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This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Phoenix Rising!

May 15, 2018

Michael, Michele, Bryan, Deb and Marta


Phoenix Rising!

It is May and that means one thing for me, trips to Indianapolis. My all-time favorite event is held each Memorial Day weekend, The Indianapolis 500 and the entire month of May in Indianapolis is something special. This year I had the added bonus of being able to see my mother Marta over Mother’s Day weekend as she was there to attend the grand opening of the all new location of the Phoenix Theatre. The gala opening just happened to coincide with the annual running of the Indianapolis Grand Prix, which for the past few years has kicked off activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

My sister Marika and her husband are big supporters of the Phoenix, which has just moved into a much larger and fancier location and while they could not go to the big gala, my mother Marta, sister, Michele and I represented the family at the party. Marika was a regular actress back in the early days of the original theatre on Ninth Street and some of her fellow actors and directors now lead the theater, so it was like old home week for us as we encountered many friendly faces at the party.

Bryan, Marta, Deb and Michele

The party consisted of an opening cocktail hour where the new facility was open to explore, flowed by a fancy dinner on site and then the premiere of the newest production of a musical version of a Kurt Vonnegut classic, “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater”. The play was produced in collaboration with the Kurt Vonnegut Library and was directed by our old Bryan Fonseca.

The gala was a ton of fun, but I was really tired and did not enjoy the play so much, I think it must have been more on me because there was an enthusiastic response. Whatever the case, it is wonderful to see the new digs for the Phoenix and fantastic to see their thirty-five year streak of providing top quality theatrical productions in Indianapolis. They never produce any shows that have been seen previously in the city and thus are always providing something that is fresh and new. It was also lovely to spend some time with Marta and Michele.

I wound up spending even more time with my amazing sister Michele the following day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as she was my guest, along with my friends Kevin and Ted for the Indianapolis Grand Prix. The Indy GP has taken the place of regular Indy 500 practice the past few years, adding a new race to the schedule that uses the road course at the Speedway. It is still odd for me to see the cars facing the wrong way in the pits and screaming down the main straight headed north.

Will Power

Takuma Sato

Qualifying had been pretty exciting with Team Penske driver Will Power nudging out rookie Robert Wickens to snare the pole position and start first in the twenty-four car field. Most of the IndyCar regulars were on hand to do battle and three time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was back for his first IndyCar race of the year having switched over this season to driving sports cars.

Ted and Brian

Zach Veach

Ed Jones

Once again we watched the race from the luxury and comfort of my friend Brent’s Tower Terrace Suite. Actually this year, he and his partners bought the suite next to his and cut a hole in the wall adjoining the two suites to create a single much larger suite. The suite comes with free food and libations as well as close-circuit television, live timing and scoring and a screen that just tracks the relative positions of the cars on the track. It is the best way to watch the Grand Prix and we had an amazing time.

Rebekah and Kevin

It was also cool because a couple of the driver’s girlfriends were in the suite to watch the race as well. James Hinchcliffe’s lovely girlfriend Becky (and his brother Christopher) were on hand as well as Joseph Newgarden’s beautiful and funny girlfriend Ashley. It was really fun getting to hang out and talk with them all, as a fan it is nice to get to know the drivers and their families as real people rather than just sports figures.

Christopher, Brent, Ashley and Becky

Derek and Connor Daly

J.R. Hildebrand

The race itself was just OK, there was some passing, but not as much as I would have hoped for and I was a little disappointed with the result as Will Power pretty much dominated, capturing his third straight Indy Grand Prix victory. I was really pulling for rookie Wickens to score his first win, but he had to settle for third place. Scott Dixon posted another amazing quiet but deadly move up through the field to come home in second with Sebastian Bourdais and Alexander Rossi coming home in fourth and fifth.

Brian and Michael

Will Power

Key West Songwriter’s Festival 2018

May 14, 2018

Randy Houser

with REK

Keith Gattis

Key West Songwriter’s Festival 2018

This year for the twenty-third year in a row, Key West hosted the largest event in the world devoted to songwriters and once again attracted musicians and music lovers from all over the world and offering singer-songwriter performances from sun up to sun down. The popular event features more than 100 top songwriters, 200 performers, and more than 50 shows staged over five days at more than 25 of Key West's most popular drinking holes and hot spots.

