Thursday, May 29, 2008

In a car, Roby and I in the back, driving a short distance away from some kind of fest where we had just watched a band play under a small white tent to an audience of about 14. I think the fest was almost over and everyone else was watching some other band at some other stage that I didn't get near because it was too crowded. I met a hilarious guy with dreads that I cracked jokes with too much and so I didn't really pay attention to the band and I cannot describe them for you. But anyway in the car Johnny was driving and I was sitting behind him and somebody else was in the passenger seat and Roby was beside me. I dozed off, slouched down in the seat with my head on my own shoulder for a pillow, like I've seen Gooby do, and when I woke up I thought I saw a barn coming right for the car. I wanted to yell out but I was sleepy and slow and remembered that I might do that too often when it's not called for, yelling at the driver. But we did hit the barn. We went right through one wall and hit another and the hood crunched just as I hoped it would.

Nobody was hurt, though. The car was still drivable and we drove home. It was a rental, I think, but no insurance. It turned out that the fourth guy in the car had witnessed an abduction in Cairo and he was being hunted down for extradition to a jail there, although I was pretty sure he was just a random witness and wasn't even fully aware of what he had actually seen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Almost a dozen bands are playing at Floristree and I’m one of them meant to go on near the end. It’s been a while since I’ve played and instead of hanging out there at the space I’m hanging out on a boat docked nearby. The boat is big. