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2009 Tour: Part Five

September 17th, 2009

I’m in St. Louis, in a Motel.  Everything I needed to get out of this trip, that I could get out of this trip, I already got out of this trip, and now I’m on my way home.  There’s little more than the potential for stress left over.  I’m running out of money, and being unable to set up any more shows during my downtime, I don’t see the point of staying on the road for another week to play my solo act to two nearly empty rooms.  I cancelled Peoria and Milwaukee.

Everybody dropped out on me except for Hotel Hotel, who were awesome.  It’s been competely impossible to find bands to share bills with and venues to set things up at.  People don’t respond to emails.  People confirm plans and then back out of them at the last minute.  I’m supposed to have the punk-rock “show must go on” attitude, but fuck it.  I give up.

2009 Tour: Part Four

September 15th, 2009

I’m at the Main Street Cafe in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  I was trying to make it into Little Rock to do my blogging, but it’s not happening.  I’m plugging away a handful of miles at a time, on very little sleep, in the pouring rain, with a stomachache, my windshield wipers slipping off the edge every time, and continually asking myself, “why am I out here?”  No actual show dates have panned out until I play East Peoria, IL on 9/20.  It’s too humid to get any real sleeping done.  I’ve been stopping on the side of the road to wait out the torrential downpours, and the last time I did so, I must’ve left something on because the battery died and I had to call AAA.

I enjoyed Austin.  I don’t feel bad about not checking out the whole city.  I stuck around Guadalupe near UT in my explorations.  I ate at the Spider House twice.  Thank you everyone I met/hung out with for being so cool.  I got to see the bats wake up underneath the Congress Bridge and take flight over the river.

I want to get the hell out of rain.  If I’m not playing shows I at least would like to camp and write some songs.

Pictures on Facebook

2009 Tour: Part Three

September 12th, 2009

Bothered by the culture of the Interstate and wanting a straight shot into Austin, I left I-40 in Amarillo, TX for the US Highway System.  US-287 to Childress, US-83 to Abilene, US-84 to Brownwood, and then US-183 into Austin.  I stopped in lots of small towns in various states of disrepair.  Maybe if these places were on the Interstate, they could throw up a Love’s and a McDonalds, a Shell Station, perhaps an outlet mall, and stabilize their local economy.  They could knock down all the windowless old buildings and become another echo of suburbia that every business traveller or tourist family could feel comfortable and confident stopping in for a meal, a fill-up and a coffee.  There’s something beautiful and real about these broken old towns, and I understand that this leftover beauty may be the flipside of the poverty coin.  These towns  are vacant.  The streets are wide and sparsely populated with bodies.  In the case of Anson, TX, cut through by US Highway 287, the “town square” is ghost of more prosperous times.  You can feel what it might have been like, walking past the line outside the Palace Theatre or running an errand to city hall.  I felt a little strange running around like a crazed tourist, a foreigner photographing the ruins of these places as the locals looked on.

Are the residents of tourist traps and truckstop towns “better off” than those of the towns a little off the map?  Maybe so financially, but in general, I tend to think not.  Something is lost by superimposing the hard capitalist idealism of American culture onto a unique place.  Along the Interstate, you are led into the fantasy that there is one culture that represents America.  You might get Dunkin Donuts in the east and Waffle Houses in the west, but generally you can expect a hegemonic experience, without surprises or randomness.  One of my favorite experiences of being on the road so far was stopping in Claude, TX to stretch my legs and walk around.  On my way to the car, I stopped inside Mighty’s for a fresh-squeezed lemonade (their specialty.)  There was nothing scary or weird about it.  There were no billboards telling me what to expect in Claude.  But it was really good lemonade served to me by a friendly local.  It’s the kind of thing that 7-11 doesn’t want you to believe in, and it’s a double-edged sword that 7-11 doesn’t necessarily need to set up business across the street from Mighty’s.  (There’s a really cool broken-down service station right across the street that looks like it hasn’t been touched since the 70s.)

I’m in Austin now, wandering around the University of Texas area in the rain.  I played a show in Houston at Notsuoh (read that a few times to get the cleverness of the venue’s name) last night with Hotel Hotel.  It was good to get on a stage.  I’ve been getting into work mode again, trying to set up some dates in cities on the way home.  Maybe something will pull through.  I have plenty of time until Milwaukee.

The guys from Hotel Hotel have been really cool.  Pablo is excellent at vegan baking so I’ve had good food to snack on hanging out at their house, especially with my recent experimentation with vegetarianism.  We’re going to see Salesman tonight, then I gotta figure out what the hell I’m doing with the rest of my trip.  I just crunched my numbers and I’m a little over-budget, not because I’m overspending, but because I think I started out with less money than I planned on.

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2009 Tour: Part Two

September 10th, 2009

As I start writing this, I’m waiting for my laundry to dry at a truck stop outside of Amarillo, TX. There’s a charge to use the wifi, so I’m just typing it out offline. I’m on my way to Austin to meet up with the guys from Hotel Hotel.

