Friday, August 8, 2014


Animals: We’ve been in cities, so C.H.U.D.’S maybe?

Quotes: I’ll be honest. I’ve pretty much had my headphones in. It’s as close to alone time as I can get. That said, if you say Hotlanta unironically, we are not going to be friends. I think we'll both be fine with that. Not everyone has to be friends with everyone.

SIARPC: Steve Glutenberg*

I woke up early because it would be a crime to come all this way and not get a beignet and some hot chocolate. All great cultures throughout history have produced some version of fried dough and chocolate. Of course this being Saturday I stood in line for well over a half hour. It was like a mini epic journey - the doubt, the sacrifice, the boredom, the rage against all those who would stand in your way. But much like the moment when Liv Tyler shakes down her hair in slow motion, removes her elf ears, and smiles at you in a gentle knowing way before closing the curtains, or the long wait before someone finally made a T-2/Golem** mash-up of them melting in molten stuff, it was totally worth it. And then back in the van for a seven-hour ride to Atlanta. Driving over Lake Pontchartrain is one of my favorite things. The bridge goes on forever. We looked it up and the average depth is only 12-14 feet, which is useful information if you’re planning on practicing your cliff diving or planning to dump a body. (you shouldn’t – there are better places for both)

I wrote the whole time because I really want to wrap up the blog before I get home. As soon as I can I have to switch gears and get ready for the school year. I’m so far behind in my lesson planning it’s been giving me nightmares almost nightly. Out of Louisiana, quickly across just the tip of Mississippi, up through Alabama, and into Georgia. Pretty much the whole band’s nursing their stomachs. I swear I wouldn’t be surprised if we actually had some small bug going through the van. I’ve felt good so rarely this tour I’m quite looking forward to the tour amnesia that will wipe away all the inconveniences both large and small. It’ll be a miracle if we even break even on this leg of the tour. If we do it’ll be almost exclusively credited to the Baltimore house show. It’s a learning process, and everywhere we’ve gone there’s been at least somebody excited to see us. It might not be sustainable but it is amazing to me that in some small way we’ve reached into the corners of this huge country. And even though everyone has given up earnings or time with loved ones, for me to know that I can say to myself that I have toured the U.S. in a rock band is very meaningful for me. There are not that many unbroken threads one can trace back to 10th grade but this is one. As with every time we’ve gone out my experience is that the vast majority of people we come in contact with are kind and accommodating. I think people like to help others out for the most part. John has the admirable ability to quickly circumvent the little social walls that people just naturally have up in public places. They tend to look startled at first but his goofy-ass smile almost always assures them they are in on the joke and not the butt of it. I mean sometimes they are but it is a good smile. The point is people are a hell of a lot funnier and open if you can somehow step out of the roles assigned by work or station. Especially if the fear of, I don’t know, something bad happening I guess, is quickly allayed. It’s one of the joys of talking to people after shows. You’ve shared something communal and for a minute that is enough.

I want to reiterate that the New Orleans show ended up lovely, but we have an ego. We like to play on stages with monitors and lights, and we like to have people show up. The club we were playing in Atlanta had a reputation as being a place where the cops were called regularly in the ‘90s, but it has different owners now and is more of an NPR looking venue with chairs and Brie on the menu. The baked Pimento rounds were actually better. It had a nice red stage that was about one person too small, but there was a good-sized crowd, the sound guy was awesome, and we got to finish the tour on a high note. The staff was great and they blasted Prince the whole time we were breaking down (non-specific on purpose). Prince should be played after, and possibly during, every show.

Chuck, Lisa and I were to be interviewed on camera by a guy named Vic who has a video blog. So chairs were set up onstage after we tore down, and a guy swung a boom mic back and forth. I love this kind of shit because it’s like improv night. You get to think on your feet. Anyway we sat up there like lumps, Chuck looking glum because that’s how they taught him to do it in the ’90’s, Lisa looking glum until she felt a little more comfortable and loosened up, and me lying like a rug.

