Sunday, November 25, 2007

Desert Thoughts

1:04 PM

Alright, I should discuss some earlier occurrences in the tour. First day saw us finding out the wonderful news that we could not use our newly purchased van. We expected to receive the title in the incipient stages of tour, and assumed we’d just use our various vehicles to get to nearby shows. Our first was in a basement in Connecticut. It took us three times as long to get there from Jersey since a truck carrying fuel oil exploded on I-95. That effectively shut the major artery down for weeks to come.

We played to a couple dozen kids and stayed in some girl’s dorm at UCONN. I slept on a tiny couch. I learned a valuable lesson: it is better to sleep on the floor and stretch out than it is to sleep on the comfy sofa and curl up. From there we went to Boston for a radio interview and played a raucous show at Boston University. I found myself rather disconcerted by the bevy of huge, hulking tough dudes up front going nuts, but I guess they enjoyed us.

We stayed at Brad’s house, and hung out with him, Nat and Ben. We walked amidst the hordes of ornery college students to some pizza place, itself infected with inebriated college cretins. Nat took to hurling insults at them, which made me extremely concerned for our safety. But no one responded. I fell asleep at Brad’s on a long couch around 4:30 AM, amidst Nat talking about music gear.

Next morning saw us in the Watertown Diner, me devouring vegan flapjacks and grinning like a mook. Then we cruised to Amherst. Played at Smith College to a small crew of kids. We ate at the school cafeteria, collecting nasty looks, since we were a group of strange looking boys in an all girls school. They offered vegan food too, what the fuck! Is New England as progressive as ZInn or Chomsky would have us think? We stayed at Will and Meghan’s house. I fell asleep after 5 AM on a big couch next to Josh. I left my hat there, a wool cap my girlfriend knit for me. She is not fucking happy about that for various reasons.

From there we went to NYC and played a great show at CBGBs. Various stoic members of our party used the restrooms. Promoter Rich wrapped his hands around Eric’s throat and hoisted him heavenwards when Eric foolishly made fun of Rich. I watched a drunken concertgoer pour beer all over straight edge Alexander. We stayed at Billy’s place in Whitestone Queens and found out the title wouldn’t arrive for at least 30 days. Greg generously offered the use of his minivan for the tour. The cost of renting a van was as high as the sun. So we embarked on the tour, hitting Reading, Newark, Blacksburg, Asheville and Harrisonburg, all dreary, rain-soaked days. The 14+ hour drive to New Orleans really kick-started the tour. I think we’re reasonably caught up now. HOORAY HOORAY FUCKERS!!!

1:17 PM

It occurs to me all of the sudden that I’ve grown jaded and bitter in my old age. Maybe that’s not it. When this began three years ago, I felt much more engaged politically. I cared and felt guilty for not involving myself more deeply in activism. Now I feel little desire to get involved in that way. I am deeply disturbed by the current political and social climate, given the Bush junta and all they’ve done to cause grief at home and abroad. The anarchist/activist set in Philly rubbed me wrong. I didn’t fit in, and indeed, I tried. I don’t fit in anywhere. And I don’t need people wearing all black with patches sewn onto their clothes, calling me bourgie because I like a little heat in the winter and a little air-conditioning in the summer. Yet I am not normal and I don’t want to be. Maybe I am not as radical or as leftist as I once was. I am not hopeful that an anarchist reign (I know, that phrase is a misnomer) could ever exist in this country. I think there are a few fundamental changes that could go a long way towards creating a better way of life for most people. Maybe this is a compromise with capitalism. Yet I see no other feasible alternatives at the present time. Here goes:

1) Livable wage. C’mon, this is common sense. A person cannot live on $7.50 an hour and then have the government take a third. That amount is above minimum wage too. I make $7.50 an hour, and it barely covers the bills. How is a family able to survive on less? We need a mandatory minimum livable wage. How about $12 or $14? I could live like a goddamn king on such amounts, though I do not have children. If you pay workers better, they may feel more inclined to work better. I might not loathe my job if I was paid a reasonable wage.
2) Universal health care. Fuck man, this is a no brainer. Compare the standard of living here with other comparable industrialized nations and the U.S. falls far behind, like down in fucking Dark Ages. Let’s liquidate the insurance companies. They keep us stuck in this mess, them, and the politicians they subsidize, as well as the rich people who don’t feel a need for universal health care coverage since they can afford health care.
3) Free childcare. How can a parent making minimum wage hope to go to work and then care for the kids? And afford to take care of them? Do it for the kids.
4) Tons more. This is the beginning. We can move on to paying teachers more, reducing the defense budget and redirecting those funds towards worthwhile endeavors. You get my drift.

