Photos

LOST, the series

Chico to San Francisco–Saturday Sept 2

Jason and Connie have a toy poodle named Honey. She looks like a lamb. In the morning, as usual, I am the first band person to rise. I take Honey for a walk in the woods across from the house. It is surreal: I am in my show clothes, my red lipstick still staining my lips, walking a toy poodle in the woods of Chico, California, in the early morning. Who am I?

We eat the Cap’n Crunch Connie so kindly bought. I opt out of the shower, wanting to get our from under foot ASAP. (I will clean up at a rest area two hours south.) Somehow, Steve and Pixie pull out of the driveway first, with Pixie playing the recorder in the passenger seat.

I am already starving again, so we eat a second breakfast in town. After that we go to a record store and score Nancy Sinatra, Beach Boys, Bee Gees Odessa with velvet record jacket, two Muppet Show posters, and a cassette of Replacements’ Tim, for when the ipod dies.

We get lost in San Francisco, because we always get lost in San Francisco—it’s the rule.

Finally, we arrive at Yoshi’s. Yoshi and his roommate Marjan make living here look so appealing. They have a massive apartment with those awesome curved windows, a spare room, and a healthy dose of fog curling in the air. Tomorrow night, we have a show scheduled with Yoshi’s band, Still Flyin. Since this will be Nick’s birthday, and we will have responsibilities, I declare that we must celebrate in advance. We walk around the Haight looking for Clark’s Wallabys, the shoes I want to get Nick for his birthday, to no avail. We eat burritos instead.

Later, at the bar, I keep buying Nick shots of Jagermeister, cackling as I deliver them. For some reason, Yoshi and I decide drinking Crown Royal at 4AM is a good idea. Decline of Western Civilization Part Two is on the television; it’s a documentary all about hair metal bands who are sure they’re going to make it, they just HAVE to (yet we the viewers know they never will). To stave off the potential larger implications/existential crises the show might trigger, I take another glass of whiskey as a prophylactic.

Les Francophonies

Sunday, June 18–Montreal

We have the day off, and fully intend to take advantage of an opportunity to do Francophone record shopping. But first Andrew makes us breakfast, as if having three virtual strangers and all their gear strewn about was an insufficient act of generosity. We hit three stores and find a jackpot. Tons of record singles—France Gall, Francoise Hardy, and Jacques Dutronc, and a Harmonium (70s Quebecois prog rock) album with a trippy butterfly drawing on the jacket. At Primitive, we meet Marie who informs us that the Michel Polnareff album Nick has in his hands is a huge steal. She gave it up from her own collection just this morning because she felt she “didn’t deserve it”. She is happy it will be traveling all the way to Portland, and recommends the store across the street, called Francophonies. As we leave she says, “Don’t be scared of the Celine Dion.” That was an understatement, as the store is an unofficial Celine Dion Museum, with about ten glass cases full of Celine paraphernalia, including her first albums, her perfumes, a complete discography, around 100 photos, and menus from her Montreal diner, called “Nickels”. I hope she knows about this place and visits regularly, as this man clearly wins the #1 fan award. More scores abound here, including a sweet Dutronc single, on which he looks like a Vegas Magician in his tux and mustache.

We get smoothies. They hit the spot, although our bodies might be confused by the introduction of fruit and vitamins. The boys note that the girls here are gorgeous, including the woman who made the smoothies.

A small crowd has gathered around Café Barouf to watch the France/Korea game from the street. We stand with them for a while but leave before Korea scores, thankfully.

The Fringe Festival is going on, and somehow this translates into a ten block long sidewalk sale, punctuated by drink tents. The main goods for sale appear to be socks, mangoes on a stick, and women’s sunglasses. Brazil has won in soccer, so people in green and yellow are having parades, impromptu dance parties, honking, screaming, all day long.

Claire, Andrew’s partner, makes butter chicken for dinner and rhubarb pie. We’ve won the kindness lottery.

I wonder how one orchestrates a move to Montreal from, say, Portland. . .

Jolie Laide

Saturday, June 17–Montreal
I am obsessed with Tim Hortons, so I force us to walk around looking for one. We fail, and finally settle on Starbucks. Mike spills his coffee as we’re loading the car so we get to stop at Tim Hortons anyway. Well, I was the one who set it on the amp. . .

