<![CDATA[Art Wheeler Music - Blog]]>Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:36:40 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Bob Evans Coffee]]>Wed, 28 Jun 2017 00:13:11 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/bob-evans-coffee
​Several years ago, my family were on vacation.  We decided to stop at a Bob Evans restaurant for breakfast. We don’t have any Bob Evans restaurants very close to where we live and my family had never been to one before. I had eaten at 
one during my work travel and had an idea of the type of food you could get there.  There was a Bob Evans close to where we were staying one night and I recommended it when my wife said she wanted breakfast.  Everyone was satisfied with everything we had except for my wife. She didn’t like the coffee.  She assumed that it was just a bad batch of coffee. We didn’t really think that much of it at the time.
​A few months later, my family was traveling in another part of the country and we decided to eat at another Bob Evans.  We ordered breakfast again and my wife ordered coffee.  She said it was bad again.  It was bad in the same way it was bad at the first restaurant.  I’m not a coffee drinker. At the time, my kids didn’t drink coffee either.  So, we had no one to confirm her claims that the coffee was bad.  She didn’t complain either time but she did drink more water than usual.
After this incident, Bob Evans coffee became a family joke.  Whenever we passed by one, we would ask my wife if she wanted to stop and get some coffee. I discovered a Bob Evans in Memphis about an hour away from our house. I also remember that behind the checkout counter they had bags of Bob Evans coffee beans.  The next year, I made a special trip to pick up some of this coffee for her for Mother’s Day. I also bought some other coffee that I knew she liked.  She tried some of the Bob Evans coffee beans and she said it tastes just like it does in the restaurant.
<![CDATA[Making the Video for Just Say You Don’t Love Me]]>Sat, 17 Jun 2017 14:08:08 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/making-the-video-for-just-say-you-dont-love-me
On June 2, 2016, my son turned 21.  I decided to take him on a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to celebrate his birthday. At the time, The Kentucky Bourbon Trail included visits to the facilities of 8 bourbon manufacturers in Kentucky. Three of the manufacturers had two facilities that you can visit so a 
complete tour included 11 stops.  There are tours and tastings at all of these stops. We did everything at all of the stops except for the Jim Beam facility in downtown Louisville. The main thing that they had going on at that stop were just tastings. We arrived there late on our first day of the trip with plans to eat a meal and celebrate my son’s birthday in the 4th Street district in downtown Louisville where this facility is located.  We moved to the celebration after walking through that shop.
I had written and recorded Just Say You Don’t Love Me months before this trip. I had already scheduled the release of the song for July 19, 2016. I was still working on promotional videos for several of the songs. I had some ideas about getting footage for the video while we were on this trip. My son had gone with me on other trips to get video for my videos. We took a trip to Arkansas for the Arkansas video. He took some of the most interesting video on our rides around the neighborhood to get video for the first Electric Jesus video. I originally thought that we might do the video while hanging out at the hotels at night. We ended up getting most of the footage during the long rides from one distillery to the next. We arrived at the Heaven Hill Distilleries on our last day before the facility opened. We did the footage where we are both singing while we were waiting in the parking lot.  Many people have told me that they thought it was nice that my son performs with me on this song.  It’s actually me doing all of the vocals on this song as it has been on all of my recordings.
Making the video took up very little time while we were on the trip. When you stop at all of the distilleries like we did and get your “passport” stamped at all of the stops, you can get a souvenir T-shirt like we did. The trip should take about 3 days but ours took 4. We got a late start on the first day and were done early on the last day. As of this writing, they have added one additional distillery to the tour so it might take an extra day to squeeze in all of the stops now. 
<![CDATA[Blind at the Beach]]>Thu, 08 Jun 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/blind-at-the-beachMy family and I were at the public beach in Panama City. I was on an inflatable raft and had made my way out to a sandbar.  While I was there, I saw my mom come out to the sandbar too.  I thought it was odd that she was there without an inflatable raft. Any other time I had seen here on the sandbar, she was on a raft. As she approached I shouted to her saying “How did you get out here?” She seemed confused and didn’t seem to understand what I was saying.  She asked what I said as she got closer. I asked the question again and she replied that she swam out there. That’s when I realized that this was not my mom. It didn’t sound like her. I am very nearsighted and didn’t have any glasses. But as she got closer I realized that she didn’t really look that much like my mom. She was nice lady and I ended up talking to her for a while but I would never have said anything to her if I knew it was someone else.
<![CDATA[First Florida Vacation]]>Sat, 03 Jun 2017 13:41:52 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/first-florida-vacation
My sister and I were both in elementary school when we took our first Florida vacation. I’m not sure how old we were. Panama City was our destination.  We packed the family station wagon with a tent and traveled all day. I’m not sure how early we started our trip and I think we got lost on 
the way there, but it was very late and we had not arrived. Everyone in the car had fallen asleep except for my dad and he finally got to a point where he could not stay awake any longer. He finally pulled the car over to the side of the road not really knowing where we were. 
​The next morning, we were awakened by the sound of traffic zooming by our car. We had made it to Panama City and were on the edge of town on the busiest road in town.  This road continued next to the public beaches and an amusement park. We continued until we found a campground called Magnolia Beach. Magnolia Beach was fine for a campground but wasn’t much of a beach. The waterfront property at this resort was fine for seeing fish and stingrays in the water and crabs on the beach but there were no waves and the water wasn’t that deep.  A fun place to explore but not so fun to play.
After we set up our tent, we went to the public beach area to play in the waves.  My dad was tired from the trip and quickly retreated to an umbrella on the beach and fell asleep. We spent a lot of time in the sun without any suntan lotion. This was at a time when skin cancer wasn’t really a major concern. More sun was better. No consideration was given to protecting your skin from dangerous rays from the sun. Most suntan lotions were oils to help keep your skin from drying out as it got darker and cooked in the sun. It’s also worth noting that my sister is a redhead and fair skinned. She blistered relatively quick. I don’t know that she ever put on a shirt to try and prevent any more blistering. My dad is also fair skinned and you would think that he would be ok under the umbrella. Unfortunately, he fell asleep long enough and the sun moved enough that his legs were exposed to the sun from the knees down.
That night, my sister was breathing heavily as she slept. I slept through all the action that took place that evening as my sister was taken to the hospital.  They found that she did have second degree burns but nothing had to be wrapped or treated with anything other than lotions. The next morning, we started our trip back home. My sister couldn’t wear anything but her underwear and one of my pajama shirts. My dad wore shorts but couldn’t wear socks or shoes. My mom and I had nice tans. My mom’s nose was a little red but not bad.  Our trip back home took us back through Memphis around time to eat an evening meal. We found a McDonalds and my sister insisted on going in with my mom as she got our food. This was before restaurants had “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policies so I guess they were ok with my barefoot sister coming in wearing only a pajama shirt.
That evening went we got home, our dog Cindy was excited to see us.  As my dad walked into the kitchen, Cindy jumped up on his blistered legs. 

