June72013

The Days Are Just Packed

Damien Jurado - Life Away From the Garden

Being on the road for a month at a time with the same four or five guys is a lot of fun. For example, one gig in Eugene, Oregon paid us with a bag of grass and free shots of Habu Sake. Habu Sake is a Japanese liquor where they drown a venomous pit viper in the bottle. The viper is still in the bottle when they serve you the shot. It’s the only time I’ve seen a dead venomous snake in the bottle where the liquor is being poured from. I skipped on taking a shot, I was too hungover from the night before. But the other guys in the band say it made them feel like they had super strength.

In the spirit of being paid in marijuana and snake venom shots, this chapter is about a bunch of anecdotes and memories that each of us had at various times.

Hawaiian Baby Wood Rose

Matt Molchany is a pretty funny guy. Put him together with Todd Calvert and you could have a pretty funny sitcom. Some of the greatest bad ideas ever would come to be and so that makes for some hilarious situations. They both like to act like they are so different, but they are more similar than they’d like to admit.

On occasion, we would indulge in doing something a bit more taboo than smoking some pot or drinking alcohol. We were never big into drugs, if anything we drank a lot. But there were times when one or more of us would eat a few psychedelic mushrooms, take a hit of LSD, or snort a line of something. I never saw this as a problem. We never became addicts or let doing these types of things affect our live performance. Let me set up the scenario.

We were playing a few gigs in the Northern Indiana area near Chicago called the Region. One of the guys in a band we were playing a string of shows with had been nice enough to let us stay a few nights at his house. The only problem with that was he was planning on getting married and his bride to be wanted nothing to do with us. I’m sure having a traveling band stay at their house wasn’t first on her list of desires in life. His fiancé made it clear as soon as we stepped foot in their house that we weren’t welcome. Anytime we tried to engage her in conversation, she ignored us and the vibe she emanated was pure disgust with us. Oh well, we tried being nice but she made it clear that we were unwelcome. We tried telling the guy we were going to find somewhere else to stay, but he insisted on us staying. I guess maybe he was trying to draw a line in the sand with his fiancé?…We were always low on money, so we decided to stay even if the circumstances were precarious. We would try and make the best of the situation as usual. Several times I tried asking his fiancé about the wedding, her life, or anything to try and break the ice. But still nothing. I think Matt and Todd finally gave up on trying to be nice and said,

“Fuck It! We’re going to have a good time.”

The good times they had planned for that night were to eat Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds and trip out. Apparently eating the seeds produces quite a psychedelic experience. With the vibes that were in that house, I didn’t want any part of having a psychedelic experience there. I just wanted to drink a few beers and pass the night away. But Matt’s friend had given him the seeds and they couldn’t wait a day or two to take them in a better situation. Here’s Matt’s description of the whole experience.

"Every body pukes" was repeated to Todd and I as a warning not to eat the Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds but we didn’t for the most part listen. You know how you’re supposed to do psychedelics in stable, comfortable situations? We did them at Tim’s house while his angry pre-wife jarred the computer keyboard looking for the perfect dress. So we soaked some of these seeds in whiskey, peeled the skin off of some, and just plain ate some more once Todd and his usually endless reserve of patience ran out. He said they weren’t working for him. I felt a little something. I knew we should stick to the outdoors, especially because pre-husband-and-wife were going to bed at a time that to us was early. I remember Tim smoked a stogie and hung out but went to bed and it was just our band, in a house, in Michigan City after a gig in a high school auditorium and a trip to Denny’s. I have always hated Denny’s but until this night it was purely intellectual. After this night I’d have lots of sense-memory to galvanize it. After I ate a Denny’s veggie burger and fries, I dumped beer on that, then on beer I dumped whiskey and after that, some psychedelic seeds. We were hanging outside and as usual with psyches, they creep up and 90% of the time, you find yourself doing something odd, repetitious, or lost in a vague hallucination. Then you know you’re in for it. I looked up from my new haze and Todd and I were both walking in straight lines, drawing squares with our paths and we were both doing some kind of pseudo-kata with sticks we found. We were getting jacked. From what I remember Todd decided to just sleep it off soon after it kicked in—the process of them kicking in was the real fun. After that point a stream of completely uncomfortable events took place: Todd and I walking into the wrong door and into pre-married couple’s room. Todd spilling water on me. Only country music on their living room stereo. Only one sheet for me to sleep on. And the absolute topper was puking a veggie burger that I swear came out exactly as it went in—like a play-dough factory. I tried sleeping in the basement while his beagle howled like it was being tortured. It felt like murder down there and I thought these people hated us. I felt like the basement was a nine inch nails video and I convinced myself that I just gave myself cancer with all the smoking and drug dabbling. After puking so hard I bled a little. I talked myself kinda calm, crawled upstairs into a room with a table and a chair and curled up under it waiting for insomnia and the drugs to wear off. The next day felt like purgatory until we played at the new java jims. I got some drinks with everybody and honestly, the concern laced with sarcasm and ribbing from all you dudes made me feel human again.”

I still laugh uncontrollably at this story, even ten years later. Here are some memories of food and drink, good and bad.

Memorable Food & Beverages

Being on the road for a long time means most of the time you are eating a lot of shitty food. Anything from gas station fare to free pizzas provided by the venue. But every once in a while, some good food or drinks can bring you back to life.   

Todd: “One of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had in my life came from that gas station deli in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. It’s unparalleled. It was a jalapeno cheeseburger. I was hungover, tired, and hungry. I was in a shitty mood. The green chili was spicy and amazing, the cheese melted to perfection. I ate that burger and it changed my whole outlook.”

Joe: “Bloody Mary’s in New Orleans. I was hungover and needed a break from you guys so I ducked into a dark, air conditioned bar for a Bloody Mary. The bartender added a bit of Guiness to it – which I had never seen before. The bar was on the outskirts and I was the only one in there for a couple of hours. It was great. By the time you guys found me, I was drunk again. Then we all drank more Bloody Mary’s.”

Matt: “We received a mason jar of moonshine as part of payment for a gig. Ian and I drank off that for a while. I drank moonshine by a motel pool in Birmingham, Alabama while Todd enlightened some black kids on how to swim. That was my favorite beverage since it was the last batch ever made by some renowned moonshiner in the Appalachian’s.”

Me: “I remember that moonshine that Matt mentioned. It was one of a kind and if you sipped it, you kinda got a mellow psychedelic trip. Eating pizza slices in New York City was one of those lifelong things that you think about. I ate some alligator sausage in New Orleans.”

Going to New Orleans was something I looked forward to when we could get there. There’s something about that place that draws me to it. I still go down there whenever I can.

Bummer Gigs & Strange People

We played some downright depressing gigs at times. It’s just the nature of playing in a traveling rock n roll band. Even the famous bands out there play bad gigs sometimes. We also met some real bizarre folks as well. Here are a few memories of those people and places.

Me: “I think the single most depressing gig ever was playing in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The only people there were a few derelicts and other drunks. I got pissed at you guys and walked off the stage at one point. Not my finest moment.”

Joe: “I remember playing that show in Saint Paul. One of the drunks was a guy who went by Johnny B. That’s what he told us his name was. He was drunk and the gloves had the fingers cut off. He wouldn’t stop talking about his sister. He kept calling her a bitch. He talked in the third person too. He just came up and started talking to us.”

Todd: “I can’t remember what he was calling them, but he was calling them something funny….”

Matt: “He kept referring to them as ‘butts’ or ‘smokie treats’.

Todd: “And he kept saying things like,”

‘You know what, you know what, you know what?’

‘What?’

‘My sister’s a bitch.’

Me: “For weeks afterward, that is how we would ask each other a question.”

‘You know what, you know what, you know what?’

Once while in Chicago, we were killing some time on an off night. We were in a pub called the Pontiac Room drinking and smoking our worries away when we noticed things were a little bit quiet. Where was Todd? He usually was talking about something or to someone. We scanned the room to see Todd at the other end of the bar talking to a stranger. I guess we had been boring so he took off. After a while he came back over to the table we were sitting at. 

Todd: “Hey guys, that guy over there gave me an offer I can’t refuse.”

He was laughing while he said this.

Joe: “Oh yeah?”

He nodded towards a tall, well dressed businessman with slicked back hair in a black overcoat. The guy was nursing a cocktail, looking kinda creepy at the other end of the bar. The guy must have noticed the rock n roller looking guys milling around pumping quarters into the jukebox.

Todd: “He says if I let him take me home tonight, he’ll buy me all the smokes and beer that I want! What do you think, should I take him up on it?”

Me: “Hey bud, all the free smokes and beer that you want? That’s hard to refuse. I think you should take him up on it.”

Free beer and smokes, all night… I would have only thought it was a little weird if he had actually taken the offer.

Our friend Billy Jones was on the road with us, helping out with things on a tour. He got his dose of interesting people and good times. Take it away Bill.

“We were staying with that guy and his wife who didn’t want us there. I believe that Matt was recovering from his Hawaiian seed trip the night before. Todd and I wanted to go out and drink some beers. 
We walked down the street to some dive in Michigan City.

We grabbed a pitcher of beer and began to sit and talk like a couple of buds. Some guy kept coming over and asking how we were doing and was kinda loud. He kept coming back and asking if he could have a beer; I said “Of course!” I was on tour and he seemed like a nice guy. I topped off his plastic beer cup and kept taking to Todd. I think we were talking about my being recently single and Todd leaving a girlfriend at home or some BS. The guy came back again and asked for a cigarette and I asked what his name was…

He proudly stated that his name was Dixie. I liked that. Dixie was a black man anywhere between the age of twenty and forty five and had anywhere between thirteen and eighteen beautiful pearly whites. I have a picture with him hanging on my fridge as we speak. I was wearing a Dodgers sweatshirt over my CalTrans shirt…very Californian..and he has a doo rag of some sort on. The owner came over and asked if good ‘ol Dixie was bothering us and I replied “not at all.” That’s one of my favorite memories for whatever reason.”

There were so many people we came across, I could write for hours on them.

