#california

Desert Solitaire

Los Angeles to New Mexico–Wednesday September 6

We dawdle like hell getting out of town. First we look for coffee, but then we find food—real food–and decide to eat the known quantity here rather than seek it out the unknown later. Our menu orders hedge against the future, a sort of anticipatory eating. For example, I am in no mood for oatmeal, but it seems relatively healthy, so I grab it, to combat the upcoming white flour carnival. Nick gets all four food groups in the blue plate special—meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and broccoli. I’m pissed.

Then we shop a little. I contemplate a pair of vintage Frye boots, but the store owner makes me try them on one at a time, using a plastic bag as a foot condom. Is this standard in LA? I pass on the boots, due to insufficient data. Nick ogles a pair of Pumas—he’s cheating on the Clarks Wallaby’s due to their hard-to-get routine. LA has been relatively dead since we got here, perhaps due to a post-labor day lull. But we are served up some hard-core traffic on our way out, delaying us even further.

We give up in Blythe, California, much earlier than we hoped. Our required fight starts up, about Nick’s reluctance to keep driving and my inability to drive. We agree on 5:30 as the wake-up time. The hotel room has cable, so we alternate between the preposterous all-star movie Twister, and the newest addition to the Cartoon Network, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

In the middle of the night a gigantic storm rips through and wakes us. The whole building is shaking—out the windows, the rain is blown horizontal by the high winds. We have a term for this sort of epic, apocalyptic environmental behavior, due to our obsession with a particular movie. “War of the Worlds,” Nick croaks, and lays back down.

WE LOVE IT!!!

Los Angeles–Tuesday September 5
We decided to take advantage of our day off by partaking of cultural opportunities. First we hit the La Brea tar pits, with the primary ambition of picking up some sweet postcards. Instead, we get some funny photos of ourselves. That place is in dire need of better merch. I was dying to spend money in there and couldn’t find one thing to buy.

Next we go to LACMA. We have just missed the Hockney exhibit, but we still see some great modern art, and some beautiful older European work. My favorite is the display of 18th century glass. All the Dutch oil still lifes, replete with oysters and cherries and lobsters, are making me starving.

Next we go to the Hammer to check out some stop-motion animation (Nick’s other love.) The guard, who has a New York accent, asks, “Do you need parking validation, or has someone driven you here?” Normally, I might think we looked important or something, but I have a feeling it’s par for the course.

I swear I spot Jim Carrey next to me in traffic, but he catches me looking so I have to look away. A license plate in front of us reads YRU TENZ. The same car’s rear view mirror holds a dream catcher. Yet is a spanking new, black BMW convertible.

I guess I don’t understand LA.

Vietnamese food. Gelato. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Who needs groupies?

Day of labor

SF to LA–Monday September 4

Due to labor day traffic, we spend the entire day in the car.

We pull off at Kettleman City, the halfway point between the two cities. We’ve been waiting for In N Out burger for hours. This place has become legendary in our band lore because last summer, on an identical stop at this very In N Out Burger, Nick was unwittingly teabagged by a clogged and overflowing toilet.

We roll into our friend Deb’s place later than I would like. She has snacks galore, and lots of water, which we are sorely in need of at this point. My urine has resembled Tang for days.

Spaceland is a very nice place. The crowd is unusually good-looking. I befriend another band; they are obsessed with 90210 (evidently the entire show is coming out soon on box set!) and tip me off about LA tourist activities and the local roller derby scene.

As we are loading out, a man is selling tamales from a cooler. Score. This will be the first time I haven’t gone to bed ravenous in at least a week. (I was burning the candle at both ends long before we left Portland).

We try to watch VH1 but our eyes won’t stay open.

Still Flyin’

San Francisco–Sunday September 3

Today, Nick’s birthday, no one gets up until 5 PM. Nick informs me that we’re now officially on Motley Crue time.

I keep getting phone calls, giving me fever dreams about being a loser who stays in bed all day. Finally, feeling like a degenerate, I hit redial for the last number, which is local. The person who picks up identifies himself as Michael. We talk for fifteen minutes and then I ask if he’s bringing his wife to our show. “Who?” he says. “I don’t have a wife.” At that moment I realize I am talking to another Michael, one I haven’t spoken to in about seven years. I’m on a roll.

Our show is sloppy. Sloppy, but really fun. The audience is raucous, bordering on harassing. We love it.

Still Flyin is truly incredible. The idea—a fifteen person, indie rock reggae band–sounds intriguing, and comes off brilliantly, mostly due to the fact that they are complete party animals. On stage, some of them can barely stand up, yet the music sounds terrific. The entire audience is smiling and dancing. After the show, we see a girl from the band puking in the alley. Yoshi seems unfazed and tells me blandly that at least one person pukes at every show.