In Santa Fe I did my laundry, talking on the phone and grocery shopping and then went camping up in the Jemez mountains. The whole time and up until now I’ve been battling my stomachache–all the leftover anxiety from my past that sits in the lower right corner of my gut, and comes back to taunt me any time I run my body down. Certainly broken sleep in a Honda backseat is a trigger. Finding a spot to lay flat on my back and stare at the sky is the only medicine, although temporary. I did just that on a bench outside the Santa Fe laundromat, and on a big boulder outside the Historical Museum in Tucmcari, NM. Sitting at the Travel Bug Cafe and drinking iced tea helped a little (where I wrote my last blog,) but then the stimuli of the interwebs would bring it back. It’s a weird animal, my guts.

But I still have two weeks or so on the road, and I don’t want to spend the whole time complaining to myself. My Jemez outing was sort of an R+R retreat. No other campers were present. I stuck around the site, grilled black bean burgers, worked on songs, wrote postcards, and drank Black Label. A lot like home except I was up on a mountain. When it stormed, I sat in the tent and programmed the drum machine. When it stopped, I peaked out to see a handful of free range cows grazing outside my tent.

I went for a flask-and-headphones walk at dusk where I listened to Andrew Bird and Sigur Ros and checked out the humbling environment. Massive red cliffs cut by a tiny stream lined the gravel road to my site. I thought about the smallness of life, the permanence of natural beauty and the temporality of an individual’s appreciation of it, punctuated by death. I thought about love, and magic. I thought about how happy I am right now, and in my small life, that means so much because it keeps me awake inside to appreciate everything outside of myself. I was drinking Jameson.

I also realized that I was dangerously close to not making it to Austin in time, so in the morning I packed up, with stabbing in my stomach, and headed east. I didn’t get very far. I made plenty of stops. Dump my garbage here, fill my tires there, get water, look for ginger ale (no ginger ale in NM convenience stores, btw. WTF.)

I stopped in Tucumcari NM in the late afternoon, probably the least traveler-oriented of my interstate stops. It’s run down with wide streets and ruins of houses and old buildings, cats everywhere and a desolate quietude much like the mountains. You feel as though something very slow is going on all around you. One day a crack in the stucko grows an inch. The next, a storm weathers the sign of a-gas station that closed it’s doors years ago. I get a good vibe from the Southwest, but I don’t quite understand it. I appreciate it with a restlessness. I’m too aware of it.

A man on a bike tried to sell me weed. I declined. A car full of people yelled “Hey Baby!” at me. I knew I was out of place.

It wasn’t until well after dark that I pulled out of Tucumcari, trying to get to Amarillo before trying to sleep. It didn’t work. I got halfway before trying to find a spot on one of the many gravel county roads that service the wind turbines. I was quickly greeted by the Texas police as soon as I pulled over. Sure it was an inconvenience, but I do really enjoy a run-in with the authorities knowing that I’m doing nothing wrong. It would have made his day if I was drunk, or high, or had a weapon on me or whatever. Instead he gave me my ID back and pointed me to the next rest stop.

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2009 Tour: Part One

September 7th, 2009

I left for the open road on the afternoon of Friday, September 4th.  I had meant to leave in the morning after my 8am oil change appointment, but what with staying up too late after the previous night’s Hexagon show, and spending a lot of time saying goodbye to the new love in my life, I didn’t get on the road until after 12.  Hauling ass to Colorado Springs for Saturday’s gig was stressful, to say the least.  I took naps to make up for the lack of sleep, converting my backseat into a makeshift bed of blankets and pillows.  Slept at a rest stop in Iowa, on a street in Omaha, and outside a restaurant in Nebraska (where I had to get a jump because I left the lights on.)  I avoided Denver on my route to Colorado Springs, instead taking less-travelled State Road 71 and US-24.  I made it just in time and I pulled myself together enough to give a top-notch performance to rival any solo gig I’ve ever done.  Too bad there were only five people in the room, and that they were all trying to read.

I had a rough plan to camp in the forests just up the mountain, but it proved futile.  Slept in the parking lot of an Italian restaurant and then drove as far as I could to the south as soon as could orient myself enough to know which way that was.

The next place I slept was alongside a gravel intersection south of Pueblo, where I awoke to a beautiful sunrise setting fire to the stretch of clouds, mountains and mist outside my rear windshield on Sunday morning.  I enjoyed the remainder of my chocolate bar and got back on the road, playing the entire Velvet Underground album catalog for my drive into New Mexico, which appropriately and unintentionally began with the song, “Sunday Morning”

My beat up 91 Honda is amazing me by pulling through these hard mountain roads, and so as not to jinx it, I repeat in my head that at any moment, things could go horribly awry.  I’m taking it slow, checking my oil and giving it lots of downtime.

As for my own health, I’m done making “good time.”  I don’t have to be in Austin until the 10th.  Last night I set up camp 7 miles outside of Taos, NM.  I did some grilling and drank some beer and slept with some breathing room.  Tonight, more of the same, somewhere near Santa Fe, where I am right now.  I’ll be doing some writing, recording and making drum machine beats as I stroll into Texas.

Pictures on Facebook.