Tour Diary - Lancaster, December 5, 2009
A Good Hair Day, among other things...

On the morning of December 5, my second morning in Lancaster, I went to the adorable and highly recommended Chestnut Street Cafe to get some coffee (and a red velvet cupcake) for breakfast... I brought with me some flyers for the exhibit's opening night, which coincided with the town's monthly First Friday art crawl.

I had a nice chat with the barista about which particular coffee they were serving that morning was the darkest, smokiest brew, and casually asked what that nice young man was doing after work. I handed him a couple of flyers and asked him to share with his co-workers, when one of them asked me "Are you the photographer?" And she said that she had read about me in the morning paper. At that time, I had yet to see the morning paper, which would be waiting for me at Metropolis. I knew I was going to be in it, but to what extent remained a mystery. The previous day, both a photographer and reporter spent time with me and overnight WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA'AM... a photo of me "in action" was not just above the fold - it was under the banner!!! This is as noticeable a placement as the headlines... only better... because its a color picture. Move over Kennedy's... my publicist can kick your publicist's butt.

Punk Rock as a headline in Amish country. Whoo Hoo! Hey Stiv - we did it. I sorta feel like Obama... yes we can; yes WE DID.

All day long, when I was finally doing my little site-seeing in Lancaster, and handing people flyers, they were saying "I read about you in the paper." Wow. Almost famous. Infamous, I know. Celebrated? Who knew?

Lancaster is an interesting town. Its a college town and it is the heart of Amish country. A great and wonderful thing about Lancaster's downtown -- there are almost NO CHAIN retailers! Yes, yes, Goodyear is a chain, but this is on the outside perimeter of the renovated downtown. There is a Dunkin Donuts, but their storefront fits in perfectly with the rest of the storefronts, and of course, there are banks such as Wachovia, Bank of America... but there's no landscape of garish neon making this town look like any other. I applaud that!

Additionally, it is fair and accurate to say that the revitalization of Lancaster's downtown scene can be attributed to Gallery Row. We know it is true, when the economy cannot support industry, both service and culture become the revenue stream. I'm hoping that the economy rebounds, but gets steered more by culture and service than say.... the war industry.

President James Buchanan is from Pennsylvania and died in Lancaster and the Masonic Lodge (#43 to be exact) where he and his fellow cabal of Masons did their thing is basically behind Metropolis Gallery. Fourteen US Presidents have admitted to being Masons - even the Skull & Bones men. Then I hear that ALL the Presidents have been Masons. Makes me wonder about Obama.

Can we get a punk rock secret society going? I'm not talking about the cult of the Germs burn... I'm talking about wielding power at "leader of the free world" level. Kind of. Really.

Another olde time tradition I experienced in Lancaster was their Farmers Market - the oldest continually running Farmers Market in the nation. Those of you who know me know that I'm all about buying directly from growers and supporting local farmers and businesses. This market obviously has a lot of Amish and Mennonite vendors, and I bought a $2 Amish cookbook. Then there's the Pennsylvania Dutch thing (they're Germans... Dutch for "Deutschland")-- if you saw the movie "Witness" (Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis), you'll know I really can't explain it - you have to be there. Suffice it to say, its a lifestyle that's the polar opposite of all I know.

But that's what is so wonderful about being able to travel - to experience lifestyles and places different from what you know and are familiar with.

The opening itself was amazing. Throughout the day, there was a steady stream of people stopping into the Gallery... it was about as cold as cold gets, and windy too... yet people were getting their culture on! I met a group of people who were not just punk fans but bonafide record collecting aficionados. Its pretty exciting to learn that all the trials and tribulations of your attempts to get on the map actually put you there.

At the opening, I autographed copies of The Germs "Forming" single and also a couple copies of Stiv Bators solo album "Disconnected." Someone even had a Pandoras "Hot Generation" single with autographs of all the band members. A completist, this man now has even the photographer's signature!

Frank Secich, Stiv Bators & Greg Shaw
Frank Secich, Stiv Bators, Greg Shaw

Of the three men pictured above, two are from these parts (Frank, from PA and Stiv from Ohio) and one is from liberal, artsy, hipper than thou San Francisco (Greg). They are, however, three of the most important men in my punk rock life and career. Greg Shaw threw a lot of work my way, and Stiv the big brother I never had was the best photo subject you could dream of. Frank was then and continues to be the voice of reason.

In closing, there are many people to thank for this wonderful time... it all starts with Gregg Kostelich of Get Hip and The Cynics (Pittsburgh) who introduced me to the Gallery - Angelo and Lisa Madrigale. Fabulous people... and Angelo's brother Mike, who owns the record store (all vinyl!!) around the corner, Mr Suit, and Angelo & Mike's dad, Jerry, who lent me his apartment during my stay. Then there's the Jeffs - Breil and Royer. Without them... and without Debra Anderson, I'd be anonymous. Mike's girlfriend Amy pulled a favor and got me into the salon where she gets her hair cut so I could look good for my opening. She saved the day!