<![CDATA[Art Wheeler Music - Blog]]>Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:12:49 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Graceland in Transition - Part One]]>Thu, 20 Apr 2017 23:30:41 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/graceland-in-transition-part-one
The first of 3 stories about my April trip to Graceland.​
March 30, 2017, I made my first trip to Graceland at a time other than Elvis Week. My wife was attending an autism conference at the Guesthouse at Graceland and asked me to tag along with her. The Guesthouse is a new hotel run by Elvis Presley 
Enterprises and is located almost directly next to the mansion. The hotel opened in October. A new visitor’s center with new exhibits call Elvis Presley’s Memphis opened in early March. With an autism conference going on, the hotel being open for less than a year and the visitor’s center being less open for less than a month, this was going to be an interesting trip. This would also be the first time that my visit to Graceland involved an overnight stay.

The Guesthouse

​The new hotel at Graceland is very much in the style of the Graceland mansion. It is decorated in a modern style that also strongly suggests the décor of 1970’s Graceland and still managing to be modern. There are a few seats in the lobby that are over the top but they also feel like they wouldn’t be too out of place in a modern-day luxury hotel. There is a stairway at one end of the main floor with a chandelier over it and decorated with mirrors and curtains that strongly resemble the stairway at the entrance at Graceland.  This was a popular place for many of the visitors to take pictures including the bride that was getting married in one of the halls in the hotel on Friday night. The Elvis related decorations in our room was limited on one picture on the bedroom that was jumpsuit from the waist to the neck and another picture in the bathroom that had a subtle rockabilly theme.  No velvet Elvis paintings or gaudy decorations. The main thing you would notice in the room that made it stand out as an Elvis property were 4 channels on the television. When you turn it on, it starts on a menu page playing Elvis music.  If you just want to listen to this music, it allows you to from any of the three decades of Elvis’ career. Another channel ran highlights of the most recent candelight vigil and other Graceland related interviews and news. Another channel ran the ’68 Comeback Special non-stop and another ran the Aloha from Hawaii special non-stop. There were plenty of regular channels if you needed an escape from all things Elvis.
 
The hotel has plenty of halls and rooms for a conference like the one my wife was attending. I can see the spaces being used during Elvis Week for activities that have been held off-site during previous years. There is a relatively large theatre that is part of this this facility where they have concerts from time to time.  I think the wedding was going to be in this room and they were advertising a comedian who would be performing there the following weekend. On-line they were promoting a weekend with Joe Walsh that would be taking place at Graceland with performances and meeting and greet/hangout opportunities this summer.  It sounds like an interesting event and I’ve considered attending. The lounge in the lobby had live music every evening. We listened to a “looping performer” play and sing on Thursday night. We also saw an old man fall off a stool at the bar.  There was also a woman complaining about someone saying that “they don't love Memphis.” The back patio of the hotel was a great place to relax and watch a thunderstorm or have a cocktail.  They have shuttle busses that will take you to the visitor’s center. Beginning a 6 each evening, a shuttle bus runs between the hotel and Beale Street.  We took advantage of this on Friday night.
Read more in next week's blog post.
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<![CDATA[More Chemistry Experiments]]>Sat, 15 Apr 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/more-chemistry-experiments
​You might know that I majored in Chemistry in college and that a man named Mr. Pechonick was one of my favorite instructors. I have talked about him in a previous post. During my sophomore year, I had him for another class. During one of the labs, we did an experiment where we melted moth balls and measured the temperature as they returned to a solid state. Moth balls are made of a compound called Naphthalene.  During this lab, we all 
worked on our own, but we ended up talking to each other throughout the class trying to figure out what to do where Mr. Pechonick might not have given us very much guidance.
At the end of the experiment, each of us ended up with a test tube full of Naphthalene and we were not clear on exactly what we needed to do to get it out. I was working ahead of some of the others and had come up with a solution of heating the test tube back up, pouring the Naphthalene on paper towels and throwing those away. I was wrapping up with this solution as people started talking.
 
“What do we do with the Naphthalene?”
“We can’t pour it down the sink! It will stop it up.”
“Hey Robert Johnson just poured Naphthalene down the sink!”
“He’s going to be in trouble!”
“Pechonick is going to kill him!”
 
I don’t think Mr. Pechonick overheard our conversation but just knew it was about time for us to be wrapping up our experiments and he came out of his office to oversee us wrapping up. When he came out, he stops next to Robert Johnson and says, “Now, I don’t want anyone pouring any Naphthalene down the sink. Johnson! You didn’t pour any Naphthalene down the sink did you?”
 