We then went back to our hotel which should be it’s own TV show. It was a madhouse. There were people making out in the business center, gender confusion, prostitute/not prostitute confusion on our part, vomit in the hallway and pubes in every corner of the bathroom. (not ours – bald eagles all ‘round for this band)

And that was that. Eight hours back to Ohio. We can’t wait to get away from each other but we don’t hate each other either. I think we’re playing better than ever and it is a joy. We’ll see what happens next. Speculating doesn’t mean shit so I’m not going to worry about it.

*Or the Glutenberg Free Bible

** They have haven’t they?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Orleans Part Two

By the time I got to Canal Street the idea of a foot massage had grown into a longing. A longing to have my feet massaged. There’s a lot of massage happening in this city so my odds were not bad. But first I had to walk around a huge group gathered in front of the courthouse. It was a somber protest, not silent but not the kind of protest with bullhorns and chants. They were protesting the military actions of Israel in the Gaza. As I went into the street to get by, I looked down and saw a little girl holding a sign that said, “Is this the face of a terrorist?” I’m not an idiot. I try to stay somewhat current in world events. I try to get my information from multiple sources and all that, but I have not been able to sort through the tangled history and vested viewpoints in such a way as to figure any of that conflict out. Manipulation or not that little girl silently asking that question hit me like punch in the gut.

However, in this land of plenty the siren song of a middle-aged Asian man shouting, “Massage. You? Massage. Whole Body!” came to my ears like the sound of a mother’s voice lifting above the crowd to find the panicky lost child at the mall.  $22 for a 20 minute foot massage. I had just enough time before we had to leave for the show. The business was a large rectangular room open to the sidewalk, with beds in rows like a TB ward. He led me back and pointed to where I should lay down. A young woman came over to remove the layer of shame from my feet before getting to work bringing relief. As soon as I closed my eyes I felt a hand begin to rub my shoulders and the cackling voice of the crone I had recently seen reading on the couch:
“Shoulder massage?”
“What? I just asked for the foot massage.”
“Hmmm… shoulder, neck?”
“No, just the 20 minute foot massage.”
“20 minute too short. 30 minute. Hour much better.”
“I barely have time for the 20.
”Whole body?” 
“No, no thank you.”

Jesus, what have I walked into? Instead of the typical soothing sounds of pan flutes one hears at a spa, my 20 minutes settled into a rhythm of heavy sighs from the person rubbing my feet, occasional startling bursts of angry sounding Chinese conversation, and the desultory monotone of the old man back at his post, “Massage? You! Massage. Whole Body?” It helped a little.

We were playing a bar called the Circle Bar located on some circle with a large statue.* We were told the statue was facing North because you can never turn your back on a Yankee. A friend of mine had heard that on a tour. That tour stuff is big business around here. In certain parts of the Quarter there’s a tour on every block. As evening draws close and white legs in short pants begin to glow, the clarion call of hucksters everywhere rings out, “It’s a known historical fact!” And it might be.

