Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dallas Death and Disappointment


“Starbucks, Tampons, and Conspiracy.” Chuck summarizing the various band members needs that will be met by Dallas

“(insert rude sound) Fazoli’s!!” John from inside the stall at a Fazoli’s. You could hear Chuck laughing throughout the whole restaurant.

Fauna: I will continue to hope, but I’m guessing that fauna is going to be hard to come by from here on out.

Nice quiet start to the day; paid bills, folded clothes, filed band receipts, ate lunch with my friends, and had some good dog time before the band picked me up to head on to Dallas. The van was eerily silent and I realized they hadn’t gotten to have a break from each other. Still everyone was doing OK.

Rene really wanted to see the assassination site, so before we went to the club we travelled through Dealey Plaza. It went by so fast I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I said I was going to have to walk back and look at it more closely and everyone in the van said, “Why? We just did it.”  So we made our way to the club, were scolded by valet parking dudes because we were encroaching on their area by about two feet, backed up, parked over a sewer grate and were assaulted by the smell of corpses rotting. Loaded in up two flights of stairs at a club called City Tavern, which was right next to a velvet rope club called Plush. Plush was the kind of club that had a man wearing a tuxedo standing inside a door with no windows and horrible faux fuck if I know statues of women with bared breasts and no nipples. Between that club and the sidewalk patio of the Tavern there were at any given time 20-30 people willfully ignoring, actively enjoying, and tenaciously pursuing their Snookie inspired lifestyles and cigarettes completely encased in the smell of slaughterhouses in August.

I was anxious and crawling out of my skin so I started walking. Dallas is a very clean, new looking city. It had that open feel that I’ve seen so much in these western cities, which were obviously built with an infinite sense of space. I know Dallas has been around a long time because I stumbled across what is presumably a replica of the first post office that marked the beginning of Dallas, but it really looked like everything was less than 20 years old. I came across a decent cemetery and a herd of bronze life-sized long horn cattle before I made it to the Kennedy Memorial. It’s emotional impact lay somewhere between the Vietnam Memorial and a youtube video of a kitten playing with a crab on the beach. In other words I get what they were going for and I think their intention was good, but in the end it’s just a big box with a black slab inside it bearing J.F.K.’s name. I laid down on the slab to take a picture pointed at the sky in an attempt to capture the stated intent of the artist in creating a quiet place inside the city. It didn’t work but as I was sitting up I heard a loud, friendly voice cackling, “Ah ha ha ha, I’ve seen a lot of pictures here but I’ve never seen someone try that!” (It’s possible he was shining me on) It was a surprise because Dallas at that hour on that street was essentially a ghost town. A homeless man came ambling up to me like a sage in a poorly written movie about to dispense wisdom and crystallize the solution to a problem so obvious the audience had known it for an hour, however he just wanted to take me on a tour of the assassination. I thanked him and told him honestly the reason I was walking was to be alone. He was cool with that, I gave him a few bucks, and continued on. I walked past the old courthouse and found myself in Dealey Square. I will confess now that I am not a scholar of the assassination. I’ve seen the same famous pictures everyone else has, but talk of conspiracies has a negative impact on me; like reversed polarity magnets. An argument could be made that people who believe in conspiracies are optimists because they believe humans are far more intelligent than I do, albeit evil and conniving. To pull off most conspiracies requires a cleverness and dedication, not to mention ability to go to the grave carrying a secret of unacknowledged success than I think is typical in most human endeavors. You know what Benjamin Franklin said, “Three people can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead.” That said, I am also in awe of mankind’s innate curiosity and ability to peel back at least some of the mysteries of the universe. I believe that a lot of the hard things we do comes from an inherited shame that we do not live up to our better angels, and that it is our deepest inclination to be generous and kind.  Or as Joe Henry put it, “God only knows that we mean well, and God knows that we just don’t know how.”

To get back to Dealey Square, I kept turning around in circles confused. I couldn’t square the reality with the pictures. Even after sunset on a Wednesday night the area was a hive of activity. I saw a group over by what I assumed was the grassy knoll and went over and eavesdropped as an unofficial tour guide was holding court. I finally figured out which building was the depository and which window the shots came from. I stood in the street and could take in the entire tableau. I figured out what was throwing me. Everything was so much smaller and closer together than what I thought. From the square across the street, to the knoll and on over to the depository seems like it could fit in maybe a football field and a half. The shot from the window is completely make-able. The Clock Tower shootings were from much farther away. You could throw a damn rock from the knoll and hit the motorcade. Guns are loud, I don’t see how someone could have fired a rifle from the there and not had it be completely obvious. Regardless, as I stood in the street I had the same overwhelming feeling of loss and sadness that I felt at the Clocktower; of lives changed and cut-off, of pain and mourning. In the way that alcoholism or abuse can echo through a family for generations after the fact, I feel like these places of violence still send out ripples and that is why, more than just morbid curiosity, people are attracted to them and grow silent in their presence.