I guess it is time to explain about loading. Perhaps a few, or many of you are in a band, but I’m assuming many also are not, so here’s a peek. My least favorite part of being in a band is loading, which is a huge proportion of the time one spends. For example, let’s say we have a show in Portland. This means that we need to allow about 20 minutes to pack up the equipment at home. Then, the car gets backed into the driveway and all of the gear is packed into it. Another 20 min. Then we drive to the club, where we need to first send an emissary in to make sure there is an appropriate place to load. Then we park illegally while we load. With two people it’s sort of tedious because one person needs to watch the stuff, leaving the other to do all of the hauling. For this reason, we usually take shifts. Then, after the gear is loaded in, Nick finds a parking place. Next is the task of setting up onstage. This takes us about twenty minutes. For my drums, which are very minimal, that means setting up four drums, three cymbals configurations and one pedal. You can’t just throw them together. Ergonomics and replicating the set up I’m accustomed to are crucial, so I may keep moving things an inch here or there, over and over again. Sometimes, when the club has an official sound check, we have to set up and then break down again, to make room for another band to sound check. (Which means we set up again when it’s our turn to play the show.) Once we play, we then have to break down the equipment again, pull the car around, take turns loading out, pack, and bring it all home again. Then the next day we have to set up again to practice. So, for example, for a 30 minute set, one might spend an hour and a half to two hours loading and setting up.

When you stay overnight somewhere, it is wise to bring the gear inside if possible. As I write this, we’re staying on a 3rd floor walk up, so imagine. Then our kind hosts have all this gear in their apartment. The Toronto hotel was on the 9th floor, so we had to get two luggage carts and do shifts. It’s pretty easy to spill a coffee in that situation, especially if you’ve set it down on a wobbling cart. This is why I got to go to Tim Hortons, for a second coffee. Yay for loading!

We pull over after a couple of hours because the boys want to see the US / Italy match. The town is beautifully quaint and is called Brockville. Coincidentally, the bar’s satellite radio plays “Don’t Go Back to (B)rockville” on the stereo while we’re there—or maybe it’s a hint. The place is jammed with rugby players and rugby boosters, who are wearing hawaiian shirts and funny hats. They stagger periodically to the bar, with black eyes and bum knees. One asks the waitress to fill a rugby boot with tap beer. A minute later they start singing and force a team mate to slam the foot flavored beer. I keep trying to engage them because I am bored by soccer. One guys wanders up with a penis-shaped hat. Of course I have to ask. He explains that the biggest loser of the game has to wear the hat. What did he do? He took a job in another province.

US ties. We leave.

I start reading aloud from Motely Crue’s The Dirt, one of my favorite “lite” books of all time (Go buy it NOW.) The band at one point calls groupies “human entertainment.” The boys think this is so funny, and will now refer to it as “H.E.”

When we enter Quebec, for some reason I’m shocked when all the signs are in French, Nick keeps pretending not to understand them. Like–, “Wha? Toon-ell? I need to find a tun-nel!!” We are tired so this is hilarious.

Montreal is very old-looking, go figure, and seductive, like an older French woman. The first person on the street I see is wearing a vintage-style sailor suit.

The gig is at a club called L’Escogriffe, which is an underground, stone=walled place with a cool marquee, which our names are on(!). We play with two country/rockabilly bands, and have our first real “dancer” (who gets kicked out) and our first heckler. He keeps asking questions of us onstage, like, “Did you really come all the way from Portland? Why are you so eighties influenced? What kind of amp is that?” Finally, I have to do something, so I say, “Wow, our first heckler. Exciting!” He is hurt and embarrassed, denies that he is heckling. Then he skulks out. Bad Flirt show up to cheer us on, our first band friends in Canada.

Bloodshot Bill is up after us and he sounds uncannily like Wanda Jackson. I hadn’t known one could get that sort of guitar sound these days. The label guys tell us he played 250 shows last year. This makes him an alien to me, another species.

Afterwards, we go back to Andrew’s, where we are staying. I sleep while the boys go looking for trouble. They fail.

We wake at 1:00 PM the next day, sweating in the bright sunlight, not knowing where we are.

