At 5:25 Sean called. I was supposed to wake up at around 4:45 so I could be good and ready but through one of those not-quite-accidental alarm-clock accidents my clock radio was set to an impossibly low volume level, playing something mellow on KBOO, so I only woke up halfway. Perhaps I dreamt I was awake. Either way it was good that Sean called.
We packed up, drove to Jeff's palatial split-level somewhere near Gresham. He threw a couple 70's floral-print suitcases, a quilt, and a bass guitar into the back of the truck. Then we drove down to Tualatin, where my mom had left us a pot of coffee and told us to take the cookies. We took the cookies and some granola besides. Pip the dog was friendly and the morning sun in Tualatin was something I had almost forgotten about--that suburban bright-and-early thing contrasts strongly to my current oh-shit-I-woke-up-5-minutes-before-I-have-to-catch-the-bus thing. Not that I'm pining for life in Tualatin but there's something wholesome about that early morning feeling, something I haven't felt in a while.
Tonight we will stay at Mike Landucci's house. His wife Mary told me last night that he has started the Atkins diet, which means that he will be cranky and low-blood-sugary; crankier than ever and I'll bet this means no Merkato! Oh well. So long as I can eat Heavy Noodling. I'm sure Brian M. and Grace L. will oblige me on that one since it is so delicious.
I actually don't plan on eating much this trip. I did bring the rice cooker, so we can cook rice at rest areas, in radio stations, wherever there is water and electricity there will be wholesome rice for us. That is a comforting fact. If I were to eat only rice I could eat for this whole 5-day trip for about $2. But I get the feeling I'm going to be a little less austere than that.
Koo's Cafe, familiar; Santa Ana, CA, familiar. I am sitting here on the back porch of a venue that I am surprised I never played.
So the long and short: Yesterday Sean got a speeding ticket just south of Eugene, the usual sort of cop wording except that he referred to curly-ringleted Jeff as "that woman over there with something in her hand". Lizzy realized that she had nothing in her hands and then we realized: oh. Sean then mocked the cop, having him say "maybe that ro-bot in the back seat [me] has your proof of insurance in his hand." It was kind of fun, well, at least for being pulled over.
The day was long and sweaty and cramped and I had some weird antibiotic-induced problems with my bowels that made my trip to the Chevron restroom in Dunnigan, CA less than pleasant. The day was long and sweaty. We stopped in Yreka and walked around the quaint little downtown. Sean and Lizzy had vegetaable sandwiches; I bought some produce at the farmer's market and it was good. The market was right next to a thrift store which the four of us took to like piranhas. Jeff got a Judds baseball shirt that fits his wiry frame well and looks smart; Sean got a "mod" scarf (Mike warned him not to wear it in Frazier Park lest he be "gay-bashed" but that's jumping ahead) and I got a pair of wild Elton John sunglasses that fit over my normal specs because they are so spectacularly huge.
We drove and drove and drove; it was as though we were on a people-mover moving backwards in the darkening Central Valley. At dusk we were in Stockton at a Taco Bell with odd faded Kandinsky posters on the walls and a jokey-jokey staff that was chatting amongst themselves the whole time; Sean had this vision of them having an orgy during clean-up time, but of course I had the audacity to mention "refried beans" and soon we were back on the road.
Through inky inky night we drove: straight and flat and dark. I kept waiting for elevation gain but it did not come. It would not come and the road names kept getting weirder and weirder: Pumpkin Something-or-Other, etc. etc. It was like a dream. More coffee! I drove and eventually believe it or not the elevation gain came and soon we were roaring up to Frazier Park, once again around 7 hours later than I had originally and wildly optimistically anticipated. Anyway.
We slept on the living room floor among the unfolded laundry of a six-person family, flypaper dangling from the ceiling (the mountains harbor many insects). We slept and in the morning there were pancakes. Noah Landucci, age 2, told me all about Pokemon in his weird little voice. His dad is apparently most like Snorlak, who is large and cranky and snores. Beautiful. Jeff played Nintendo 64 against Linus when he got back from school, the obligatory rooting-through-Mike's-shelves session took place, etc. Mike has this eerie way of knowing what I will like and what I will not. I'd say with at least 90% accuracy. Eerie.