As I was standing there another hale, hearty, homeless voice called out to me, but this time rolling without pause into what really happened. He wanted to show me where a bullet had hit but I asked if he could just point out stuff from where we stood. He talked about the changed route, pointed out where the other shooters were and about the missing network footage. After a particular point I said, ”Yeah, but the depository window had the best angle.” He said, “Yeah, you got it! You right.” Then he gave me a high five. I paid him and walked for awhile longer before getting back to the club.

And that’s when the wheels came off. From our first note on stage nothing was right. It’s easy to be a good band when you’re well-rested, you can hear everything, and the audience is adoring. A band makes its bones when faced with adversity and still puts on a good show.  In the end we just didn’t do our jobs and let down the people who’d waited a long time to see us. It’s not the end of the world, but still I feel embarrassed. The feeling is that maybe it kind of shook us up and now we’ll finish the tour strong as opposed to limping home. Here’s hoping.

Tomorrow is Little Rock, another place we have a little making up to do.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Raton de chocolat!


Over sink at Mohawk.


If One More Person Says Keep Austin Weird...


“Oh no, I forgot to put flowers on my grandparents grave this year.” - Chuck
 Long pause
“Have you ever?”- Lisa
“No “- Chuck

“Kenny G blows the horn of my soul.” – Chuck

“It’s Satan’s taint hot.” – Door guy at The Mohawk

Fauna: Palmetto bugs, Ramblers

I was to join back up with the band at 3:00 for our in studio at the KUT radio station. The load-in got pushed back to 3:30 so I had a little time to check out the campus of UT. (In the 106 degree heat) So when my friend dropped me off and pulled away I turned around to get my bearings and received a small punch in the gut when there right in front of me was the Clock Tower from the horrifying 1966 massacre. It’s not like I dwell on that particular dark chapter of our nations past, but to have the most indelible primary image from that tragedy suddenly appear causes a lurch in your soul. I had just forgotten it was on that campus. I knew there was a memorial somewhere around there so I went in search of it. It turned out to be a lovely, peaceful garden with a small pond filled almost to capacity with moss-covered turtles. I offered up what insufficient prayer I could muster and walked back to the studio trying hard not to think about all the kids running around campus looking so damn young. I can deal with a lot, but the things humans to do each other has the greatest capacity to break my heart.

KUT was a much quieter place than KEXP, but they had a generously appointed studio with good gear and a good sized room. Cliff the engineer and Matt the host were super professional and nice. We played some songs, engaged in some on-air banter, took some pictures and went on our way.

Our show that night was at a club called The Mohawk. Getting to play The Mohawk the first time in town (SXSW doesn’t count) is a pretty good thing; a lot of national bands play there and all that.

(Camera zooms in slowly, pastoral music rises. We see a young soldier place a four-leaf clover in his Bible to mark the place. As he begins to thoughtfully compose a letter to his girl back home the camera slowly pulls back as the music becomes minor key, ominous, until a single violin is left playing)

Something had gone wrong with the club and we still don’t know what. We couldn’t get them to list the show on the club website until a week before the show. They didn’t list it in the local papers. Carl had trouble getting press because no one could confirm the show was happening. Everyone was cool when we got to the club and the vibe was fine, shit like this just happens sometimes. Who knows? (I mean someone knows, but I'm not going to sweat it) They turned the whole upper floor over to the band so we had our own private pool table, dart board, bathroom. It was sweet. But as of 9:00, no one was there. 10:00? Still no one. We were thinking of arranging the dead crickets in a line in front of the stage and naming them, but it’s not like we haven’t played a hundred shows like this. I just always pretend I’m in The Police for their legendary first show in New York where almost no one showed up and now hundreds of people claim to have been there. (I'm Stewart Copeland because he has supple wrists) By 11 when the opener Jason Ludwig was playing about 10 people had wandered in. Some old expat Cincinnati friends began coming in and the mood began to lighten. By the time we went on we played to around 25 people. I thought we played well, Joe thought we sucked, but it ended up being a good night.