Played it till my fingers bled

Friday, June 16–Toronto

This tour is profoundly altering my sense of the universe. It seems there is a great cosmic equalizer at work, and thus nothing is ever totally shitty, nor totally good. It may be the first time in my life I, an Olympic-level bitcher, am fighting the urge to put a “good” or “bad” sticker on everything that happens. Each day—even each phase of the day–is a consistently mixed bag, and that consistency is reassuring. We as a band are slowly learning to employ our lemons for lemonade purposes. I hope we will only get better at this.

As wished, we get to walk around and explore, have our first sit-down meal since Omaha. The boys lose me in the Eaton Centre when I sneak off to shop at H&M. Nick has been through my disappearing act before, and has little tolerance for it.

Rancho Relaxo is a Mexican-themed, stucco-walled, upstairs venue, which is a nice change of pace from black walls and duct tape. Tonight we share the bill with three other bands, and as we’re all waiting for the sound guy to show, all the bands sit around and chat (sort of a rare occurrence). It gets raucous, a real bro-down, and I love it. When the sound guy finally shows, it is worth the wait. He is carrying a flute and has a ponytail with full-on sixties bangs. As he sets up the mics he plays the flute into them. He introduces himself as Spock. I do not ask if this is his birth name.

We do a radio interview with a DJ named Daria, who asks one of my favorite questions ever: “If you were in a cover band, what would it be?” Quelle coincidence. I AM in a kick-ass cover band, the Shee Bee Gees. Nick says he would cover Thin Lizzy if he could actually shred on guitar. In fact, sometimes we feel like being in a band is futile because Thin Lizzy already existed. Brian Downey’s drumming is so insane it makes me want to set the sticks down for good.

The bill this night absolutely kills. The first band, Terror Lake, is just awesome, like the children of Dinosaur Junior and Sleater Kinney. Bad Flirt is terrific, really infectious and fun. Even though we go on insanely late, 1:30 AM, our set gets the most enthusiastic audience yet, and so we pull out some songs we never play. They’re pretty dang rough, but no one seems to mind terribly. I beg Spock, whom I totally adore by this point, for a picture together.

We set the alarm for four hours of sleep, because Nick wants to catch the US / Italy soccer game en route. It’s standard sleep duration at this point, so we think little of it. In fact, we stay up an extra hour talking.

Road head

Tuesday, June 13–St. Paul

It takes us forever to get out of town, predictably. I realize I’ve lost my sweatshirt and my jeans, two essential items. My brother Mike is leaving to move to San Francisco this morning, in order to do a film internship, so farewells abound. My dad helps us strap the luggage carrier to the roof of the car, loans us some sleeping bags.

Outside of Avoca, Iowa, a car with Nevada plates keeps weaving over the lines. As I pass him, Nick tells me the driver looks really out of it, with his mouth hanging open and head lolling back. I want to urge him to pull over for a nap. Until, in the rearview mirror, we see a woman’s head pop up. Road head! After the shock wears off, Nick asks me if I saw the child in the back seat. Hours later, he admits he was joking about that part.

When we pull in St. Paul, home of Nick’s college alma mater and Husker Du, the booker/sound person meets us in the parking lot and says, “Uh, yeah. Tonight’s fucked.” He explains that the bill has been switched last minute, but that he got a local band to open up first, and they’ll bring, like 10 people with them. Turns out the local band has been called an hour earlier, and have valiantly shown up to Save the Night. They rip into a set of high-speed punk, including a rollicking cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” The lead singer introduces one song thusly: “This one is for the babies with the big breasts and the beavers. It’s called ‘Cleavage to Beaver.’” They give 100% and are one of the more entertaining bands I’ve seen in a while. Their ten friends, as promised, sing along and fist pump. Someone out of sight keeps screaming at them, “You’re fat!” On my way to the bar, and older gentleman motions to me. His forearms are full of blurred Navy tattoos. He introduces himself as Rocky and gestures for me to sit on his lap. I keep walking.

Afterwards the singer introduces himself as Leo. He then accuses Mike of calling him “Leah.” “No. Like Leo the Lion” he says.

The farther east we go, the more people ask if we know the Dandy Warhols, which is an interesting gauge of a) their popularity or b) the regional perceptions of the “Portland Scene”

We have a very fun show. The punks yell when I introduce a Zombies cover as a Rob Zombie cover. A man in a cowboy hat, dreadlocks, and a POW MIA tshirt tells us he “really appreciates” our music. He seems like he means it, and Nick and he are locked in a handshake staredown for almost a minute. Nick says, “Thanks. We appreciate that.” Stare. The man says, “Well, you should.”