This is the most fun I’ve had in ages.

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.

California Love

Chico–Friday September 1

We try to leave Portland as early as possible, but as usual, we take much longer than expected. Even waking up at the ghastly hour of 6:00 AM (I played a show with Shee Bee Gees the night before) we don’t hit the road until after 10:30. There’s the dog to be dropped off, food to find, the triple checking of our packing list. Last tour, I held on to the idea of eating well, long after I had crossed over into survival mode, but this time we’re honest: it’s Burgerville for breakfast. I contemplate getting an espresso milkshake—asking if they make them this early–but Nick advises against it. All day I will mourn the ghost of this lost milkshake.

We pull into Chico a bit later than we like, but the headlining band is still 2 hours behind us. As long as there’s someone worse off than us. . . I called before we arrived to apologize for our tardiness and Connie, the wife of the show organizer Jason, offered us a place to stay and went so far as to ask what I like for breakfast.

After we play, someone tells us that he’s been listening to “Le Projet Citron” for the last year, never knowing who sang it. He had assumed that we were covering the song live. He says, “You mean YOU wrote that song? No Way!!”

The last band is the single weirdest band I’ve ever seen. In a good way. A woman who goes by Pixie sings and “plays” a lamp hung with windchimes. While accompanied by guitar, she holds her ears and writhes around. It’s spooky, made even spookier by her truly incredible voice.

Outside of the venue I notice they too are in a normal car—theirs an eighties-era Chevy Nova which is smashed in the back. Steve the guitarist says they got rear-ended on the highway. A car was barreling up behind them and Steve tried to pull aside but the car smashed him anyway. Now, two months into a four month tour, they have no way to open the hatchback. They load their heavy gear into the backseat over the folded-down front seat. “Were they drunk?” I ask. “More like on acid,” Steve says. “Or both—drunk and on acid.” Pixie says, “Yeah, that’s like the military.” She pauses. “Just like a lizard.”

We all end up staying at Jason and Connie’s even though Jason and Connie are trying to get to San Francisco early the next day. I am once again reminded of the unreasonableness of this lifestyle. These are hard-working people who just want to take a quick vacation, and yet they are kept up and crowded by four freaks sprawled on their living room floor, overrunning their bathroom, raiding their food. Back at the venue, I had spoken with a woman Renee who had hosted our last show in Chico, at her record store. Recently, she finally closed the store after years of crushing bills. She was spending a couple thousand a month to keep it open. She’d work a day job and then go to the store and host shows until three in the morning, then get up and do it all again. Her subsistence was bulk bags of beans and rice. And she wasn’t complaining—in fact, she’s just resting so she can dive back in. She loves music that much.

San Francisco’s siren song

Friday, June 9–San Francisco

We just left San Francisco, which was, all things considered, a coup.

In times like this, I realize I have a birth defect called “high strung personality” and that this quality is in painful and direct opposition to the necessary attitude for tour. To wit: An interviewer calls this morning (before I’ve ingested any caffeine), and right as I answer I hit the speakerphone button. I can’t figure out where to talk into and I completely spazz, turning the phone over and over. I yell in the general direction of the phone asking him to call back in two minutes. Then I spend those two minutes hitting every button on the phone and pleading to Nick (er, yelling) “fix it!!!”. He reminds me that it’s not the end of the world if I have to talk on speakerphone. It’s not? Are you sure?

Anyway, this is my way of introducing the hour and a half spent lost in San Francisco yesterday afternoon. We had hoped for a spot of tea, or a stiff drink, or a nap, but instead we drove around, lost in Golden Gate Park, lost at the top of a terrifying hill, lost in a cul de sac packed with fit singles, as I stared at the map frantically hoping I could conjure the missing streets—the ones that we were driving on but were nowhere on the map. We made it of course, but not before I had declared the tour ruined several times, reflecting on how if only I hadn’t bombed Cell Biology I might have been a doctor golfing in some grassy knoll, rather than driving around lost with the very person whose birth I once believed was a cruel joke inflicted on me. (Hey—I was a kid.) Aww, what am I talking about. Rock rocks.

Anyway, San Francisco was a blast. Our host, Yoshi, was fantastic. The club, The Rickshaw Stop, was one of the nicer clubs I’ve ever been to, let alone played. The sound was excellent and the staff, especially Waldo, who did the sound, were remarkably nice. Our friends came out and hung like troupers. As we are driving out of town, the light is perfect and it’s the most beautiful place in the world. Nick says, I could live here. I completely see what he means. If he does move, I’ll have to follow. Perhaps it’s a fleeting thought; we’ve been seduced by perfect light and it will wear off quickly. Either way, we’ll be in Portland for a while.

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