Johnson replied, “A little.”
 
There was a guy in our class whose name I cannot remember that was a commuter and a little older than everyone else. He was not a class clown but he reminded everyone of Bill Murray a little bit in the way he looked and a lot in the way that he carried himself. He was standing in the back of the lab and asked in a very knowing way, “What will happen if we pour Naphthalene down the sink, Mr. Pechonick?” Mr. Pechonick replied, “It will stop it up!”
 
To the best of my knowledge, the sink never stopped up and Robert Johnson passed the class like the rest of us.
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<![CDATA[2017 Birthday Gifts ]]>Thu, 06 Apr 2017 00:04:34 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/2017-birthday-gifts
If you follow me on Facebook, have read my birthday related blog posts or subscribe to my newsletter, you might know that I celebrate my birthday all month during March. My birthday is actually on March 23 but for several years, I have declared that I was celebrating for the entire month. This consisted of using my birthday as an 
excuse for congratulations, gifts and well wishes, primarily from my immediate family. Last year, my wife took this to the next step and got me a present every day during the month.  The most noteworthy gift was The Jawbone of an Ass, which I wrote about last year.  She repeated this pattern again this year. I decided to document the gifts.  Since it is April, it’s time to share the list:
1 – Guitar Center gift certificate
2 - IBC cream soda
3 – Four Roses single barrel bourbon
4 - Guitar Center gift card
5 - Grill brush
6 - Juggling book and balls
7 - Weber Grill Gourmet BBQ poultry roaster
8 - Jack Daniels whiskey barrel smoking chips 
9 - Weber Grill Gourmet BBQ cooking grate
10 - Gimme a Thrill, Marx Brothers book
11 - Great Northern Hotel key chain
12 - Jerry Garcia tie
13 - Whoppers
14 – Weber iGrill2
15 - Gumby
16 - Pokey
17 – Weber Grill Gourmet BBQ sear grate
18 - Wooden puzzle
19 - Pistachios without shells  
20 - Red polo shirt 
21 - wooden puzzle. 
22 - Weber Grill Gourmet BBQ griddle
23 - Gentleman Jack
24 - Harpo Speaks book
25 - Grill brush
26- Coconut rum
27 - Weber Grill Gourmet BBQ wok
28 - Weber Grill Gourmet BBQ Wok wooden tools
29 - Wooden puzzle
30 - Swim trunks. 
31 – September Storm on blu-ray
 
By the way, I used the gift cards to get a new guitar!
 
A big thanks to my wife and everyone who made March so special.
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<![CDATA[In Trouble in Second Grade]]>Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/in-trouble-in-second-grade
​Here is the short version of the story: The only time I ever got a spanking in school was in second grade for talking during sleeping period. Now the long version.
When I was in second grade, I got my first pair of glasses.  I was the first kid in my class to get glasses. The second kid to get glasses was Harry Kail.  I don’t remember any other kids in our class getting glasses that whole year. Harry Kail and I had a connection because of this. When I was in second grade, we also sat and tables and Harry Kail and I sat at the same table for most of the year. Part of our daily routine in second grade was for the teacher to turn out the lights while everyone put their head down on the table to take a nap. We referred to this time as “sleeping period”. I don’t ever remember falling asleep during sleeping period.  I don’t know if any other kids slept during sleeping period.  I suspect this was created as much to give the teachers a break from us as it was to give us a chance to rest.

Mary Manasco was our teacher. To a little kid like me, it seemed like she was 100 years old but based on what I know now, she was probably in her late 30’s. At our school, there were two second grade teachers that year.  Mrs. Manasco was considered the nice teacher.  The other second grade teacher was known to give paddlings for things like missing words on spelling tests.  Mrs. Manasco would also use her paddle but it was for reasons that seemed more legitimate.  I probably should have expected to get in trouble that day when Harry Kail and I decided to start talking during sleeping period. We thought we were whispering softly enough that Mrs. Manasco would never hear us. Her desk was on the other side of the room which made us feel more confident that we were safe.

With my head on the table, my little second grade but was sticking out from the back of my chair. And that classroom wasn’t as big as I thought so her desk was a lot closer that I thought. And my chair was closer to her desk than Harry Kail’s chair so I guess that’s why she got me first. Out of nowhere, I heard the smack and felt the sting. There was no warning. At least Harry Kail had a little bit of a warning. There was one more smack for Harry. Then there was whimpering from Harry Kail and I for most of the rest of sleeping period. We never talked during sleeping period again. And I would never encounter another paddle at school again either.

I liked Mrs. Manasco before that incident and my love and respect for her grew even more after that. I liked most of my teachers but she qualifies as one of my favorites. At the time of this writing, about a week has passed since I heard the news of her death. Anyone I know that had her as a teacher has nothing but good things to say about her. A great lady and a great teacher.
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<![CDATA[Chinese Airport Security]]>Wed, 15 Mar 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/chinese-airport-security
​Back in 2006, I was traveling for business in China.  I had been in a city called Xiamen for a week and was traveling back to Hong Kong before coming back to the US.  This was one of the last legs of a two week trip through Asia. I had gone through several different security checks during the trip. One of the 
things that was different from security in the US is that everyone was screened with the wand style metal detectors. They would also hold these wands against your body as they moved it up and down your body.  This would be done to everyone regardless of age. It was also done in addition to going through a walk-through metal detector. In the US, you would probably get an apology from the security person if they even touched you with the wand.  In China, it was the way things were done.
​The Xiamen airport was particularly busy this day.  The lines were long in the security area.  They were opening everyone’s luggage. One of the kids in line ahead of me had a handheld Nintendo game system. One of the security guards turned it on and started playing it. There was no sense of urgency to get people through this checkpoint but we had given ourselves plenty of time.  I was standing in a line with a lady performing the checks with the wand.  There was an older Chinese man in the line ahead of me. I watched as she checked him with the wand. She ran the wand up and down the front of his body.  Then she ran the wand up and down his back. When she was done, she smacked him on the ass with the wand. It was like she was telling him with her actions, “OK, I’m done. You can move along now.”
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<![CDATA[Eating At Subway]]>Thu, 09 Mar 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/eating-at-subway
I have a cousin that is several years younger than me. He was probably a pre-teen when my wife and moved back to our hometown. My wife was the news editor for the county’s weekly newspaper and covered everything including wrecks, fires, government meetings and sports. We would go to 
most of the high school basketball games. My cousin enjoyed basketball and we invited to go with us to one of the games in a nearby town. Our plan was to leave early enough to eat somewhere in the town where the game was being played. 
It’s worth noting that the town where I’m from is small. At the time, Dairy Queen was only chain restaurant that had a store in our town. Subway was relatively new to the area and had a store in the town where we were going so we decided to eat there. My cousin was excited about eating there because he had never eaten at a Subway before. We told him he could get anything he wanted. He decided that he wanted the chicken fajita sandwich. He was a bit overwhelmed when he saw the list of extras that you could get on the sandwich. When the worker asked him what else he wanted on his sandwich, he paused for a while and then said, “I want lettuce…...……and oil.”  The worker thought it was as odd as my wife and I did but proceeded to dress the sandwich just the way he requested. As they were squirting the oil on the sandwich, he turned to me and said, “What does the oil do?”  I replied, “Makes it oily”.