The third band never shows. We unwind with a local beer, a treasure called Premium, or as Brian the other band’s drummer informs us, “Primo.” Mike realizes he has been gauchely ordering it as “Grain Belt” all night, when that’s actually the subtitle–like requesting King of Beers instead of Bud. A man who says he is from Somalia randomly joins our group of friends. At one point he holds a finger aloft and says, “I know one thing. One thing. We are together now, but we will never see each other again.” Everyone pauses to process that in his or her own way, and then we toast in silence. The first band kindly donates their door money to us. They truly are the heroes of the night.

We can’t find a hotel and our friends Jake and Meghan volunteer their place. When we pull up, it’s an enormous castle of a house. Jake says the elderly packrat landlords bought it from the City for $40,000 in the 70’s, with the promise to fix it up. It seems they’ve reneged on the promise. We stay in the top floor, across the street from the St. Paul Cathedral. I go to sleep grateful that we don’t have enough money or success for a pre-arranged hotel, as hanging out with people, strangers and friends alike, is surprisingly the best part of all of this. Money is insulation, and for now, we’re better off without it. The last thing Jake says before he retires, is “Don’t worry—there are no ghosts.”

We wake up as a handsome, shirtless guy comes in, introduces himself as Justin and says he’s the roommate. He is incredibly friendly, not at all put off by the mounds of luggage and gear in his living room. He tells us St. Paul was a notorious gangster enclave, and this very house was a “safe house”, now haunted by the ghost of Mary the prostitute, a woman who saw too much. On the way out we see the landlord’s son, who is drinking beer in a beater pickup parked in the sizeable driveway. He asks if we’re “rocking out” and I spot another man fully passed out behind the steering wheel. It’s just before ten AM. A street cleaner swerves around our Subaru as we pile in for Chicago, leaving us a dry island on a wet street. We’re off.

She’s My Cherry Pie

Monday, June 12–Omaha

Yesterday, a day off, we lay around our mom’s house. I took an hour long bath, shaved my legs, exfoliated. Did laundry, which gave me a great deal of pleasure, since I am a self-professed laundry pervert; it thrills me, really.

The boys are apoplectic about the US Soccer Team’s performance—they’re nearly hoarse from howling at the television.

Mom cooks us a beautifully simple dinner on the grill: barbequed chicken, asparagus, zucchini, and fruit salad. The fruits and vegetables are heavenly after all the crappy road food. I take a nap to catch up on sleep. My pre-show nerves seem to be getting better daily, helped by the natural relaxation Omaha exudes.

We have a new member of the crew, our friend Mike, who will be selling merch and breaking kneecaps. He is like a member of the family, blends right in, and I am happy that I’ll be able to get a lot of reading done while he talks to Nick in the car. I’m not much for talking on drives, but recognize my shotgun seat duty enough to keep up my end of the bargain.

The show at the Goofy Foot is a total blast. A member of the first band, a woman named Dana, had emailed me a week ago—we went to high school together—to let me know it would be a reunion of sorts. From the distance of Portland, her being in the opening band seemed uncanny, but in Omaha, it’s no surprise. There’s so much interconnection. At the show, I am introduced to Mike Loftus, a neighborhood kid who I have heard about for years but only met once. “Mike,” I say. “I met you at a birthday party when we were eight. I was in awe of your dancing skills.” His eyes get big. “We were eight? So, uh, what have you been up to since then?” I laugh. “Oh, not much.” Mike and Dana’s band, The Third Men, are great and right as I run to the bathroom, I hear them break into “Jet,” a song I love but never thought I would live to see performed live. They kill it (in a good way).

The next band, The Family Radio, epitomizes why I love Omaha. It’s this indescribable trio with folky/jazzy/poppy songs, and a congenial warmth. You feel as if you could watch them play all night long. I feel guilty that they have to stop on account of us.

Our show goes really well, with the most enthusiastic audience we’ve had, people laughing at our dumb jokes for once. I find my mom in the sea of faces, and she’s beaming as if we’ve won the Nobel Prize. Afterwards, I don’t want to leave; I wish the bar would stay open all night, but then I remember there’s cherry pie waiting at Mom’s. The energy is totally manic back at the house, Mike Arnold pumped about his first tour, Mike Larimer anxious about his road trip to San Francisco in the morning, Nick drunk and throwing our merch money around, screaming, “I’m rich, BEAATCH!! Mom laughing at her house full of crazy people.