I finished the night at a 24 hour bakery/restaurant called La Mexicana where I ordered a Raton de Chocolat. It was like a home-made Hostess cupcake but in the shape of a rat and about a hundred times more dense. I also ordered a vegetarian potato and bean taco that they added the meat to for free.

Tomorrow is Dallas. 

Off Day


“More hammered than enamored.”  Misheard  statement

Fauna:  Boat-Tailed Grackles, (duh- we’re in Austin) English Mastiff, Boston Terrier

No show tonight. I’m gonna go all Hemmingway on this post . By which I mean I’m going to keep it succinct, not that I’m going to write overly dramatic metaphors expressing deep-seated insecurities about my manhood and then blow my brains out.

We drove. I got dropped off at the house of two of my dearest friends who moved to Austin about a year ago. I have my own room and a bathroom with no one waiting to use it or commenting on how it had been used. Laundry. Luxurious 3 Sh’s. (first one is shower) Day drinking. Wound up in a Spiritual Bookstore well in my cups. Pursued enlightenment. Failed.  Made Monty Python fart sounds. Giggled. Stumbled home. Watched Archer and Home Movies. Slept.

Great evening. Homicidal inclinations reduced by 42%.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Driving Day #3 - The Worsening

 “Are you a family?” Border Patrol guard questioning Lisa at a control point.
“Yes.” Lisa
“We’re from Ohio.” Rene’

“That old woman gave a disapproving look at my tattoos so I crop dusted her” Chuck

“I was talking to a puddle” Chuck (see below)

“You can’t fake tight.”  Carl (presumably talking about music)

“Not taking the plastic off of a frozen pizza is like trying to piss through your underwear.” Chuck

Fauna: Cassin’s Kingbird, Roadrunner (I was out looking for birds and whatnot all morning and I saw the aforementioned Kingbird. Not bad but Lisa and Rene just walk around the building and see a fucking Roadrunner. I’ve never seen one. Oh I’ve looked in all the right places, but no. I’m so angry I could spit)

We haven’t had a day off since we began 18 days ago. Obviously if you’ve read any other posts there have been lots of lovely non-driving/playing moments, and the shows have been wonderful to play (hopefully to listen to) but whatever, it’s been a pretty busy two and a half weeks. I woke up exhausted and dispirited. I swear I’m not trying to be whiny or complaining. We knew going in it was an intense schedule and this point was inevitable. (Bob Log III played 60 shows in 63 days, I get it) Tomorrow was to be our only straight up day off if we could get to Austin today, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Sucks but we’ll still get most of a day off and then I’m sure we’ll all be right as rain and ready to put a strong finish on the trip. Or not.

Today’s drive took us from eastern Arizona, through the tip of New Mexico (just the tip!) and a good ways into Texas. It was a day of pretty much unbroken scrubby desert with only the occasional lively dust devil and gaudy gas station souvenirs to break the monotony. I don’t know, it was a kind of grind it out day. I just dozed and listened to Eddie Izzard and my meditation tape. (I know it’s not a tape but everything else sounds stupid) Everyone was in an OK mood, not a lot of hilarity, not a lot of grousing. We decided to push on to Junction, which would have us arriving around 3:30am.  And then somewhere between midnight and 1:00 that moment of grace that has visited our travels so often this trip finally arrived. We pulled off the highway onto the frontage road at some random point in the middle of fuck all and piled out of the car to look at the stars. Even before our eyes had adjusted to the dark the milky way was glowing like the rest of our galaxy really was right next door and not some unbridgeable, unimaginable distance away. We identified the meager collection of constellations we knew, talked about Andromeda, and looked through binoculars as every minute the sky became clearer. And then of course we hear John and Chuck begin to laugh hysterically. Chuck had seen a dark shape on the road and assumed it was John laying down to look at the stars so he began talking to him. Only it wasn’t John it was a puddle, and when John walked up to it scared the shit out of him. About then, before we were ready to leave, a truck appeared on our road and there we were with our lights off. So we scrambled back in the van and went back to it.