I asked if he was sure he didn’t want it done differently and he said he wanted it that way. He ate the oily chicken fajita sandwich and never complained.
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<![CDATA[Go Ahead, Make My Day]]>Thu, 02 Mar 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/go-ahead-make-my-day
​One evening before my wife and I were married, we had been out on a date.  We had been out to see a movie. When we I took her home, her family was not there. This particular night, she had not brought any keys with her and we were locked out of the house. This was long before cell phones so we didn’t have any 
good way to contact anyone to see where they were. Her grandmother lived next door so we could go and check with her. It was late enough that evening that we knew her grandmother would already be in bed.
​We finally decided that our first best option was to visit Granny. We walked across the yard to the door in her garage and knocked.  Soon we thought we heard stirring inside but it appeared that she wasn’t in a hurry to get to the door.  Eventually she was at the door but we didn’t see her. The door had a window with curtains that completely hid anyone on the inside. We saw the curtains moved back to reveal a pistol.  There was no finger on the trigger of the pistol since it was being held by the hammer. The way she was holding it was less like you would hold a pistol and more like you would hold a dirty diaper.  We were in more danger of the gun going off with her dropping it than her pulling the trigger.  My wife shouted at the door, “Granny! It’s us!”  She put away the gun and let us in.  She told us that she didn’t want to shoot anyone, she just wanted them to know she had a gun.  
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<![CDATA[IHOP Revisited]]>Fri, 17 Feb 2017 00:58:52 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/ihop-revisited
​We showed up at the IHOP after church expecting nothing different from any other visit to IHOP. We arrived a little later than normal so we had to wait to be seated. I went to the hostess station and she asked how many.  I said two.  Then she asked my name and I told her. Then she asked me to spell it.   
Then she asked how many and I said two again. Later when she called our name, she mispronounced it.  She didn’t seem that excited to be at work but still managed to walk way ahead of us as she took us to our booth. Before my wife sat down, she noticed a brown, wet spot in her seat.  She said, “I can’t sit here!” I told her to sit on my side.  I was going to run to the restroom and someone could wipe down my seat while I was gone.  She was ok with that and I flagged down someone and asked them to clean my seat while I went to the restroom.
​I entered the restroom and noticed water on the floor before I rounded the corner to the sink area. It wasn’t so much water that it was in puddles but just a lot of spots.  It looked like kids had been playing at the sink and got water everywhere.  There was an employee at the sink washing his hands. Based on the way he was dressed he looked more like part of the kitchen staff that a waiter.  Next to the sink area was a urinal, a regular stall and a handicapped stall.  I noticed that there were two signs on the urinal indicating that it was not working.  Both signs appeared to have been made from a cardboard box that was ripped apart. The smaller sign was taped above the urinal. The letters were written with a bright neon green marker.  The larger sign had letters written with what appeared to be the same marker, was about the same size as the urinal and was just sitting inside of it. Junior Samples’ BR-549 sign looked more professional than these. I decided to by-pass the regular stall and go back to the handicapped one because I found the regular one to be a little tight from previous experience. When I entered the handicapped stall, I found that it had not been flushed by the previous user. Whoever had used this restroom previously had only urinated but it looked like they had lined the seat with toilet paper. It could have been one of those disposable toilet seat covers, but it had more of the appearance of toilet paper.  Whatever it was, it looked wet.  I didn’t really care, I just got out. As I was coming out of that stall, the guy from the kitchen staff said, “Don’t go in there!”  I was thinking, “Too late!” He said he was going to get someone to clean it up. As I completed my restroom activities, I was thinking that maybe the IHOP was a bad idea today. If they can’t get the restrooms right, can I expect the kitchen to be any better?
                                                                                                                              
When I returned to our table, my wife said that at least 3 people came by to clean my seat. The first person cleaned it but when they saw it said, “Oh! It’s just coffee!”  The way my wife said they reacted gave the impression that it would have been ok to sit on a wet spot.  Why would we object to sitting in coffee?  In retrospect, maybe they were expecting something much worse.  After we ordered, we sat speculating on the virtues of sitting in coffee and reviewed my experiences in the restroom. We noticed that there were straw wrappers and crumbs in the floor in the dining area. Soon, my wife said that one of the waitresses appeared to be quitting.  She had been crying, had her purse with her and was heading toward the door.  I saw her stop at the cashier’s counter.  It appeared that she was talking to someone there. My wife said there was a group of people huddled in the kitchen and they appeared to be talking about whatever was going on. Our table was right next to one of the doors to the kitchen area. My back was to this door but it stayed opened most of the time.  I could hear a lot of what was going on and my wife had a front row seat to any drama that played out. Soon my wife said the waitress was back and was talking to the guy she thought was the manager.  I overheard him telling her to go home and settle down. Since my back was turned to the kitchen, I had no idea how this lady was reacting.  If some bad action was going down in the kitchen and it spilled out into the dining area, I didn’t want to be in the line of fire, literally or figuratively. 
 
The door to the kitchen closed before they brought out our food.  Like most meals at IHOP mine came with pancakes.  My normal ritual with a meal that includes pancakes is to start preparing the pancakes to eat before I touch any of the other food.  I will spread the butter and put syrup on them to let it soak in while I’m eating the rest of my food. They usually have several flavors of syrup at the table already but will bring hot maple syrup from the kitchen. This time, the maple syrup was already a selection at the table and they didn’t offer anything else. I was ok with that until I picked up the syrup dispenser and it was gooey on the outside. Old syrup was dripping off the bottom that you wouldn’t notice until you picked up the bottle because the syrup bottle holder hid the bottoms of the containers. I decided that I didn’t want pancakes that day.  I had plenty of other food and don’t always eat my pancakes. Occasionally, the kitchen door would open and my wife would give me updates on the status of the kitchen drama.  Early on, the waitress was still talking to the manager.  Later, the staff was still bunched together talking about what happened.  Our waiter came by and asked if everything was ok.  I said it was but my wife said I needed some syrup.  He pointed to the containers on the table.  My wife lifted the maple syrup container. He quickly saw the problem and said “I’ll get you some syrup.”
 
When we were done with our meal, I considered going to get the car while she settled the bill. Considering all the things that had gone on that day, I decided that it might be best if we stuck together.  If something bad went down, we could go down together.
 
