Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category

Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum

September 17, 2009

Dear Diary,

I don’t know what YOU’ve been doing, but I’ve been backpacking through the Swiss Alps with my walrus friend, The Colonel.

JB and The Colonel.

JB and The Colonel.

So it was really hard to keep in touch. There were some rough days there when I didn’t think I would make it through. But The Colonel always pulled me back from the edge. And you know what? I think I’m better for it…

NOT! I was here all along, Diary. I just didn’t call you. So gullible, you are.

But I did do something wasply adventurous. I played a couple of shows a ways off from my native land, in the faraway nation of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. I was accompanied by my sometime-guitarist, photographer, securitizer, and friend Chucks Pranio. The people of Waynesburg UNIVERSITY (where the schooling happens, I presume) greeted us kindly and allowed me to play my jams in their beautiful performing arts center! It was one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever played in! You know I always prefer a traditional theater, Di. We’ll have to go back again sometime!

Fascinatingly, the nation of Waynesburg goes to bed quite early! So when Chucks and I ventured out to gather some food, we found no open stores or restaurants, and resolved on the only place with any sign of life, the Wendy’s drive-thru.


As you know, I myself do not eat beef or poultry, Diary, so I ordered a baked potato from the voice in the box. It was quick to inform me, though, that all of the baked potatoes had been sold as of 20 minutes prior. Instead I ordered a Caesar salad and some french fries. (Between you and me, Di, I couldn’t see why, if they had french fries, that they couldn’t fashion a single baked potato out of the lot by pressing them together but I didn’t ask questions.) When I did bring my meal back to my hotel, I was surprised to find bacon on my Caesar salad…

But aside from this single time-sensitive incident, I can still say that I honestly enjoyed this new land. Its inhabitants were friendly, kind, and welcoming. And the next morning, Chucks and I set out on a short journey to find an establishment known as the Airport Restaurant.

We did. And we ate there.

Then came the Commonwealth of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We drove through the Appalachians to meet the angel-voiced singer-songwriter, Christopher Morse. He and I were to perform in nearby Mechanicsburg that night. (It should be noted, Diary, that much of this drive was underscored by David Lucas Burge’s 12-disc master class on Perfect Pitch.

The Eerie David Lucas Burge

The Eerie David Lucas Burge

And yes. It was both wild AND crazy.) I quickly realized, as we entered the city-state, that Gettysburg is one of my new favorite places. It maintains a perfect blend of old and new. Aged and modernized. Crummy and shiny.

I also began to notice a series of rather large signs, all directing us to a venerable wonderland known as Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum.

Mr. Ed and an elephotty.

Mr. Ed and an elephotty.

Once this series began, we knew that we had no choice and would be spiritually required to complete this pilgrimage to mecca.

We drove through the magical entrance, Di, and as promised, it was filled with elephants. But not just elephants. Homemade fudge! And puppets! And whoopie cushions! And an enchanted forest! Basically, Di, it was heaven.

It turns out that Mister Ed (who was not “home” at the moment) had been in business for 34 years! Chucks and I took some photos.

JB and an elephant.

JB and an elephant.

I even bought some chocolate-covered sun flower seeds, which I’m eating RIGHT NOW as I type this!

Once we pulled ourselves away, we ventured off to the cemetery where Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. Is was quite amazing. And many of the graves are marked with symbols of the freemasons but that’s a whole other can of worms! We knew we were walking on hallowed ground. If you ever get a chance, Di, go. I only wish we could have stayed longer.

Christopher Morse

Christopher Morse.

Christopher Morse.

and his crew of lovely ladies were a wonderful treat to end a great excursion. We played at Juice & Java in the District of Mechanicsburg, though my set was cut brief by some laryngitis which I am still currently fighting. He filled the room with his heavenly sounds. As did Miss Anna De La Motte (with her own heavenly sounds)

I’m tired now, Diary. I’m taking a nap. Writing is exhausting. I’m going to try to nurse myself back to health.

With a gingerly wave,


Dear New York, I Hate You

April 20, 2009

Dear Diary,

As of the moment, I hate the city of New York. I don’t hate the people. They’re fine. The location is fine. The stuff they have is fine too, I guess. But do you know what I hate? Money-hungry laws. For instance:

I was parked on Allen Street in the village near Rockwood Music Hall where I played a few weeks ago. I got one choice spot too! Right in front. As per usual, a few friends and I took a stroll around the corner to Ludlow after the show and snagged some breakthtakingly delicious crepes at the Creperie. When we returned to my vehicle, it had a ticket on the windshield. I was struck speechless with rage. Apparently street cleaning hours had begun 25 minutes  prior. Now I don’t know if anyone had actually attempted to clean the street during that exact time frame but I guess they just wanted the option. 

I had been parked there for over 3 hours and the last 25 minutes were the only ones that counted. The biggest kick was that if we had just gone home after the show had ended and not stopped for a snack, I would be $65 richer. That was the most expensive crepe I have ever eaten in my entire life.


I paid my ticket online today. I will reveal to you the fact that I was shouting to the heavens even as I did this 3 weeks after said offense. I shouted sarcastic remarks about the city of New York being so poor and me being so rich and how they could use this money much more than I could. 

To add insult to injury, as I attempted to “check out” (of a store in which there are no actual products), I incurred a $2 convenience charge for paying my ticket online. But you know what? They’re right. It was so convenient. So convenient to turn over my hard-earned money to the man in the sky and have him tell me, “Wasn’t this easy? How’s about 2 more bucks.”

Backtracking, I shouldn’t say that I checked out of a store in which there were no products. Because there were. I paid $65 ($67)  and they gave me self- pity, unfocused rage,  and a set of prematurely worn-down molars. I walked away with a package deal!

So I should really have titled this blog:

Dear New York, Thank YOU!


Getting over it,


Kickin’ it in Nashville for NACA

February 24, 2009


I have missed you so much. I’ve been everywhere under the sun. I can’t say that I spent too much time in each place but I at least passed through.

I drove to Nasvhille, TN, Di! Yeah. I was there for the National NACA Convention.

What is that? I’ve told you so many times. But it goes in one ear and out the other. NACA stands for National Association for Campus Activities. Basically it’s a trade show of entertainment where college students are the consumers and the product we are selling is…ourselves. I know that sounds creepy when you say it like that, Di. 

But sometimes you have to see it to understand it. A description only takes you so far. For instance, Captain Planet:

A group of 5 children who really care about the environment, wear matching rings, nickname themselves after all the elements (and invent a fifth element called “heart”…) and when they all get together, they conjure up a blue man. 


Captain Planet and the "Planeteers."

Captain Planet and the "Planeteers."



It’s all about perspective, Di.

So I got to meet all these cool kids. (Hello, Alesha, Brittany, Kevin, Troy, JD, Ian, and Stephanie!) They listened to my jams on an ipod, they saw vids of my music on a laptop, we gave away tons of free stuff, and some of them decided to book me at their school. Amanda Duncan and Anthony Fiumano were there too. We all went under the booking company Hey Cole Presents. Look! Here’s a pic of our booth!


Our Booth.

Our Booth.



In our travels, we knew we’d be passing through certain areas, namely the fried chicken capital of the world, aka, the south. We also passed by a tattoo joint called Icon. Now I had no agenda besides NACA during our trip, but Cole from Hey Cole Presents decided she wanted a tattoo. I took some extensive video which I may edit down to show you but until then, here are a couple of choice pics of the event.


Tattoo City: Population: Cole

Tattoo City: Population: Cole

Meet the Mayor of Tattoo Town: Cole Tattooman.


Likewise, Amanda Duncan learned of one of the best friend chicken places in the country. It’s called the Loveless Cafe. It used to be a motel but years ago, it was converted into the cafe as it now stands. There is one thing about this place that we knew we wanted to see and that was the Biscuit Lady, Carol Fay. 

(watch for her at around 2:08)

Unfortunately, Carol Fay had gone home for the day by the time we made it there, but we still had some great food served by our lovely waitress Melody. She even hooked us up with some biscuits to take on the road!

I had a great time, Di. BUT we also ate at a place called Huddle House.


Huddle House (better lit than ours)

Huddle House (better lit than ours)



Most people from the south, I’d imagine, would probably tell you not to go there, but we were just a bunch of northerners in a Jeep so we had no way of knowing the HORROR of Huddle House. Take this warning as seriously as possible. DO NOT GO TO HUDDLE HOUSE. Unless you’re ordering a pancake and a glass of water. Everything else is a no go.

Ok, Miss Diary. I guess I’ll be on my way now. It took me a couple of days to recover from the sleepless nights of travel but I’ll be doing some more travel next week! when I go to Washington D.C. for a rally for the Music First Coalition and then to East Stroudsburg, PA to showcase at anOTHER NACA event called the Mid-Atlantic Festival. Until tomorrow, Di!

With kisses that accidentally miss the cheek and go right to the mouth,


A Church, A Mosque, A Temple

January 16, 2009

Dearest Diary,

     What religion do you follow? I know your mom is Jewish but I don’t recall being invited to any bat mitzvahs. So I guess you don’t practice?

Well, you don’t have to tell me. Maybe you haven’t decided yet. I’m cool with that. Likewise, I don’t know if I told you, but I have embarked on an expedition, Di!

Yes. An expedition. 