We got to the motel at 3:00 and immediately felt like we’d stepped into the Land of the Lost. Every single insect was dinosaur size. This was definitely a hotel requiring a thorough bed buck check. As soon as I pulled back the corner of the sheet I realized with horror that we’d checked into the murder mattress motel. (MMM approved!) The stains went all the way to the corner. And they were fresh looking too. I had a clinical case of the willies all night. Chuck stayed in the van and told us the next morning that as soon as he fell asleep a car alarm started going off. It went on for 45 minutes. Chuck said when he looked out there was a pot-bellied man standing there with his hands on his hips just staring at the car like he was Kreskin hoping to mentally de-activate the din. Finally, a woman walked up to the car, pressed a remote and stopped the alarm. As soon as she walked away the man leaned over and touched the car. The alarm started again. The woman then reappeared, repeated the procedure and then they both left.

Tomorrow, God willing is Austin.

Sunday, June 24, 2012



Quotes: I looked where I write quotes down and there wasn’t a damn one. I was navigator today and there’s a weird invisible wall that makes it hard to hear when you’re up front. I heard John and Chuck giggling like fools in the back seat but you’ll have to ask them what was so funny.

Fauna: Jackrabbit,  Dove (looked like a Eurasian collared dove but the range isn’t really right. Could’ve been a white-winged dove sings the song sounds like she’s singing ooh baby ooh I said ooh….)

The tour blog looks to enter a bit of a lull. We’ve hit a perfect storm of travelling across the southwestern desert with a feeling of exhaustion that has begun to wear thin spots in the veneer of civility covering the festering, simmering, gangrenous, hatred like bed sores in a cut-rate nursing home. No one was particularly eager to leave the Hyatt and Palm Springs, but we had a long ride to Tucson ahead of us. Thus, with much feet dragging we finally entered our first of what I assume we can call low desert. It really is beautiful. For awhile. The whole tour we’d heard that Arizona could be a rough for bands. One guy in a band going so far as to say, “keep writing the blog, I can’t wait to find out what happens.” Then we started to hear rumors that we’d have to cross some sort of checkpoint in El Paso. Just kind of added a soupcon of anxiety.

The cool thing about our show in Tucson was that were going to meet Carl, the man who has done press for Wussy since Funeral Dress. He had even worked some of the Ass Pony records but we’d never met him. This is the man who got us in Rolling Stone and really has done probably more than anyone to ensure that people actually come to our shows. Plus, we were opening up for Bob Log III. He’s a performer who wears a motorcycle or ski helmet with a microphone stuck in it. He plays slide guitar and has a set-up where he plays drums with his feet. He’s hilarious and an amazing showman. He hadn’t played his hometown in Tucson for awhile so a good crowd was expected. Plus Carl, who lives there, had got us some good press. Tucson reminded us of Dayton but the street we were on was a hopping place with five solo performers on the street and I got my kid a vampire cat shirt. Carl took us to a Guatemalan restaurant next door to the club (Plush) that was so freaking good I can still taste it like I can still taste my first kiss of a women’s sweet love nest.  Carl was a gracious host and a super nice guy. So that was cool.

As I was walking off my dinner a local walked out of a bar and exclaimed, “God, it’s like living in a fucking dryer.” Because it was hot. Apparently notably hot as the local rag had an unfunny cartoon of the devil hitching out of Tucson with a Bound For Hell sign saying he needed to go back to cool down.

So we got onstage, (holding a beer brewed in Roswell called Alien Amber Ale!) Chuck was hot and his amp was acting up, Lisa felt like shit, I was cranky, but the place was packed and the audience was into it. I was proud of us and I think we put on a pretty good show. We decided to drive about an hour and a half out of town to Wilcox and by the time we got there we were beyond done. Lisa and I got into a screaming match over something that at a different time would have been resolved with a pleasant conversation.

That was our day. Tomorrow is a driving day.

The Town of Love

1. What is the bird of love? The Swallow

2. Even in winter there are no snowballs here.

3. I don't give a dental dam!

L.A. Crowd

A Metaphor

Ventura Crowd

L.A./Hollywood/Palm Springs (that's right)

Los Angeles/Hollywood


“Musical Ass Splatter.” Chuck in no way describing a specific band.

“I’m not paying you to talk – now dust my dingle.”  Speculative conversation between a male prostitute and client that Chuck saw the first time he was in L.A. The man was on a corner and was significantly larger and hairier than Chuck. Oh and he was wearing a French Maid’s costume. Someone pulled up in a station wagon and off they went.

“Side boob Santa, he’s my friend” sung by Chuck

“My names is Bob but people call me Curtis. Why? Because my hair is curly.” "Oh" Former co-worker of Chucks.