I should run for political office.

2:27 PM

Just spoke with the girlfriend. She wants me to come home. Now. She says this every time we speak. I understand, I miss her. I left her alone with various housemates back in the cold and rain of Philadelphia. This is the longest we’ve been apart. But then she starts in with her jealousy and insecurities, accusing me of not loving her and me fucking other girls out here in the middle of fucking nowhere and it gets to be a bit much. Being out here is fun, sometimes. Mostly it’s figuring out the optimum way to situate your body through a long drive to prevent back aches and neck pains (yes, we are old men). In addition, holding a serious conversation via cell phone is difficult to do when you are surrounded by dudes and a blaring stereo.

Back in Philly the rain falls hard. It is still cold, winter not relenting its tenacious bite. She accused, “You want to leave me,” after I quipped that we should move away from Philly for a sunnier, warmer destination. Uggg. It is sunny and warm with clouds to the east.

3:11 PM

What would I do if I joined the “real world”? Become an academic? A journalist? The manager of my department at the bookstore? There are several career options available to me thanks to the piece of paper hanging up in a frame across from my old bedroom in my parent’s house that says I graduated college.

Quick aside: we’re passing hills and mountains dotted with windmills used to generate wind power. Yes! Less oil and more wind and solar energy. I’d love to live in a house run entirely on renewable energy. Leave the oil in the ground clowns!

Back to my story…I almost took two graduate level Political Science courses last September. They were awful. Yet I love learning, debating, writing, researching and growing intellectually. If I have to have a normal job, why not a professor? Well, there is the downside of that means of employment: barely any PhD grad finds gainful employment as a professor. The competition is fiercer than gladiator battles in Roman times. The sycophants run rampant and I don’t know if I have the strength in my lips and the clothespins for my nose to kiss so much ass. I am a weirdo. I am 28. I think the grad school window is just about closed for me. Look, I don’t want to be just a guitar player in some dumb rock band. Yawn. Eat shit. Get fucked. Fuck face. Eat my fuck. I need to read more, love, learn, live. Fuck complacency.

I just remembered last night how Cisco Nabisco’s owner mentioned seeing Suicidal Tendencies in 1986. He said he loved Metallica and Megadeth. But he added, “That wasn’t the heavy stuff. What you guys play is the heavy stuff.”

4:10 PM

We just stopped by and left where we’re performing this evening: Munoz Gym. It’s a tiny building with a boxing ring taking up most of the space. That means, you guessed it, the bands doing their thing inside the motherfucking ring. Should be quite a night. This is touring. Hello Bakersfield!

7:20 PM

Here in the dirt and pebble backyard to the gym. Two local kids hang out behind us. One dude said, “I’m gonna get so drunk. I’m gonna get crunked.” Go you dude. This place is a true, ripe shit hole. Bakersfield is the asshole of California. Perhaps I should refrain from such a hateful depiction of this place. We walked around “downtown” and ate at Quiznos. The soft-drink dispenser kept dispensing lemonade long after I pulled my cup away. The employees laughed at me. HA HA HA HA HA! Now I feel sick. But it is as warm and humid as the Amazon here and the sun sets gloriously behind me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Las Vegas

12:17 PM

The show last night was a lot of fun. We played in this tiny record store in Vegas called Balcony Lights. The owner of the store (who I think was the owner anyway) was a real character. He reminded me of that dude in Boogie Nights, you know, that scene with the small Asian man lighting off firecrackers. Remember? It was that hoser that liked Journey and insisted on defying the Man by putting his mix tapes in the song order he desired, not them. Maybe I thought this when the guy offered us a ton of weed. “No, you need to speak with the other guitar player,” we said, thanking him for his magnanimity. Quite an affable man.

The store sat in a thin strip mall with a 7-11, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut nearby. 60 or so kids crammed in and rocked out. I had a blast and sang a lot, since I could hear my voice for once. I spoke with my boy Spoon back in Jersey. He’s encountering rough times. Him and his girlfriend of a year split up. Now he’s back to living in his mom’s basement and feeling desperate and miserable. It’s a hard life. I wish I could chill with him, but I’m on the other side of the country.

