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Sunday, December 9–Portland

Back in Portland, I take care of business, doing laundry, hitting the gym, and doing other chores. The show is at Slabtown with Gingerbread Patriots, who we’ve been meaning to play with for about a year after two botched attempts.

Finally, I’m loosened up this night. Anna Shee Bee Gee sings the Christmas song with us. Ellen SBG is sick, sadly. We miss her.

Saturday, December 8, 2007–Anacortes

In Seattle in the morning, we dawdle and Ethan, our host from the Math and Physics Club (a band that plays beautiful pop), reads to us from a book on film by a guy named Vern. We listen to records and then go eat a the volunteer park café. Normally, I would bitch about manicured, rich sanctimommies ad nauseum, but something weird has happened and I think I might want to have one of those little monsters one day, so my hypocrisy meter is telling me to shut the fuck up.

In Anacortes I make us go to a thrift store. It is shitty, full of half used nail polish and exhausted Christmas decorations but I find a vintage slip, one of the many things I collect. Then we go to a bar. I get an oyster shooter and chicken wings on the argument that it’s not white flour.

We are playing the Department of Safety, an all ages venue that feels like an arty compound—really cool. The show is freezing cold and fun. Nevada’s keyboard keeps cutting out because the amp is broken. I really love Fishboy. And Tullycraft are terrific—we could learn a thing or two from them about audience participation. Nick says he thinks we’re talking too much during our shows, that it’s turning into VH1 Storytellers. There is fresh baked banana bread from the DOS kitchen and I totally hog it.

Friday December 7, 2007–Seattle

I used to live in Seattle, so more than anywhere but Omaha, it evokes warm cuddly feeling. We will be playing at the Comet Tavern, a grunge era place that I was inappropriate at more than once.

I-5 opens at noon and we finally get out of town at two, because Nick and I are pokey motherfuckers and Nevada, forgets to bring his keyboard and has to go back to his apartment. We’ve built up the drive to be much scarier, traffic-wise than it is. Nevada is with us for the first time ever. He is our new keyboard player, recruited from Omaha connections. His mother is business partners with our mother. We grew up about ten blocks apart. I wonder if this will prepare him to tolerate our incessant bullshit.

Nick explains to Nevada that I will be blogging, and that everything’s fair game except for really bad stuff. Like if Nick shit his pants an hour south of Anacortes, I would never say that on the blog. But I would.

We stop at Burgerville. I require that we go to Burgerville anytime we drive to Seattle. If we don’t stop, I start moaning “Burgerville” until Nick pulls over. Centralia and Chehalis are coated in a film of mud from the floods, but everything’s open. Nick is going to draw everything he eats, so I take a photo of his black bean garden burger. I really want a mocha perk shake but am already worried about my voice. Alex Shee Bee Gee told me dairy produces too much mucus, therefore, one should not eat it before a performance. Normally, I don’t give a shit, but the last time we played in Seattle, I had no voice, so I’ve got something to prove.

We pull into Seattle early and go meet my friend Christopher and his fellow Stranger writers at a weird place called Havana. They are drunk and witty, and I am given a pair of wrist warmers—actually socks with the toes cut off and a thumb hole cut in them. They’re pretty Hot Topic, which makes me feel youthful.

We load in the Comet and I realize I’m supposed to change in a bathroom in which I trust no surface. I am the sort of person who will eat a peanut M&M off a toilet seat, so this is saying something. This place has no usable mirror, no place to set things—nothing. I guess this means I will wear no makeup. I also forgot nearly everything–socks, underwear, shirts– including the leggings that are my uniform. I have to wear my dress over jeans, which I hate.

The show is a great lineup—us, Fishboy, Awesome, and BOAT, one of our favorite bands.

We play well. Nevada pulls off his first show easily. I never quite settle in, for some reason, but it’s fine. Fishboy totally rip. The drummer is fucking insane. I am really stoked we’ll be playing with them for many shows. “Awesome” are hard to describe—there are a billion people singing and a billion instruments. They pull all of this off while wearing suits! I don’t know how they do it.

BOAT are fucking amazing, as usual. I hope we can tour with them sometime.

There is a hot dog stand, like there is outside of every rock club in Seattle. Last time I played here, I had a fit of joy over the hot dog stand all the way in Ballard—of course there’s one at the Comet/Neumo’s. Why doesn’t Portland have late night hot dog stands? I could eat a hot dog every day if it wouldn’t kill me.