“It was like seeing Television at CBGB’s.” Perhaps the nicest compliment we’ve ever received. From a writer in L.A.

Fauna: Costa’s Hummingbird (tentative)

Our tour manager had an early afternoon meeting in Burbank so we decamped from our San Clemente haven. We had an hour or so to kill so we decided to go to a gallery/store called Hyaena. It is difficult to adequately describe this place but it was super damn cool look it up). It was full of monster art, disturbing ephemera, and lots of affordable original paintings. For example there was a wooden house about a foot and a half high where when you looked through each window you saw things like a creepy clown, a corpse, a dude watching porn; and it was made by a guy who does model work for Robot Chicken and did props for Six Feet Under. They had erotic pictures featuring Lobster Boy and Zombie skulls. I bought a sad clown painted on black velvet. We became good enough friends that the guy working there came to our show. A very cool women, who I guess was just hanging out there recommended a soul food restaurant called MP’s Soul Food Eatery in Burbank. This is how she sold us on it, “I’ve been fat a long time so I should know the best dessert I’ve put into my mouth.” And it was an awesome place. The entire staff was one family and it was named after our waiter’s great-grandmother Miss Peaches. I had black-eyed peas, yams, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. Other band selections included fried chicken, greens, pork chops, and blackened Tilapia. Then we got to the aforementioned heart attack inducing butter cakes. Two bites were enough.

After that it was time to head to the club. It was at a place called AmpliFy and it was located about 100 yards from Paramount Studios in an alley behind an Astroburger. The only signage was the club’s name printed in about 6 inch letters on a green door. It was a DIY club created by a 20 year old girl (rumored to be an actress) (no, it's true) ( it's not*) who converted her bands practice space into the club. Her mom was the ticket taker. I think her dad was there too. It was a cute little 100 person room with a tall stage and lots of gold and silver records on the wall. You could see the Hollywood sign in the distance so I guess we were in Hollywood, or damn close to it. The part we were in was kind of seedy but nothing a few community clean-up days couldn’t handle! Anyway, since there was no bar in the club Joe and I went in search of a surrogate. Yelp said there was a wine bar really close so we walked to where it should be but didn’t see one. Finally we saw a door in a strip mall with the word Lou written on it and with the windows covered in curtains. We opened the door with some trepidation and inside were a bunch of rich people drinking wine. It’s weird, the whole town seems to be built around the concept of separating people by those in the know and the suckers who aren’t.

Another fun Hollywood style incident. We were having some pictures of the band taken and the photographer wanted us to stand in front of some cool looking wall. As soon as we gather a douche bag dressed in black and wearing a mic in his ear comes over and asks us what we’re doing. “We’re taking some pictures.” "Well I’m going to need to you to move on.” “Why?” “This is private property and you don’t have permission to be here.” “The sidewalk is private property?” “You can have 20 seconds.” “Two minutes and we’ll be gone.” Grumbles and walks away. It was a restaurant. I never even saw anyone go in. Silliness.

Back at the club we find out they’ve added a fifth band so we’d only have a half an hour. The club’s policy was that the first 10 tickets for every band went to the club to pay for sound and production. If you don’t make your 10 though you have to actually pay the club. We were told our tickets sales were good and that we were, “in the money.” When we got onstage we realized there was a really big crowd. It was amazing. I was right next to a box fan but didn’t realize it was hiding a smoke machine. About every five minutes I would get blasted with vanilla smelling smoke and I would giggle because suddenly Wussy was in an ‘80s metal video. We played as close to a Ramones set as we could in an effort to get as many songs in as possible. The crowd was singing, dancing, smiling, and shouting at the end of every song. When our half hour was done the owners came up and said we could do one more. The crowd briefly argued over “Don’t Leave Just Now,” and “Jonah.” “Jonah” won and after the song I leaned over to Lisa and asked, “Did you see the crowds faces?” She said, “Yeah, I kept welling up.” I said, “I know, they just seemed… joyful. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time.” And that was the thing, every time I looked out into the crowd everyone seemed so happy, and it felt really nice to think that something we were doing was accomplishing that. After the show people just hung out in the alley, (was more like a small parking lot) drank beer out of brown bags and just shot the shit. A writer who had never seen us came over to Lisa afterwards and said it was like seeing Television at CBGB’s. I don’t believe that for a second but it was that kind of night.