Strange Towns Stuck in Time

Then there are places like West Wendover, Nevada on the border of Nevada and Utah. West Wendover is about the most remote place you can imagine. For a hundred miles in each direction, there isn’t anything. There are signs on the highway that say

‘Next gas station, 80 miles.’

The town is about a mile long if even that. But since West Wendover is still in Nevada, they have casinos. So that meant that we were going to stop in and gamble before moving on. We stopped in West Wendover early in the morning. Being in the town felt like we had entered into a mirage that we had been driving towards for some time. It was as if a simulator had created the town for us so we could gamble, drink and eat twenty five cent bacon and eggs. It had a surreal feeling as if we were on Mars when it had a race inhabiting its surface. We ate breakfast for a quarter and drank fifty cent beer at nine in the morning in West Wendover on the planet Mars. All while playing some video poker, roulette and craps.   

Todd: “Yeah, I remember being up a little at poker but then lost it all. That town was the weirdest.”

Joe: “That city was weird. Half of it was in one time zone and the other half in another. I got drunk on fifty cent beer at nine in the morning.”

Matt: “We started drinking fifty cent Keystone Light there. Some old lady started making fun of us for some reason.”  

As a band, we had a nose for finding casinos. Whether it was Reno, Las Vegas, West Wendover, New Orleans, or St. Louie, we never said no to a little gambling. I had about the best beer buzz you could get at nine in the morning in West Wendover, Nevada. As we drove away from that strange town under grey skies and endless road ahead the tunes were playing on the radio. I was loving life.

Some Alone Time

There are also times when you need some alone time. That can mean taking off on your own for a few hours in a city somewhere or just moving to the other end of the bar. Personally, a great night for me is a good baseball game on the television, cold beer and maybe some writing. Throw some fishing in there, and fuck yeah!

Me: “We usually planned a few days off on our tour to spend in Bethlehem, PA where Matt and Joe grew up. We would hang out with their family and friends for a few days, washing our clothes and having a good time. Joe’s family owns a cabin up in the Poconos Mountains on a small lake. We went up there for a few nights at one point. The cabin was set up nice. It had a television with the Major League Baseball package set up. All the baseball you could ever watch, so that made me a happy man. After the first night staying there, the guys were going to drive back to Bethlehem for the day for some reason. The plan was for them to return later that night. I decided to stay up there by myself and have some alone time with some baseball games and some fishing. It was a glorious day of basking in the sun, fishing off their dock in my boxer shorts, drinking beer and watching baseball.”

One night in New Orleans, Matt was in a bit of a sour mood. The whole day he had been snapping a little bit, probably hungover and hungry. He is vegan so there wasn’t always a lot of options for him to eat.

Matt: “I went back out in New Orleans after we all stopped back at the hotel. Like REAL late. I had just given Todd a bunch of pseudo/half-joking shit for eating some gross hot dog. Out alone, and feeling bad from Todd calling me a food fascist, I sat at a bar and did a few shots, talked to a few people, wandered down a few shady streets until I didn’t feel like being mugged and found my way back to the main drag. I found a hot dog cart and dared myself to do it. I was vegan at the time and challenged myself to house a huge, gross, end of the night hot dog. I did it and then called a cab.”

Todd: “I’m sorry I called you a food fascist Matt. I was young and didn’t know any better.”

It’s nice to see all these years later that at least one hatchet can be buried. Little spats like this would happen from time to time, but we always managed to get past it or laugh it off.

With everything that we went through as a traveling band, there are so many memories filed away in the hard drive. Every once in a while, when I’m by myself or with people, I’ll remember one of these memories and have a little laugh. They’ll ask “What’s so funny?” And I’ll say “Oh, just something that happened to one of my old friend’s years back.”

May242013

Rock Band Traveling & Perfect Pitched Baseball Games.

As a professional rock n roll band trying to make it, there were times when I strived for perfection to the point of overdoing it. I lived and died too much with the outcomes of certain gigs I thought were “professionally important”, or the outcome of a song we recorded trying to get a hit out there. If anything, this perfectionist mindset that I carried at times inhibited us. I should have just let it happen. I should have just gone with the flow when we were playing a gig sloppy or too loud. Or I should have just went with the first take I sang. Mind you, I wasn’t always difficult like this, but there were a lot of times where I let overthinking and analysis ruin the feel or natural order of things. That is my advice to anyone who might be in a band or artistic endeavor. Just let the entity you have born from your mind grow, live and develop without trying to control it too much. You can ruin things by thinking on it too much. Stop thinking.   

Perfection is an interesting word, though. It is fun to think about. It is commonly defined as a state of completeness and flawlessness. I believe the planet Earth and its natural resources are perfect to have successfully sustained animal and plant life for so many millions of years. There is a lot of precision to our environment that had to be just right for life to have endured as long as it has. Nature is a perfect thing. But most things about life are not perfect. That’s what makes life ultimately what it is. We are humans who must navigate a life of imperfection. I believe the world we live on is perfect, but we are humans who are constantly not perfect.

While navigating this imperfect world, we strive to achieve or get close to perfection. And occasionally, we stumble across something that is perfect or witness it. But maybe the word perfection doesn’t apply to things that we perceive in the material world. It is just our opinion or feeling that another person is perfect in beauty and actions. Or that a song is perfect. If you asked Beethoven about one of his most famous compositions, such as Pathetique Piano Sonata No. 8, he might wish here a note or two that he wrote differently.

A lot of things that we say are perfect are really our own projections onto the concept of perfection. In actuality, real perfection is something that is more than anything, a concept that is strived for. For example, an architect can design a mathematically perfect building, or an engineer a perfect computer, but those objects are always, in the end, still physical objects subject to the elements. They will eventually break down, get old, or die. Same with the most beautiful person you can think of. They will break down and disintegrate.

But there is one thing I can think of that will always stay perfect both in its concept and in its completion. That is baseball’s Perfect Game. In order to complete a baseball game and win it, a team must record twenty seven outs and have scored more runs than their opponent. This comes out to nine innings. A perfect game is when the winning team’s pitcher has recorded all twenty seven outs without a single batter from the opposing team reaching base. In major league baseball’s one hundred and fifty year existence, only twenty three times has a perfect game been pitched. Thousands upon thousands of baseball games have been played in those years, but only twenty three times has anyone watched this feat happen.

Fortunately for our obscure traveling rock n roll band, we were lucky enough to watch the seventeenth perfect game pitched in history while sitting in a motel room in Sante Fe, Mexico. The perfect game was pitched by Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Atlanta Braves at Atlanta’s Turner Field on May 18, 2004.

That evening, we pulled into Santa Fe to stay for the night. We were headed north to Colorado to play a gig in Denver the following day where we would see our drummer Todd’s dad, Dave. It was a cheap motel on the outskirts of town and we settled into our room with some snacks and a bunch of beer. This was par for the course with us when we stayed in a motel. I remember that it was pretty hot by that time of the year in New Mexico, probably somewhere in the nineties.

Our band had a lot of nights where we pulled into some small town to stay overnight in a cheap motel. Most of the time, these types of nights aren’t that remarkable other than I thoroughly enjoyed them at times. Our band certainly had its share of good, bad, exciting and happy times. There were a lot of nights where we met wonderful people and played great concerts to smiling, dancing people. There were also nights where there was hardly anyone at a gig or we played like shit in front of a big crowd. All these different types of experiences had a tendency to wear me the fuck out at times. Touring is tough. Its long drives, late nights, and a lot of commotion. Partying every night for a month can wear you out. So staying the night in some remote motel in between drives to a gig were quite pleasurable at times. It would give us a chance to take it easy, have some quiet time and get centered again.    

So in talking about the concept of perfection, our band certainly never attained it. I don’t think any band ever has or ever will. But we watched Randy Johnson pitch perfection on that late spring evening. Often times when we first settled into a motel room, the television would be turned on, and each of us might go about doing some type of task. Matt would try and get online somehow with a laptop if he could, working the Internets for the advancement of our band. One or more of us might try and make a phone call to a girlfriend or something of that nature. Someone would take a shower or shit in a place that wasn’t a bar bathroom or some strangers home. After all this had taken place, beers would be cracked open and some serious chilling would commence. We might play some video games or just watch the television.

As we were initially settling into that motel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico everyone was going about their usual business when I noticed the baseball game on the television. The sound was turned down low and the channel would have likely been changed soon by one of us. Often Todd, Joe or I would be subtly battling each other for control of the remote. For example, when Todd would step away for a second, he would come back to the television being on a new station. This would carry on for a while until we were all distracted by something else. This was about to happen again when I was going to step outside to call my girlfriend at the time. Except I noticed the box score they show before a commercial break and it showed all zeros for the Atlanta Braves. The game was going to the top of the seventh inning.

It took a moment for this to sink into my brain.

Me: “Dudes, there’s a perfect game going on right now. The Braves haven’t had a single base runner yet.”

Joe: “Really?”

Me: “Yeah, it’s only in the sixth inning, but not a single base runner yet.”

Todd: “Who’s pitching?”

Me: “Randy Johnson.”

Todd: “Looks like we got something to watch for a while.”

It didn’t seem too serious of a possibility at the moment, perfection, since Randy Johnson still had to pitch three more innings to pitch. Getting nine outs in a row in a major league baseball game is difficult and uncommon on its own. So we didn’t get too excited. But it was enough reason for no one to change the channel. Another inning passed and Randy Johnson had gotten through the bottom of the seventh inning and had still not allowed a base runner. Things were getting very interesting at that point. Randy Johnson only needed six more outs to reach perfection. It was a possibnlity.

Me: “I think he’s going to do it. You know there’s only been something like fifteen or sixteen perfect games ever pitched?”

Joe: “That’s it?”

Todd: “Shit. I didn’t realize that.”

Me: “Yeah, there’s been a lot of no-hitters thrown where a guy has given up a few walks or there has been an error on the field, but a perfect game, that’s not one single batter reaching base.”

Joe: “So what, that’s how many straight outs, twenty seven?”

Todd: “Yes, that’s correct. Nine innings with three outs per inning equals twenty seven straight outs.”

Me: “Good job bud. Your math is pretty good.”

Now we really settled in to watch the action. We were drinking beers and really enjoying ourselves. Randy Johnson started to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning and quickly got the first out. Only five outs left to reach perfection. Now Matt who was usually locked into working the computer or fixing a guitar or amp was paying attention.