We drove down to Tustin for Laxmi Sweets and Spices. When we first hit the smog wall of Burbank I felt a little pinch of dread and regret and nostalgia and horror all mixed together, but it wasn't as strong of a reaction as I had imagined. Perhaps it was the Portlandy insulation I had around me with Sean, Jeff, and Lizzy; maybe if I'd been alone it would have been weirder or more evocative. But it was just weird hazy nostalgia as it was. We sped through surprisingly unclogged freeways to Laxmi, where I learned that Jeff doesn't like spicy food. Oh well. The rest of us enjoyed our dosas and the smell was evocative where the visuals of the Southern California landscape had not been. Ned and Karen showed up, which was nice, and they had dosas and we talked. Lizzy commented on Ned's radio voice and all were astonished at how much he resembled Dan Cohoon. Some people are etched indelibly in the Book of Characters. Ned was kind enough to buy the entire Tape Mtn. catalog (at least the stuff he didn't already have...)
Now I am at Koo's and it looks like the usual sort of scene. It will be interesting to play third on a hardcore bill, but I'm not worried. Everyone seems friendly and everyone seems young. Jose from the first band commented on my laptop, "whoa what's that" and I said "it's a state of 1983 laptop, a TRS-80 Model 100," and he said "that's the year I was born!" The kids are here and it should be a fun night.
Happy birthday, Mom. Sorry I'm currently in Koreatown, Los Angeles, CA, at the home of kind hostess Grace Lee (with Brian Miller in tow).
Last night's show was interesting: Koo's sound isn't great and our amplifiers were not up to the task of the racket we were making. But it was a fun show and an entertaining one for me and for a few others. Brian, Grace, Christopher, and Aileen showed up and were enthusiastically watching the show. The songs went well enough, but Saturnine Particle turned into a bloodbath, a good bloodbath: Sean started channeling the spirit of the Replacements circa _Stink_ and Black Flag, screaming "I need a god damn job" over and over again; who knows if the hardcore kids (and they were _kids_) appreciated it or not but a few of them did, in particular the kids from Captain Stupid and the Idiot Brigade, who told me about their plan to have a band that only played one song, over and over again in different genres. So of course my idea to start the band Flight of Icarus, that only played Iron Maiden's "Flight of Icarus" over and over again, was unearthed, and the kids told me how much they loved Iron Maiden. These kids are O.K.! I traded them a Blue Sonoco CD-R for this alluring scratched CD-R without a case that has a single word on it: "Stupid".
Now I'm stuck on the northbound 55 freeway after playing a show at KUCI, good old familiar KUCI, its air-conditioning and sense of Goodness. This Goodness exemplified by engineer and substitute DJ Mike Boyle (who was in my training class so long ago! So he already knows all my stupid jokes!) who engineered us beautifully and uncomplainingly and seemed to enjoy the music. Goodness exemplified by Kevin Stockdale, who offered me this drumhead that was lying around the back of the station (with bloodstains on it even! Hardcore!) and installed it on my floor tom while we were soundchecking. It is a real oasis in the middle of this shithole.
So we played well and restrainedly, in sharp contrast to last night's sloppy fireball performance. It was a good set and we are listening to the meticulously recorded tape of the set right now in the pickup. We are still on the 55: now at the big stop-starty area around Dyer Rd. The smells and sounds are familiar but not as familiar as the smell of eucalyptus on the UCI campus. I sprinted across the UCI campus in the fashion of late-running mornings past, over to the dreadfully depressing Administration building, the place where I walked around in a circle with a union sign in my hand, home of the registrar's office, where I went and waited in line for my diploma. Spaghetti-strapped and clearly well-off coeds were talking on cell-phones to their beaus in the line under the high reverberant ceiling, the light coming from above. My diploma was handed to me with a perfunctory "congratulations" and a weary "next" to the next person in line. With manila envelope in hand I ran off to the radio station, across the well-trod paths of my past.
As we were driving north on the 73, I thought: what if I had never had this crazy academic dream? What if I had stayed in Philadelphia, possibly with then-love-interest and beyond supergenius Lupe, or what if I had moved back to beautiful Portland, where indie-rock was still king and i would have fit right back in, well, as much as I could anywhere? It's a tough thing to think about. But one thing about that is that I probably would never have met Sean from Minmae through Mike from Blackbean and I would never have been in Gang Wizard or in Minmae and who knows? Maybe I would have been in another boring indie-pop band or who knows. In any case I got some suffering and some sunlight and some material possessions that I later sold or gave away and I learned a damn lot about how it is not necessarily possible to hide from reality forever. That delusion was wrung from me and now I am here in the carpool lane of the 5 northbound en route to Burbank; I will consider this a celebration of the good things about Southern California and a nice way to say that I am not coming back.