Anyway, Vegas is weird, of course. Cars keep cruising by. People throw their bottles at a dumpster across the street. Why? Some guy walking his pit bull stopped to chat with us. The dog’s name was Cisco Nabisco. He had Billy hold the canine’s leash, then he’d yell, “Go, Cisco, GO!” and the dog charged ahead, dragging Billy like a rag doll dog chew toy. He then focused the pooch on Josh and shouted, “Get him!” Cisco sprinted for poor Josh, him yelping like a schoolgirl. He commented, “I like you dog but I don’t you biting my nuts off.”

After the show we made our way to the Excalibur.

Greg decided that if cost less than $100 to stay at this particular casino, then we would do it. The room cost $90. Excalibur was ours. We didn’t roll into the joint until after midnight. The lobby spread for what seemed miles, as if it was an airport. Despite the hour, the place teemed with all grades of humanity. We heard one guy complain to his wife, “I’m gonna kill that faggot, I’m gonna kill him.” Was this Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? And why are there families here? It’s fucking Easter, they can’t all be Jews and Agnostics! I see little kids tumbling about and it’s fucking midnight? Who takes the family to Vegas on Easter? Did they tell the children that the Easter Bunny might leave them lots of candy and riches while mommy and daddy blow their hard earned pay (your college funds) in the casinos? No wonder this country is fucked.

After an eternity, Billy procured the room keys and we trekked up to our room on the 21st floor in Tower 2. Our room overlooked one of the turrets. As you could eruditely deduce from the casino’s moniker, it boasts a medieval theme.

Greg, Josh, Jamie, Eric and I went down to the casino. Billy and Alex crawled into bed together. “We’re snuggle bears,” they said.

Jamie played the slots. He said to me, “Just because I like you, I’m giving you half of whatever I win.” He hit $60 and asked, “Should I cash out?” I responded, “The night is young.” He continued pulling the lever and wound up losing everything. In an instant I watched $30 vanish before my eyes.

An hour into our casino adventure, Greg wanted to hunt down a Del Taco. Jamie returned to the room, while the rest of us headed out to Tropicana to find food. I absorbed the scene outside, a sprawling metropolis of glitz and glamour. It looked like some psycho playground. You have the New York, New York across the way, a replica of that city’s landmarks replete with a roller coaster that runs all over the city. Then there’s MGM and Mandalay Bay and plenty more.

We walked for hours it seemed just to reach a McDonald’s that loomed ahead, only to find it closed. We then stopped at Mr. Deli. Everyone bought snacks, me shelling out .80 for two bags of peanuts. Then we walked back. I saw newspaper boxes lining the street full of circulars advertising escorts and phone sex. What other city would have so much sex on display? I recalled seeing similar material in Japan.

Once back in the room, I hit the floor and wrapped up tight in my sleeping bag. Now we’re on the road to Bakersfield. It is Monday. Monday is not a prime show night. What can you do? I abide by the old Minutemen ethos of no days off. As they stated, “If you’re not playin’, you’re payin’.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Death Valley

2:34 PM

Back in the desert. We played in San Diego and Long Beach. I ended up having a blast at both shows. It’s aggravating though, when all the audience wants to hear are old songs. Does that mean the new ones aren’t as good? I don’t know, this is a fickle sport. Not that I can really fathom doing anything else. I feel a need to write again.

I spoke with my parents today, it being Easter. My mom mentioned how my girlfriend alluded to us having children. Uhhhhh…. My older brother just had a baby, well, his wife did. My younger brother is engaged. Babies and marriage for your humble narrator? Not now, when I enjoy a job that pays $7.50 an hour, and a job I may not have when I return from this vigorous touring. We’ve played 16 shows. I crave the performance. But do I crave the actual music? Or am I over analyzing everything, my normal trait? I think too much. About everything. Being out here with miles and miles upon hours and hours of empty space to just sit and think, I am plagued with ponderings. And that gets me into trouble.

3:34 PM

The desert is gorgeous. Just off the rest stop oasis of Barstow, and now we pass the desert’s answer to the Hollywood sign: CALICO, perched to the north in the maroon mountains.