Me: “Only five more outs. He’s going to do it.”

Matt: “Holy shit, I hope he does it. How many perfect games have been pitched before?”

Joe: “The announcer just said sixteen have been pitched before.”

Randy Johnson mowed right through the Braves batters in the bottom of the eighth inning and now only had three more outs to get for perfection. I have to admit that I had some anxiety. I really wanted to see Randy Johnson make history. When the bottom of the ninth inning approached, we all opened a new beer for good luck and sat still.

The first batter of the bottom of the ninth inning grounded out with a nice play by the second baseman to stop what could have been a base hit.

Todd: “There’s one!”

Me: “Only two more outs.”

Joe: “Ol’ Rando’s got it. Here comes the perfect game.”

The second batter of the bottom of the ninth was called out on strikes.

Matt: “Wow, Rando’s blazing them in there.”

Todd: “Hell yes he is.”

Me: “One more out dudes. We’re about to watch history being made.”

The last batter had two strikes on him in the count when Randy Johnson fired one last fastball in there to get the batter swinging.

Todd: “Struck him out!”   

Me: “Holy shit. He did it and we watched it live!”

Joe: “Sweet!”

Matt: “A perfect game. That’s pretty fucking cool!”

And so there it was. A perfect game.

Our band was never perfect, nor would it ever be. But Randy Johnson was able to complete the concept of perfection as applied to a baseball game. To compare Randy Johnson’s perfect game to music, you could think about what a group of musicians might strive for though. A group of musicians might feel perfection was achieved by playing a concert where every person in the group played every single note correctly. And with no one hitting one wrong note, the exact amount of emotion and feeling in playing those notes. I think this outcome is impossible. So maybe in pushing perfection on our band, I screwed up. I think as a band, we created a lot of magic and magical moments. But if I would have not tried for perfection, even more magic moments would have landed on our doorstep.

Ambition and letting things happen in life are hard things to balance in life. If you only rely on letting things happen, than you may end up waiting around forever and never going anywhere. You become the person who always talks a big game but never actually tried. But if you push too hard, than you might miss opportunities that could have happened if you’d have just chilled the fuck out. So I guess that’s the point of all this writing about perfection. It’s a good idea to work hard, but leave perfection to being an interesting concept or to Randy Johnson. 

March292013

Road Warriors vs. The Gods, Part III

The Band - Up On Cripple Creek

We left off with our obscure traveling rock n roll band motoring Southeast deep in the heart of Texas towards Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Texas is a massive state and driving a van full of music gear along with 4 full grown dudes is a slow roll. Also, it was the middle of the summer in Texas where it is incredibly hot and humid. Add that all together and you have a pretty grueling drive. There are only so many cigarettes to smoke, tunes to listen to, and jokes that can be told before you just want to stop somewhere for the night with an air conditioning on full blast. But we wouldn’t have that luxury on the way to Baton Rouge on that trip. We had a gig to play the next night and hundreds of miles in front of us to drive, so we soldiered on.

For those who have spent time in Texas during the summer, you know just how oppressive the heat can be. For some reason, we weren’t using the air conditioning in the van. You might be saying to yourself, “these boys must be stupid or something,” for not turning on the air conditioning when they could have. But we were driving without turning on the air conditioning for a reason, even if convoluted. The previous van we had started this whole adventure with had overheated some ten times on the initial drive to Las Vegas. We wanted to play it safe with our new van and figured that by keeping the air conditioning off, we could avoid overheating the radiator.

Matt took over driving late that night and we were all sitting in that van with shorts on and nothing else. It was like driving in a sardine can full of sweat and body heat. You could have bottled up that man smell and sold it if you wanted to. Still, out spirits were on the up and up. Matt drove through the night and into the early hours of the next day. Sometime at around 2 or 3 in the morning I think he was exhausted from driving and decided to pull over to a rest stop on the border of Texas and Louisiana. The rest of us had been dropping in and out of sleep for a while, so at first we didn’t notice. While driving, at least there was a steady breeze blowing in through the windows to combat the oppressive heat.

But once we had stopped at the rest stop, that breeze was gone. And now it was just brutal heat and humidity as we tried sleeping in that van while stewing in our own sweat. And it was loud. The bugs in that part of the country are a cacophony of sound at night during the summer. It is almost an other worldly sound, and gave me the creeps. So there we were, struggling to sleep in a cramped van, at a remote rest stop surrounded by swamp land. It was a long night. When the sun came up, we managed to roust ourselves. We were covered in sweat and I felt delirious. I remember choking down a few cigarettes and then piling back in the van to drive once more. It wasn’t too much further to our destination, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Todd seemed to be in decent shape and was willing to drive. Him and Joe drove up front while Matt and I tried sleeping more in the back. 

Southern Louisiana feels like you are about to drive over the edge of the world. It is mile after mile of driving on these long highways that are elevated above the swamps. As far as you can see in any direction is swampland and forest. It has an eery feeling to it. But I found it spectacular. It looks and feels surreal. Todd and Joe were up front enjoying listening to a Dischord Records anthology while I was struggling in the back. Finally, I’d had enough. 

Me: “Todd…Todd.”

Todd: “What’s up bud?”

Me: “Dude, we gotta turn on that air conditioning. I feel like I am dying back here.”

Joe: “Yeah, it’s disgusting hot.”

Me: “I don’t know how much more I can take. Just turn on the fucking air conditioning.”

Todd: “Are you guys sure?”

Matt: “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind it.”

Todd: “Ok guys, let’s see if the air conditioning works in this van.”

It was instantaneous relief. To feel the cool air hit my skin was a beautiful feeling. After about five minutes or so, the van had cooled down. I was finally able to fall into a consistent sleep. I dreamed of my body drifting through the bayou rivers integrating into the swamp.  

We finally arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the afternoon. Baton Rouge is a beautiful town where Louisiana State University is located. Driving around Baton Rouge, we were introduced to the picturesque scenery of the college town. It really does look like the descriptions in vampire novels, with the weeping willow trees and Victorian era buildings everywhere. We eventually located the venue we would be playing at that evening, Ichabod’s, which was across the street from the campus of the college. Unfortunately, the venue wasn’t open for the night yet. The doors were locked and it looked to be closed for another hour or so. So with some time to spare and it being unbelievably hot, we needed to find somewhere to chill for a bit. We were all pretty much filthy and sweaty. It had been a long, hard drive.

One of us had the idea of going over to the college campus and finding a bathroom to clean up. The college was out for the summer, but we were able to find an open building with some bathrooms. We brushed our teeth and washed our faces, at least making ourselves feel a little cleaner. The air conditioning was also on in that building. I remember thinking to myself that I wouldn’t mind staying in that building for the rest of my life. It felt luxurious. 

After a while, we made our way back over to Ichabod’s to see if the owners had arrived yet to open the venue. They had. Just to describe Ichabod’s for a moment, it was a really cool venue inside and out. First, it was called Ichabod’s so the name of the venue was already evoking a ghostly apparition. It had a long wooden bar with a wooden floor. It was a somewhat narrow and long room and looked old. In the back, there was a patio area with ceiling fans, misters and a bar. A stage was set up on the back patio where bands could play. A veranda covered everything and there were air conditioners, misters, and fans blowing on that stage. Ichabod’s may be my favorite venue to have played. It was a beautiful venue with a great Southern atmosphere. The back patio overlooked a river and a bunch of trees. It really was a quintessential setting.

So we arrived at Ichabod’s and introduced ourselves to the bartender and guys putting on the concert. They were all very nice fellows and welcoming. They told us that they were expecting a decent crowd that night and we had as many free beers as we wanted and some bar-b-que from the kitchen.

"Fuck yeah, this is great news," I said. 

Often times, free, cheap beer is a part of getting paid. Being on tour, we became really good at drinking a lot of free, cheap beer every night. As much fun as being a traveling band is, you end up drinking a lot. It’s hard to get yourself up for entertaining people every night. There are times when you just want to kick back and watch some television by yourself. But if you are drunk, all your cares evaporate away and you play some rock n roll. 

We unloaded our gear from our van and then relaxed in the air conditioning of Ichabod’s drinking ice cold beers. Let me tell you, I still remember that first ice cold beer at Ichabod’s. It was one of the best beers ever in my life. It had been a long week or so, it was brutally hot, I was tired and dirty. But that first cold beer made me feel like a new man. Life had been renewed. I had my strength back after that beer and some bar-b-que. We sat in the bar chatting with the bartender drinking beer after beer, catching quite a buzz, while he got ready for the crowd later that night.

After a few hours, Ichabod’s began to fill up with college aged kids or those just out of college. It had a good vibe to it. There were two bands booked that night. It was the kind of venue that hired you to play a long set. As we were setting up, there was a nice crowd starting to accumulate in the stage area. It felt like things were going to be pretty good that night. After all the hard work and van break downs, we were finally going to get back to what we did best. Rock the house. For all the talking in this blog that I’ve done, we were an excellent live band. If people were there to see us at a gig, we almost always got them dancing. Maybe we never became a big time act, but we were a well rehearsed, professional act.

As we were setting up, we noticed a group of girls intently observing us. There were three of them, and they were beautiful, sitting there like the three Sirens from Greek mythology. That is the thing with the South, especially down there in Louisiana, lots of beautiful people. And they all talk with that thick Southern drawl that pours out like fabric softener and tastes like syrup. The three of them approached us to talk. One was tall, blonde and looked like a model, Lauren. The next one was light brownish/blondish, and the prototype for the hot indie rock girl you see around these days, Kit. The last one was blonde and built like a mix between Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Lawrence, Maureen. 

Maureen: “Hi y’all! Are y’all the band from L.A.?”

Matt: “Um, yeah we are from L.A.”

Lauren: “Are you going to play ‘Take Her Out’?”

Me: “For sure. We always play that number.”

Kit: “That’s a really good song. Play that and ‘Do You Wonder.’”

Todd: “How do you know those songs?”

Kit: “We’ve been listening to them the last few days and we’re excited to see you guys play!”

