Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Entertainment on the Lot

The rest of the drive was no problem. Sure, Louisiana has some shitty highways, but it felt good to be back in what is becoming one of my favorite states.

We're back on a nice flat parking lot and I think I broke my own personal record for backing myself into a space, unhitching, and setting up the trailer. A much welcome change from the debacle in Pikeville.

There's not a whole lot of cool things to check out here but it'll be good to take a week off since I'm hoping to spend a few days in New Orleans next week around my birthday.

The plan today was to head out and explore a bit to see what was here. However, as we were setting up our water today, Kat came over and let us know that if we weren't busy this afternoon there was going to be a little show:

Big Mitko the Bulgarian is known for dragging things....namely two Semi Trucks across a parking lot in Texas.

Today, he wants to pull a fully loaded semi with trailer (about 56,000 lbs or something).

Just him, a harness, and a rope. Strongman competition style. 3pm today.

Check back for the video.....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

'Sweet Home' My Ass

Pikeville, KY to Bossier City, LA: 900 miles. Not the longest jaunt on the tour thus far but certainly one of the more 'let's just get this over with ones'.

We stopped for the night at some random Rest Area somewhere in Alabama. It smells like pee. Everywhere.

And apparently we haven't traveled far enough South to escape the frigid night air. Looks like a repeat of our arrival in Springfield, MA will be in order tonight.

I have to admit I kind of liked Pikeville. We played the only arena for at least 100 miles. The crowds were strong and responsive. The Circus is a Big Ticket Item for these folks. Not much (anything) in the way of night life though. There was 'a' bar in town. As in one singular tiny bar.

The landscape was quite impressive considering they had to basically plow through a mountain to make the city.

I visited the Dils Cemetery which houses the graves of some of the McCoy's. Yup...THOSE McCoy's.

PICTURES


Bossier City should be fun. Larry owes us a BBQ outside his trailer for always being late. And think there's a collective birthday party for a lot of the show kids at Chuck E Cheese. Woot.

Off to bed I suppose. It will be much colder out in the trailer but it least it won't smell like pee.

Night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Striving for Chillaxination

The after effects from last night's incident are lingering. I'd like to blame my pseudo-odd behavior today on that....but I'm not sure dropping my trailer is totally to blame.

The obvious solution was eloquently stated in a text message from a good friend:

"Yeah sounds like you need to chillax bro!"

Truer words were never spoken.

I'm not used to being in print. I'm not used to revealing myself at all. Ever since it went to press I've been super paranoid and nervous that I said/did something wrong with regards to the article although I know that's not the case. It's not a plea for reassurance/fishing for compliments....it's just....a complex I guess haha.

I dunno. It's similar to the way I used to be after almost every gig I played with any given band (I think I wrote about this in an earlier post so forgive the repeat).

"Hey great show!"

"Yeah but the one tune was too fast. I screwed this part off. We really didn't play well at all...blah blah blah blah"

"Um....well I thought it was good so....."

I don't know if it's residual perfectionism or just plain paranoia.

So apologies to anyone I've annoyed/inconvenienced with my ramblings on. The trailer drop thing just really put me on edge. I'm starting to realize just how lucky I was.

Cheers again to Aaron for writing such a great article and to Chris for having an interest in the story. I miss not being able to pick up a CP every week. Seriously, have you BEEN to Pikeville, KY? It's pretty from a scenic standpoint.....but there ain't much here to do.

Ok. Feeling slightly calmer. T'would be much easier with a certain Queen of Hearts around....


Anyway, the truck goes in for its 15000 mile check up tomorrow after our 10:30am show. It seems like a lifetime ago when I watched the odometer hit 1000 miles.


Taking this gig was such a good decision.

Never a dull moment, right?

The first vehicle that was "officially" mine to drive was a dark blue 1985 Ford Ranger stick shift that had belonged to my Grandpa on my Mom's side before he passed. I have memories of riding alongside him both grossed out by the Styrofoam cup full of Mail Pouch Tobacco spit but also comforted by it since I associated the smell with him.

The cup was removed before I took ownership but hints of the scent still lingered which while should be gross I found rather pleasant.

Even if it did gross me out, I didn't mind, I finally had the freedom to drive to school instead of taking the bus. Obviously I was on top of the world. During the winter months the defroster would clear the entire windshield except for the driver's side. I spent many frigid mornings driving to school Ace Ventura style with my head out the window so I could see the road.