After a few days, my mother’s nose fell off or at least the blistered skin came off in one piece. And later in the week, I was swinging on a swing in our backyard when my shoulder rubbed against the swing chain and my beautiful tanned skin rolled up and peeled off. 
<![CDATA[Highland Manor Winery]]>Wed, 24 May 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/highland-manor-winery
​Our family was on vacation visiting an area of Middle Tennessee where we lived for about three years. This was about a year or two after we had moved back to West Tennessee and our kids were still really young.  At the time our youngest daughter, Mary, was probably 
about 4 years old. When we lived in that area, we had discovered a winery called Highland Manor. It is the oldest winery in Tennessee. We found a couple of their wines that we really liked and planned to stop there any time we were in the area.
​My wife and I wanted to do some wine tasting before we purchased anything and while we were doing this, our kids spent time in the gift shop. The gift shop area appeared to be a couple of patio areas that had over time been taken in as additions to the original building. There were lots of interesting items in this shop but probably not the best place for three little kids to be roaming unsupervised. It looked like one of those shops that would have “you break it, you buy it” signs. Fortunately for us, our kids were careful and didn’t break anything. We wrapped up our wine tasting and we went into the gift shop area to find our kids. There was a narrow aisle that was crowded and in most areas would only accommodate one person.  We made it through the store far enough that we could see the kids but it was going to take a little time to get to them. There was a man between us and the kids that was on crutches and he only had one leg.  He was a little ways in front of us also moving toward our kids. As he approached Mary, she looked at us, peering through the area where his missing leg would have been.  She pointed at his leg as she shouted,” MOM! LOOK! HE’S ONLY GOT ONE LEG!!!” Like any good parent, we looked around behind us like she was talking to someone else.
<![CDATA[Big Game Hunting in Wyoming]]>Sat, 13 May 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/big-game-hunting-in-wyoming
​I have a friend that went big game hunting in Wyoming several years ago.  When he got back from his trip, he invited us over for a meal where we got to sample some meat from animals that we don’t usually find in West Tennessee except maybe at the zoo.  During the meal, he told us a story from his trip.