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March152013

Road Warriors vs. The Gods, Part II

Grateful Dead - Ramble on Rose

Part one of this story left off with our obscure band traveling East towards Baton Rouge, Louisiana from Las Vegas as the sun was setting. We had spent the previous several days in Las Vegas negotiating a way to buy a new van after our initial van proved to be completely worthless. It had been a tough, few days there in Las Vegas. It would have been easy to give up and head home, postponing our rock n roll adventures for another time. But if we would have given up at that point, we may have never tried again.

As we drove over the Hoover Dam and out of Nevada that night, I was exhausted. It took everything I had to finally pull off buying that van. Joe and I sat in the back of the van watching episodes of Sex and the City while Matt and Todd navigated up front. They would smoke many cigarettes during that night drive. We were looking at a twenty hour straight drive ahead of us. Normally drives aren’t that long between gigs on a tour, but since we had missed several gigs in between Las Vegas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana waiting on a new van, we had a long way to go. After a few episodes of Sex and the City, I fell asleep. When I woke up, the dawn was rising and we were in the vast landscape of New Mexico with all of its plateaus. It was quite a beautiful scene to wake up to. New Mexico’s landscape almost looks like you are on another planet. We were feeling good. The Gods were asleep still and letting us be.

But that wouldn’t last for long. The Gods were waking up too. We were seemingly the only people on the New Mexico highway enjoying the early morning drive. Just driving along, music was on the stereo system when out of nowhere, a New Mexico Highway Patrol car was behind us flashing its lights. Oh shit. Immediately all the calm, good vibes we were feeling were gone. The nerve and anxiety meter was pinned. We were driving without license plates. The Las Vegas dealership didn’t have plates for the van when we left and there was no time to wait for a set to come in. We figured this might be a problem, attracting the attention of highway patrols across the land. But we had conveniently ignored the problem until now. Todd proceeded to pull the van over and rolled the window down as the officer approached. He looked like the typical highway patrol officer. Square headed, mustache and glasses. 

Todd: “Hi sir, what’s the problem? Were we speeding?”

Highway Patrol Officer: “You weren’t speeding. Can I take a look at your driver’s license and registration, please?”

Todd: “That’s the thing sir, we just bought this van in Las Vegas, so it isn’t registered or with plates yet.”

Highway Patrol Officer: “Oh really?”

Todd: “Yeah, we are a band on tour. Our van broke down so we had to buy a new one.”

Highway Patrol Officer: “Well you probably want to get that taken care of.”

Todd: “Yeah, for sure!”

Highway Patrol Officer: “Well, the reason I pulled you over is because I thought you guys might be transporting aliens across the border.”

Todd: “Aliens?”

Highway Patrol Officer: “Yeah, illegal aliens from mexico. They come across early in the morning in old vans like this one.”

Todd: “Oh well, we don’t have any illegal aliens in the car man.”

Highway Patrol Officer: “I don’t think so, but you mind if I take a quick look in the back?”

Todd: “Yeah man, go ahead. We just have a bunch of amplifiers back there with a couple of the other guys.”

Highway Patrol Officer: “Thanks.”

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March12013

Road Warriors vs. The Gods.

Theme For an Imaginary Western - Mountain

Perhaps the tour story that best exemplifies the spirit and attitude of our band is our first tour story. We had been a band for close to a year at that point, playing all over Southern California. In order for us to take the next step as a band, Matt was often telling us that touring the country would be a good idea. Matt and Joe were the most experienced with how to actually be a professional band. Matt engineered our recordings, was the best musician and he always had a plan. The idea was that we would get national exposure, meet other good bands, and generally become a good band while making a name for ourselves. Besides that, it sounded like a fun thing to do.

We worked on setting up a tour for the summer during the spring. I was graduating from college that spring and then I would be free to do whatever I wanted. It was an exciting time for me. I was finally done with school after what felt like a million years. I really liked the band I was in, and I felt a general feeling of optimism towards life. We worked hard that spring recording a cd to go on the road with and booked about a month’s worth of gigs across the USA.

I graduated at the end of the spring and with my graduation money, I bought an old cargo van. We needed a vehicle to drive our gear and ourselves across the country. I had  received money from my folks and other relatives for graduation. Add to that, I had been working to save money.  So I decided to make the investment. Who wouldn’t want a white Ford Econoline cargo van anyway, right? So I ended up purchasing a two thousand dollar van from some guy out in Pomona. It turned out to be the biggest waste of two thousand bucks I have ever spent. More on that later as this story moves along.

The van itself needed some work. For one, it was a cargo van and there were no back seats. Only two front seats. There were also no windows in the back of the van. It really did look like the classic serial killer abduction van. So with four guys in the band, we had to figure out a way to carry us all. Our solution was NOT to buy a bench seat and bolt it in the back. We decided to make it the ultimate comfort zone in the back by putting a mattress with a bunch of pillows and blankets back there. I don’t think we realized back then how creepy some stranger might think we were like that. Oh well. We felt good about it. 

The date of our departure arrived and I was excited but also somewhat anxious. I had never driven cross country. I had no idea just how long a drive could be and how truly vast America is. But I would find out. We had packed the van full of our gear haphazardly, had a bunch of maps contact information, and Todd’s Nintendo Gamecube rigged up for entertainment. Our families and girlfriends wished us well and we were off. We headed east on I-15 interstate towards Las Vegas, our first stop. The plan was to make it to Matt’s uncle Greg’s house in Vegas that night and then play a gig the next night. They were a nice family of four, Uncle Greg, his wife Sandy, sister Antoinette, brother Morgan. We’d stay a night with them before getting on our way. Simple enough or so we thought. Cruising up the Cajon Pass with some select tunes playing, I started to relax and get into the vibe. Hell, I thought to myself, this feels like the ultimate vacation. Nothing to worry about, no school and no job to go to. But this feeling didn’t last long.

The Cajon Pass is a long uphill climb through the San Bernardino Mountains before you reach the high desert of California. It’s a tough climb and hard on an old car. As soon as we hit the Cajon Pass, our van’s thermometer gauge began to rise steadily. We were overheating. Fuck. We hoped that the van would make it up the pass and then handle the rest of the drive. But the thermometer gauge didn’t stop rising. We had to pull over. After that first stop for overheating, we hoped that we could nurse the van to the top of the pass and then eventually make it to Las Vegas. The idea was to get to Matt’s uncle’s place and see about repairing the van. We hoped it was a minor repair. 

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February82013

Blizzard in the Land of Abraham.

Nada Surf - Blizzard of ‘77

Traveling in an obscure rock band, we experienced all sorts of weather. Everything from oppressive heat and humidity to torrential thunderstorms in the spring. On one tour, the heater core of our van gave out and it was still winter in the Midwest. We actually drove with blankets covering us, but that didn’t help much. It was freezing and I remember how cold my feet were from spending hours having to hold down the gas and brake pedals. There is a lot of snow on the ground where I live right now. It reminds me of the first blizzard I experienced.

Our band was driving north through Illinois when we stopped for the night in Springfield, Illinois, birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. It was by chance that we ended up staying in Springfield for the night. We didn’t have the intention of staying there for the night. We were likely trying to reach Chicagoland for the night, about another 200 miles north of Springfield. With some gigs in the region scheduled the following days, reaching Chicago would be a good place to stay for the night. But we needed to stop and fill the gas tank of our van before we could continue the last couple hundred miles. Springfield happened to be the next place where we could stop for gas and we may have decided on it by saying,

"We should stop for gas there. Lincoln was born there."

At any rate, we decided to stop in Springfield. As usual, our stops often could last a while. By the time everyone would have used the restroom, bought a pop or beef stick, with someone cleaning off the van windshield of bugs possibly, 20-30 minutes may have passed. When we were all loaded in the van again, we headed back towards the interstate. We noticed that the sky was pretty dark and it looked like a storm. Matt has always been interested in weather patterns and storms so it wasn’t a surprise when he said, 

Matt: “That looks like a big storm up ahead. Put on the radio to see what’s up.

So one of us turned on the van radio. Immediately we heard one of those public safety announcements on the radio with this sinister warning:

Inclement weather due. Blizzard like conditions and white out. Proceed with caution, roads closures ahead. 

Well shit. 

Matt: “Dudes, we’re going to be stuck if it’s a white out.”

Me: “What’s a white out?”

Joe: “It means there is going to be a huge blizzard where there’s no visibility. Everything becomes white, even right in front of you.”

Joe and Matt were born and raised in Pennsylvania where the winters are harsh and it snows a lot. 

Todd: “Shit, what should we do?”

Joe: “We get off the road right away. We shouldn’t be driving.”

Matt: “Yeah, we should probably just stop here for the night and get a motel room here.”

Todd and I were born and raised in Southern California. There is never inclement weather or white out blizzards in Southern California. We were both inexperienced with this type of weather. Neither of us had ever been stuck in a real blizzard. It was a serious thing if it was Matt suggesting we stop for the night at a hotel room. He was usually the guy pushing to get as far as possible before stopping, ensuring we got to our destinations on time.

Me: “Yeah let’s stop. It sounds dangerous.”

Todd: “Let’s stop. Let’s get a bunch of beer and food and get a nice hotel room. We can get drunk, play video games, and kick back for the night.”

So it was decided. We were going to stay in Springfield, Illinois for the night. I mentioned before that a gas stop usually lasted about 20 minutes. If we had not had to stop for gas, we likely would not have been forced to stop in Abraham’s birthplace for the night. It was a freak blizzard, late in the winter, and out of nowhere. So we had to move quickly. We decided to treat ourselves that night because we worked hard as a band.

Todd: “Let’s pay for a good hotel tonight guys. I got some extra money on it.”

Me: “Yeah me too. Let’s get a room with comfortable beds and a nice shower.”

Instead of the usual shitty Motel 6 room that we would stay in with band funds, we decided to splurge and pay for a Holiday Inn. We went back to the liquor store right quick, got a bunch of cold beer, picked up a bunch of burgers from a burger joint, and settled into a Holiday Inn room. The snow began to fall as we settled into our room. 

I was gazing out of the window of our second floor room while the other guys were watching the news.

Me: “It doesn’t look like a blizzard so far.”