The time eventually came to sell the truck which was at that point worth less than the cost of maintenance.

One weekend my parents were preparing for a trip to Ohio to see family. I had taken the truck to the high school to stop by the band room and pick up some music. One way to enter is through the student parking lot. Just passed the crest of the lot you had to turn right which put you in front of the little island separating some of the spots from the drive. The road then curved left up a hill which brought you to the band room entrance. I pulled half up on the sidewalk, turned on the 4-ways, threw it in gear (first instead of reverse for some unknown reason) and went inside. About 30ft behind the truck was a fence that ended where the sidewalk became the drive.

I was inside the school no more than 3 minutes to grab whatever chart I needed to pick up. When I came back out, something caught my eye.

"Who the hell would be backing their truck down the drive towards the student parking lot" I started to ask myself.

I got as far a "truck" in that thought before I realized the person backing their truck down the drive also had a blue 1985 Ford Ranger with their 4-ways on. An instant after that thought entered my head, I realized no one was in the driver's seat and I was looking at my truck flying backwards down the hill heading straight for a Mercedes parked just over the little island.

Sprinting down the hill yelling at a teacher in the lot to watch out the truck hit and jumped the island Dukes of Hazzard style and somehow shifted to the right (from my perspective) just enough to miss the Mercedes.

"Well that was close" I thought as I continued to yell.

Then I noticed there were only a couple cars parked in the rest of the lot. Beyond the lot was a little hill that ran into the road where the entrance was. Beyond that was another steeper hill. Just beyond that was a baseball field where the girls softball team was practicing directly in the path of my wayward truck.

There was one beat up old car in the lot parked in a spot just before the hill leading to the hill leading to a soon-to-be-very-surprised Girls Softball Team.

Somehow the truck managed to align itself with the old junker and just SMASHED right into the side of it. It totaled the other car but the truck only received very minor damage to the tailgate. Some serious shit would have went down had that car not been parked there.

I first called my parents and the police to report the incident.

The owner of the car and his dad arrived before the cop.

The dad simply said "well, we were trying to get rid of this thing anyway. You probably did us a favor."

The cop showed up and in his Cop-ly fashion went to the dad for the story. When I tried to interject he both cut me off and did the whole "are you looking for trouble blah blah." Total douche.

Anyway, insurance took care of everything and I was able to drive the truck home. My parents were able to still head into Ohio.

Even if the truck did slip out of gear on its own the fence was right behind it. It's hard to believe it turned itself off the sidewalk and then straightened itself back up to start it's jaunt down the hill. We were convinced it was just my Grandpa protesting sending us the message of "This truck lived in the family, it dies in the family. No one else is getting this thing".

......
Flash forward some 10 odd years.

On the drive from Pittsburgh to Pikeville, I listened to several installments of the 'Stuff You Should Know' podcast. Cool stuff. Highly recommended. One theme they constantly arrive at time and time again intentionally or not is the whole "Fight or Flight" deal when you're faced with some kind of danger.

Once it dawned on me what was happening with the truck, that response kicked in hardcore for me. After the ordeal I was shaking for quite a long time.

So...getting to the point after a long winded lead-up:

We arrived around 11:40 and scoped out where to park. After finding two spots, I backed the trailer into my spot. The ground here slopes downhill to the left so I had to drive up on my levelers. Two for the base, one in the middle on top. That didn't quite cut it. Could still be a little more level. So, it was two for the base, and two high in the middle. I pulled forward and managed to roll up on them. Perfectly level. Awesome.

I chocked the wheels on the other side, dropped the front legs, opened the tailgate, and prepared to un-hitch. Totally routine.

The latch would come out as is sometimes the case. This is solved by putting the truck in reverse and nudging it back (still hitched) very very slightly and the arm should come smoothly out. It did.

The one sound that you never ever ever want to hear after completing that step is . c-c-c-c-C-C-C-C-R-R-R-R-R-E-E-E-E-E-A-A-A-A-K-K-K-K-KABOOOOOOMMMMMMSSSSMMMHASHGRINDBANG!!!!!!!!!!!

The sound got as far as c-c-c-c-c-c- before I knew what was coming and re-lived the possessed truck episode from my past over again only this time exponentially worse. The trailer legs slipped off the wood and SLAMMMED into the ground. Since I was on a hill only one leg was on the ground holding the trailer up. The tires had slipped off the levelers and the other side wheel backed right over the wheel chocks.