Earlier that evening we won the Priceline lottery and got a room at the Hyatt Regency in Palm Springs. The angel of a night clerk felt bad she couldn’t give us a room with two queens (thats what he said!) so we ended up in a room with a patio about ten steps from the pool. I went and laid on a beach chair and stared up at foreign stars. I counted three shooting stars before I got in the pool. John, Lisa, and I just floated on our backs at two in the morning and stared at the sky. It was perfect.

Palm Springs was interesting. The main drag was like one long rich person strip mall. I don’t know, the hotel was sweet, but the small part I saw was not particularly compelling. As John put it, “Oh there’s no culture, but the amenities are nice.”

Tomorrow is Tucson. We have officially begun to turn east, with the ocean at our backs and the desert at our door.

*In an Eddie Izzard voice

Saturday, June 23, 2012

San ClementeDiego

San Diego/San Clemente


“Ropey Jism and Fonda Peter starring in Cocoon 3” – Mostly Chuck

“At least we care about the Pelicans.” – Chuck (see below)

“San Clemente is a pretty clean city. I haven’t seen any turds. I give it an A.” Lisa

5 minutes later…
“Oh… well… A minus.”

“Kitty, kitty, kitty.”  The lead singer of the band after us singing into the mic during soundcheck.


Lizard, Western Grebe, (sweet fucking bird) Surfers,
Brown Pelicans – The Pelicans were all over the place and continuously diving into the ocean. You could just sit and watch them for well, several minutes. Anyway, I was told a fact about Pelicans once, and it was that old Pelicans most
common cause of death is starvation. After a lifetime of hurling themselves into the ocean after fish their eyes eventually form cataracts. Can’t see the fish can’t catch the fish. I’ve never looked it up to confirm it because if it’s wrong I don’t want to be right. Everyone in the van expressed appropriate dismay at this harsh way to expire when Chuck said, “Well it’s better than the way we die. Pants full of shit in a strange bed, no one giving a damn about us. At least we care about the Pelicans.” Chipper fellow that Chuck.

A truly decent fellow and friend of Joe’s (we try not to hold it against him) helped us out with a hotel in San Clemente which is pretty much at the halfway point between L.A. and San Diego. Since we drove there after Ventura we actually had pretty much a whole day to our own devices in this cute little beach town. I found out there was a four mile beach trail, so as is my wont I got up, grabbed my binoculars and went walking. It ran right along a series of public beaches from south to north Clemente. Wasn’t a lot of non-human fauna but I had the chance to learn first hand that surfers are in actual fact sexy motherfuckers. The men walking out of the surf made Steve Austin look like Murderface, all glisteningly drippy in their tight wetsuits. The women, all badass in their bikinis made that surfer girl who got her arm bit off by a shark look like a regular two-armed girl.

After walking for hours I headed up into the town proper and it really is a nice little place. It’s not super touristy and it feels like people might actually live there. I stopped at a wine bar and paid way too much for a glass of wine and a cheese plate. I’ll admit it, I was happy. Shortly afterward I ran into Lisa and she was super excited because she had gone swimming in the Pacific and had her ass kicked by the waves. She was thrilled and it was a pleasure to see.

Lisa then told a story that became the theme for the day. When she got back to the hotel and was removing her suit a bunch of sand fell out, which of course is perfectly natural. However what is not typical is that one of the pieces of sand actually skittered away of its own volition upon hitting the ground. She screamed of course but made her mistake in telling Chuck about it, who suggested that maybe it hadn’t fallen out of her suit but perhaps her nethers. She didn’t find this to be a particularly appealing thought, which then led to much thoughtful discussion at dinner and forced her to make me swear that I would not print that
our best guess as to the identity of the life form was ginch maggot or cooch critter.

Hearing about the fun they had in the ocean I ran down and I jumped into the ocean before we had to leave. I squealed like a little girl. The water felt great, the waves would just tumble you end over end. There was a bald tattooed guy about 50 yards away who yelled over to me, “Having fun?” I yelled back, “Time of my life!” I was exhausted in 15 minutes. So fun.

