Archive for the ‘Once A Rockstar…’ Category

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 2 – Issue. 8

8067 miles traveled – Portland, OR

Our very last gig was in Portland. While sitting in a traffic jam to the school, we seriously considered turning off of 205 to drive to the top of Mount Hood so we could push the car down the side. Alas, we took the more boring track.

We stopped by Reed College, Portland, OR.

We had stopped earlier is Evergreen, up in Olympia. Which was uber cool with it’s beautiful tree choked campus. Both Reed and Evergreen have organic, vegetarian, and vegan food, not to mention serve their food on real plates instead of Styrofoam.

But Reed College has the coolest school motto ever (I’m not making this up)

“Communism – Atheism – Free Love”

I thought it might be nice to distill some of our road/hotel experiences into a helpful guide to all of you in your future travels.

1.) “Continental breakfast” is an intentionally vague term that stretches the gambit between;

a.) Prepackaged muffins and coffee
b.) Fresh (oooh, so fancy!) muffins, with orange juice, cold cereal, and coffee.

2.) In some of the fancier hotels, they provided us with waffle irons and waffle mix. The first time we saw this, we were all like, “Oh, yeah! Fresh waffles!” And we did a little happy dance, sorta running in place like a white person moonwalk. (People stared.)

The hundreth time we stayed in a hotel and saw the (expletive starting with “Mother” and ending in “ing”) waffle irons there was no happy dance. We would shuffle in, turn off the (expletive starting with “God” and ending in “damn”) TV, and try to figure out what had the least sugar in it, “Haven’t these people ever heard of fruit?”

3.) “Deluxe Continental Breakfast” means they have a waffle iron.

4.) “Hot Breakfast” means they have a waffle iron.

5.) “Fresh Made Breakfast” means they have a waffle iron and some grumpy person with a smoker's cough will grudgingly make you an egg. (They’ll also smirk at you when you tell them that you don’t want the included piece of bacon or sausage.)

6.) Any hotel that costs less than $120 a night will only serve their food on Styrofoam, but will probably not complain when you fill your Nalgene with orange juice.

7.) It's easier to turn of the inevitable TV in the breakfast area than to ask for permission.

8.) A room with two queen beds often costs less than one with one king bed.

9.) A non-smoking room is never guarantied, yes, even if you have asthma.

Our best value for less than $70 a night: Super 8

Our best value for more than $100 a night: Ameritel (bonus points for fresh cookies at the counter)

So anyway. That's about it for this road trip. J and i will be settling back into our non “pleasure cruise through hell” lives. I'll have to hit the ground running though. I already have 20 commitments lined up, not to mention the novel i'm going to start writing in about 15 days. I might send out a “novel-writing journal” during the four weeks i'm writing it. With any luck you can hear me make fun of myself as i pull my hair out and generally avoid writing anything resembling fiction.

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 2 – Issue. 7

7488 miles traveled – writing from eastern Oregon

Another show was cancelled. I suppose i should be disappointed, but i'll take the downtime.

We’re crossing Oregon (OREGON! Woo Hoo!) after a couple of chill shows on the eastern edge of the state, we’re looking forward to the downtime. We’re going to spend some of it in Vancouver helping J’s folks set up their new house.

We just passed the “Trees from Hell.” Three hours east of Portland are these tree farms where they’ve planted perfect grids of trees, for miles. It’s like a virtual reality forest. It’s hard to say why, but it just feels wrong. The ground is perfectly clean, leaving ten miles of imposed monoculture, giant squares of trees, all the exact same height, all the exact same shape. Creepy.

J and I have been snipping at each other quite a bit lately. I think each of us could use some alone time, or at least some anyone-but-you time. I can’t think of a single other person that I would rather be with for 24 hours a day for 2 months. And yet, there is not a single person in the world that I want to spend 24 hours a day with for 2 months.

Being on the road so long definitely makes me a little curmudgeonly. I have a little grumpy dark cloud following me around everywhere, and I think it’s effecting my perceptions a little bit. Here, I’ve written down the last 4 things to come out of my mouth;

“You’re driving on bumps on purpose. You don’t want me to finish this journal, do you?”

“See, that’s the problem with nice people, their too nice, it grates on me.”

“Stupid cows, I bet their saying mean things about us right now.”

“Look at that annoyingly pretty landscape, I bet it thinks it’s better than me.”

It’s not that I’m grumpy really, it’s just that everyone and everything around me has gotten really stupid.