The following day, I received this notification on my Facebook account:
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<![CDATA[Playing Taboo]]>Fri, 03 Feb 2017 20:02:45 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/playing-taboo
​Several years ago, before my wife and I had children, a couple that we knew invited us and several other couples for an evening of games. This group of couples had gathered before for game night. Bunko was the game of choice on previous nights. One night the game of choice was Taboo. Taboo is a good game for larger groups of people. The play is simple.  You divide into two teams. We played women against men. One person from a team draws cards with a word at the top they will try to get their 
teammates to say. There are other words at the bottom of the card that they cannot use as clues. For example, if the word was “Baseball”, you might not be able to use "sport," "game," "pastime," "hitter" or "pitcher" as clues. A player from the other team watches the cards and presses a buzzer if the person giving the clues says one of the “taboo” words. There is a time limit for each player. The teams take turns and each player on each team takes a turn giving clues. Much of the fun of the game comes when a player is feeling the pressure of the time limit. Add to that if they ever say a taboo word, the buzzer seems to shake them up even more.
​This night there were four couples playing. Most of us had gone to college together and had known each other for a long time. One of the couples wasn’t part of this original circle of friends. The man from the new couple (I will refer to him as Johnny) worked at a bank with the man that was hosting the party. He was a banker and my friend did computer work at the bank. We had gotten to know the new couple from previous game nights. We had been playing for a while and Johnny’s wife was ready to give clues. She turned up the first card for her turn and said “Oh! This one will be easy! Johnny is a…”  My wife immediately shouted “Asshole!” Another woman shouted “Jerk!” As we laughed Johnny said, “Thanks a lot!” The word on the card was “banker”. 
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<![CDATA[Eating With My Family After The Show]]>Fri, 03 Feb 2017 19:43:39 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/eating-with-my-family-after-the-show
​In my previous post, I talked about a recent trip to see Gilbert Gottfried in Nashville. I didn’t mention that my wife and kids went with me to this show.  Because my youngest daughter was traveling back to school after the show, we were staying in Nashville for the evening.  We decided to grab a bite to 
eat after the show. I had seen a Shoney’s restaurant near our hotel and we decided to eat there. 
​My son was on a diet where he was eating almost all meat and was hungry.  The restaurant had a buffet so my son decided that would work for him. He didn’t take a good look at the buffet before he had ordered. He thought there was breakfast foods but it turned out to be seafood night. This is more of a family style restaurant whose clientele tends to be older. Because they are older, they tend to eat earlier in the evening. We had expected more of a 24-hour diner than the close early family restaurant. The seafood that was on the buffet at that time had probably been there since about 7:30 or 8 at the latest.  It probably didn’t help that we arrived at 9:45 and the restaurant closed at 10.  The seafood looked marginal at best but my son gave it a shot. After he decided that it was a bad idea, he returned to the buffet to get some meatloaf. While not great, meatloaf that has been out all day is a little better idea than seafood that has been out for the same amount of time.  While he wasn’t happy with his food, it seemed to be enough to take care of him.
My wife wasn’t hungry and just ordered coffee.  My girls had ordered 2 desserts which were brought out separately with time between.  They shared with each other so the delay for the second one didn’t bother them. I had placed an order for onion rings. It was when our waitress brought my onion rings that I noticed her name was Marti. I also noticed a big knot on her forehead that wasn’t there when she had taken our orders. I asked her if she was alright and what had happened. She told us that the freezer door hit her in the head when she was in the kitchen. She appeared to be a little shaken from the blow to head. She didn’t look like she was going to fall but I thought it might be a good idea for her to sit down soon. It also looked like her right eye, just below the knot on her head, wasn’t tracking like it should. She wasn’t completely cross-eyed but her eye wasn’t moving like it should. When she went back to the kitchen, my son wondered out loud if the door to their refrigerator was made of cast iron. After a couple of minutes, we heard a crash from the kitchen.  Almost immediately after the crash, we heard a voice declaring “IT WASN’T MARTI!” When she came back with the second dessert, I told her that we were concerned that the crash was her passing out. She started talking about her youngest son being clumsy. She talked at length about all her kids including her young adult son and her youngest son from her second marriage. Then she told us that she had been pregnant 3 times but she had a miscarriage in the doctor’s office. Details like the amount of blood everywhere and the fact that they wouldn’t allow her to change her pants made eating onion rings dipped in ketchup a little less appetizing for a little while.
We observed wallpaper peeling off the wall and water damage to the carpet. While it was a franchise restaurant, it appears to be a restaurant on its last legs. The times are changing and leaving places like this behind. It makes them entertaining places to visit but I’m afraid it may be a little dangerous to actually consume food there.
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