We were playing a place called the Ruby Room and after our day we were tanned, rested and ready*. (actually we were sunburned, cheerfully exhausted and reticent) I don’t really feel I got a sense of San Diego. I didn’t see Balboa Park (although after listening to the Springsteen song it might be too sad) or the downtown. We were in a nice, fairly non-descript part of town. The club was all dark and metal vibe-y (the night before there had been a package tour featuring Swedish, Norwegian, and Canadian Black Metal bands – which means I licked a black metal mic) but the owners came from Dayton and Columbus respectively and seemed to enjoy getting to talk with fellow mid-westerners. I don’t know, we had our awesome group of hardcore fans, and a bunch of people who kind of wandered away as we played. I thought we played a good set so there’s only so much you can do I guess. No complaints. We’ve been really lucky with the bands we’ve opened up for. Tonight we had a band called Kinetic Circus. Here’s a link so you can enjoy them too.

Tomorrow is L.A.

*Because San Clemente is the birthplace of the original Tricky Dick Richard Nixon.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Start a Band - Play Ventura



“Crap Door? He’s my favorite Harry Potter character.” – Chuck

“Complete intestinal reset.”

“Gold Frankenstein and Murder.” If Jesus had been born in Jersey

“Dirty baby clothes flea market” – Lisa’s apt description

“We did a puppy, a fetus, and a baseball.” Chuck telling us what he dissected in high school.

“Worm Control That Goes Above and Beyond. Just Like You.” Billboard

“Let’s catch some cancer today.” Chuck after seeing people fishing in an irrigation canal.

“Stop the Congress created Dustbowl!” Hand painted sign off of highway.

Fauna: Oh hell, I either didn’t see any or I’ve forgotten.

Our hotel was in Chowchilla (Oh no, they say we’ve got to go. Go to Chowchilla! Yeah*) and we got the hell out of there as soon as we could. We were heading towards Ventura with maybe a stop on the way. To give some sense of our location find Fresno (where Daniel La Russo’s mom still lives) on the map and that’s pretty much where we were. It was, everyone agreed, the bleakest most parched landscape we had seen; hot, dry, farming country with a uniform brown color almost completely unbroken by anything except huge signs decrying the governments water policies and their effects on the fruits and laborers of the land. There must be some kind of water war going on but all we found out was that a case of water cost $15. There was a huge fire at a recycling plant near Fresno that put an enormous plume of black smoke up into the air. We were glad to get across the hills to green again.

We drove through St. Luis Obispo and it was cute in a very upscale Caucasian kind of way. Then we busted it out to Ventura because it just takes longer to get to places out here. We were playing at a place called Zoey’s and this night easily ranked as one of the best on the tour. The people here, from the owner on down were uniformly awesome and nice. They had the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever eaten and they kept my glass of local Zinfandel topped off, always waving away any attempts to pay. The room was small but all red and kind of classy. Lots of cool people have played there according to the posters on the wall, although it’s hard to imagine more than 60-80 people fitting in the room.  A bunch of the people who came to see us did so because of articles written in the local papers. I think that’s the first time it actually worked the way it’s supposed to. The owners ended up the night wearing our shirts. Lovely night all around.

So this story made our night. The guy who booked us is a young guy, mid-thirties at the oldest. Well when he was just starting out he wrote an article proffering the sensible idea that My Glove ruined the Beach Boys. For this he was sued. Wait for it…. for 10 million dollars. He said he had about $75 to his name at the time. The best part was that Al Jardine called him up and told him to, “Stay strong.” The worst part is that he had to settle. He didn’t tell us figures but somehow insurance came into play.

At the heart of Ventura is a Catholic Mission that looks exactly like an old west Mission from a movie should; (I’ll post a picture because that’s a crappy description) all stucco and crosses. I don’t know if that’s why, but this town just seemed generous at its heart. There were five thrift stores on the main drag mixed in with the usual tourist type crap. After the show it was made clear that we must visit the Ventura Pier. The Ventura website says that the pier is “reputed to be the longest in California.” Now this isn’t like trying to assess the gravitational impact dark matter has on the expansion of the universe, I’m pretty sure people have taken a yardstick and measured the infinitely finite number of long piers in California. The length of something made of wood has nothing to do with reputation but whatever, let the baby have its bottle is what I say. Regardless, walking out to the end of this very long pier at midnight with the band was wonderful. We saw something dark and ominous floating in the water and I asked what the ocean version of the Yetti was. John said it was a Squish Squash for which he was roundly mocked.

Tomorrow is San Clemente and San Diego

*To the tune of Godzilla

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Quality of Merced Is Not Strained


“Hey Sha Na Not.” - Chuck discussing which is more pathetic, modern hippies or the rockabilly crowd.