5:02 PM

Desert. Desert. Desert. And then Primm, Nevada! A taste of the madness to come. There’s Buffalo Bill’s, Carl’s Jr., McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chevron, Texaco…everyone out here is on their way to Vegas. Whiskey Pete’s sits across the street. The rest stop offers slots and everything here is chaos. Some guy tried to sell me cologne, now he eyes the van. Billboards everywhere announce: “WINNINGS IN THE AIR!” This, kids, is America. Hundreds of thousands are on their way to a mirage.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

San Diego

12:50 PM

Somewhere past Yuma, now just across the California border. Everything looks like another planet. Hoth perhaps? Billy quipped, “Is that a banther? Are those sand people- OHHH-OHHH!” Sand dunes the color of skin span the horizon on every side below a sky the color of quartz. On either side of us are these walls of dunes, with Mexico somewhere looming to the left. We drove through the inspection station earlier. Matt exclaimed in a panic, “Everyone, throw out your fruit! Throw out your fruit!” He scrambled through his bag of goodies, sifting through bags of food hunting for these illegal foodstuffs on par with illicit narcotics or unlicensed/un-social security card-holding brown people. Then we saw the digital sign, telling us: “No Inspections Today.” Matt breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

MUSIC IN VAN TODAY: Peachcake, Ethel Meserve, Dakota to Dakota, Venetian Snares, Slowdive, Biggie Smalls, Fugazi, Panthers, Bright Calm Blue, Black Flag….

1:41 PM

As we drive through this constantly changing geography, I’m reminded of some car-racing game I played ages ago on Nintendo. You drove through all sorts of regions and climates. Most of us live through video games and television and the internet. I am happy actually out here and not in a box.

This is serious desert now, with olive and coal-colored mountains all around us. Green shrubs sprout like Chia pets all over the ground; sharp, thick, thin-leaved bushes. I see the occasional abandoned house with no windows like a corpse with eyeless eye sockets. What happened to its inhabitants? What took its life? The highway twists and turns inexorably towards San Diego. Back in Louisiana, 10 went for dozens of miles on pillars built upon water and swamp. How long must it have taken to construct these roadways?

I look out now to see hills of giant boulders, some as tall as skyscrapers. How did they get here? I know there are snakes, Gila monsters and lizards slithering upon these stones and upon this sand. This is a brutal ecosystem.

1:50 PM

On the drive to Phoenix last evening, I saw two rainbows. I haven’t seen a rainbow since I was a tyke. I hope that’s a good omen. We passed a road called Bloody Basin Road, then “Horse Thief National Park.” Arizona. It looks like Mars outside.

2:23 PM

70 miles from San Diego. Stopped at a gas station in Jacumba. I watched a family feed the prairie dogs or sand squirrels or whatever small, rodent beasts they were. The creatures crept warily to the fence, snatched a French fry and sprinted to the nearest brush of sticks. Some approached me hungrily, sniffed and scampered towards other food-bearing humans when they realized forlornly that I had nothing to offer. I said to Matt, “Maybe we should feed them Billy’s nuts.” We’ve filled the tank twice since Phoenix- that’s over $60 on gas for a five-hour drive. Absurd. Oil is thicker than blood. It is the fuel of our civilization. And it’s running on empty.

7:55 PM

Writing in the dark outside the Che Café here in San Diego. Lots of really young kids; that seems to be the age group we attract now. It makes me feel ancient. No one here is anywhere near 28 years old, not even the people working this place. They’re 18, 19, maybe 20. So it goes. We play loud agitated guitar-driven rock music. Some claim the upside of this equation is that these children possess disposable income to purchase our products, which of course enables us to survive while on the road. None of us is independently wealthy and thus our personal bank accounts could never subsidize 40+ days of travel. Maybe that is selling out. Maybe that’s real life.

San Diego is beautiful. We dined at Pokez, me wolfing down in orgiastic bliss a divine vegan and bean chorizo. I felt my body absorb not only the flavor but also the bounty of nutrition wrapped within. We then made our way to the beach. The Pacific, as mesmerizing as always. I stood on the jetty over the ocean, the waves crashing all around me. The sun set, falling into the sea. I felt calm and at peace. It was as if my body had a chance to breathe easy, if only for an hour.

The last time we were here, I trekked to the shore with a gaggle of dudes in the wee hours of the morn. They passed a spliff while I gazed off into the dark ocean, my first time seeing the Pacific. We saw various colors sparking in the waves, blue, red, orange. Someone later explained that this was due to algae. Yet no one believed them when they described this the next day. They relied on me as definitive proof: “He saw it. And he wasn’t high!”

Now it is back to the screamy, noisy routine. Maybe I’m getting too old for it. I crave catharsis. But what about the musical aspect? I don’t know. This is what I do. Some people paint. Some people build houses, others fix cars. I play guitar and jump around. I’ve done it since I was 16. I will probably do it when I am 60 (which shall be a sight to behold).