Regrets about today: I wish I could have seen Bill, Anthony, and Julie. Oh well. "Saturnine Particle's endless and comforting drone is playing in the car speakers; my arm is up against carpet here in the jumpseat of the Nissan Frontier; our tires are once more full of air thanks to the nice llanteros on Pico Blvd; the sky is gray; all is well, well, well.
Here we are north of Kettleman City, CA in the beastly heat of the Central Valley, so beastly hot.
Okay, I got distracted for a long time and now we are getting nearer to our destination. Let's talk about last night.
We drove up to Burbank for a party Brian Miller was throwing. The party happened and the old familiar faces showed up: not only Brian and Grace but also Mike Landucci, Matt Kimberling, Doug Jones, David Cotner, many new faces. We had to be done playing by 10 or so, so Sean went off to get beer (which, may I point out, does not include Pabst Blue Ribbon in the Golden State, very sadly) and I got ready to play the Celesteville set. I started out with an extended guerilla rockstar version of "Ephrata Cloister", just me on the Telecaster; it was good and I ended up on the ground. Then for the next couple songs I tried to recruit a drummer, since Sean was still on Beer Run Duty. Doug Jones, bless his heart, stepped up to the plate, but for all of his virtues, drumming is not one of them. Then his friend Micah [sp?] came up and good lord! that kid knew how to ROCK. We played "One Rose among Many", a very hushed version, and then a searing version of "Let's Climb a Mossy Hill", Hilgen amplifier sizzling hot sound, strings breaking, hot garage and people actually dancing (if only Brian and Grace and Guy Persian Empire). Then Sean came back and we played "Appear to Be", which finally made explicit the Walter Mondaleness of that song. I asked "Did the young Walter Mondale ever say good night to a chicken?" Fritz, if you are reading this, email me at email@example.com. We ended with pre-Californian manifesto "Cloverleaf" (at Mike's request) and it ended up with me throwing first my shoes, then my socks, then my shirt, then my sweaty body, at open-tuned 5-string Hohner Telecaster. I lay there on it for a while and people were applauding above my white back.
Minmae played shortly thereafter. I took some sickly sweet Budweiser into my system; boy does that stuff suck. Everything rocked in the tight space and I went into that great trance state under hanging baskets and bicycles in the Miller family garage. We were tight and even though the SG once again forgot to stay in tune it was great. About halfway through, Christopher and Aileen showed up, which meant only one thing: it was time to play "Bluebird". Christopher took over the drums and I took over lead-guitar duties, which meant total wah-wah overdose, playing the guitar behind my head, trying to compete with Sean to see who could be more over-the-top. It was apocalyptic.
Then we went out into the pool, a great liquid feel and smell to end a long day. Mike and Grace and what's-her-name (Rebecca?) did a synchronized-swimming exercise--it is always funny to watch Mike doing anything physically exhausting or graceful (e.g. the Gang Wizard aerobics-fest at the Olympia Experimental Music Festival, where he did aerobics and howling with a cardboard box on his head) and I found myself laughing like mad. A lot of laughter at that party, a good, good scene. Christopher and Aileen reclined (A in C's lap) on the chaise lounge looking beatific; Mike and Brian discussed evil plans to form subversive noise bands (for example, forming a noise band called Merzbow) and I sat in chloriney water under surprisingly clear Burbank skies, the blue light shooting upward from the pool and up to the heavens in sweet peace and sweet feeling.
Sunday morning in the sense of the Velvet Underground song, all gray and kind of hazy, maybe hung over? The vastness of this beautiful loft/warehouse space in Oakland is inspiring and there are four cats jumping around and making strangled sounds and I was offered coffee, which I accepted. So on to last night's festivities:
The long drive up to Oakland was sodoriforous if that is a word meaning sweaty and it was not if that is not a word. We saw the wind turbines against the sun; very striking and four pairs of eyes were turned. The venue was easy to find, though hard to park in: we had to navigate a maze to get to the parking lot.
We played in the vast space at 8:00, a brief set but a great one I think: truly Big Rock (my bass drum and snare were miked!) and surprisingly tight. I commented to Sean that we were turning rehearsal-rock but he noted that we were still our same selves, which is true. And we were separated from the dire curse of rehearsal-rock by the fact that my vocal boom mike kept falling down. It's not quite as bad as having to contort my neck to sing into a straight mike, or having to scream over the din in some garage, true, but it was one step away from the Big Rock Big Time and that was appreciated.