Speed Freaks

We barely make it back. The last three hours we’re limping along—pounding M and M’s and Gummi Worms to stay awake.

At 2:00 AM, we are finally, finally home again.

The instant we pull in the driveway, I wish we could do it all again.

Just kidding.

Fire on the mountain

LA to San Francisco–Wednesday, September 13

We get to have breakfast with Deb, who is about to present her current artwork to a committee at her grad school. She barely touches her food due to nerves.

Forest fires are making I-5 hard to navigate, so we take 101 instead; I’ve always wanted to do this route anyway, and it turns out to be well worth it with all the scenery.

Back to San Fran, where we are comforted by Evan and Chris, our hosts, and their two dogs, Calvin and Clementine. We go to Emmy’s and get spaghetti and meatballs, the thing I hadn’t known I was craving but is absolute perfection.

Wallaby Station

Wilcox, AZ to Los Angeles–Tuesday, September 12

We make it to LA and back to Deb’s house but not before hitting the Cabazon Outlets. Nick finally scores his birthday Wallabees, and I want some pink ones for myself but decide they make my feet look like hockey pucks. No fair.

I fall asleep the second we walk in the door of Deb’s apartment.

Nobody puts baby in a corner

Sonora, TX to Wilcox, AZ–Monday, September 11

I finish the column early in the morning, half watching the 5th anniversary necrophilic frenzy that we call news coverage. Between the grimness, I can’t stop talking about how much I love our hotel. Nick makes fun of me, and I realize that what I’m so euphoric about is that we had another successful tour and I did a good job on the column. It’s like I won the lottery or something.

We become obsessed with souvenirs, since we’ve bought nothing on the trip so far. There are these massive souvenir stands all the way to Arizona, which have ten billboards leading up to them, like Wall Drug. We pull off at the first, sensitively called the Running Indian. Inside is an orgy of crap—fake rattlesnake eggs, maracas, piggy banks, tomahawks, copper jewelry, taffy. It’s hard to choose, but I buy some maracas for Alex Shee Bee Gee and a beaded Native American style bracelet that says Heather. Nick buys ten postcards, including some Old West ones. “Our close relatives were in the James Gang,” he says. “Really?” I say, “Why haven’t you ever told me that?!” He rolls his eyes. “Every time I tell you, you ask why I’ve never told you before.” I promise to remember this time.

In the parking lot, I notice my bracelet is made in Taiwan.

We crash in Willcox, AZ, after eating in the Hopi Lounge, where two glasses of cheap Chardonnay turn me into a babbling idiot.

Back in the room, Dirty Dancing is on the television. We sing along with the Swayze gem, “She’s Like the Wind.”

Hope springs eternal

Austin to Sonora, TX–Sunday, September 10
Despite staying up past 4, I wake early again, to work. But I’m still not done with the job, so we have decided to make an emergency schedule change—we will drive a couple of hours and check into a hotel so that I can have steady phone/cell access to finish.

But first we spend the morning with friends. Nick goes to breakfast with friends, and I get tacos with Lawrence, Audrey and Andy, my Austin Hosts. They take me swimming at a place called Barton Springs, a natural-fed pool. I haven’t been swimming at a pool in years, and even though I’m all lame in shorts and a tank top, I feel like a happy little kid.

Then we say goodbye and leave. The whole drive to Sonora, I feel warm inside. The dusk is purplish pink, dreamlike. This may be the best trip I’ve ever taken.

The whiteness of the whale

Austin, TX–Saturday, September 9

I wake up three hours before everyone else, in order to work—see previous entry for latest screwup.

My friend from college, an aspiring Texas politician, picks us up at the palatial digs and takes us out to breakfast at a place that Bill Clinton loves (he even has a dish named after him—El Presidente). After that we drive around Austin, which is beautiful. First, we tour the capital. The building is spectacular, bigger than the nation’s capital (Texas!). The exterior is pink and there are stars everywhere—the ceiling, the fence, the floor, the walls. You could eat off the marble floors. Next we go to Mount Bunnell to get a view of the city. The collection of beer bottles in the bushes implies that this is high school party central.

We go home and get ready for the show that night at Emo’s. As I’m getting dressed, I pull a quick phoner with a tshirt designer (see above).