Actually there is one other reason that I’m in such a bad mood.

I have a curse on me. Actually I should say that I have a new curse on me. I thought I had grown out of my old curse, but apparently I just traded out. My old curse was entirely related to movies. It went like this: Any time I sat down in a theater to watch a movie, within five minutes of the start of the film the most obnoxious loud movie-hating person in the world would sit near me and talk throughout the entire film. This happened for most of my movie watching life. I’m not entirely proud to report that in my younger days I’ve been thrown out of more than one theater for instances where I made inappropriate use of theater food and drink to communicate my displeasure with talking.

So, when that curse disappeared I thought I had paid my karmic bill and was ready to live the rest of my life in peace. It took me awhile to discover that my movie curse had turned into a laptop computer curse. Every laptop I have owned has been either a lemon or possessed by the devil. My first laptop died abruptly, taking with it the only copy of the screenplay I had spent the last year writing. My next two developed exciting surreal symptoms that I thought were the exclusive domain of genetically altered meat animals.

Ah, then we get to The Laptop Kings. They are a lovely web based company in California that, for a mere $700, will send you a refurbished IBM computer that will die dramatically within weeks. They will then effectively disappear and avoid contact despite the best efforts of the better business bureau and lawyers. They are honestly very talented at this and I cannot recommend them enough if you are in possession of too much money and not enough paperweights.

And now we come to present day. Tired of my past laptop adventures, and ready to settle down into the clich? mundane life of someone with a constantly working computer, I bought a computer off of a friend of mine that was relatively new and [gasp] still under warranty. As many of you know I compose electronic music, and the laptop is my only way of performing live or writing music on the road. My new laptop was a Dell, which has had a good reputation for years, so I felt doubly secure.

Literally within a month of my warranty running out, the problems started. I could almost hear distant thunder and maniacal cackling. First it was with wireless cards. It stopped recognizing the internet, declining to the point where it couldn’t log on with anything, including DSL or dial-up service. Then the sound died. The computer just suddenly decided that it didn’t do sound.

“Oh, no, that isn’t a headphone jack, it’s a, uh, toothpick holder.”

This was inconvenient, but wasn’t as debilitating as you might imagine, because I use an external soundcard to DJ my music. But eventually the external soundcard stopped working too, which killed my ability to write music on it. Finally, with a sad final gasp, it just stopped turning on. After saying a few words over its corpse, I softly hummed “Taps” and wrapped it in a shroud. Gently fitting it into it’s case, I put it to rest…' in the back of the truck.

I’m trying to make a joke out of this, but the fact of the matter is that I’m screwed. I lost a number of tracks I was working on, as well as some writing. I’m a war-tax resister. I purposely live below the poverty line so none of my income goes towards the Iraq war. Since I live on so little money, I spent the last two years saving up towards this computer, and now it’s gone. My burgeoning career as a rock star has come to an abrupt end.

Whew! Hard to write something funny after that. Heh heh heh. Um, so, ahem…'

Why did the elephant cross the road?

It was the chicken’s day off.

More later…

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 2 – Issue. 6

7310 miles traveled – writing from a lovely bed -n- breakfast.

It’s official; we have less than two weeks left before we go home!

One of our shows got cancelled, so we did what any self-respecting duo would do. We went to visit a glacier. We drove 200 miles out of our way to Glacier National Park in northern Montana (practically Canada!) Along the way we kept stopping to see Indian Reservations, Thrift Stores, and Giant Balls of String.

We also stopped by a chocolate factory called, “Tom’s ‘Absolutely Fabulous!’ Chocolate Factory.” I told J that if Tom were a gay man I would buy every piece of chocolate in the place.

Everything in Montana is made from Huckleberries, the Montanans are completely obsessed with the things. It’s like someone decided that Montana’s entire tourist economic future depended on these little purple not-quite-blueberries. And mooses, everything is a moose reference.

Moose Sweat (soda pop), Moose Droppings [shudder] (chocolate), Moose Drool (beer), Moose Bladders.

Ok, I made that last one up, but the Native Americans used to use moose bladders as water pouches, so it’s not too far of a stretch. Or was it buffalo bladders? Nevermind.

Anyway, we drove up to West Glacier, and after pausing briefly to lock our keys in the truck, we set about figuring out what to do there. I found us a wonderful 100-year-old hotel called the “Belton Chalet.” J took some issue with my pronunciation, “It does not rhyme with 'toilet'.”