We walked into the club and our hearts sank. It was a beautiful old place that was basically a hallway containing the bar and a little sitting room off to one side where we were to play. It was tiny, there were no monitors and tables everywhere. Keep in mind we were still a little raw from not just the night before, but really everything after Baltimore. We knew going in that we would be grinding it out a little more on this leg. The Southeast and Delta are pretty far away and for all intents and purposes this was the first time we’d played most of these towns. We’d been averaging about 20 people a night. Chapel Hill, Jacksonville, and Mobile added together was half of Boston which was half of Seattle. Whiny or not I think our collective shoulders drooped a little. And then the guy told us there were only three working mic stands. Ok, not awesome but no big deal. A few minutes later he looked up sheepishly and said, “I’ve got bad news. We’ve only got two working mics.” And when we went to test the two only one was really working. At this stage of the game Chuck lost it. Sort of. He was pissed and stated if only one mic was working we weren’t playing. Later on he felt bad because he acted like an asshole. And Rene’ scolded him for yelling in front of the waiting audience. I don’t know about all that, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to book bands without a sound system. Lisa, in a mood of diplomacy (she and Chuck frequently counter-balance each other) asked the audience if anyone had a mic. In the way of things a nice man named Rob Schafer lived up the street and had one at home. They managed to mostly get all three mics working (we usually have four) and we sallied forth hoping we could play quietly enough to not kill everyone but still sound like a rock band.** We had our southern 20-25 people show up, but they were so joyful and sweet they erased our misgivings. And while I don’t think it sounded at all awesome it was ok, and we played a nice, healing set. Afterwards we talked to a bunch of people including a group of maybe 8 guys from the same unit down in NOLA to celebrate one of their own retiring. They’d scheduled their trip around our show and were so excited. Even the self-absorbed has to be touched by that.

Tomorrow is Atlanta.

*I know I’m getting lax with details. I started walking around the statue to find out its name, but there was guy drinking and it seemed assured that he would talk to me. So I turned around and went back to the club. Sorry, some nights I’m braver than others.

*Someone asked why don’t bring our own equipment, but we really just don’t have the room in the van.

New Orleans Part One

Animals: Nope

Quotes: “Hardees should have a Robin Thickburger with a douchebag in it.”

SIARPC: Sasquatchemo

Woke up and went straight back to the Stray Dog Hash House and then back to the antique mall. I figured since we had the awesome city of New Orleans ahead of us we’d get on the road quickly, but that was erroneous. Doesn’t someone holy say that expectations lead to suffering? Well, expectations of timely departures has certainly never made me any happier. So I went walking. I found the Old City Cemetery where they had buried victims of Yellow Fever. I think this is a good time to talk about the architecture and culture of the city. In a nutshell it’s very similar to New Orleans. Lots of balconies atop beautiful wrought-iron  backed by weathered brick buildings. The feel of French influence although I don’t know if that’s actually accurate. I was told that there is an ongoing disagreement between Mobile and NOLA about who really started the Mardi Gras celebrations. Regardless they take it seriously in Mobile too. It’s seems a wonderful, quiet town, like the kind of town if someday I wanted to be the next John Grisham or Flannery O’Connor, I’d spend my winters there sitting in the parks, practicing my declarative sentences while wearing a slouch hat and plaid pants. I think I would hate to be there during the beads and frat bullshit that follows Mardi Gras like a plague.

So back to the cemetery. There were lots of raised graves and a few tombs once again reminiscent of New Orleans. It was smaller, humbler in scale, and in such a state of gentle but very real decline that what with the old, heavy, flowering trees and overgrown grass, it felt more gothic than the big touristy cemeteries down the coast. I was the only one there other than the man with a rolling suitcase relieving himself off in the corner. I kept walking, my feet hurting so much that I would go from bench to bench just to give them some relief. I decided to go into the huge Catholic Church called saint something or other, right next to one of the innumerable squares that pop up every couple of blocks in Mobile.* I don't know, I'm sure it's on the internet. It was just stunning inside, the ceiling a beautiful red and gold pattern, really outstanding stained glass windows, and a tasteful floating touchdown Jesus above the altar. I sat in the cool gloom and prayed for the strength to accept that which I cannot hurry.

I was able to squeeze in a quick visit to the Center for the Living Arts. A small, apparently non-collecting museum with just a few high-ceilinged rooms that they use for big-scale exhibits. It only took about ten minutes to go through but the exhibits were cool and modern.

And then we were off on the fairly short drive to NOLA. On the way we spent a few minutes at the John C. Stennis Space Center – looked at some rocket engines and bought some souvenirs. I mention this not because you need to know everything we did but because I did not know they did rocket testing there, or that there was space center. I mean that’s like finding out you have a nipple on your back that produces enough force to reach escape velocity. And candy.