Joe: “It will. It’s just getting started.”

It was lightly snowing. It looked nice, but nothing spectacular. But Joe’s words rang true. 

Me: “So you guys have been through a white out?”

Joe: “Yeah. Usually about once a year.”

Matt: “It’s going to be fun to watch. I’m glad we stopped.”

Todd: “Let it snow then.”

And snow it did. Over the next hour, the snow steadily increased until it became a quiet roar of snow. After a while, looking out of the window was like looking at a white wall. It was impressive.

Todd: “Wow, it looks really awesome!”

Matt: “I’m going to go out in it. anybody want to check it out?”

Todd: “Let’s go!”

Matt and Todd were fired up. They suited up and went outside. Joe and I stayed behind at first finishing the beers we had cracked. We looked out the window but it was hard to see the other guys out there.

Me: “Should we go out there too?”

Joe: “You ever been in a blizzard?”

Me: “Not that I reckon.”

Joe: “We may as well. It’s kinda cool.”

On the way down, we passed a hot tub. If there is one thing in this world that Joe and I agree on is that there is nothing better than a hot tub. 

Me: “You want to get in that hot tub after we go stand in this stupid blizzard for a while?”

Joe: “For sure.”

We walked outside and couldn’t see anything. So we held hands. Just kidding. We didn’t do that. After a minute, we found Matt and Todd making snow angels in the quickly accumulating snow. They were actually doing this. So Joe and I made some snow angels with them. Four grown men just enjoying a blizzard making snow angels. All the rock n roll anxiety, excitement, and disappointment began to leave me. It looked spectacular outside. Beautiful, large snowflakes relentlessly piled up on the ground. As Todd recently described it,

"It was a weird, loud silence."

It looked like a winter wonderland around us. We finished up our snow angels and headed back inside to our hotel room. Matt put on his scientist hat and fired up the lap top computer to do some weather research to see what was happening. 

Matt: “This is amazing! We happen to be in the center of the highest concentration of moisture in the country. This blizzard totally came out of nowhere.” 

Me: “What does that mean?”

Matt: “Springfield is the only place in the country with bad weather. Everywhere else is pretty normal.”

Todd: “What’s that mean?”

Matt: “This blizzard is only hitting this region. It’s like a freak blizzard that is only in this county. Very strange.”

Me: “Maybe it’s a blizzard meant just for us?”

Often times in this blog, I write about metaphysical concepts. I have touched on the Multiverse, the concept of chance, other dimensions, and psychedelic drugs. I find it fascinating and it’s real to me. I also believe these concepts relate well to our band because we put ourselves in positions to be affected or influenced by them. If we had not stopped in Springfield, who knows what may have happened?

We may have gotten in a terrible car accident having missed the weather warning. Or we may have driven right through the weather. Maybe narrowly avoiding catastrophe, ending up in Chicago that night doing some other memorable thing there. I do find it remarkable even after all these years that at the end of March, we happened to run into one isolated blizzard. Sometimes I wonder when the Wonderful Wizard of Oz is going to reveal himself.

Anyhow, of all the nights spent on the road in our band with that group of guys, that night in Springfield was the most comfortable one for me. Sure, there were other nights that were more rock n roll exciting. Playing to a large crowds, going over well, and partying. Those would be exciting nights. There were nights and days of fun and intrigue, drunken carousing, and psychedelic journeys. But for me personally, most times before a gig, I feel like shitting my pants.

In the hours leading up to a concert, I usually have a lot of anxiety. As soon as I begin playing I am fine. I relax and the tension dissipates. After playing, I feel like a million bucks. When the set is over, there is usually some type of excitement going on and that would end up carrying the night. But spending the night in a white out blizzard in the middle of Illinois unexpectedly was one of the most comfortable nights for me in my life. I will attempt to convey what I mean by comfortable. The following is my description of the ultimate comfortable feeling:

If you’ve ever taken opiate drugs like oxycontin, vicodon, or heroin, it not only makes your body relax into oblivion, it takes away the fear and anxiety of life. The effect could be comparable to when your mother held you to her tit to suckle as an infant. That would be the most comforting thing possible when freaking out at that age. Ah yes, the nurturing ways of your mother’s tit when trying to understand why you had been dragged into this intense world. 

My comfort that night was comparable to that description up above, but without the drugs or mother’s milk. I think it was the combination of that blizzard making us feel isolated while being with some of my favorite guys in the world. There was none of my usual anxiety or fears. There was nowhere to be on time or people to impress. We kicked back, drank some beers, ate some burgers, and played some video games.

Joe: “Howabout that hot tub?”

Me: “Fuckin’ A right! You guys want to go and sit in that hot tub?”

Todd: “You know it!”

Matt: “Hot tub party!”

We all sat in the hotel hot tub, drank a few beers, watched the snow fall and let all of our tension fall away. A hard working, hard driving rock n roll band getting the chance to relax for a minute. 

12PM

Blizzard in the Land of Abraham.

Nada Surf - Blizzard of ‘77

Traveling in an obscure rock band, we experienced all sorts of weather. Everything from oppressive heat and humidity to torrential thunderstorms in the spring. On one tour, the heater core of our van gave out and it was still winter in the Midwest. We actually drove with blankets covering us, but that didn’t help much. It was freezing and I remember how cold my feet were from spending hours having to hold down the gas and brake pedals. There is a lot of snow on the ground where I live right now. It reminds me of the first blizzard I experienced.

Our band was driving north through Illinois when we stopped for the night in Springfield, Illinois, birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. It was by chance that we ended up staying in Springfield for the night. We didn’t have the intention of staying there for the night. We were likely trying to reach Chicagoland for the night, about another 200 miles north of Springfield. With some gigs in the region scheduled the following days, reaching Chicago would be a good place to stay for the night. But we needed to stop and fill the gas tank of our van before we could continue the last couple hundred miles. Springfield happened to be the next place where we could stop for gas and we may have decided on it by saying,

"We should stop for gas there. Lincoln was born there."

At any rate, we decided to stop in Springfield. As usual, our stops often could last a while. By the time everyone would have used the restroom, bought a pop or beef stick, with someone cleaning off the van windshield of bugs possibly, 20-30 minutes may have passed. When we were all loaded in the van again, we headed back towards the interstate. We noticed that the sky was pretty dark and it looked like a storm. Matt has always been interested in weather patterns and storms so it wasn’t a surprise when he said, 

Matt: “That looks like a big storm up ahead. Put on the radio to see what’s up.

So one of us turned on the van radio. Immediately we heard one of those public safety announcements on the radio with this sinister warning:

Inclement weather due. Blizzard like conditions and white out. Proceed with caution, roads closures ahead. 

Well shit. 

Matt: “Dudes, we’re going to be stuck if it’s a white out.”

Me: “What’s a white out?”

Joe: “It means there is going to be a huge blizzard where there’s no visibility. Everything becomes white, even right in front of you.”

Joe and Matt were born and raised in Pennsylvania where the winters are harsh and it snows a lot. 

Todd: “Shit, what should we do?”

Joe: “We get off the road right away. We shouldn’t be driving.”

Matt: “Yeah, we should probably just stop here for the night and get a motel room here.”

Todd and I were born and raised in Southern California. There is never inclement weather or white out blizzards in Southern California. We were both inexperienced with this type of weather. Neither of us had ever been stuck in a real blizzard. It was a serious thing if it was Matt suggesting we stop for the night at a hotel room. He was usually the guy pushing to get as far as possible before stopping, ensuring we got to our destinations on time.

Me: “Yeah let’s stop. It sounds dangerous.”

Todd: “Let’s stop. Let’s get a bunch of beer and food and get a nice hotel room. We can get drunk, play video games, and kick back for the night.”

So it was decided. We were going to stay in Springfield, Illinois for the night. I mentioned before that a gas stop usually lasted about 20 minutes. If we had not had to stop for gas, we likely would not have been forced to stop in Abraham’s birthplace for the night. It was a freak blizzard, late in the winter, and out of nowhere. So we had to move quickly. We decided to treat ourselves that night because we worked hard as a band.

Todd: “Let’s pay for a good hotel tonight guys. I got some extra money on it.”

Me: “Yeah me too. Let’s get a room with comfortable beds and a nice shower.”

Instead of the usual shitty Motel 6 room that we would stay in with band funds, we decided to splurge and pay for a Holiday Inn. We went back to the liquor store right quick, got a bunch of cold beer, picked up a bunch of burgers from a burger joint, and settled into a Holiday Inn room. The snow began to fall as we settled into our room. 

I was gazing out of the window of our second floor room while the other guys were watching the news.

Me: “It doesn’t look like a blizzard so far.”

Joe: “It will. It’s just getting started.”

It was lightly snowing. It looked nice, but nothing spectacular. But Joe’s words rang true. 

Me: “So you guys have been through a white out?”

Joe: “Yeah. Usually about once a year.”

Matt: “It’s going to be fun to watch. I’m glad we stopped.”

Todd: “Let it snow then.”

And snow it did. Over the next hour, the snow steadily increased until it became a quiet roar of snow. After a while, looking out of the window was like looking at a white wall. It was impressive.

Todd: “Wow, it looks really awesome!”

Matt: “I’m going to go out in it. anybody want to check it out?”

Todd: “Let’s go!”

Matt and Todd were fired up. They suited up and went outside. Joe and I stayed behind at first finishing the beers we had cracked. We looked out the window but it was hard to see the other guys out there.

Me: “Should we go out there too?”

Joe: “You ever been in a blizzard?”

Me: “Not that I reckon.”

Joe: “We may as well. It’s kinda cool.”

On the way down, we passed a hot tub. If there is one thing in this world that Joe and I agree on is that there is nothing better than a hot tub. 

Me: “You want to get in that hot tub after we go stand in this stupid blizzard for a while?”

Joe: “For sure.”

We walked outside and couldn’t see anything. So we held hands. Just kidding. We didn’t do that. After a minute, we found Matt and Todd making snow angels in the quickly accumulating snow. They were actually doing this. So Joe and I made some snow angels with them. Four grown men just enjoying a blizzard making snow angels. All the rock n roll anxiety, excitement, and disappointment began to leave me. It looked spectacular outside. Beautiful, large snowflakes relentlessly piled up on the ground. As Todd recently described it,

"It was a weird, loud silence."