Everyone’s getting tense in their own ways. It has been two weeks. But man, every time I come out here, I fall more in love with it. I don’t know, I am a Jersey boy at heart, a man of the northeast. This seems like never, never land.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


10:28 AM

Cactus land and azure sky. We’re on Rt. 8 cruising to San Diego by way of Phoenix. I enjoyed myself last night, which was welcome relief after the miserable night in Oklahoma. Phoenix is beautiful, warm, sunny and relatively clean. We had a great show, with kids having fun. We stayed at a girl’s house, which wound up being an adventure. We could not find her house forever. When we reached her street, she said it was the house with the pick-up truck out front. Every house on the block boasted a pick-up truck out front. We drove slowly, peering into each houses’ front window, looking for any sign of friendly life. As we rolled slowly, silently down the quiet suburban street, we noticed a smaller house lit inside by a dim orange light. Two pointy-eared Chihuahuas stood sentry in the front window. We let out a collective yell upon seeing this sepulchral image, the darkened outline of the devil dogs in the eerie orange glow. They in turn exploded in a loud volley of shrill barking.

Soon we found her house and went inside to enjoy a nightcap of Del Taco. Her roommate, a seemingly nice enough chap, began talking endlessly about sundry topics as if we pulled the string in his back that stretched to Atlanta. He argued with Greg about the futility of learning other languages and ancient history. Obviously Greg took great umbrage at such remarks, since Greg received a Bachelors degree in those subjects. He went on to make vague comments about being an environmentalist and about how he did hard time for his activist activities.

The last time we visited Phoenix, we stayed with this girl at her parent’s home. When we pulled up, a kid from the show approached and warned us, “Her older brother is here and he is being really obnoxious.” He added, ominously, “And threatening.” Great, just what we look forward to after our first show of tour, a surly sibling in a strange town. We went inside and there he was, a mammoth loudmouthed drunk ape.

“You guys bring the bitches?” he bellowed as we ambled inside. “You guys all in a band?” Some half-hearted ‘yeahs’ followed. “Then where are all the sluts motherfuckers? Where be them slut pigs?” The situation was growing awkward. “I get to fuck ‘em first motherfuckers, I get to fuck ‘em first!” He chortled heartily at these statements. Some of my mentally swifter associates and I quickly fled to set up camp in a small bedroom. He continued to harass the unfortunate few who remained until his girlfriends arrived. “Alright faggots, my bitches is here. I thought I’d have to slap ‘em around if they got here any later.” Everyone ignored him, not even attempting to placate him with feeble smiles or nervous chuckles. “I’m gonna pork slam them tonight, woo-hoo fuck yeah!” He bid us adieu, “So long homos!”

This, after playing the show an hour after flying in from Newark, New Jersey and traveling to the show from the airport in Phoenix via limousine. It was the only transportation available. We rolled up in front of the venue like we were Styx or something. A dozen kids loitering outside saw who we were, and applauded as we exited the limo.

We’ve just hit an oasis of strip malls on this desert highway. Are we in Yucca? Palm trees line the street. It is warm and gorgeous today.

10:58 AM

Believe it or not, I wanted to go to the party last night. Half our crew wound up at a house stocked full of alcoholic beverages, narcotics and avid intakers of all of the above. Ordinarily, I enjoy such “parties” about as much as I enjoy dental work. But I felt like going last night and observing the melee as it unfolded. Way back in the dark annals of our history, we stopped in at a party in Blacksburg, Virginia. That was after the seventh show of the tour. A crew of kids from the show threw a booze-soaked fiesta in their apartment. We stayed for all of five minutes, leaving our intoxicated singer to fend for himself.

We went back to the house we intended to stay at. One of its inhabitants explained to us, “There’s a girl who lives here. She likes band guys. Maybe one of you all can KGB your way into her panties.” We all looked at each other. “KGB?” When Josh and I watched in disgust as the dog shat on the carpet and Greg witnessed the horror growing inside the tub, we made a quick getaway to a nearby hotel.

Do I need to explain what transpired on this tour before I began writing? No, I didn’t think so. But I’ll briefly summarize: We played a bunch of states in the northeast and then shot down to New Orleans. We drove from Harrisonburg, Virginia to N’awlins, 4:30 AM to 8:30 or so PM, eastern to central time. It was indeed hellish. The weather was 95% rain and cold until we hit the south. The northeast is boring but I can’t imagine living anywhere else. People grow friendlier the further south and west you journey.

Now I am surrounded by desert. The sun hammers into me. The mountains look like moonscape. This is amazing.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

New Mexico

A towering crucifix stares at me across the flat field that runs hundreds of miles to the south of us. God makes his presence known much more fiercely out here in the West, in the Plains, the non-East of wherever the fuck we are. A crowd of worshippers hovers at the base of the cross, doing god-knows-what. In a minute, they’re gone, the cross, the tiny shapes of bodies, the far away cars and the road shoots onward like a missile, soaring towards an unseen target.

It’s 9:45 in the morning, got up at 7:30 after falling asleep around 3 or so in our motel room. As we drove away from last night’s show (which bares no description- it was unremarkable), I gazed out the window into the void that loomed ominously forever. A cold moon glowered upon whatever out there I could not see. Greg insisted on playing “Televators” over and over, the only track that matters to him on the Mars Volta album. I listen to him argue, “They should have begun the album with this song. I listened to this on repeat for the entirety of my six hour drive home from practice once.” It is a long commute for a trivial band rehearsal. “It was awesome," he concluded.

As I stare into the belly of nothing, I pondered our lackluster show. What are we doing? What am I doing? Is this worth it? But I know this adventure has only just begun and that there is ample time and bountiful opportunity for things to get better, or to get worse.

The more I think about last night’s show, I realize it was a disaster, at least on my end. Technical snafus marred me all night. My new earplugs blocked out too much sound. But whatever, today is another day and tonight is another show. At the end of every show, I’m left feeling ecstatic or despondent. There is no middle ground. The most seemingly insignificant details can tilt the scales one way or the other. No one’s to blame really, well, not always.

I notice the shifts in geography and landscape as we drive deeper into the country. The trees thin out here, giving way to scrub brush and short sticks with tufts of green on top that look like lollipops. The ground still sprouts grass but I know it will soon turn to sand. Are we still in Oklahoma? Texas? New Mexico?

Today is the fourteenth day of tour. Tom asked if anything exciting or fun happened thus far. No one answered because, honestly, nothing exciting has happened. I am not complaining. I’m a person content with the normal, a man chained to routines, someone who seeks solace in the comfort of the expected. As I stared off into that black basket full of silver stars last night, I asked myself if I am happy doing this. Indeed, such ruminations upon great existential questions are not uncommon mental fodder for mercurial, indecisive, constantly doubting 28 year olds such as myself. In four weeks this will be over and then what? Back to the job I hate at the college bookstore, a job that doesn’t pay me enough to survive on? More tours? Should I act my age or live out my dreams? Is this my dream? And what about my girlfriend, will she tolerate me doing such nonsense as traveling across the country with a band that expects no income whatsoever from its work? Will she leave me upon my return? I wouldn’t blame her.

I’m in the backseat of Greg’s minivan as Josh drives. Matt and Greg are asleep and snoring loudly. Our singer Billy travels with the band we are touring with, and who knows where they are. They consist of Alexander, Jamie and Eric. We’re quite the traveling band of malcontents and miscreants.

The terrain grows more desert-like by the minute, more barren by the mile.

I attempted to read Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, yet it made no sense and bored me. You can’t concentrate in this van. I loved Fury. I finished Palahniuk’s Lullaby in three days, but that’s fast food for the mind. Maybe I’m just not that smart, not as bright a bulb as my college degree tells me.

I still await the bull’s eye, the scarlet scourge of Lyme disease. Damn the bloodsuckers, the mini vampires lurking in the bushes and swimming on the wind from the trees. Stay inside, please, I implore you, STAY INSIDE.

Touring is a weird trip. It seems to mostly consist of malnutrition, sleep deprivation, frayed nerves and blasting tempers like firecrackers. The band has done considerably well. We pay ourselves $10 per day. Not a king’s ransom (or what the guys in The Strokes or something pay themselves), but better than paying for everything out of our own anorexic wallets. We’ve managed to trick kids into buying our shirts and records.

They were extroverted and gracious to a fault in Texas and New Orleans. They talked my ear off, so much I could barely put it back on later that night. All of this was a nice change from the aloof, disinterested and cold east coast, our home. Yet this is a fickle trade we’ve devoted ourselves to. These kids won’t attend the show if we ever return. We’re onto our fourth record and they want the first. Nature of the Beast.