I’m starting to feel self-conscious that I’m going into an excruciating level of detail because I’ve got 15 hours riding in the van spread over two days.  I apologize. I’m my own worst editor. I’m not going to stop mind you, I just feel bad about it.

We got to the city around 5:00 and the meat eaters, i.e. everyone else, were going to some fancy place to get charred oysters, broiled bivalves, and macerated mollusks. I shook my head sadly and thought to myself with my mind of all the mercury they’d be ingesting. No one likes the bearer of bad news however, so we’ll just let them assume the dementia and muscular weakness had many contributing factors. New Orleans remains one of the best food cities in the world for everyone but vegetarians. I had found a place that served veggie red beans and rice in the French Market, so I strapped on my goddamned Teva’s and started walk the mile and a half to the restaurant. Which closed 15 minutes before I got there. Yeah, the French Market closes at 6:00, so fuck me pretty much. While shuffling along in as defeated a pose as one can have on a beautiful evening in New Orleans, I stumbled upon the 14th Annual Satchmo Summer Fest and saw that it was free, and that the Dirty Dozen Brass Band was about to go on. Boom. A block away I found that savior of the righteous, a Mediterranean restaurant. Not exactly classic NOLA fare but well done. Plus, all the employees were wearing “Free Pakistan” shirts that said, “We Stand With Gaza” on the back, which seemed like an unusually political stance for a business in the tourist district. I saw two of them running in and out of the restaurant and not seemingly engaged in restaurant activity when I saw they were either selling or giving away the same t-shirts from out of a mini-van parked out front. The van can be a bubble no doubt. It's too easy to forget there's a real world going on outside of it.

The DDBB were phenomenal. I sat on a curb, drank an Abita, watched people dance and hang on the fence so they could see the band, the older locals in their lawn chairs eating plates with a mess of greens and beans on it, and just felt pretty damned grateful. I started the long walk back and wondered about the balance New Orleans has to strike between the money and energy all the visitors bring with the sheer numbers of them packed into a relatively small space, and all the weekend warriors who treat it like the first floor of their frat house. There’s got to be a little bittersweetness thrown in there, because there really is a kind of magic in the light down there. It's a town like no other.

*It’s one of the town’s best features.

Mobile Part One

Today is a travel day, so I only really remember the bookends. I-10 through the panhandle has trees so it’s not unpretty, but its unvarying terrain renders it pretty unmemorable. Still, another seven hour day in the van. We saw none of the depressing insanity the Top Gear crew saw on their journey through the deep South, but then we had been warned by locals the night before to stay on the highway and stop only in the bigger towns, which we did.

Upon reflection I don’t think we thrive on days without a show to focus us, because once again this is where, in the admittedly minor way Wussy has, the wheels started to come off. It’s also true that we had all reached a certain level of weariness. Anyway, the night before a small schism had arisen as to what we should do this day. Certain factions really, really wanted to go to the beach, particularly Pensacola, while others thought we should go straight on through to Mobile and then they could go to a beach. After the show we went to our hotel in Jacksonville, which was a Radisson, where they have Sleep Number beds. * Apparently, Lisa’s bed got over-filled because she woke up barely able to move. She said she felt like she had been hit in the back with a baseball bat. So when she rolled out of bed and began to crawl across the floor like the one green army man who wasn’t supposed to stand, and thus in a small way is the only one that doesn’t piss you off, I, though not without sympathy, saw how this morning was going to go and took the steps to the lobby where I intended to stay until departure. You can think me an asshole, that’s fine, but I’m not new either and any help I could offer was still several hours away. When the last prisoner of rocknroll queued up for the van I went upstairs, quickly gathered my things, and we trundled off to Mobile.