It looked like a winter wonderland around us. We finished up our snow angels and headed back inside to our hotel room. Matt put on his scientist hat and fired up the lap top computer to do some weather research to see what was happening. 

Matt: “This is amazing! We happen to be in the center of the highest concentration of moisture in the country. This blizzard totally came out of nowhere.” 

Me: “What does that mean?”

Matt: “Springfield is the only place in the country with bad weather. Everywhere else is pretty normal.”

Todd: “What’s that mean?”

Matt: “This blizzard is only hitting this region. It’s like a freak blizzard that is only in this county. Very strange.”

Me: “Maybe it’s a blizzard meant just for us?”

Often times in this blog, I write about metaphysical concepts. I have touched on the Multiverse, the concept of chance, other dimensions, and psychedelic drugs. I find it fascinating and it’s real to me. I also believe these concepts relate well to our band because we put ourselves in positions to be affected or influenced by them. If we had not stopped in Springfield, who knows what may have happened?

We may have gotten in a terrible car accident having missed the weather warning. Or we may have driven right through the weather. Maybe narrowly avoiding catastrophe, ending up in Chicago that night doing some other memorable thing there. I do find it remarkable even after all these years that at the end of March, we happened to run into one isolated blizzard. Sometimes I wonder when the Wonderful Wizard of Oz is going to reveal himself.

Anyhow, of all the nights spent on the road in our band with that group of guys, that night in Springfield was the most comfortable one for me. Sure, there were other nights that were more rock n roll exciting. Playing to a large crowds, going over well, and partying. Those would be exciting nights. There were nights and days of fun and intrigue, drunken carousing, and psychedelic journeys. But for me personally, most times before a gig, I feel like shitting my pants.

In the hours leading up to a concert, I usually have a lot of anxiety. As soon as I begin playing I am fine. I relax and the tension dissipates. After playing, I feel like a million bucks. When the set is over, there is usually some type of excitement going on and that would end up carrying the night. But spending the night in a white out blizzard in the middle of Illinois unexpectedly was one of the most comfortable nights for me in my life. I will attempt to convey what I mean by comfortable. The following is my description of the ultimate comfortable feeling:

If you’ve ever taken opiate drugs like oxycontin, vicodon, or heroin, it not only makes your body relax into oblivion, it takes away the fear and anxiety of life. The effect could be comparable to when your mother held you to her tit to suckle as an infant. That would be the most comforting thing possible when freaking out at that age. Ah yes, the nurturing ways of your mother’s tit when trying to understand why you had been dragged into this intense world. 

My comfort that night was comparable to that description up above, but without the drugs or mother’s milk. I think it was the combination of that blizzard making us feel isolated while being with some of my favorite guys in the world. There was none of my usual anxiety or fears. There was nowhere to be on time or people to impress. We kicked back, drank some beers, ate some burgers, and played some video games.

Joe: “Howabout that hot tub?”

Me: “Fuckin’ A right! You guys want to go and sit in that hot tub?”

Todd: “You know it!”

Matt: “Hot tub party!”

We all sat in the hotel hot tub, drank a few beers, watched the snow fall and let all of our tension fall away. A hard working, hard driving rock n roll band getting the chance to relax for a minute. 

   

January182013

What Are The Chances?

There are times when life seems like the result of chance. What I mean is the choices we all make may result in an infinite number of ways that our lives diverge. This concept ties into the idea of the Multiverse, where there are infinite numbers of Universes and infinite versions of ourselves living lives in said realities. But let’s scale back that idea a little bit to what I feel was a pivotal point in the career of our obscure traveling band.

I often think of a point in our travels that probably lasted less than 10 minutes when Todd lost his wallet. At this pivotal point, significant diverging paths could have been taken. Personally, during those few minutes, a distinct powerful feeling came over me while sitting in a van in the middle of Kansas. It was a moment of clarity where I saw the Multiverse laid out in front of me. There were so many possibilities and I was very aware of them for just a few minutes. 

Todd lost his wallet and this was about half way through our first tour. The reason this was a pivotal moment was because if we didn’t find his wallet, there was a chance we may have packed it in and went home. We may have been so disheartened by our initial failure that we decided to stop trying to be a touring band. Or who knows what would have happened? Our paths may have diverged off onto a whole other path if the wallet wasn’t found. I like Matt and Todd’s ideas on this topic of chance, circumstance and choice related to our band.  I recently talked to them:

Matt: “Yeah, it was like a constant John Hughes vacation travel misadventure movie minus the destination always being Chicago. How many times did we joke about freaking out and relocating where we stood at the time? I was, in my head, serious sometimes.”

We did spend a lot of time broken down waiting for our van to be fixed in strange places.

Todd:If my wallet was lost, we would have figured it out and made it all work. We were probably the most resourceful band ever. We could find our way out of a tight spot like no ones business.”

This is also true. The four of us may have been more cut out for being comrades in a war together rather than an indie rock band. We weren’t afraid of anything and we didn’t give in easily.

Speaking for myself, I thought of Todd as the lynch pin of the band. He was the most logic minded of our group so if he felt strongly about a situation, we were obliged to listen to his reasoning. Technically speaking, the guy is an organizational master. Since the first time I ever spoke with the guy back in middle school, he has a clear, well-thought out idea for what he is doing. For the rest of us in the band, this was great because we were mostly all over the place.

Todd also provided a free and excellent rehearsal space for us to use at his house for years. This truly allowed our band to get off the ground. For those who have never played in a band, having a home to call your own is possibly the most important thing a band can have. We had a place to store our gear, keep it set up and rehearse at any time. Todd also organized the way we traveled in our van. This includes the storage carrier we towed to packing the van expertly after gigs. Often late at night and when we were all drunk or bouncing around like kinetically drunk atoms. He made sure we traveled as comfortably as possible. This is significant. 

If Todd’s wallet was truly lost somewhere in Kansas, maybe swept away to the Land of Oz, things may have gone differently. It was our first tour and we had no idea how things could possibly go. Driving around the country in a van with 4-5 guys and a bunch of music gear can be fraught with all kinds of obstacles. If the wallet was lost, logic may have told us to cut out losses and head home. This is possible. During those ten minutes of driving, many different outcomes went through my mind. Joe and Todd were in the front of the van and Matt and I were in the back.

Todd: “Fuck!……Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, Shit!”

Collectively: “What?! What’s up?! What happened?!”

Todd: “I lost my wallet. I’m fucked!”

Matt: “Where’d you lose it?”

Todd: “At the last gas station we stopped at. When I was on top of the van getting a book out of my suitcase, I left it on top of the van.”

We were traveling north through Kansas and had stopped at a gas station. We traveled with a storage pod on top of the van and there was a ladder on the back of the van that you could climb to get on top of the van. By the time Todd realized his wallet was missing, we were at least 60 miles away from that gas station. Everybody suddenly looked nervous.

Me: “Are you sure? It’s probably in the van somewhere. Let’s look.”

Todd: “No dude, I know I left it up there. I pulled out my wallet to count my money  while I was up there. I’m so fucked.”

Joe: “What was in the wallet?”

Todd: “Everything! A couple hundred bucks, my drivers license, and ATM card. I’m fucked.”

Todd was driving so the rest of us in the van quickly began looking everywhere in the van trying to find the wallet. None of us could find it.

Todd: “I told you guys I left it on top of the van. I remember setting it down on top of the van. I lost everything and now I’m totally fucked!”

Joe: “What should we do?”

Matt: “We should drive back to the gas station to see if we can find it.”

Todd: “Dude, that place was like 60 miles back. It’s long gone.”

At this point, Todd was getting a truly worried look on his face. Understandable, since so much was at stake, but it is rare to see Todd unsure of a situation. But for some reason, during these 10 minutes I didn’t panic. It was a moment of clarity for me. Believe me, I have panicked and overreacted like anyone else when things get hectic. But during these ten minutes I was able to see in my mind all the different possibilities. I knew for sure was that wallet was still on top of the van. I could just see it in my mind.

Me: “Dude, stop the van. It’s still up there.”

Todd: “It’s gone man. There’s no way it’s still up there. Fuck! I’m gonna have to call my bank and borrow money from Gigi. (His girlfriend at the time.)

Me: “Seriously man, just stop the van and climb up that ladder and take a look. I’m pretty sure it’s up there.”

Todd: “Dude, there’s no way that my wallet is still sitting up there after driving for 60 miles.”

Me: “I’m telling you, go and look. It’s up there.”

Matt: “We may as well stop and take a look. Who knows, maybe it’s up there.”

Todd: “Ok, I’ll take a look.”

In my memory, that day was sparkling. Surrounding us were cornfields for as far as we could see. There was a high blue sky, zero haze and maybe a cotton ball of a cloud or two. Kansas looked spectacular and vast. In Todd’s words, 

"It was sunny and green everywhere!"

Todd slowly brought the van to a stop on the shoulder of the interstate highway we were driving on. He hopped out of the van walked around the back of the van. The rest of us waited holding our breath pensively. We listened to Todd climb up the back of the van and then climb down. He walked back to the drivers side door and climbed back in. He held up his wallet with a smile.

Joe: “You found it!”

Matt: “Sweet!

Todd: “I can’t believe it was up there! It was open and wrapped around the metal rack up there.”

Me: “Amazing.” 

There are so many variables in life, or chances. What were all the possibilities of the circumstances we were in? We may have thrown in the towel and returned home. Having not actually completed our first tour, we may have never had the strength to try a tour again. It took a lot of strength to complete that first tour having made no name for ourselves to that point. Having completed that initial tour on our own with no help, we had the confidence to keep going. 

I could also see us turning the van around and driving back to the gas station. We wouldn’t have found the wallet and one of us may have been hit by a car. That could have happened. Or we could have gone back to the gas station getting behind schedule by a few hours and missed the concert scheduled for that night. The we would have stopped for the night at a motel to drown our sorrows and figure out the next move. Deciding to get some beer to help pass the time, we may have by accident foiled a robbery at the local liquor store. Matt could have dropped a bottle of beer on the ground causing the robber to slip on the spilled beer and knock himself out. We may have been lauded as heros with our band becoming famous in Kansas. Being so well received in Kansas we may have moved there permanently and ended up co-owning a trail mix store with a recording studio in the back. 

