Tuesday, August 5, 2014

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.

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