Florida Georgia Line

The event is organized by our friends Charlie Bauer of the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon as well as Nadene Grossman from We’ve Got the Keys and joining in this year, Kyle Carter from Mile 0. They do a spectacular job juggling the massive logistics of hosting so many mini-events over the course of four days as well as accommodating the hundreds of artists and others who show up in Key West for the event. It ranks of one of our most favorite annual events.


Sadly this year, both Kathy and I had to miss about half of the event, different halves as I was there for the first two days and Kathy for the last two as I left for Indianapolis and Kathy returned from Colorado. At least we each were able to see parts of this magnificent event. It is impossible to attend all of the festival anyway as each day there are performances at multiple venues stretching out across the Key West community.

Mayor Cates, Cheryl and Kyle

There are shows at all types of venues ranging from intimate poolside shows, to shows in cool venues like the Tropic Cinema, San Carlos Institute, Studios of Key West and the Key West Theater, to bar shows in about every major bar and saloon on the island and finally larger venues like the new Key West Amphitheater or the Duval Street temporary stage in which the street is blocked off and a huge crowd masses on Duval to watch the show.

Scott and Jodi

With close to 200 performers the talent ranges from those just breaking in to the music industry to established stars such as Robert Earl Keen, Randy Houser and Florida Georgia Line. Many other country stars have passed through, using this festival as a steppingstone to greater stardom, people like Jamey Johnson and Maren Morris. No matter how huge the performer, the focus of this festival is actually on the songs.

Almost every significant songwriter in Nashville comes to the island annually and as fans, we get to hear rhe songs that you hear on the radio, performed by their original writers usually in an acoustic guitar format. Often the songwriters will tell the backstory of how they came up with songs that went on to become mega-hits and it is just so cool to get a glimpse into the process behind the scenes.
I love it all and I am not even that big a fan of country music, but hearing the songs stripped down without all the production techniques used in the studio gives me a much greater appreciation of the music and what it takes to write a successful song. Plus I get to see multiple performances by the legendary Robert Earl Keen, who is one of my favorite performers.

Keith Gattis

Rich and Penny

This year I attended the opening night kickoff celebration concert, held on the pier at Margaritaville Resort which featured Keith Gattis and the Amigos with special guests Randy Houser and Jamie Lin Wilson. The free opening night concert attracted a ton of locals to the sunset pier including Key West Mayor Craig Cates and his wife Cheryl and a bunch more people who share my feeling that this is one of the best annual events in Key West.

Storme Warren


It was a rousing start to what would be another amazing weekend in Key West. My next stop was to the ticketed show at the San Carlos Institutte. This was one of the most anticipated and special shows of the festival as it is not often these days that megacountry stars Florida Georgia Line perform acoustically in such a small venue. They are normally packing huge stadiums so it was cool to see them in such an intimate setting.

The show, which was a benefit for Hurricane Irma relief, also featured songwriters Cameron Montgomery, James McNair, Daniel Ross, RaeLyn, Sarah Buxton, Jordan Scmidt, Craig Wiseman, Corey Crowder, Morgan Wallen as well as Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly. The crowd was going berserk and was one of the most raucous and excited concert crowd I have ever seen in my life.

It was much more quiet and serene at the show at the Key West Theater that I also snuck over to check out. Robert Earl was playing there and I will alsways choose seeing him over just about any others. The show also featured Clint Daniels, Ronnie Bowman and Paul Thorn and it was quiet and pensive as the other show was rowdy. Both were excellent though and I loved them both.



The highlight for me is always the Thursday morning Bloody Mary Brunch at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon with Robert Earl Keen. It is another opportunity to see a living legend perform in a totally intimate setting with probably about 100 lucky attendees who scored tickets in the five minutes they were on-sale prior to selling out. This is always one of my favorite KWSF shows and this year was no exception as REK was on the money once again playing almost all of my favorite songs. Such a pleasure to see and ti get to hang out with the man.

Robert Earl Keen