While his days were filled with hunting, he and his hunting companions were looking for a little ​
something to do at night. They went down to the desk of the place they were staying and asked if there was anything to do in town that night. The desk clerk asked if they had ever been to a chicken roping contest. They replied that they had never even heard of chicken roping. The clerk told them that the state championship was taking place in town that night. Of course they had to go.
​I remember my friend’s description of the place they went as being dirty and decadent.  Dust and smoke rising into the lights over an arena filled with chicken roping enthusiasts filled with liquor and beer. Chicken roping has two-man teams with one roping the neck and the other roping the legs. I envisioned smaller lassos with rope that looked more like dental floss. My friend assured me that regular rope was used. He said that the whole time they were at the contest, only one chicken was roped. I told him that he must have seen the Wyoming state champion. He said that they didn’t because they were disqualified for tugging to aggressively on the chicken. It sounds like the ASPCA has their eyes on the whole chicken roping industry.
That evening when I got home, I wasn’t convinced that my friend was telling me the truth. Chicken roping sounded like it was in the same category as a snipe hunt. When we got home, I checked on the internet to see what I could find out. Much to my surprise, I found many pictures from chicken roping contests. In the years since I first heard about it, I have also been able to find videos of chicken roping. The videos and pictures paint the picture of a more family friendly environment that what I remember from my friends story. But maybe the Wyoming State Chicken Roping Championship is just different.
<![CDATA[Graceland in Transition - Part Three]]>Thu, 04 May 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/graceland-in-transition-part-three
The first of 3 stories about my April trip to Graceland.​
​​We didn’t do the tour until Saturday after the conference was over. I was waiting on the back patio of the hotel while my wife was finishing up her last session. I talked to a man from Carbondale, Illinois who had gotten married at the Chapel at 
Graceland the day before.  He was a big Elvis fan and it was his idea to do the wedding there. It sounds like they have a nice area on the grounds to conduct weddings and they give the newlyweds and their party a special tour. I had never met anyone that had been married at Graceland or at least no one that told me about it. Later when we did the tour, we ran into another couple that had gotten married on Friday at Graceland. When I mentioned meeting the other couple, they said they were the only two couples that were married that day at Graceland. This second couple was younger and the bride was the one who was the Elvis fan. They were doing the tour with both sets of parents and they were all in from Pennsylvania.

​Elvis Presley’s Memphis

The new visitor’s center takes the Elvis experience in a new direction. I don’t intend for this to be a review of every detail of the changes to the Graceland tour but I think there are interesting differences at least at this point. The ticketing area for the tours appears to be larger and the restrooms are smaller. There is a cafeteria style restaurant in this building, a gift shop and staging areas where they show people a film before going to the staging area for the tour of the mansion. This was very similar to the ticketing area in the old building with the addition of food.
In the old visitor’s center, there were gift shops interspersed with the various exhibit halls. Practically every one of these would have you go through the attraction then exit through the gift shop that was most closely associated with the attraction.  For example, there was a car related gift shop next to the car museum.  You didn’t have to visit the car museum to visit the car gift shop.  That is all different at least for right now. Your ticket is scanned to get into the area with all the attractions like the museum with the jumpsuits and gold records, the cars or the archives area.  The archives were my favorite for no other reason than the fact that they had an old TV that Elvis had shot.  The gift shops were in the exhibit areas usually set off to one side. I’m not sure if they will leave it this way but it seems to be harder to get to more gifts, more opportunities to spend money without doing the tour.  They did have two gift shops outside of this ticketed area along with a BBQ restaurant and ice cream shop.  I’m sure they will find ways to maximize opportunities for people to spend money.  One of the ladies working in one of the gift shops mentioned that they don’t have music playing in their store yet. Another sign that they are still settling into the new space.
Speaking of money, the costs of the tours appears to have increased significantly. The most expensive tour runs around $150 per person but comes with a real tour guide, access to exclusive areas on the tour, all day access to return to all the attractions and a meal. The VIP tour runs almost $100 and eliminates the tour guide, but still gets you access to special exhibits, all day access and front of the line access to the tour bus. We went with the package that got us into all the attractions at the new visitor’s center, the mansion and the airplanes.
The exhibits in the new visitor’s center are all improvements over the old ones. The area with the gold records and jumpsuits expands on anything that they had previously. I’m not sure if they have all the gold records and awards transferred yet. I would recommend waiting to visit the new facility until they have an opportunity to settle in. They were still running wires and putting up signs in some of the exhibit halls. 
Another area that impressed me was a theater. The room was bigger that a normal movie theater. It had portable chairs instead of theater seats and the chairs were only in about half of the room.  This facility had a box office in the entryway and looked like it was big enough that it could be used for a variety of different types of activities.  I could see this being a place where some of the activities they had in temporary buildings on the grounds would take place now.
The only thing that didn’t seem to be working was a Fairgrounds exhibit. They had a variety of games set up like ones you would find on a carnival midway. When we were there, no one was tending most of the games and it appeared that the people working this exhibit didn’t know exactly what they were supposed to do. Like a carnival, I think these were pay to play games and win prizes but no one walking through this area seemed to be interested in that.  I think it’s worth them trying but I could see the exhibit not lasting long.  Hopefully it was just a placeholder for other ideas that would have taken too long to get up and running.

The Mansion

The tour of the mansion has changed some with the other changes. The racketball court has been restored to its original state instead of being a room full of gold records and jumpsuits. Many of the items in the trophy room have been relocated to the exhibits in the new visitor’s center. They have been replaced with more personal items like family Bibles and Elvis’ keys to Graceland.
I think Elvis fans will appreciate the upgrades that have been made and will adapt to the new surroundings. They will enjoy the new hotel. My wife has never really been that interested in going to Graceland for Elvis Week. The heat, the crowds and a lack of interest in Elvis were her main reasons for not wanting to go. She is now talking about staying at the hotel with her mom this summer and taking her on the tour.  And I think she would be more open to an Elvis Week trip but I wouldn’t place in bets on her going.
Read Part One of this story.
Read Part Two of this story
<![CDATA[Graceland in Transition - Part Two]]>Thu, 27 Apr 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/graceland-in-transition-part-two
The second of 3 stories about my April trip to Graceland.​
​The autism conference started on a Thursday. I stayed with my wife while she checked into the conference so I would have an idea of her schedule and when we would try to check in to the hotel. After she checked in, I decided to go down to the 
mansion and scope out the visitor’s center to get a first look at the changes.

Boulevard Souvenirs 

​ On my way to the mansion, I walked by Boulevard Souvenirs. This is the gift shop next to Graceland that sits between the mansion and the new hotel. It’s not an official Elvis Presley Enterprises business but has always been a great source of Elvis stuff. They tend to carry more cheap stuff, oddball stuff and items that have been discontinued or never carried at all at the official gift shops. You can get children’s Elvis jumpsuits at this store but not at the official stores. No trip to Graceland is complete without a stop at this store. It was about 9 in the morning and I was the only person in the store except for one clerk. The store is usually packed with fans.  I found a restroom in the store that I swear I didn’t know was there before. Later in the weekend, I would take my wife to this store and she was appropriately impressed.  There was a little more activity at the mansion with people stopping to take pictures and walking around the gates.  

​The Old Visitor’s Center

​The old visitor’s center directly across the street was virtually a ghost-town.  The buildings looked like the life was removed from them.  They could have been that way for years. I noticed issues with the roof on one of the buildings that I’m sure was in the same condition when I was there in August. The only activity was a few workers who appeared to be removing awnings or other tasks related to dismantling or emptying the shops.  I crossed the street to get a better look at what was going on and to figure out how to get to the new visitor’s center which was built behind the old one.  I walked south on Elvis Presley Boulevard in the direction of where I saw shuttle buses delivering visitors to the mansion. I soon found out that only buses went through this way. Of course, the entrance was next to the parking lot that I had parked in for years during my annual visits.  That parking lot is located on the other side of the old visitor’s center. While I on the property, I ran into several people that didn’t know how to get to the new visitor’s center. One had even been dropped off by a cab driver at the opposite end of the property from where they needed to be.  So even cab drivers who should know this are confused.  I assumed that they old facility would be torn down and I asked a couple of people but never got a good answer.  I didn’t really ask the most knowledgeable people either. One said they would turn the old buildings into offices.  Another said they were going to tear it down and landscape that area.  If the options, something like the second one would be better. They need to do something to connect the two areas better. And it would make it clearer where you need to go when you show up. I’m sure this is in the works and will be worked out by this year’s Elvis Week.
The only part of the old visitor’s center that was being used was the gift shop and entrance to the airplane exhibit. The walkway from the new area to the front door of this building was roped off to keep people out of most of the old visitor’s center. We went through this area as part of the tour and it is where you see Graceland in transition the most.  I have no idea about plans for the airplane exhibit but what they had during this visit will not work for long.
The shops in the area called Graceland Crossing didn’t start out as an officially endorsed part of the Elvis Week experience but had been taken over by Elvis Presley Enterprises over the last few years. This is where the tent was set up with Elvis performers during Elvis Week and became a focal point for my Elvis Week adventures.  I had never seen the parking lot without the tent and stage so I didn’t realize that there was a grass barrier that ran through the middle of this area.  It is usually covered by the stage when I’m there. The only reason that I noticed it was that they had one shop still open at Graceland Crossing and it was having a clearance sale. I think it was an attempt to have fewer things to move to the new stores and get rid of some inventory they didn’t really want to carry anymore.  In addition to a few items from the 2016 Elvis Week and this year’s Birthday celebration, they had a few CDs and DVDs, music books, kids toys and shirts.  They also had a wooden chess set with a picture of Elvis on the playing surface.  I didn’t take a picture of it because I thought I might go back and buy it.
Read more in next week's blog post.
Read Part One of this story
Read Part Three of this story

<![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 the Part Two blog post.
Read more in the Part Three blog post.

<![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.