I’d stay here another week, easy, just doing laundry and eating cherry pie.

No sleep till Brooklyn

Sunday, June 11–Western Nebraska

I open my eyes and it’s light out. Check the clock, 5:30. On cue, the cop cruises by, pauses, and for some reason keeps going. We’re pulling out right as he circles back around. Communion missed.

We have eight hours of driving to do. We’ve driven ten hours each of the last two days. We have just slept under two hours. This is going to be very painful.

I love early morning, and despite the botched plans, I am grateful to be up at 5:30, to watch the sun rising. Fingers of fog stretch along the plains, enveloping cows, and the light is pink on our faces.

As soon as we cross into Nebraska, I am happy in a special way I am only happy here. The cottonwoods make my heart swell.


We switch driving every ninety minutes, because that is the longest one of us can safely drive in our current state. During the switch-off, the new driver does jumping jacks before taking the wheel.

Finally, the State Capitol juts above the horizon. It is a thick tower with a golden dome, atop which a statue called The Sower tosses seeds from a basket; hence its nickname, The Penis of the Plains. Seeing it means we are almost home—home in the homeland sense at least.

We suspect we that we smell quite bad but that our ability to smell ourselves is impaired by our proximity. This idea seems scarily large–resonant and deep–a nightmare metaphor for our mission out here, on the road.

The long and winding road

Saturday, June 10–Denver

We go to Bella’s, which is, in fact, a “Gentlemen’s” club that also serves espresso. It seems likely that, at some point during the day, one can see naked women and drink espresso at the same time, as the latte, priced at $4, obviously includes some sort of vice tax. A memorabilia case shows that Bella’s was, in fact, a full-on whorehouse in recent history, but they seem to have dialed it back a bit. Now, they have loose tea and flavored coffee syrups and joke books for sale.

The drive is surreal, very Wild West. Over the Great Salt Lake, a haze of salt evaporation hovers in a band across the horizon. We cross the continental divide at 4:30. I don’t know what it means, but it seems worth noting.

All day, we can’t believe how slow the miles are passing, and fret about being late. Finally, I call the Hi-Dive to say we’re tardy. The sad thing is that in this sort of band situation, calling to say you’re late is much lamer than actually being late. Once there, the person with whom I make initial contact is jovial and watching South Park on a giant screen. He tells me over the high volume that we’ll be playing with a band called Lion Thighs. Across the street we get a slice of pizza and three girls in outfits constructed solely of duct tape walk in. I hear them tell an employee that it’s too bad he’ll miss “the show.” Could this be Lion Thighs in the flesh? Just before we go on, I notice “Lion Size” written on a bass drum by the stage. And they’re three guys, sans duct tape.

The show itself is really fun. We’re more confident than in San Francisco—or at least I am, and people seem to like our band. Lion Size rocks hard, the bass player doing Van Halen leaps, and then another band takes the stage, playing Lion Size’s already set up instruments. They too rock, and the person standing next to me says, “This is Bananas.” Bananas, I think, what a brilliant name; I’m mad I didn’t think of it myself. Then they introduce themselves as Cowboy Curse and I understand that the “bananas” was misinterpreted. Everyone at the club is friendly and fun, and we leave feeling once again lucky to have had such a warm reception. We hope to return to the Hi-Dive soon.

Afterwards, it’s late, but driving a ways seems like a good idea, to get a head start on Omaha and to avoid the expense of a downtown hotel room. We are both exhausted and talking insistently about nothing, in order to stay awake. We don’t even notice the gas tank is low until it’s almost empty. At the gas station, it’s 2:00 AM and the only other patrons are a van full of black haired, black tshirt boys. . .wait. . .a band. I go inside to buy a snack and two of them are chatting up the clerk. Clutching my “burnt” peanuts (the carcinogenic red candied kind) I eavesdrop as they tell her how they’re playing Omaha tomorrow night. I raise my eyebrows. One of them nods in my direction and tells the clerk, “She hates us.” “Me?” I say, stunned. Then I tell them we’re playing Omaha too. They get all excited about the coincidence and ask our band’s name. For once, they get it first thing (yes i know we made our bed), repeating the name perfectly. Jack tells me his band’s name is “Baysuh.” It sounds like a fancy multisyllabic way of pronouncing “bass” and I think, hmm they don’t look like a funk band. I ask him to repeat himself and he says, more clearly,“Bayside.” I appear to be experiencing auditory hallucinations. We chat some more and they accompany me to the car to meet Nick, like goodwill ambassadors from the professional rock van. We wave goodbye loopily.

