No Direction Home

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, November 21, 2018

Livin' Devil May Care…

November 12, 2018


Double Down Saloon

Livin' Devil May Care…

Las Vegas is the city of broken dreams for many, but I have always loved it and I visit there at the very least every other year as the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) convention has been held there every other year on a rotating basis with Orlando for years, Since I have been working for RPM Nautical for just over the past decade a group of us has been going every year to check out the latest in Scuba Diving gear, check in with those in the dive industry who support our work and to attend seminars related to our work.

Howard and Michael 

This year, I met my colleague and friend Howard there as we sent s smaller contingent than in recent years with just the two of us on hand to represent RPM. Another friend who has often worked with us in the past was also on hand so the three of us got to hang out and reconnect when we were not attending the conference. For the past few years we have been staying at Mandalay Bay and we once again had a suite there.


It was my first visit to Mandalay (and Vegas) since the tragic shooting last year at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival and I must admit I felt a little strange especially since our suite was the exact same suite as the shooter used only two floors below, so our view of the area was pretty much the same as his was on that tragic day. I almost changed our reservation because I knew that may be the case, but then I thought that I was not going to allow the actions of one crazy idiot change the way I lived my life.


The DEMA show is the largest Scuba industry show in the world and it fills the massive North hall of the Las Vegas convention center. The South hall was hosting the largest Marijuana convention in the world at the same time so it was an interesting mix of people. The convention features all of the scuba related industries from dive gear manufacturers to dive tourism destinations, certification organizations and all manner of related industries represented. A lot of walking and schmoozing is involved as Howard and I met with various people to let them know the important work that RPM is involved with. We have had a ton of support from various dive related companies and are always open to more assistance.

Howard and Derek 

Since neither Howard nor I are gamblers, we find other fun activities in Las Vegas to entertain us in the evenings after the show has closed. There are so many options of shows, food, shopping and other entertainment options that we really wanted to do something different. So our first night in town, we found ourselves at the Thomas and Mack center where we watched a college basketball game between the hometown UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and UC Riverside. 


It was an early season match-up and UNLV clearly had a significant advantage, pulling away to win the game by more than 20 points in the final tally, but it mattered not to us. It was great to get to see a college basketball game live, something it seems like it has been some time since I had done. It was fun hanging out with Howard as well as we both enjoyed the game.


After the game, we made the short walk to my favorite off-strip Dive Bar, the Double Down Saloon. Recognized as one of the best dive bars in the US, I must agree as it has a classic seediness, yet welcoming atmosphere where anyone and everyone is welcome. Dark and Sketchy and home to a few dozen denizens of the underbelly of Vegas, the place is a real treat for anyone bold enough to hang out and engage the locals, who may seem scary on the outside are actually for the most part really interesting and accommodating people. I love going there and try to stop in for at least one evening every time I am in town. 


With the holidays upon us, Vegas is in the process of transforming from fall to a winter wonderland and we checked out the atriums at the Bellagio, where they still had massive autumn-themed decorations on display as well as the lobby of the Wynn, which was already full of the Christmas spirit. The amount of time, money and effort that goes into decorating Vegas for the holidays is unmatched from anyplace I have been with the possible exception of New York City. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Side Bet in Idalou

November 6, 2018

Robert Earl Keen


A Side Bet in Idalou

It is a rare treat when you get to see one of your favorite performers multiple times over the course of a year, but Kathy and I had that good fortune when Robert Earl Keen was back in Key West to perform a concert alongside his good friend Lyle Lovett at the beautiful Sunset Green concert space. We had seen him twice in May when he was here for his annual visit to the Key West Songwriter’s Festival, including attending his infamous Bloody Mary Brunch at the Smoking Tuna where he performed solo acoustic.

We also had the great pleasure to see him over the summer in Greenfield, Massachusetts at the Green River Festival where he played an amazing set with his raucous full band. This time it was just he and Lovett, sharing the stage seated and surrounded by guitars as they played an all acoustic set, switching off playing songs and sharing stories in what was truly a wonderful and incredible show. 

Lyle Lovett 

We had seen Lyle Lovett when he played here last year at the Tennessee Williams Theater and somehow this felt even more intimate. Anyone familiar with Robert Earl Keen knows how funny he can be, both in his songs and in his between song banter, but we never really knew just how funny Lovett was. His dry humor was a perfect complement to Keen’s more boisterous personality.


It is easy to see that they have been friends for years, since their college days at Texas A&M when they were roommates and wrote songs such as “The Front Porch Song” together. The show had a relaxed intimate feel, almost like the crowd was just sitting around on a porch with two old friends chatting and sharing stories and songs. The crowd seemed to hang on every word and note and it was a just about perfect concert going experience.


The concert was just one of a variety of things happening in town this week. The main event was the 38th annual Key West World Championship Powerboat races sponsored by Superboats International. The largest and most popular powerboat race on their schedule, the Key West races held on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday in the Key West harbor determine their National Champion.


The arrival of the powerboats is always somewhat controversial, as some residents really are not thrilled that they are here. The large trucks and boats tear up the grass in the new Truman Waterfront Park, where their dry pits are located and they are not the most environmentally friendly visitors to our island. I understand the concern, but also really enjoy the races personally as do thousands of locals and visitors who show up every year providing a nice economic boost to our community.


I also just like watching the racing, the boats are huge, fast and powerful and put on a great and exciting show as they roar through the three turn course that runs through Key West harbor. For the past few years, we have joined our friends the Fords and others who set up a wonderful sort of tailgating experience at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park right along the seawall just along the edge of the course where the boats roar by, literally mere feet from the shore. It is a pretty awesome sight and a ton of fun just to have a fun, outdoor event to enjoy with friends.

This week also marked the arrival of Veteran’s Day and the annual Veteran’s Day parade through downtown Key West. Kathy, Jack and I went down to Duval Street, selecting Aqua bar as the spot to view the parade. The parade is wonderful, a mix of local school groups, civic organizations, police, fire as well as local representatives from the Military that are based here including the US Coast Guard and the US Navy.


It brings home what a wonderful local community we have, as thousands either participated in the parade in some manner, or watched from the street as it passed by, often waving American Flags and shouting out support for our Veterans and active service members to honor their service. It seems that all you see on TV is how divided and angry much of America is, but at this event at least, none of that was evident and everyone joined to recognize those who have given so much for our nation.


We wrapped up the week with yet another of the wonderful Songwriter Speakeasy concert series performances at the back room of the Key West Theater. This time the show featured our friend Cayman Smith-Martin along with Jeff Clark and C.W. Colt. The intimate setting which allows local singer/ sonwriters the chance to showcase their original tunes, rather than play the myriad of covers that they end up having to play out, is a fantastic venue.

C.W., Kelly, Jeff and Cayman 


C.W. Colt

Kathy and I love the series and the outlet for the huge variety of local talent that calls this island home. It is truly another wonderful addition to the ever-increasing cultural calendar that fills the evenings of those who live and visit this place.