We got in around dinner time, recipient of two free rooms from the generous and refined Mssr. Cam. The hotel, classic in that faded belle way the South does better than anywhere, had once played host to Bob Hope, and Elvis. We went to a small restaurant called the Mediterranean Sandwich Company, which would be excellent in any city. Unfortunately, shortly after dinner while walking around with John and Joe, I was stricken by a cataclysmic case of butt barf. I felt like hell but also was pissed that I was sick on a night off in a town I’d never been in. So in the first of a series of poor decisions, and after a brief recuperation, the three of us decided to go out for drinks at what would appear to be the chi-chi restaurant in town, called the Noble South. I went to put on pants because I believe in elegance, and with a sinking feeling realized I had left my shoes in the Jacksonville hotel. The downside of hiding out in the lobby and then hurriedly packing is this. Or maybe it’s Karma. I say let’s not bring large spiritual cycles into a forgotten pair of shoes. Not even Hemmingway’s baby shoes. The problem is that my orthotic insoles (The fruit of a decade wearing ill-fitting Doc Martins I believe. Damn you the ‘90’s!) were in them so I couldn’t even wear my jogging shoes. This is a big problem because I have very strict rules about footwear on the stage. Bare feet are unacceptable, but in some ways sandals, or God forbid Birckenstocks, are even worse. And sandals are all I have now. In the back of my mind I’m thinking we may have to cancel the show, but it isn’t until tomorrow so I wear my fucking Teva’s to the cool kids restaurant.

And it was weird because as we sat at the bar we noticed that the patrons of the restaurant possessed the uniformity of a WPA reforestation project. All of them were white women in their late twenties, had long straight hair, and wore pastels. There were two male JC Penny catalog models at one table, otherwise the only other men were three bald guys eating dinner and acting in a dignifiedly non-lecherous manner at the bar. Anyway, because I was doing the exact opposite of what my body required I made a concession and got fancy cocktails that seemed restorative. Such as the French 76, which contained Kettle One, lemon, St. Germain, Champagne, and a twist. It was delicious and well worth the mockery. Then I followed it with a Pimm’s Cup, which has Ginger Beer in it and thus is designed to be soothing. 

* Sleep Number Beds suck. I’m not sure the technology but it feels as if there is a big bladder inside that fills up with air depending on how long you press the up button. Thus explaining Lisa’s assertion that she felt like she was sleeping on a turtle’s back. If you don’t fill it up you get swallowed in the sinkhole. Might as well just buy a damn waterbed.

Mobile Part Two

Animals: Loggerhead Shrikes, (I really hope I’m not just using wishful thinking to turn Mockingbirds into Shrikes, because this would be a life-bird for me) Cattle Egrets, Alligator, (I tried to get him to hunt me but I think he knew I was on to him)

Quotes: “It’s a Ramen War!!” (You’ll see in a minute)

SIARPC: Handicaps Hot Fries (I’m sorry)

While driving into Mobile the previous evening I had spied with my George Smiley eye an enormous battleship. Turns out there is a huge museum where you can tour the USS Alabama and the USS Drum, which is a WWII sub. I was intrigued, but woke up feeling achy and nauseous, so the trots weren’t a fluke. The beach-goers asked if I wanted to join them, and I had really been wanting to swim in the ocean, but just didn’t feel up to it. Chuck and John had discovered a second amazing Mobile restaurant called the Stray Dog Hash House. What a little miracle, seemingly run solely by a husband and wife. He, a rounded middle-aged white guy, and she a diminutive Japanese woman who spoke very little English. They had an easy give and take that made being in their presence a quiet delight, like going over to the friend’s house where the parents actually like each other. She took the orders and it was a comedy of pointing, misunderstandings, relieved smiles, and uncertainty. The man cooked and it was perfect. By which I mean the food tasted the way breakfast diner food should taste - creamy grits, dense biscuits, fresh hash browns, all of that. Oh, and it was inexplicably decorated in a western theme, with movie posters from the  classics of the genre that obviously came from the printer sitting on the counter. I heard the theme to both Davy Crockett as well as Daniel Boone while there.