We stayed at a motel just outside that city along Route 10 that night. A punk at the venue loudly, drunkenly told us, “You ain’t stayin’ here!” I hope he chokes on his vomit in his sleep and dies a slow, painful, suffocating death. I am losing my patience. Billy and Alexander went for a jog around the hotel. They boasted bold plans to exercise and run every day. They got halfway around the block and came back sweating and gasping for air. No sign of physical activity since.

We just drove past a large barn-like building with ADULT ETC
emblazoned above it. XXX was painted on three silos next to it, as tall as the building. Where am I, why am I here?
11:04 AM

We’re driving into a black abyss here in New Mexico. I hope we survive the oncoming storm, which only could have come up from Hades.

11:10 AM

The mouth of the sky swallows us as rain pummels the van. Smiths on the stereo, maybe the last music we hear…we die to a crooning, morose Morrissey. A hearse tows a mashed up car alongside of us. This is New Mexico.

3:00 PM

Passed another car wreck. The rain comes and goes and with it cold and warmth. I saw a car facing the wrong direction in the eastbound lanes of I-40. Its hood was smashed to the windshield, like a crushed can. Then we drove by an SUV flipped on its side and wrecked against the guardrail in our westbound lane. The roof was caved in completely. A Navajo blanket lay near the vehicle’s corpse. I don’t know how anyone could have survived. This is the second serious accident we’ve come upon. The other was in Tennessee or Mississippi or maybe it was Alabama. On I-84 or I-35 two cars sat crunched together with rolls and rolls of toilet paper strewn across the pavement. We noticed people standing at the passenger side window. When we drove past, we saw a figure dressed in white slumped across the driver and passenger seats.

And now the rain roars against the van like wild animals threatening to tear through the roof. Outside is the Painted Desert. This must be what it’s like for people who see the ocean for the first time. This is new to me, sights seen only in textbooks or TV. We’ve gone by ghost towns, burned out abandoned cars and the carcasses of gas stations, convenience stores and auto repair shops. Here near the Arizona border I see scattered tiny homes built by brick and clay, a church nestled in the brick-red cliffs, but no people and no animals, nothing at all alive. This is another planet.

3:11 PM

More weathered, decaying billboards for Indian Trading Posts and Indian Gift Shops. This is the land our white forefathers stole from Mexico and both stole from the indigenous peoples of what we call America. What do the Navajo and the Apache and the Cherokee have to show for this crime today? Their tribal namesakes are used as advertising tools to sell cars. A billboard announces: “NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION.” For whom? Back east where the political and economic power is waged from the boardrooms of Washington and New York, no one sees the remains of the conquered, the last vestiges of the destroyed. Like everything else that’s undesirable, they sweep them under the carpet, they being the media, the government, the teachers and the captains of industry. But you can see it, just drive 2,500 miles west and see the beauty of this cemetery, the green, pink, red, orange and yellow cliffs. The Pilot rest stops, the slaughterhouses, the sea of sky swallowing the horizon in every direction. I feel tired and sick, yet I am mystified and humbled by what I see here. And this is just a rock tour.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Oklahoma City

Cramped in the backseat of the van with our luggage. The sun sets softly behind me beyond this Oklahoma wasteland. This is some burb on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. I feel like E.T. in places like this. This is not home. Home is far away. Everything here is flat as a ruler. Beaten looking people cruise past in dilapidated vehicles, eyeing us suspiciously, warily. Who are we, us filthy white kids looking very out of place? I await a sure and not so swift beating. Blame a brief adolescent period of being pursued and beat by minor thug teenage gangs at the Jersey shore, but I always fear a pummeling at the hands of nameless locals whenever we travel too far from our own comfortable domain.

After the show we drive to Phoenix, a drive that promises to last at least 14 hours. Thank Alexander for expert tour routing. Or thank the logistics of touring in this punk rock circuit in April.

Last night was fun. We played at a pizza place in Austin. During the day, it acts as a fancy family restaurant. But when the sun goes down, the tables are removed and the fun rises up. I recall hopping about and falling on a rug so thick and robust I barely felt a thing upon impact. A heavy throng of kids crowded inside for the rock. I saw some old faces from back home, like Rich, still with his distro, and Doug, still, well, still Doug, with his BMX cronies.