The next hotel possibility is much farther than we thought. We finally pull into Ft Morgan at 3:30 AM, and guess who’s right behind us, the only other car on the highway? Bayside! We are cracking up and so are they. We beat them to Days Inn, which has no rooms. Then we go to Super 8: no rooms. Each place, they pull in behind and we gesture: don’t bother. We spot the Best Western: no rooms again. Now, we’re driving erratically, in panicked circles. At some point we lose Bayside and I’m kind of sad. The fact that they are in the identical ridiculous, ill-conceived situation, makes me feel close to them, bonded. It’s one of my favorite things about being in a band—there’s a whole small world of people, playing similar clubs, meeting similar people, eating the same bad food, sharing the same travails. Obviously, Bayside is a different sort of band, on a different scale, but they’re just as screwed as we are right now. We decide pressing on toward the next town is inconceivable; we’re just too exhausted, so we end up parking in front of the city park. We cram the seats back a few inches and try to sleep for a bit, so that we can drive to Omaha. I am sure we will be awakened soon by a cop knocking on the window, and I’m actually kind of looking forward to it, sharing our desperation with a stranger. I am sure I can make him pity us, even root for us. He will be a hard-ass at first, which will only make the eventual conversion all the more satisfying. The cruiser light will flash silently as he escorts us to the one secret remaining hotel room in town. Imagining it, my eyes flutter close.

Wild Wild West

Friday, June 9 (part 2) – Nevada

A couple of hours outside of San Francisco, I make a bunch of phone calls and keep telling everyone, “Nevada, I’m in Nevada!!” in the same incredulous inflection people use when they utter the word “Nebraska,” my home state. Just another example of what pop psychologists call the cycle of abuse. Who do Nevadans deride?

Three hours later, we see a sign that says, “Welcome To Nevada,” marking (obviously) the actual beginning of the state. I’m disappointed and a little embarrassed, but I’m used to being wrong. I just make things up sometimes, convinced of their truth. At Yoshi’s house, I was recounting how Nick was at Candlestick Park during the World Series earthquake. Nick walks in to inform me I’m completely wrong. I had been so sure. . .

More bad food—this time we try Subway and regret it. I am a Subway virgin, and wonder aloud how “Jared” pulled off his diet. Nick tells me this particular Subway is sub-par, even for Subway.

Later, we pull off to get a beverage at a single building in the middle of nowhere, designated as “Gas Station/Mini Mart/Bar/US Post Office.” Suddenly, the driveway pavement gives way to a minefield of foot-deep potholes. But the only vehicles in the lot are mud-splattered monster trucks, so the holes must be an entry initiation. Above the entrance to the “bar” section of the building, a sign warns, “You must be 21 to enter. You must act 21 to stay.” The unmistakable riff of Fortunate Son ushers a stumbling man into the vague delineation between bar and mini mart. He holds a fist aloft and slurs, “I dedicate this fuckin song to every fuckin kid in Nevada!”

This snaps me out of my slow, baffled progression through the store. I scurry for the counter with a canned Starbucks “double shot,” and the clerk tells me how much she loves them. We bond over our shared taste in drinks. The moment is a comfort, as the vibe is pretty dicey in the bar, and the action keeps spilling over to where we are. Shit will definitely be started at some point this evening—maybe every evening–but we’ll be long gone by then.

In the car, Nick wonders aloud if Starbucks ever thought in their wildest dreams that a woman at a roadhouse in desolate Nevada would be endorsing their pre-packaged drinks.

A while down the road we get delirious with giggles, and Nick tells me in all sincerity that he now understands the term “natural high” because he feels really stoned, except that he has a secondary, more sober consciousness that is fully aware he’s laughing at stupid shit, but is nonetheless powerless to stop it. The Doves song “Black and White Town” comes on, and in that stoner way we just go nuts, philosophizing. Nick asserts that it is the sonic embodiment of an Industrial UK town (Nick lived in a “Ned” neighborhood in Glasgow for a while). The high hats are unrelenting for the whole song, like a locomotive crashing through the neighborhood. If you haven’t heard it, you should go listen.