We met Chuck at an antique mall he had discovered, and it was there he found for me the swankiest, most Billy Dee Williams stylish shoes that almost sort of fit, I had ever dared to wear. The show it seems, would go on.

Joe decided to bail on going to the museum and I made the decision I always knew I would, which was that aching like the flu (it wasn’t the flu) I’d go anyway. I took a cab out there and spent several hours finding out what the guts of a battleship look like. I’m not going to go through the tour, I’ll just say it is endlessly fascinating to see how the sailors lived, and all the solutions, deadly or otherwise, to the problems faced with keeping 2,500 souls alive in a tin can at a time of war. The first grown-up books I read when I was a kid were the Alistair MacClean spy novels like, “The Guns of Navarone,” and “Where Eagles Dare.” I’ve been imagining places like this for a long time. The USS Drum was of course a much shorter tour but full of so many cool dials, switches, levers and ladders, I was very satisfied. I’m not sure the sub movies adequately convey the claustrophobia of those spaces.

Dead on my feet I called the cab company to carry me the 1.9 miles back to the hotel. I couldn’t walk it because the journey involved a tunnel under water. One hour and 28 fucking minutes, and three calls later they finally picked me up. Cab service in Mobile is more conceptual than practical. I couldn’t be picked up by the van because they were running very late returning from the beach. Between the two groups we were about an hour late for load-in. Joe, and in particular Chuck were pissed and had a right to be.

It was a super cool club. There was a plaque on the outside wall (Mobile loves its plaques) stating that the man who designed the Confederate Flag had lived there, and the bartender said they had made the uniforms there as well. On a personal level I have what might be an unreasonable level of impatience with the glorification of the Confederacy. The attempted revisionism painting the secession as a state’s rights issues is bullshit. Slavery as a means to make money for the owners is pretty much it. It was an attempt to break apart the Union so as to continue an act that is, was, and always will be morally repugnant. So your portraits of Jefferson Davis hanging (and yet never even tried for treason) in public buildings, your plaques discussing the designer of the symbol of institutionalized racism is inappropriate to say the least. This doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for the foot soldiers who were told to defend their homes. However, up to ¾ of a million people died in an effort to preserve evil, so propagating this glorified version does nothing to unify a still divided country and impedes us from moving towards becoming the country that Lincoln envisioned for us.

Anyway, we loaded-in in a very disgruntled fashion and then retreated to our corners. The opening band was stunning. They’re from Japan and were a trio wearing matching outfits that looked like what my kids Tai Kwan Do instructor’s uniforms look like. The lead singer/guitar player had somehow attached a mic stand directly to the back of his guitar so he could run around anywhere. Their style was a continually surprising hodge-podge that left Joe and I shaking our heads almost every song. The best part was an insane story that he told in several parts throughout the set involving Ramen noodles. It started out with Ramen being somehow culturally insensitive, then the next part saw the development of the Anti-Ramen Society claiming that Ramen caused ADD and cancer. However, there are another group of people called the Ramen Heroes who stand up for Ramen. The big finish came when he had us chanting, “It’s a Ramen War!!” during the song of the same name. By this time he had stripped down to a skimpy yellow pair of what he called Japanese underwear.