Afterwards we stayed with Tom. His cat, Chingy, decided that Billy’s sleeping bag looked just like her cat box and urinated all over it. Of course this evoked unending outbursts of laughter, all at Billy’s expense. Yet the rest of us feared such a fate for our sleeping bags. This caused me to avoid sleep until well after 4 AM. I pulled the blue bag tightly around me, so I’d know if the full-bladdered feline intended to make a bathroom of my bag.

The cat ran amok all night. What do they feed her, crack? At varying intervals, she rammed my leg, jolting me into jittery, nervous consciousness and muttering, “What the fuck, no, get away, don’t pee on me, DON’T FUCKING PEE ON ME!” Eric somehow slept curled up on the Barcalounger. I don’t know he does it. He left his sleeping bag somewhere, and his pillow somewhere else. So he just calls a spot, assumes the position and dozes off. It’s impressive.

We awoke early, the sun piercing through the window like arrows. Tom allowed us to devour his groceries. Then we went to a post office for Greg to mail off various record label business and us to send out various payments. No, playing in a band does not come for free. Everyone demanded coffee, so we cruised into downtown Austin and settled in a hip café. I had chai with soy, my favorite. The city seems a halfway decent place. The houses boast that southwest/Mexican architecture. Lots of adobe pinks and light browns. I felt alright there.

Jamie made us eat at Mr. Gatti’s, this chain restaurant, which is a buffet of fast Italian food. Supposedly he eats there until he vomits. Thankfully, he did not do so this time. Me, the vegan, blew seven smackers on a plate of iceberg lettuce, pasta and marinara sauce I hoped was meat and cheese free. Later, Tom told me him and Alexander were going to a popular vegetarian eatery. Of course I joined them and blew $10 or so. The price to pay for eating healthy.

The clouds and sky seem nearly upon me in the great big prairie land open of Oklahoma. Why does it fly this low out here? All I see in this region is poverty to the extreme. Ramshackle ranch houses and abandoned buildings rot past the highway.

Otherwise, I’ve slept barely three hours per night. I live off a steady diet of Clif bars and Subway. I need nourishment of all kinds and none of it is foreseeable on the horizon, especially with the desert hours away.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


We’re driving from Houston to Austin. It’s the land of the Bushes, Cheney’s and oil. We pass by the big drums and machinery sucking the black gold up from within the earth. The smell fills the van, a thick, hearty aroma. The odor of opulence. Oil pumps through the veins of this nation. Without it we cannot survive, at least according to the way of existence in this society. What heats our homes, runs our cars, allows us to cook or gives us a vast array of products and commodities? Oil is thicker than blood. Look at Iraq and the Middle East, or down in Africa or over in South America. The western world, particularly the U.S. throws its military muscle all around the globe in an effort to control the supply of this precious commodity. But I am getting ahead of myself. This is a rock tour after all.

We’ve played eleven shows, most great. Kids have come, watched, sometimes danced and sung along. They’ve purchased our wares and stuffed our perpetually hungry cash box. They’ve introduced themselves and befriended us, let us sleep on their floors or raid their refrigerators. This is the punk underground in action and we surf upon its crest.

But who cares about all of that hoo-ha. All I can think about is Lyme disease.

Last night after showering in a small apartment in Houston, I noticed something tiny and brown clinging to my left leg, down by my ankle. I tried brushing it off, assuming it was dirt or a speck of leaf. But it remained tight against my skin. I leaned down and squinted (no glasses on in the shower). With horror I realized what it was: a tick, a fucking blood-sucking disease-carrying, life-halting tick. It was bigger than the ones I’d seen back in Jersey. I noticed a white spot on its back, the dreaded mark of the beast.

I’d been infected for sure. A white spot means this mutha transmits
Lyme disease and now it injected its poison into my body. I began squeezing at the tiny monster, pulling frantically. It felt so small and lifeless between my fingertips, as if such a creature of seemingly no stature could never cause me any harm. But I knew the awful truth, the destructive and debilitating possibilities presented by this tiny bundle of terror. I pulled and felt him holding on. He knew a good meal and he didn’t want to give it up. Finally I ripped him free and inspected what wiggled between my thumb and forefinger. His little legs spun wildly, clawing for skin, blood, meat. I checked to see if his head remained inside me and then sent him to his watery grave down the toilet drain, with some degree of guilt. Even such a mortal foe as this arouses sympathy. But I couldn’t allow this criminal to run free in our society, no, he demanded a quick execution for his crimes against me.

I boast a bruise where I tore him out. Now I await the inevitable red bull’s eye, the certain signifier of my doom. And I have 30 days left of this tour.