We give up in Wells, NV because the bug guts are so thick that oncoming headlights are turned into pulsing slashes, something straight out of Star Trek. We find a hotel and head towards a café that the desk person recommends. By recommend, I mean she vouches that it would be open. I relay to Nick that it’s called, er, “The Three-Way.”

On the way there, we pass a place called Bella’s Espresso, whose entire building is outlined in pink neon and glowing hearts. That is a whorehouse, I say. But it says espresso, Nick says. Then he looks again and says, Wait, that does look like a whorehouse.

We find the café—which is actually called The Four-Way (dang!) and is not only a café, it’s a Casino/Truck Stop/Café. These Nevadans are such multi-taskers. Inside, the crowd is completely apeshit. Everyone is drunk and spilling out of their booths, calling to other patrons, staggering around the aisles. Yet incongruously, they’re eating eggs and hashbrowns in full fluorescent light. It’s totally bizarre. I had planned to order a beer, but change my mind; it seems best to keep my faculties fully intact.

After dinner, we use some merch money to play the slots. Total losses: $2.

Then we collapse.

Suggested Nevada State Mottos: 1) We’re rowdy! 2) We heart potholes.

Daily stats:
Times Nick caught Heather looking at her biceps: 16
[Ed. Note—gross exaggeration!]

Nick can’t drive 55

Thursday, June 8–Oregon

On the way out of town we see a giant Caveman statue and we exchange looks. Nick promptly heads right for it, intuitively, as if we’ve been on Caveman quest all along. At the base of the Caveman, a plaque explains that Grants Pass is famous for a “booster group” from the 1920s called—get this–the Cavemen. They gave themselves names like Big Bone and Fluffy Pelt, wore animal skins, and claimed to be direct descendants from Neanderthals. Supposedly, their activities included appearing at a Broadway show (wha?!?!?), which seems very 2006, Broadway-aesthetic wise. This season, they could open for Menopause: the Musical.

We stop to get an espresso in Yreka, California. It’s a a drive-thru, which sounds fast, but will actually the single slowest coffee experience I’ve ever had, partly because the woman working there is going crazy from being locked up in a box all day. Maybe it is our fault; we walked up to the window. While she’s making our coffee, a man drives up to the window and wants to know the maximum number of espresso shots that could be fit into a coffee drink. She guesses she could cram five into a 20 ounce cup. He then wants to know the most “exciting” drink she could make him with him with these five shots. She keeps describing different drinks and he says “nope, not exciting enough.” This is all while she’s supposed to be making my coffee. Right as she flips the blender on to make his “Crazy Caramel MindFreezer” she informs me, apropos of nothing, that she didn’t care that Kurt Cobain died. Then as if in consolation, she concedes that she really loves tiramisu.

For lunch we eat at Burger King. I can’t believe it, but I don’t want to waste time looking for something else. On the Today Show recently, Eric Schlosser said that McDonalds is one of the largest toy retailers in the country. I happen to find kid’s meals perfectly-sized (for me), so now, after two of them in two days, I own a disturbingly “hot” troll-teenager doll and this Bratz thing—a perfume bottle?–that looks like a buttplug.

So, here’s a debate for you. Are fast food places really grosser at gas stations? We keep snubbing the truck stop McDonald’s, as if they’re somehow inferior, like the fries will be cooked in diesel fuel. They’re probably the same, but we just can’t do it.

Nick is wearing an outfit that looks like Larry David. Sorry, that is not grammatically correct. The outfit looks like that of Larry David. Grey slacks and a polo shirt and white tennis shoes. I wish we were driving a Prius—then we could get into a “situation.”

Grand Funk Railroad keeps popping up in the ipod mix. Do you think they really got laid in Omaha? “four chiquitas in Omaha. . .we tore the hotel down.” I’d be pissed if I were those chiquitas and heard about it on the radio. Makes a bathroom wall look discreet, you know?

Fights:
One. Brief. I was working on an article and failed to acknowledge Nick’s celebratory honk as we entered the state of California.

Driving division of labor: Nick 10 hours Heather: 3

Place names that could be euphemisms for sex acts:
1) Balls Ferry
2) Junction City