And then it was our turn. At this stage there were only three people in the audience who had come to see us. I will say by the end of the set we had attracted a crowd of maybe 15 people but the mood was set. The sound guy had trouble getting feedback out of the monitor, possibly because we didn’t have a soundcheck due to our late arrival, who knows? Oddly enough I could hear well enough, but the people in the center could hear nothing but a roar. As we started “Yellow Cotton Dress” Joe began to express his deepest feelings about the evening via his drums, causing us all to stop and turn around. Chuck knocked over his cymbal and verbally expressed his feelings, not on Joe’s feelings per se, but more on the manner in which he chose to display them. We then started the song over and finished the set like Sunday dinner at Big Daddy Pollitt’s house. As soon as we ended Lisa then expressed her feelings in a variety of energetic ways. I’m a non-confrontationalist by nature so this is not particularly comfortable for me. However, my approach has not always been beneficial to solving problems in my life, and I’ll say this, all the pent up frustrations of the last two days was pretty much swept away by this kerfuffle. I went out and talked to the audience while gear was still flying and found out how much they really had enjoyed the show. One gentleman thanked us for “giving it our all” despite the low attendance. It’s a funny thing, Chuck has been reading, “The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones” while on tour and he was telling me about how Brian Jones had trouble even showing up to gigs, guns were regularly pulled and all kinds of epic shit, so while hopefully rare, our outbursts are pretty small by comparison. Everyone had made up before we left, for the most part, and I was a walking corpse.

My new shoes caused crippling pain but looked fine.

Tomorrow is New Orleans.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Jacksonville FLA

Animals: Great Egrets

Quotes: “It’s not called lyrics and roll.”

SIARPC: Edith Pilaf

The drive to Jacksonville was uneventful excepting I’ve never seen so many cops pulling people over on any other stretch of highway. I found myself feeling kind of angry the whole time we were in South Carolina, and I realized that I’m still pissed about that whole Fort Sumter thing. Has South Carolina ever been on the right side of history?

It’s a bit of a hike, around 7 hours, so we went straight to the club upon arrival. The club was this super cool place that would do very well transplanted to Cinncinati, but in this case was right downtown surrounded by tall, darkened buildings and an aura of emptiness missing only Ennio Morricone and tumbleweeds to be complete. When I say emptiness I mean I went for a walk and saw two people in the first 15 minutes and then another two on the way back. I’m sure it’s bustling during the day, it felt like the business not entertainment district. Still, there was a badass burrito place a block away and the club was doing decent business for a Tuesday night.

We’ve never played Florida before and that is the tale of this leg of the tour. New markets for a band like ours means smaller crowds at the shows than in places we’ve been hitting regularly, or at least have significant airplay. In this case though, even with the lowered expectations of a Tuesday night in a new region, a full half of the crowd (we asked) had driven from other cities for the only chance to see us within loogie distance. My corner of the stage was so fucking hot I drank mine, Chuck's, and part of Lisa’s water. They were in the narrow and well-defined golden stream of the air conditioner so it was OK. It was our first show without an encore but everyone seemed OK with that, band and audience alike. Everyone in the band had seemed to hit the weariness wall. On the drive to the hotel the van was silent. That never happens. Thank God Chuck still had the Whoopee cushion I had gotten him in that city where I got him the whoopee cushion because after a few minutes of silence a rip roaring fart sound was healing indeed.

Tomorrow is a drive day.

Chapel Hill

Animals: American Toad, Minnows, Carolina Chickadee

Quotes: “Any of you coeds like prospectors?”

“You must have a mirror in your pocket ‘cause I can see me in your pants.”

SIARPC: Christopher Plummet

With only a four hour drive to Chapel Hill we didn’t exactly have to hoof it. Joe and I got to sleep in the living room, which meant we were up with the earliest risers. Rich Tarbell is the man who made our "North Sea Girls" video, and it was at his and Polly’s house we were staying. On our first tour Rich got us a much needed Sunday show at the Mellow Mushroom in Charlotte (well, much needed in the financial sense) and a free hotel room. So we’ve known them a long time. Plus, they have a black lab named Jessie who was like one of those animals they take to hospital wards to cheer up the children. He would happily lick your face and lean up against you forever if you wanted. Both John and Lisa took him on separate walks in the woods in the morning. I went on a wonderful two-hour walk sans dog myself. Back when I was crazier than I am now I used to do this calming visualization exercise where I pictured myself in woods just like these. Walking in the woods by myself is about as powerful as the Zoloft. So it was a good walk with all those somewhat embarrassing words like dappled and babbling being applicable. Plus, I kept my streak of not finding a dead body unbroken. So that’s good. I saw an empty Trojan wrapper but since I don’t consider a wasted seed receptacle a tool of mass murder I’m not counting it.*