Weirder things have happened in this world, and although this seems outrageous, you never know when it comes to chance. All I know is that for a brief interlude of time, we weren’t in Kansas anymore. 

        

January112013

Long Drives, Historical Sites, & JFK!

Damien Jurado - Working Titles

Sometimes our obscure traveling band stumbled upon significant places without intending to. If you’ve ever driven on the U.S. interstates, you’ve seen the signs on the side of the road. I’m not talking about the signs for eating the world’s largest steak or stopping to check out a metal dinosaur. I am talking about the signs that say:

"Van Meter, Iowa Home of the Bob Feller Museum"

or

"Tippecanoe Battlefield Site, Tippecanoe, Indiana"

These are historical sites of significance. If you are inclined, stop to visit Bob Feller’s museum since who knows when the next time you will be driving through Van Meter, Iowa will be. You could learn a thing or two about the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame pitcher with three career no-hitters. Or you could visit Tippecanoe and learn how the battle between the American military and the Shawnee Confederacy helped cause the War of 1812. The White House was burned down by the British during the War of 1812. On occasion our band would stop for these types of historically significant places.

Personally, part of the excitement of driving all over the United States to play concerts was to actually see the United States. It’s a damn big place. It is impressive how big it is. You really begin to understand this after driving through the vastness that is the United States. So I didn’t want to sleep through it. I wanted to try and absorb as much of it as possible through my eyes. I wanted to understand how the United States became what it is. I wanted to understand who the people were that came before us and their legacy that endures through who we are today. 

Driving through Nebraska brought to life some of the books like 'My Antonia' that I was assigned to read in school. The early pioneers of the United States truly lived in remote and desolate regions. It’s amazing to realize how much as humans we have reached and developed. If you break down in Platte, Nebraska, there is a legitimate chance that you could die depending on the weather. Driving in circles and zig-zags across the land brought that home for me. The world we live in today is because of these historically significant people and places settling them. A lot of times through battling the harsh weather, geography, and Native Americans.      

For the most part, we had to stay on a fairly strict driving schedule. Driving five to six hundred miles a day is a grind and takes a long time. On top of that, there is the stress of getting to the concert on time to play it. There is no worse feeling than knowing you are fucked and are not going to make the concert on time. So a lot if touring in a band is driving all day long and staring out a window. In between staring out a window there is listening to music, trying to make each other laugh with ridiculous ideas of stupidity or reading. This would be a typical afternoon of driving for us:

Joe: “Dudes, I wouldn’t mind stopping for some lunch soon.”

Todd: “Yeah man, I’m about done with sitting in this van for a while.”

Matt: “Let’s try and make it to Dallas before stopping. It’s another 50 miles. From there, Baton Rouge is only 400 hundred miles.”

(400 miles was basically one tank of gas. Matt thinking ahead time and money wise.)

Me: “Sounds like a plan to me….. Hey Todd….”

Todd: “What’s up?”

Me: “Todd!”

Todd: “What!!?”

Me: “Do you think it smells like updog in here?”

Pause

Todd: “What’s up dog?”

Me: “Not much bud. Just chillin’. Ready to get out of this fucking van. Been sitting in here for what feels like forever. Howabout you?”

Hilarity and laughter ensued.

On some drives, there is enough time to make casual stops at points of interest. On this specific drive, eventual destination Baton Rouge, we had time to stop for lunch Dallas. When we reached Dallas, it was late afternoon. We drive around a bit and eventually found a sports bar to eat at. I think we ate alligator burgers, had a few beers and then were ready to get back on our way. We were navigating ourselves out of Dallas back to the interstate when it dawned on me,     

Me: “Hey guys, wasn’t JFK assassinated in Dallas?”

Joe: “He was. I wonder where?”

Ian: “Maybe we’re near enough to stop by?”

Matt: “Actually, I think it’s pretty near. It can’t be far from here.”

(Interestingly enough, we were driving down the very road he was when he was shot going through Dealey Plaza unbeknownst to us. A few minutes later we would figure it out.)

Me: “We need an address. Any ideas how to find an address?”

Joe: “I’ll call Viv. She’s probably at a computer right now and can look it up.”

Vivian was Joe’s girlfriend at the time, and now wife. A few minutes later, she had given us the location.

Joe: “We gotta look for Dealey Plaza. That’s where he was shot.”

Me: “That’s what Viv says?”

Joe: “Yeah, she says go there.”

Matt: “I think we just passed by there. I saw a sign that said Dealey Plaza.”

Todd: “Look! There’s a sign for Dealey Plaza. Take that exit Matt.”

Matt was thinking quick and took the exit for Dealey Plaza and circled back around to Elm Street. Sure enough, we had driven through Dealey Plaza without even realizing it. As so many things are, they are a lot more nondescript when you see them in reality. You’d expect some bells and whistles indicating

"THIS IS WHERE THE HISTORY & COURSE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WAS FOREVER CHANGED!!!!"

But it’s not like that. It looks just like any other street and on-ramp to get on a highway in a city. A bunch of people speeding in vehicles trying to get ahead of other people in speeding vehicles to get wherever it is they are going in a rush. It looks like the sterile outskirts of a city. 

The Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald was perched on the 6th floor with his rifle is just an ordinary brick building on Elm Street. The grassy knoll is a half block further beyond The Texas School Book Depository. It is up above Elm Street between the intersecting highway where the motorcade was trying to get to. Sorta like a joint connecting Elm Street where the motorcade was driving and the elevated highway. We parked our van and got out.

Me: “This place gives me the creeps…”

Matt: “Yeah, for sure…”

The four of us walked around a bit. It was dusk and beginning to get dark. We went up to the Texas School Bookstore Depository and looked up there. It was just brick. That’s what it was made of. Just an old brick building. 

We walked further down the street to the grassy knoll where some believe that a second assassin(s) lay with rifle(s). It was just a little grassy hill with a small, beat up wooden fence with litter and graffiti on it at the top. Behind that, a shitty parking lot. Not much to it. Not much to where many witnesses and theorists believe they heard and saw gunshots coming from. The spot where three mysterious tramps were quickly escorted away never to be identified.

From atop the grassy knoll, we were able to see white ‘X’ marks on Elm Street below. The ‘X’ marks on the street where marks indicating where the bullets blasted apart John F. Kennedy’s head. I found it fascinating that thousands of cars a year zoom over those ‘X’ marks. Those ‘X’ marks represent where the history of the United States was forever changed. The United States may very well be a different place because of the events that occurred on those ‘X’ marks. Thus is life though….People drive over those ‘X’ marks every day with nothing else on their minds but getting to work on time, the divorce they are going through, or where they are going for lunch. 

We continued strolling around, talking quietly, and taking in the feeling of a place where a dark hole once opened up and changed the future. The dusk that was shuffling in the night provided a lonely, eery feeling. As a group, we were usually pretty boisterous and upbeat. But I remember a subdued feeling amongst us. There was a sad feeling in the air. Maybe we created that atmosphere in our own heads as we realized the significance of the events that happened on that spot? Those events may have affected even our lives over 40 years later, somehow. They were heavy things to contemplate for us. If JFK lives, does the Vietnam War escalate? Does Nixon get elected? Does Bobby Kennedy end up living and becoming the greatest President ever? For all of our joking around and acting like goofs, we were able to get intellectual.     

We kicked some of these ideas around for a while. After a while, we crossed Elm Street and walked around a grass field that had a monument in the middle dedicated to JFK.

Todd: “So that guy was just driving down the road and boom, there goes his head.”

Me: “Yeah, pretty much.”

Matt: “Have you guys watched the Zapruder film?”

Todd: “What’s that?”

Me: “You’ve probably seen it. It’s the film footage they always show when he was shot.”

Joe: “I bet I can find a video of it later on the Internet when we stop.”

Later that night, over cold beers, we went over the Zapruder Film on Joe’s lap top over and over again. We were determined to crack the case and find the answer to what really happened.

But in all seriousness, we did want to thoroughly examine the circumstances of the events that happened that day. Why were there so many unanswered questions about what went down in Dealey Plaza? Lee Harvey Oswald never had a chance to state his case. He was murdered by what at best could be called murky circumstances. It was all so bizarre.

The next day we were supposed to play a concert in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but I had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I think I was disturbed by what humans are capable of. I’m not saying that JFK was a white knight. Surely he had skeletons in the closet. Whether it was Oswald on his own or a many armed conspiracy, it was powerful to realize how humans take matters into their own hands to change the natural flow of time. 

I was fortunate to have traveled in a band for a bunch of years. It may not seem that big of a deal to have visited Dealey Plaza, but if you go to places like that, it will get you thinking. Sometimes I think about what it was like to be in a band trying to make it and what that means to me today. I contemplate what it was like to travel and play concerts and the other stuff. In the long run, one of the most meaningful influences of all the band traveling was actually seeing what this land is. That is a value that has no monetary or career value to it. The experience was real. Everybody should drive or take a train cross country at least once. There are a ton of Dealey Plazas, Tippecanoes, and Bob Feller Museums out there. Go check it out!

January42013

The Great Shitscapade of Oklahoma City.

Wilco - Theologians

This story of our obscure traveling band brings us to the episode where we showed up to play at a church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As I have previously mentioned, we really would play just about anywhere. So why not a church?

Traveling around playing rock music gives you the opportunity to meet a lot of different people. By gaining an understanding of where of youth culture is, you can gauge the direction of where things are going in the world. They always give the indication. When a lot of young people get involved with subversive ideas, long established aspects of culture erode, and society becomes a better place. Those subversive ideas then become the new social norms. It becomes unacceptable to carry on with previous social norms that may have been hurtful towards other groups. Those who still subscribe to those ideas become the outcasts.   

So what’s with the above psychoanalysis of youth and evolution? Because Oklahoma City is a good example of religious authority, youth culture, subversive ideas, social evolution, sexual repression, and general strangeness. All rolled into one big ball. These things all get stirred up and mixed together in that city in the middle of the USA. Maybe all these things swirled together in the great cosmos to create a man known as Tim Miller.