After conferring in detail, J and I made our plans. She would hike 92 miles so she could stand on a giant chunk of ice and I would sit in the hotel room and play video games.
[J note: Sadly, glaciers don’t grow at hotel-level; they require steep treks up mountainsides. But was I gonna go to GLACIER National Park and not see a glacier? Heck no.]

While I am deeply in love with this hotel, my stay there was marred by my going into detoxifying shock from the lack of Internet service.

So the next morning J walked down to the truck to find, and this should have been obvious to you dear reader, a bear sitting on the truck.

[J note: This is just a wee, small exaggeration.] Ok fine, it was NEAR the truck. But the day before J had been so so proud that she had become a REAL northerner because she had bought a “Bear Bell.” This is a big cow-bell kinda thing that you wear to somehow magically convince the bears that you don’t taste very good. Of course was J wearing the bear-bell then, noooooooo.

Luckily the bear sensed that deep down J is a ninja, because he ran for it the second he saw her. In J’s defense, I will say that she probably didn’t expect to need her bear-bell in the GODDAMN PARKING LOT OF THE HOTEL!

[J note: No, in fact, I didn’t expect it at all. But I can tell you I got that bear bell out of my pocket and jangled it for all I was worth for the next five or six hours straight, meanwhile nervously looking over my shoulder for bears as I passed by the giant neon signs at the trailhead saying, “Don’t hike alone!” P.S. – Did I mention the sign actually had the words, “Mortal Peril” on it?]

That night my sleep was interrupted by J’s incredibly rude moaning, “My legs, ohhhh, my legs, ohhhh pity me.” Occasionally she would jangle her bear-bell in her sleep.

When we left the next morning I was sad that we didn’t find a moose sitting in the cab of the truck waving to us from the window and honking the horn. I guess you can only have so many run-ins with natural world at one time.

Yesterday we came down to Missoula, Montana. I stopped by the local organic food coop and adopted a new pet for us.

She’s a pint container of wheatgrass. We’ve named her “Grassy,” which is short for “W. J. Grassy,” which is short for “Wheat Juice Grassy.” She lives on our dashboard now with her gang of action figures.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but J and I have gone a bit crazy. Today, every time we passed a herd of cows she called out the window, “Baaaaaaaaaaah!” Every time we passed a group of horses I called to them, “Mooooooo!”

I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, Monday is our show in Caldwell, Idaho. Wednesday we’ll be in Le Grange, Oregon, then Olympia, Washington. We’re getting close.

More later…

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 2 – Issue. 5 – Special Compare/Contrast Issue!

5341 miles traveled

The extra special compare/contrast issue!

In this issue I will induce great comedy by unfairly comparing disparate events at different shows, pretending that they are equal for comedic effect. The format for this journal will go as follows:

_Category of event being compared:_

Two or more things being compared: With funny text explaining why they are different.

The journal will continue in this format till I get bored with it.

So, to compare:


_First ten minutes in new town:_

Reno F-ing Nevada: J and I walk through the smoke, garish colors, and flashing lights of the casino that is the lobby of our Reno hotel, J promptly bursts into tears. [J note: You think He’s exaggerating. He’s not.]

Laramie, Wyoming: We walk across the hotel parking lot to stand in a field and feed baby carrots to some friendly horses. [J note: You think He’s flat-out lying. He’s not. They were sweet horses, almost took our hands off in enthusiasm.]


_Mexican Fast Food:_

Taco Bell:
Pros: Cheap vegetarian food and uh, other cheap food.
Cons: By buying taco bell we are contributing to a giant evil multinational corporation, and are therefore personally responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer and the rainforest.

Taco Johns:
Pros: Much smaller evil corporation.
Cons: Actually listed in the dictionary as the definition for ghetto food. Offers a burrito that contains not only Tater-Tots™, but also Velveeta™. Charged us extra to get a burrito that didn’t have meat in it.

Taco Time:
Pros: Multiple salsa offerings, groovy vegetarian burritos that contain sunflower seeds. Is technically a local business since they’re headquarters are in Eugene.
Cons: We can’t find one on this entire goddamn tour.


_Driving from show to show:_

Wyoming: We pass a dignified elk feeding by the side of the road. We see small groups of cows and horses cavorting the plateaued countryside. Landscape vaguely resembles heaven, but arid, and with fewer clouds.

Texas: We pass a hundred thousand cows packed tightly together. We see American flags on every possible surface. Landscape vaguely resembles the desolate barren wasteland that Mad Max wanders in.

