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.