who believes what 95 percent of scientists in the world are saying: Climate change is man-made, and climate change is real. Don’t believe me? Take it from NASA.

But enough of my rant. Off to find some local music for the week.


Julie Garisto contributed to this blog.

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