Florida: We pass a hundred thousand strip malls linked together by anti abortion billboards. Landscape vaguely resembles the wetlands, if you bulldozed every living thing and replaced it with animatronic cartoon characters.


_What we do after the shows:_

Other bands: Run to the bar and drink enough alcohol to kill a baby elephant. Get to bed sometime before tomorrow’s show.

Us: Run to the nearest Thai restaurant. Head back to the hotel for a night of writing, knitting, and abstract philosophy. Get to bed sometime before dusk.


_Reasons to never ever tour again:_

Florida: Chased out of state by hurricanes. Heat index slightly less than the surface of the sun. People generally mean. George Bush’s brother, Jeb, governor. [J note: Which meant that every time we walked into an elevator, we had to stare at a placard with his g-d d-mn name on it.]

Texas: Everything smells like cow poop. Guns everywhere. Home state to Bush family.

Northwest: Realization that touring has all the travel elements of an extended vacation, without any of the fun. Overwhelming evidence that doing tour is very similar to a low budget sea cruise through hell.

Next time: uh…

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 2 – Issue. 4

4430 miles traveled – writing from Hell, uh, I mean Nevada.

The sweet allure of the tour has begun to wear off.

We are escaping Reno (expletive starting with F and ending in ING) Nevada. I want to start this off by saying that J and I are not Reno kind of people. We don’t gamble, we don’t smoke, and we don’t eat meat. All of which seem to be requirements for being in R-F-N.

Actually, we’ve met some pretty nice folks in Reno. It’s not my intention to dis the beautiful people here. I just have a lot of trouble in places like Reno because of my overly political uptight moral philosophical social cultural obsession. Come on, everything in Nevada, and I mean everything, is a casino. The gas stations, hotels, restaurants, the post office, everything! It’s creepy; we’re getting the hell out of here.

As I write this we are speeding along the arrow straight Interstate 80. J and I have managed to stave off driving insanity through a series of mental exercises, mostly involving 80s music. As we drive forever through the same (expletive starting with F and ending in ING) desert for hours on end, we’ve been singing 80’s music at the top of our lungs. I’ll try to keep you appraised of what we’re singing as I write.

“Who wants to be a millionaire? I do! I don’t!”
(The big ABC hit from the late 80s. We take turns with who sings “I do!” or “I don’t!”

Last night we decided to get a jump on our huge drive to Laramie, Wyoming. After our hellacious load out of U of N, we decided to drive the two hours to Winnemucca Nevada. As we pulled out of the student union, the warm colors of sunset smiled down on us, but as we drove out of Reno, inky darkness descended, the merciless blackness of the desert night. A few miles down the highway the winds began to shake the truck, followed by vicious dust storms. [J note: “vicious” may be a bit of an overstatement, as may “storms,” but is airborne dust ever really a fun thing? No.] It was like the dark evil hand of Reno was clawing at our truck, “not so fast hippies, oh no, you can’t get away.”

It was after a few miles of intense driving that J uttered the incantation to complete the terrible spell Reno had cast on us, “Well, at least it’s not raining.”

After three and a half hours of snail-speed driving, we arrived at the (of course) casino that was to be our hotel. We parked our soggy truck in the back parking lot, dragged ourselves past the gauntlet of slot machines to the counter. While I checked in J checked out the tricked out four-wheeler filling up most of the lobby, the in-hotel Taco Bell, and the drunken men in cowboy hats. I wondered at the magnificently obscure song playing on the hotel sound system (Private Life by Oingo Boingo), nearly drowning out the gambling a hundred feet away. I hope the surrealness of this is not lost on you. A cheesy casino in the middle of nowhere Nevada was piping in obscure 80s post punk music while I checked in. Mildly happier, we went to bed.

“Tainted love, I’ve got to [clap clap] get away. I’ve got to [clap clap] run away.”
(A cover by Soft Cell, it’s a scientific fact that almost every good 80s song was made by gay English men.)

Driving the next day: I must say the land is still pretty. Golden arid plants stretch for miles with large volcanic rocks poking out every mile or two. It’s enclosed in every direction by soft mountains. The thing that doesn’t fit is the towns. As long as we’re in the desert every town looks alien, out of place. The harsh conditions make everything look run down, and in every town the architecture sticks out like neon against the flat dry surroundings. It’s like the landscape is saying, “Ya’know, people don’t really belong here.”