We are scheduled on a cool radio show called Ear Candy, so before load-in, we hit the studio. Our friend Ramesh from Voxtrot shows up, which is good because he has more to say than we do. Any story I can think to share with the listeners is inappropriate for public consumption. Our brains are mush. An old friend of Nick’s calls in and announces she will be coming to the show. Last time Nick saw her, she was living in Montreal—he keeps asking if this is a joke.

There is a huge football game going on—UT vs OSU, which has turned the entire area of the club into a terrifying sea of orange-clad beer swillers. After load-in we try to find a place to get some food and a drink. But every bar is packed with football fans.

Finally, after wandering in circles for half an hour, we find a modest little tea house. It is creepily deserted, except for one other group of customers. “White Whale,” I say to Nick, referring to the band we’re opening for. I have no idea what White Whale look like, but have learned that bands often cross paths in a city because we’re all looking for the same two things—record albums and decent food.

The owners of the restaurant are so sweet and make us a special flavor of bubble tea that involves taro. We stay there forever, so happy to have peace and quiet and some healthy Korean food.

Back at the club, Emo’s, my new Austin friends have shown up—after drinking all day. They are totally fired up, and hilarious. The Longhorns’ loss has put a damper on the whole 6th Street corridor, so these folks’ wild energy is like a public service at this point.

The whole roster tonight is awesome, and White Whale in particular blow my mind. We meet some really great people afterwards, especially a woman named Mikele who has driven four hours to see us because she was convinced we’d never visit Texas. I buy a White Whale tshirt because a) the graphic looks like the creature from The Neverending Story b) I have no more clean clothes.

Intriguing bathroom graffiti: “Women who date married men should never wear mascara.”

Tonight is the single most hellish load out experience of my life. The Longhorns fans and a large rap concert have simultaneous discharged onto one street. The sidewalks are swarming like I’ve never seen before; this must be what Mardi Gras is like. As we carry load after load out the club and to the car–parked a black away–I’m getting shoved, blocked, yelled at. It takes us over an hour to travel the 3 miles home, but we’re alive.

Communication Breakdown

Mesilla, NM to Austin, TX–Friday, September 8
We hit a place called the Bean on the way out of town to get coffee; it’s nice to find some good coffee that’s not Starbuck’s. After El Paso, there’s just nothing. I’ve only driven this long with no signs of life once before—through central British Columbia.

After we cross the Texas state line, Nick turns to me and says, “It’s weird, but I keep feeling the urge to ‘mess’ with this place.”

We’re getting really loopy and stupid, having had no privacy for over a week now. While I’m air drumming to The Creation, Nick starts laughing. “What?” I say. He says, “You just stopped mid drumming and started flexing your biceps.”

As I’m getting spotty phone reception I get a call from my editor at the Tribune. Through the static, I gather she wants to know where my column is. I’m baffled. “It’s due Thursday.” I say. Long Pause. “No, it was due yesterday,” she says. My heart freezes. I hang up and start hyperventilating. Nick pulls over in Ozona, so I can gather my thoughts. I put my head in my hands and try to cry—this is terrible–but I can’t.

I started rifling through the car looking for the press releases I need. Every call I make is dropped. Finally, I just stare, catatonic, like the guy in Ferris Bueller when his dads car gets trashed.

When I regain consciousness, I notice we’re in front of the town square. There’s a sign for the David Crockett memorial, and a strange couple are walking a pair of leashed cats in front of a statue of Mr. Crockett. Nick wants to go ask the Crockett Museum what the difference is between Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone, if it’s like Sasquatch versus Bigfoot, but decides to go photograph the town gunsmith instead. I stew in my misery.

We roll into Austin around 9 o’clock and are presented our digs for the next few days. The huge upper floor of a gorgeous, historic house. Score.

We get sent to barbeque joint down the road—brisket and greens. Delicious. Then we go to lodge in the trees, called the Spider House. Lots of kids are drinking mochas. I keep trying to take a photo of the sign, which looks like 60s Disneyland, but it’s all blurry.

Later we go to a bar. Everyone there—friends of friends mostly–is partying, really warm and welcoming. We sit at a giant picnic table in the open air. At three AM, we get tacos al pastor. We go to bed full and happy–I’ve managed to temporarily forget how completely screwed I am.