I slipped a piece of wood under the leg hanging in the air and lowered the legs to stabilize the trailer. The tailgate was still up but somehow the way the trailer fell there's just one teeny nick in it. My only guess is that driving up on the levers twisted the hitch just enough so that while the trailer was level, it was hitched to the truck which wasn't. I still can't figure out how it happened.

I owe Steve a few beers for making him stand out there with me as I hitched back up and unhitched again still in shock of what happened. It took forever when usually I get it on the first try.

I re-rolled up on the levels, this time two for the base and only ONE in the middle. I can deal with a slightly slanted trailer. It's a milder version of the 'Mystery Spot' in Santa Cruz, CA.

I had to take a break before lowering the rear stabilizers, hooking up power, etc. as my hands were shaking so bad I couldn't keep the flashlight focused on anything.

By far one of the scariest experiences I've had to date. I'm still a little bit shaken. But I'm sitting here typing this from the kitchen table with power plugged in and slides out so it seems everything is in order.

I was quite looking forward to sleep after the trip but something tells me with the excitement of the City Paper cover story coming out today combined with this whole.....episode.....I'll be up for a while yet.

The lot here in Pikeville, KY is know for being very unpleasant. We are on all dirt and grass so If it rains hard, this place will turn into Elbonia (as in nothing but mud). If you leave your cables/hoses on the ground they will sink into said mud. If it gets really cold overnight, said mud will freeze leaving said cables stuck in the ground. I've heard stories of people with shovels digging out their cables before leaving for the next city.

:knocks on wood:

Oh, and Steve informed me that there's a goddamn rooster that will crow at the crack of dawn every day.

The main tourist attraction here from what I can gather is a cemetery where a lot of the actual Hatfields and McCoys are buried. Woot.

G'night.

Monday, November 10, 2008

No really, I am on tour, I swear!

Of course, that may not be obvious since I've been back home to visit like six times already. It's not my fault we tour the Northeast sometimes! I promise though you Pittsburgh people won't see me again for a while after tomorrow night.

The City Paper story comes out this week and I'm really hoping I only sound like a moderately incompetent ass. I've never really been interviewed nor written about so I wasn't quite sure how to handle it. Whatever, I'm sure people will just be looking at my fun socks anyway.

Hopefully hanging with the usual crew at the usual place tomorrow. I'm extra excited to see one person in particluar I haven't been able to see on my last several visits. Damn conflicting Tour Schedules!

G'night.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Catch Up: The Short-Short Version

MINISTER
Okay. Here we go, the short-short version. (to LONE STARR} Do you?

LS
Yes.

MINISTER
Do you?

VESPA
Yes.

MINISTER
Good. You're married. Kiss her.

---------

That's the way I'm attempting (and probably failing) to handle this round of catch up: The short-short version. Remember to use my voice recorded while traveling is a new priority. It's tough keeping all the memories and details of transpired events fresh in my mind.

The recollection is there but the essence of the emotions/humor of the past moments have faded a bit and hasn't been coming across quite as sharp in print.

Anyway......

PITTSBURGH VISIT

So after leaving Portland (and avoiding sideswiping any more campground trees) the show was off to Binghamton, NY (the one time home of David Sedaris). Steve and I arrived in the wee hours in the morning, unhitched, caught a few hours sleep, and headed home to Pittsburgh. Before this tour, the thought "Well, we're only 6 hours away from home....let's do it" would've never crossed my mind.

While hanging out in Monroeville browsing through the CP listings, I caught myself in the midst of a cartoonish double take. I figured I had read something wrong but sure enough The Slip was playing Club Cafe the Tuesday I was in town. Seriously, there's a weensy bit of history with that band (a ten year history of countless road trips including a train ride to California and drive down the coast following their tour). I hadn't seen them play in at least 3 years. I first caught them at CMU in 1998.

They were backing this young "blues" artist Sonya Kitchell. Although it wasn't going to be Slip material per say, I figured it was worth checking out. I mean, what were the chances they were in town the same night I was back home?

T'was a very interesting night. Brad Barr (vox/guitar for The Slip) did a solo set to open the night. Very cool stuff. I think AJ may have gotten a few ideas for how to approach his solo stuff when it debuts.