My friend Ilona Pamplona and I have begun a LEARNING expedition. We are visiting a new worship service every week or so. One from every religion we can think of. The only rule is that we cannot go to a church of the religion that we grew up in. Mostly because that would be boring and would defeat the purpose.

No, Di. We’re not shopping religions, although it seems like YOU want to… We’re just interested to know what they’re like. We’re kind of like Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network. 


Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri

Only we don’t have spiky bleached hair, we’re not searching for tasty food, and we’re not men named Guy Fieri. But we ARE  looking to find something we didn’t know before.

So far, we’ve visited a Baptist church. Now Ilona Pamplona and I both had preconceived notions of what this would be like. We imagined, as I’m sure you are right now, people singing loudly, women in Sunday-goin-to-meetin hats,


Look at the secret little girl in the bottom right corner.

Look at the secret little girl in the bottom right corner.

a rambunctious preacher, and a firey passion that would intimidate most people.

No no no, Di. I THOUGHT you would think that. But you live a sheltered life and could not be more wrong.

It was one of the most laid back experiences… The people could not have been more welcoming (not at all intimidating), it was rather reserved, and for the most part, people were dressed as you would see any other human on the street. I have to admit. I was a little disappointed. I wanted to see something radical that would blast me in the face with the diversity of this world in which we live. I did not come in contact with anything all that diverse. So far, we have remained, unfortunately,  within our comfort zone. But you know what, Di, this may have been a different denomination. It may have been reformed or any of those other things that churches do to try to make themselves look cool. 

I would include a pic of this place but I’ve made a conscious choice to omit that from this entry and any other entry that reviews a religious center. I don’t want to discriminate, Di. And if I have anything negative to say, I don’t want to make anyone look bad.

Hey, maybe we’ll even start using fake names each week so they won’t know it’s us. Like maybe I’ll take your name. 

“Hello, my name is Di Burns.”

Or, no, I can’t use Burns.

“Hello, my name is Di Snears”

I like that. I just made it up on the spot.

So anyway, you’ll be hearing a lot about our expedition so I’ll stop here for now. And Di, just so you know, I’m ok with you exploring your options in the religious world but if I find out that you’ve been Jewish all along and I wasn’t invited to your bat mitvah, I am gonna be so pissed.

love, jb


ps.  Ilona Pamplona told me she ‘s about to launch a new travel, art, and culture blog so I’ll be over there soon too, making a guest appearance. I can’t wait for you to meet her.

A Dance With the Devil

November 20, 2008

Dear Diary,

     Have you ever seen Supersize Me?


The poster for Supersize Me.

The poster for Supersize Me.

Yeah. That movie that came out about 6 years ago where the guy runs a sort of experiment on himself wherein he consumes nothing but McDonald’s products for a full year. And he charts the changes it makes to his body.

So being an impressionable loser, I vowed never to eat McDonald’s food again… and hadn’t for the last 6 years…until last Saturday.


The McDonald's logo.

The McDonald's logo.


That’s when I had a voluntary relapse. Yes, Di. I said “voluntary.” That would mean that I was fully aware of what I was doing. Of my own, free will, I took a trip down to the nearest establishment, and ordered a #14. That’s a fish sandwich with fries and a drink. 

As I walked in, I couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone in the place knew each other and that I was the out-of-towner even though I was technically in the town where I live.

So while I broke the 6-year streak of no McDonald’s, I was pleased to find that it no longer had the seductive effect on me that it once did. I was not drawn to it. I did not need it, and when I finished my strange, albeit tasty meal, I never wanted to go back. At least not for another 6 years.

I should say though, Di, that it did bring back some childhood memories. I remembered going there with my brother and my dad buying us lunch on a Saturday.

The Burns family.

The Burns family.

That’s how they getcha! Or so I saw in Supersize me. They start you young.

But I think what I realized most, Di, was that McDonald’s is not the devil. It’s just a burger joint. 

And while it does possess a certain amount of power, like the Sphinx


The Sphinx.

The Sphinx.


                                  or Oprah,





there’s a lot more to life than quietly protesting fast food. 

One thing I do know is that I can’t wait to eat another fish sandwich in 2014!

With Love and Hugs That Last a Little Too Long,


Cows, Gourds, Peeing, and 50-Year-Old Men

November 18, 2008


I milked a cow. With my mom.

I did not want to do that.


Joanna and a Cow

Joanna and a Cow



I went through a haunted corn maze and was forced through something called a “squeeze machine” that almost made me pee in my pants.

I did not expect to do that.

I sang “My Girl” as the front-woman to a cover band comprised of 50 year old men.

I did not intend to do that. … Now I’m excited to make a trek out to Delaware and bear witness to something called “Pumpkin Chunkin’.” I’m going to get to watch people catapult gourds through the air. My life may never be more complete than it is right now. p.s. I’m not enjoying Twilight very much.