Right off the bat, the first thing I want to say is that Tim Miller is a really generous and nice person. He has to be since he repeatedly wanted our band to come to Oklahoma City and play. Tim is a fairly reserved kid who is Christian. Our band was a van full of booze guzzling, drug taking, rock musicians singing about all crazy things in the universe. Things like women, agnosticism, atheism, drinking, parties, and love. Anyhow, Tim has to be one of the most open-minded people to believe in his faith, and to have asked us back so many times. Or maybe he just really likes rock music and guitar solos?

I think the first time we met Tim, he took the band out to eat at an all you can eat pizza restaurant. There we all were, our shitass looking band, Timmy, and a bunch of 9 year old kids eating pizza and wings. All you can eat pizza buffet and Tim paid the bill. Thanks bud! So let’s get this story moving forward.

We were a traveling rock band ready to play anywhere. Tim Miller was a 17 year old kid from Oklahoma City who loved indie rock and put on shows for bands. Tim was a music nerd. A real one. Not one of the modern day hip versions that walk the streets of everywhere these days. A real nerd who wore glasses, bought vinyl records of bands no one has ever heard of, and plays guitar. And not just strumming guitar, but shredding guitar, full of solos. I remember several conversations years back advising him on just going for it with girls. I was a brash well of arrogance and bullshit back then, but I could have given him worse advice.

Me: “Tim, you gotta just go for it. If you just ask her out, she’s gonna know you are a man. She’ll love it.”

Timmy: “I don’t know man. What if she gets mad at me for doing that?”

Me: “Fuck it, bud. At least you went out like a man! Right now, it sounds like you are being a pussy. Do you really like her, Tim?”

Tim: “Yeah, she’s really cute and really cool. I played Braid for her, and she thought it was cool.”

Me: “Well there you go Tim, ask her out on a date. Next thing you know you’ll be listening to Braid records with her naked. What do you think, guys?”

Matt, Todd, & Joe: “Yeah, go for it Tim. Don’t be a pussy.”

Tim: “Alright guys. I’ll give it a shot.”

Me: “Tell her that she’s hot. You’ll be in the door, bud.”

There you go. Not only did our band bring rock music to the country, but we also dispensed advice on dating. You’ll have to ask Timmy how my expert advice went for him.  

So on this tour, Timmy was booking shows out of a church that he went to. Somehow, Tim had convinced the youth pastor to allow him to do this. When we pulled up in our shit brown van, a half empty case of Milwaukee’s Best was chilling there as opened the doors of the van. Out we piled, Todd immediately lighting up a cigarette.

Me: “Dude, put that out. This is a church.”

Todd: “Who cares? They should know what they are getting themselves into.”

Well you can’t argue with that reasoning, can you? Oklahoma City is the epitome of the Bible Belt. I’m not intolerant, and neither are the other guys in the band. We are respectful towards other people’s ideas and religious faiths. But Oklahoma City oozes tension. All the sexual repression, dogmatism, fear of the unknown, and the  fear of hell fire damnation. I have a lot of respect for Tim Miller being a rock music man in an area that can be full of religious zealotry. 

So Tim greets us and introduces us to his youth pastor.

Tim: “Hey guys, this is my youth pastor, Dave.”

Dave didn’t seem too thrilled to see us. He looked burdened that he had the rest of the night to deal with another van full of mouthy pricks jumping around spouting blasphemy.

Us: “Nice to meet you Dave! Thanks for having us.”

Pastor Dave: “Welcome to Oklahoma City. Tim says great things about you guys. I just want to go over a few things before the show.”

Us: “Sure, no problem.”

Pastor Dave: “Please don’t curse while on stage, smoke or drink on the premises. I know you are a rock band, but we have some young kids here. I’m doing this as a favor to Tim because he asked. One more thing… don’t use the bathroom. It is out of order. We turned off the plumbing. If you need to use the bathroom, you can go to the gas station down the road. Also, could you not smoke on the premises?”

Todd was still smoking.

Us: “Sounds good, man. We’ll do our best.”

Shit, this was going to be a touchy gig. Most of our songs didn’t have cursing or edgy concepts, but a few did. I guess we would have to leave those ones out of the set that evening. Tim, Dave and Matt walked off to start getting things set up, while Todd, Joe and I began to unload the gear from the van. Todd looked perturbed and annoyed. He may have been hungover and thinking about his change from the Christian faith to something close to agnosticism years before in high school? In his own words,

"I think I tend to be more agnostic than atheist…. I’m not sure about God… I don’t miss him everyday, if that is what you are asking… I really believed that stuff for a long time, though. I thought I was going to Hell for being alive. And then suddenly I realized it was bullshit. It was weird, that realization." 

Todd is usually an amenable guy who respects other people’s wishes. But for some reason that night, he seemed to not like the guidelines we were given. Usually a very easygoing guy, Todd was having none of it. So there we were getting ready to play another gig at a church. 

Me: “I guess we better not play a few of the numbers or at least change the words around a little bit.”

Todd: “Fuck that. Change it if you want, but I want to play the songs we want to play. Let’s show these kids rock n roll.”

Joe: “Let’s do our thing. They won’t even notice.”

We snuck in one more cigarette by the van before carrying our gear into the church. After a few minutes of carrying our gear in,

Todd: “I’m gonna use that bathroom over there.”

Me: “Dude, the pastor said not to use it. It’s out of order. He really emphasized not using it.

Todd: “It’ll work for me. I gotta go and I’m not walking down the street.”

Me: “Whatever man. Just hurry up.”

We continued to load the rest of our gear in and setting up. After a few minutes, Todd returned.

Joe: “How’d it go?”

Todd: “No problem. It flushed right down.”

We continued to load gear from the parking lot into the church. Suddenly, Joe’s usual cool demeanor and relaxed look was replaced by a pained look.

Joe: “I’m about to shit my pants.”

Me: “Jesus, what’s with you guys tonight? You’re the shit twins!”

Joe: “Should I use the bathroom?”

Todd: “Yeah, go for it. It worked fine.”

Me: “What the fuck!? C’mon guys, it flushed once, but you heard what the guy said. He specifically said not to use that bathroom! The plumbing’s off. Run over to the restaurant or whatever. The pastor guy already looks unhappy.”

Todd: “Don’t listen to him. It works fine. Go if you gotta go!”

Joe: “Seriously, I gotta go now or else I’m going to shit my pants!”

Todd: “Dude, go shit in that bathroom!”

In Joe’s own words, he described what happened.

"I remember at many gas stations/truck stops us looking at those giant, forearm-sized microwavable burritos called, "The Bomb," and laughing about how bad of an idea it would probably be to eat one. I decided to have a go at one. I remember carrying in my gear and then having no choice but to drop what I was doing and find a bathroom immediately — it was a serious emergency. I dropped off the bomb in there and then tried to flush — but it wouldn’t flush.."

I decided to excuse myself from their shenanigans and go and find Tim and Matt. The three of us were just hanging around chatting, setting things up for a while when suddenly Todd and Joe appeared. Joe had a panicked look on his face.

Joe: “The toilet won’t flush. What should I do?”

Matt: “What’s happening?”

Joe: “I used the toilet that the pastor told us not to use. It won’t flush.”

Matt: “Oh shit.”

Joe tried to figure out a solution, but there was nothing he could do. The plumbing was turned off. The concert started and we may have just figured to let it try and slide. Maybe when the plumbing came back on, someone would just flush it down. That was the likely reasoning. When it came time to play, we played our set of songs how we wanted. We figured if we were going to get in trouble for blowing up the bathroom, we may as well play our music uncensored. There wasn’t much to censor, we were a poppy indie rock band, but we had a few edgy parts to us. The pastor, off to the side, didn’t look amused for what looked like a number of reasons. 

After our set was done, we began selling a few cd’s and shirts when Tim approached us. He looked uncomfortable.

Tim: “Hey guys, my pastor said he went into the bathroom and that someone took a dump in there. He says that someone told him it was you guys. He’s pretty upset about it.”

For the next hour or so, Joe ran back and forth from a 7-11 filling up water bottles to pour in the toilet’s tank trying to get it to flush. Not the most heroic or impressive way to end a night for a rock band. The pastor looked on and did not look pleased. Finally, he got enough water in the tank and it actually flushed. The crisis was averted, but the pastor was not as forgiving. As we were loading up our van, the pastor pulled me to the side.

Pastor Dave: “Where are you guys planning on staying tonight?”

Me: “Tim says we can stay at his place. I suppose over there.”

Pastor Dave: “I don’t know if that is such a good idea for you guys or Tim. I don’t think I can have him doing shows here anymore. I’m going to give you guys enough money for a motel room so you can leave tonight.”

Me: “Are you giving me money for us to get out of town?”

Pastor Dave: “Yeah, we can’t have you guys here. You’re a bad a influence on the kids and on Tim. I’m going to have to tell Tim’s parents about this.”

Me: “Whatever man. We’ll leave. But keep your money. We aren’t a bunch of bums. It wasn’t Tim’s fault. He’s a good kid just trying to find something to do and somewhere to fit in. We’re outta here.”

We finished loading up, apologized to Tim and thanked him for the gig. I explained the scenario to the guys, and we booked it out back onto the interstates. I’m sure we found a cheap motel, got some cheap pounder tall-boys, and settled into a night of video games, card games, philosophy and laughs.

Looking back on it, maybe we should have listened to the pastor and not drank beer in our van, smoked cigarettes, cursed or clogged the out of service bathroom. But in a way Todd was right. too. We were a rock n roll band and inherently rock n roll is not safe, respectful or nice. I don’t think it should be. It is supposed to be an agent of change. And dangerous. Sometimes it seems like it has been watered down and co-opted to the masses. But it is always lurking there somewhere in some brilliant kid in some small town.

Tim Miller is a great guy and a friend. He is still holding down Oklahoma City thinking about things, talking about things, and looking for answers. Best of all, he is open-minded. An example of the always changing world. The inevitable changing world. You ain’t going to stop it no matter how hard you try.    

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