A goodly portion of the band were in the mood to just stay put in a comfortable house but I wasn’t. So Rich took Joe and I to the big pedestrian mall in downtown Charlotte. It was pretty and pretty upscale, but I do have one recommendation. There’s a vintage shop owned by a guy named Ike, who is one of those larger than life characters that sometimes I fear will disappear entirely from the American landscape. He was apparently in several non-speaking scenes in the Spielberg “Lincoln” movie, but when you’re in his shop he’ll regale you with the back story of every item in there, and say things like, “Oh you think that’s cool, come look at this! You’ll love it.” And I did.

We were playing the Cave, Chapel Hill’s oldest bar and a place I love. No one else in the band is quite as fond of it as I am, but seriously, the walls and ceiling are completely plaster covered chicken wire, and painted to look like you’re in an actual cave. There’s no phone service, it’s dank and dark. We were the only band and there was a simmering level of crankiness in the band, but for some reason I was feeling reasonably good for the first time this tour. I bought a Superchunk “Clambake” CD, a three volume set of murder and disaster songs from the 20’s and 30’s, as well as a DVD with every Iron Maiden video ever made, at the wonderful store across the street. Ate delightful Mediterranean food with Joe and John while wondering if anyone was going to show up. And they did. I mean 20 people did, but it’s a small enough club that it felt like a victory regardless. And Jerry showed up. He’s a very sweet elderly man who was at the show eight years ago when only five people showed up. He always seems to have a bodice-ripper paperback with him and does this dance with his hands on songs he likes. We love Jerry.

Anyway, I thought the show went well. Actually for me it was the best one of the whole summer from a playing standpoint. Even though we only had vocal mics I could hear everyone in the band perfectly, and it felt like I could lock in with them all in a way that some nights seems like a distant flickering impossibility. I’m hoping it was a crack in the door to playing the way I want to. Now for Joe the show sucked because he didn’t have a monitor and couldn’t hear shit. Chuck said a lot of the same things after the LA show, in that he thought we were incredibly locked in together, but for me that show felt typical.

And now for the requisite oddness. A few songs into the set a woman wearing huge headphones and wearing a t-shirt that said, “Art Images Live” on it started pulling pencils out of her red apron, and feverishly sketching us. She did this the entire set. Afterwards I ran into her at the back door and she said that John had given her some money. She then launched into her spiel about how she had suffered several disabilities but that the act of drawing had pulled her out of the worst of it. When I ask her what disabilities she got kind of vague but whatever. She talked about how she is trying to get grants for her live sketching project and that she never asks for money but if her project keeps growing she might need to get a car because right now she walks everywhere. She showed me the Wussy sketches and they were OK, just strange enough to be notable. So I gave her $4 and went to the band to get more. They looked at me like I was insane so I gave her $5 more. They gave me some shit saying it was a scam and why did I get taken in. I mean I know they’re right and I’m not new. Maybe I’m getting to the age where my children have to worry about me giving all my money to people who promise me a new roof but need the money upfront. Still, here’s what it comes down to with hopefully only a skosh of rationalization going on, but she was obviously wired differently. She was incredibly driven and it was a hell of a hustle. I mean she drew for nearly an hour. $12 (mine and John’s $3) seems like an OK payout even if we didn’t actually ask for the service.

Oh, and the Cave had an AC/DC pinball machine that played the hits like a juke box, had a bell you could toll, a moving train, and a working cannon. I’ve finally found a pinball machine I love more than Earthshaker.

Tomorrow is Jacksonville.

*As posted by Stephen - "Yes masturbation is Murder. But the only person it murders is your soul."