“I love whatever I just put in my mouth.” Rene

“Masturbating homeless people on the Metro? That’s so Cincinnati” Apparently there’s a local ad campaign where this could be used.

“That’s the last time I send you to get the Tequila.” - Joe to me.

I love maps and I love the idea of us travelling down the raggedy edge of the whole fucking country.” Lisa

Dark-Eyed Junco
Hippies (and for your edification their taxonomic hierarchy)

Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata tedious
Subphylum: Invertebrata
Class: Braless Mammalia
Subclass: Dirty
Order: Primates
Suborder: Patchouli
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Homo
Species: Pathetic
Subspecies: Definitely

Our eventual goal was a small town southeast of Oakland called Merced. After trying in vain to find someone to look at Lisa’s amp we figured we had enough time to spend a couple of hours in San Francisco. Predictably we went to Haight-Ashbury because there’s a bunch of fucking hippies in the band. The upside to this counter-culture tourist trap was that all the head shops and vintage stores seemed to be locally owned. The downside was that whatever echoes of societal change the kids of that neighborhood wrought back in the day have been subsumed by a kind of crassness that made me want to walk quickly to where actual people lived. (The Grateful Dead - bah) Fortunately, on the recommendation of a local we walked to a restaurant on Divisadero called The Little Chihuahua. At this juncture I feel it should be noted that I haven’t made you sit through any descriptions of meals yet. Until now. Fried plantain and black bean burrito, spicy cabbage salad, a salsa bar to die for, and an agave wine margarita. If you ever get dragged to this area there’s an absolutely lovely park called Buena Vista on Haight that was just gorgeous.

We jetted across town to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, take a few pictures and head to Merced. This would prove to be a tactical error as west coast traffic took this opportunity to force us into submission without a safety word. It took two and a half hours to get out of the city. We were late of course. Now, the Merced show was a little different in that it was kind of like a private show but the guy who hired us (thanks Kenny) put the gig in the local watering hole called The Partisan.

And here is where I want to have a brief discussion to explain to all the people who’ve commented on how poop-centric this blog is. In many ways your life boils down to a few basics; Food, Shelter, and Shitting. The only place I feel really comfortable is my two-foot square squirrel nest on the right side of the back bench of the van. I know where everything is and I miss it when I’m forced to sit somewhere else. For instance on our drive down the Oregon coast I navigated that day from the front and I spent the whole day crawling out of my skin with anxiety. Could have been a coincidence, it’s not like that doesn’t happen once a week regardless, but anyway, it’s my home. Food: Trying to find reasonably timely and healthy food is huge. If an army marches on its stomach then this tour has marched on nuts, dried fruit, and Starbucks. I’m proud I’ve only eaten one fast food meal and drank only one soda. This is middle-aged touring, there’s no getting around it. And then there's the bathroom issue: We spent the whole afternoon in the van trying to get to the show, and then when the bar doesn’t have a door on the stall what the hell are you going to do? Why Pay to Poop of course. Chuck chose to go the Cold Stone Creamery and paid $3.50 for a sorbet and the privilege of using their nice restroom. He went twice for a total of $7.00. I however found a little bakery/pizza place where I bought a cookie for $1.50 while listening to Sinatra. I went once which means I shit for ¼ the price Chuck did. That just makes good financial sense. I’ll talk about the joy of fitting six people in a hotel room some other time.

The show was fine. The bar was full but it was obvious almost no one knew who the hell we were. They sat at their tables and politely listened. It was a small town and maybe people just go out to hear whenever a band comes into town. It’s a different kind of challenge than Oakland where we were all out of sorts, trying to win over a crowd of strangers. A fun one though and everyone was very complimentary afterwards. Our sound guy was named Kazoo and if we could’ve found a way we would’ve taken him with us. The band after us was called Deriva and they were really good and really nice guys to boot. After the show though I had a bunch of energy so I went out walking. I was just cruising the main strip looking in store windows at over-priced Howdy Doody dolls when I was realized I was utterly alone. Not lonely but alien abduction, banjos in the distance alone. I had a moment of fear that I could just disappear and that my last thought would be, “what kind of douche bag goes walking alone at night in a completely strange town?” Small towns in the west have a different feel than the small towns in Ohio. The ones in Ohio feel more closed in and intimate. The ones out here, with the big skies and wide roads feel like colonies on the moon. It’s pleasingly unsettling.

Tomorrow is Ventura