“Word up, it’s the code word, no matter where you say it, you know that you’ll be heard.”
(Cameo’s “Word Up”, possibly the funkiest song ever made. And the best use of the word “Yow”)

You ever seen those signs that say ‘Speed Limit Enforced By Aircraft’? What is with that? Do you know anyone who has been pulled over by aircraft enforcement? My theory is that it’s a scare tactic. I’m testing the theory by driving 90 while J is sleeping.

“I am human and I want to be loved, just like everybody else does.”
(The smiths, “How Soon Is Now?” One can only sing this song while making a mopey face.)

Oh, I should also mention that someone shot our truck the other day.

Ok ok calm down, it was only with a paint gun. Someone shot our windshield, WHILE WE WERE DRIVING, with a paint gun. Having experienced it, I must say it’s a mild shock to be navigating treacherous mountain roads and suddenly have the windshield go opaque bright pink. After we stopped screaming, J and I downgraded to not amused. I peered around the pink spot until I was able to drive to a gas station and get it cleaned off properly. When we stopped we discovered that whoever shot us had really gone after us, there were 4 or 5 [J note: 2 or 3, but still…''''.] hits on the front of the truck alone. To defend poor maligned Nevada I should mention that this happened in the mountains of Idaho after we went white-water rafting.

“So much drama in the LBC it’s kinda hard being Snoop D O double G. Some how some way I keep coming up with funky ass shit nearly every single day.”
(“Gin and Juice”, originally by Snoop Dogg, we like to sing along to the equally offensive bluegrass cover by the Gourds.)

During the show in Reno, I booked us in the Atlantis Casino Hotel and Spa. I figured that we might as well stay somewhere nice for the week we were there.

The casino itself is roughly twenty-two square miles. We had to park our truck across the street and twice a day, before and after every show, we would walk across the parking lot, up a two story staircase, through a bridge that contained two restaurants and four hundred slot machines, down another two story stair, through another giant hall of slot machines, past five more restaurants, the poker floor, gift shops, even more slot machines, and the fake indoor waterfall to reach the center of the hotel where the elevators were.

And here’s a little tip about hotels in Reno; they charge for EVERYTHING. They charged us one dollar per local call. They charged us twelve dollars a day for internet service. They snuck all these fees onto the bill as we checked out.

“People are people, so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully.”
(Depeche Mode, this song has a great sentiment, but I can’t help but sing it in a funny English accent.)

There were some unusual people staying at the casino. One night I went downstairs to get us a fruit tart from the overpriced pastry counter. As the doors of the elevator opened I was met by a fellow casino dweller, “A gambler!” I didn’t bother to correct her, but just smiled instead. “Have to get down to the gambling, eh?” My smile was getting mildly strained, but I gave it a try. Luckily at that moment she shifted her attention away from me to yell, “Another gambler!” to the man who entered the elevator. As the doors opened on the first floor I walked out to the strains of, “Enjoy the gambling, ha ha!” fading away behind me.

“It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin.”
(Pet Shop Boys, further proof that only English gay men can make good techno-pop. To do this song justice, you must sing it like Axel Rose.)

The single biggest perk of the casino experience was that they had an arcade a short elevator ride down from our room, with a Dance Dance Revolution video game (for only 25 cents per play!) We started and ended every day with DDR.

“The air was flowing and she was right there with it, and she was.”
(Talking Heads, “And She Was.” It’s mandatory to sing the really fun part, “Hey hey hey-hey heeeeeeeey. Hey hey hey-hey heeeeeeeey”)

On our last night we decided to eat in the casino. J called around asking which was the best restaurant in the casino if one were a vegetarian? She was transferred four times and the general response was, “Uh.”

One nice lady finally admitted, “The Atlantis is not really safe for vegetarians.” We finally decided to eat at “Caf? Alfresco” which I can describe in one dramatic image. Imagine a Denny’s. Got it? Ok, now imagine someone has overtaken the Denny’s, they’ve dressed the entire Denny’s staff in suits, they’ve wrapped the menus in cloth, given every Denny’s dish a fancy French name, and then added ten dollars to every price. Oh, and add fake palm trees.

“Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals, everybody happy as the dead come home. Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis, no one move a muscle as the dead come home.”
(“Nemesis” by Shiekback. If anyone knows what the HELL this song is about, please email us. Oh extra points to any song that rhymes the word “Nemesis” with “Parthenogenesis”)

The outrageously expensive Denny’s did have very good Gelato though.

more later…