Then I started drinking beer and kind of making an ass out of myself, more than usual even. I was watching this math-aggressive band (Lower 48) whose singer/guitarist Andy was quite nice and quite a stage presence, and I thought (and told Andy later): I would not like you on record, but live you are very good. During their set, one sentence popped into my head: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." I kept thinking it, over and over. Perhaps this had something to do with the large numbers of cute hipster/art females around. Something else I thought: the physical act of love is a mere abstraction to me at this point. This was not a self-pity thing; it was just an observation. There was a certain amount of joy to it, actually.
Bands, bands, bands. The MC Andy Peters was kind of a jerk and he shoplifted a copy of _Vonsachiang_. Jeff commented later on the way to Denny's: "at least he stole the worst Minmae CD!" Sean glared at him and we agreed: definitely the most difficult to get into. He gets what he deserves.
Many of the bands were quite good, and Timonium played tentatively but well. As Adam #1 later told me, his Micromoog (the model I used to own!) was acting up. I think the Moog trend is over, thank god, and now it is the pure in heart who are using them again. Like Timonium, whose set I found quite entrancing even though you could tell things were being screwy left and right. I traded Adam a copy of _Since Before Inertia_ plus a few bucks for their fine CD _Suspende Animation_, which I heard at KUCI and which I've wanted for a while. I was kind of drooly and inebriated in my dealings with him: Adam, if you are reading this, I am usually articulate and charming. The loud band blasting (namely: the Andy Peters Kleptomania Hour) didn't help communications either...
Anyway, I woke up this morning and the fellow from Vulcan Radio offered me coffee and promised to send us a videotape of the show: exciting! The morning is beautiful and little gray kitties are fighting in front of me and cat hair is floating in the air which is humid and cool: it is good to be in the Bay Area.
8:46 pm September 24: I'm not quite sure what day it is despite just having typed what day and time it is. Jeff was kind of anxious to return to Portland as soon as we finished playing last night; I think he was homesick/lovesick/what-have-you, and kind of sick of the San Francisco scene, which I understand. I didn't think it was so wise to go without sleep, and I wanted to see the Steve Wynn set. But the consensus ended up being that we would drive all night to Portland. So we did
Before I go there, let's talk about the day in San Francisco. We were very afraid for our equipment, all naked and vulnerable in the back of the E-Z Break-In Nissan Frontier (apparently Sean got broken into something like seven times in the three months he lived in SF) so while we were waiting for the Make Out Room to open up, one of us had to stay with the car at all times. I volunteered to do that most of the time so I could sit down and read _CivilWarLand In Bad Decline_, which is a pretty great read. I did so on unstable inclines, in Victorian-lined streets near the Haight, I sat down and read while the other three went off in search of food. Sean picked out a burrito that is exactly what I would have chosen: rice, beans, marinated vegetables: it was probably my first taste of produce all tour. And it was welcome.
It was 4 or so and we decided to see if the Make Out Room was open. It wasn't. We thought we would go to Amoeba Records, but parking was hard to find. We parked about a million blocks away and decided to go to Amoeba in shifts. Jeff and I walked there. By the time I got there, I had to turn around and leave, which is probably for the best, since I really don't need to be buying any records--but the copy of Souled American's _Notes Campfire_ I was looking at might have been nice. Jeff hated Amoeba with a passion--called it shallow, only the most superficial stuff, which is kind of true, but they had some good stuff in the weird-pop vein and in the world-music area. Different strokes for different folks. I walked back with coffee, met Sean and Lizzy in the truck, and sat down to read my book again.
Finally we went to the venue, which was swanky in red velvet although still definitely a bar. We killed time in the area getting tacos and then we soundchecked. The folks in the Steve Wynn band were pretty sweet and they let us use their drum set and guitar amp. I appreciated that but Jeff and Sean were suspicious of their rock-band ways. I guess I understand that, but hell, if someone does you a good turn, you cut them a little slack for being a little slick and schmoozy. Anyway. The SG kept going out of tune, which was pretty bad. It continued to sneak out of tune during the show as well, which was frustrating, but we rocked pretty effectively I think. I liked it; we were all too tired to effectively gauge anything, though.