The Slip definitely wasn't the best choice for a backing band as they are just too good. Soyna was OK, but nothing special at all. It's never good when your backing band blows you away even though they're not trying to.

I re-lived the past 10 years of my life during that performance which was both nostalgic, cheesy, re-assuring, and educational all at once.

It seemed our career paths have ended up coinciding somewhat musically speaking ('somewhat' meaning our respective musical evolutions were similar but The Slip were successful at it all along).

What really hit was my current gig situation compared with theirs. They weren't playing their own material but:

1. They were still playing with each other
2. They music was still pretty good
3. They were making bank. (as was evident by the huge tour bus that rolled up at the end of the night in lieu of the little "Slip Van" I've always seen them crammed into.

It made me feel OK with what I'm doing. I'm not playing my own band material (my parts are my own though) but:

1. I'm making music with Steve
2. The music's not that bad
3. I'm making bank (finally, ha)

Successful visit.

---------------------

BINGHAMTON, NY

So all the nightlife in Binghamton is condensed into about 2 blocks. The place is dead in the daytime and a drunken overly aggressive madhouse at night. Brian and I were treated to fights in the street both nights (observing, not participating).

FIGHT 1: Overweight Bald Bull minus the mustache (who ended up being an usher at the arena, haha) vs. Big Drunk Black Man who kept molesting a mentally retarded girl in the club and was being "thrown out" by the other dude.

Winner: Bald Bull represented. Holy crap. The instant BDBM grabbed for his face, OBB just pulled his hood over his head and went to town looking extremely bored.

:smash smash smash:
"Let go of my shirt and I'll let you go"
:smash smash smash:
"Let go of my shirt and I'll let you go"
(repeat)

Eventually the dude got the hint and was released. And of course, there was the anticipated "pretend I just didn't get my ass handed to me and act like I'm letting him get off easy" song and dance. Very amusing.


Wasn't fast enough to get a picture but Brian and I re-enacted it:





FIGHT 2: Battle Royale with 3 heavier set drunk girls. Need I say more
Winner: All of us in the street who were treated to the spectacle.

I also met a very cool girl (of course with a boyfriend...gah) and her friends. We rocked an 80s night with yet another light up dance floor.

-------------------------
PITTSBURGH/JOHNSTOWN

From Binghamton, the show moved to Johnstown, PA for a one night stand. Steve and I decided to not drive our trailers there (since the lot was going to be way shitty) and went back home again.

I really wish I would've shot some footage from the first time I tried backing my trailer into my parents driveway just to compare it with backing in that night upon arrival. Ha! Rather substantial difference to say the least.

My dad and grandma came to Johnstown to see the show:



-----------------------------
PITTSBUGH/HUNTINGTON, WV/PIITSBURGH

While in Johnstown Steve and I concurred that it would make more sense to leave our trailers at home and just get split a hotel room for the Huntington shows. Two bonuses here: 1. When arrived in Huntington, the lot was so tight it would've been damn near impossible to squeeze us in. 2. We were able to gain an extra day home in Pittsburgh.

There's something about Tuesday nights in Pittsburgh. First The Slip before Binghamtom, and this time around my former bandmates in Thee Adora were playing at Brillobox. Again, what are the odds, right?

I decided not to forewarn them and just showed up. Good times. They may tell you otherwise, but they rocked it out. I've never experienced hearing drum parts I had written played back at me with the new dude's (Ethan) definitive stamp on them. It was pretty cool.

PICS (1st 7)

HUNTINGTON:

So Huntington....well, this sums up Huntington:



That is all.

PITTSBURGH again:
More hanging out as per usual: PICS (last 8)

Fun fun.

------------------

SYRACUSE, NY

Ummm.....I had awesome sushi at one of those rotating Sushi Bars and made a couple new friends.

-----------------

BETHLEHEM, PA

Ummm....I got new glasses (after much deliberation) and went to Sheetz.

-----------------

ERIE, PA

*Too much to write about. Best told in pictures:

*after much (actually very little) persuasion, I'll devote a couple entries to the Shenanigan-ing that transpired.

AJ and Sproul Visit/Rockband Party


Pittsburgh Ladies Visit/Halloween



Mom and Dad visit the Circus


-----------------

SPRINGFIELD, MA

So far: Springfield sucks (except for the Dr. Suess Memorial Sculpture Garden), Northampton and Amherst both rock.

Possibly more to come....

So that's it.