After the show, I heard a question I thought I'd never hear in my life: Hey, weren't you in Meringue? I turn around and see a face that is somewhat familiar but of course I can't put a name on it: it is Stanley, who was at Wesleyan during my last tour and who was kind enough to help set us up a show at a house party way back when. He seems surprised that I play drums--says that I was a good bass player and is surprised further when I mention that I haven't really played bass in years and years. I tell him I'm not a drummer. I ask him if we can stay on his floor and he says yes--but of course that will not be utilized, as we will see
A kind of drunk and talkative woman named Carolyn tells us that we were awesome and that we had that Northwest angsty sound, which kind of makes me recoil until she sweetens the pot a little with yeah, you sounded kind of early 80's, you know, Mission of Burma. We had heard That's When I Reach For My Revolver on the radio that afternoon (right before KUSF switched into a show that claimed to be the only source on the radio for jam-band music; a collective ugh arose from the cramped cab of the pickup) and I was very pleased to hear that. She said she was from KUSF and asked for a CD; I figured what the heck and gave her a _Since Before Inertia_. She kissed me on the cheek, which was offputting but what the hell: it was a cheap way to get a kiss at 30 cents per copy of that CD-R
So we watched one set of Steve Wynn; they were slick but they were enthusiastic, and I explained to Sean and Jeff that this band was rootsy, and therefore conformed to certain genre expectations in the bass sound, but this isn't so bad, and this is not the same thing as rehearsal-rock, though these folks had obviously practiced plenty. I guess my point was that these guys were enthusiastic and not over-rehearsed--not to the point where spontaneity died. They didn't quite share my sentiments. After the first set they decided, okay, let's get the hell out of here, and what could I do. I bid Stanley farewell and we piled into the Nissan with its screwy back door and we hurled off into the night.
I tried to sleep for an hour or so, and actually succeeded. I came to around Dunnigan. We got out of the car and bought snacks and water and used the restroom. We had stopped at the Chevron in Dunnigan on the way down, and the bathroom was pretty seriously undersanitary, so we thought, hey, let's try the Shell across the way. It turns out that at night in Dunnigan, at least at the Shell station, the ground is completely carpeted with crickets, or locusts, or god knows what they were but they were all over. The urinal was full of crickets. Crickets in the sink. Crickets underfoot as I walked to buy Flamin' Hot Cheetos, unavailable in Portland and the great causer of Eyelid Sweat. Oh man was it icky. It was like something biblical. North again.
Around Shasta or so Sean passed off the steering wheel to me. I drove and drove and drove. I played the new Celesteville album _Lingua Ignota_. It was good and substantial in the darkness. Yreka occurred and I got horrible coffee. As I ascended the final Siskiyou to the Oregon border, where, on my move from California to Oregon, I had been playing Robbie Basho in beautiful soundtrack fashion, the song Narcotic Effect on Bees came on. As I sang the shadowed shape on the horizon is the object of your journey, a shading of blue light arose behind the mountains and the Welcome to Oregon sign came into view. It was like a vision. I drove and drove and drove, all the way through Sonic Youth's _Daydream Nation_, quite appropriate music for dawn.
Then, right after Eliminator Jr. cranked to a close, just south of Roseburg, BLAM! The three sleepers in the car instantly woke up because it was a blowout. I eased the car to the shoulder; thank god we were on a straightaway with huge shoulders. Thank god. Sean got out the tire-changing equipment and I kept going on about llanteros: yo soy llantero; mi papa fue llantero; mis hijos seran llanteros. Lizzy huddled beneath a sleeping bag. Sean went under the truck and got the puny temporary spare out. Cows grazed on the hillside. After some effort and confusion, we changed the tire and Sean creaked us up to Roseburg. We were able to buy a cheap used tire at the Tire Warehouse, which had an America: love it or leave it flag in the front window. I hope the picture of me in front of it comes out. In the waiting area they had Asteroids (yeah!) and bizarre hot-rodding magazines--talk about a culture I will never understand. They made comments about eco-freaks like Al Gore in the future of hot-rodding column. Uff da.
After the tire was changed, we went to the Hi-Ho restaurant in beautiful downtown Roseburg. The décor was timeless in yellow and chartreuse, with matching coffee mugs, and the chandeliers/lighting fixtures were hexagonal. Buckwheat pancakes were consumed and we got back on the road. I drove the rest of the way from Roseburg to Portland. Road, road, road. Ceaseless. The flat Willamette Valley fading from unfamiliar to very familiar. Woodburn, Wilsonville, Tualatin. My back was sore, all our backs were sore, we drove on. Finally, Portland's beautiful skyline unfolded like the rose that it is, exit Water Ave, left onto Water, right onto Stark, right on 19th, right on Washington, oh sweet beauty of home, I kissed the ground in front of 1803 SE Washington and picked dirt out from my lips, there was a birthday present from Chie (in Japan) in the mailbox, amplifiers up to Skypad, sleep, sleep, beautiful sleep, sleep, sleep; my spine uncoiled like a fern in the Portland sun.
okay, that was enough, back to Tape Mountain HQ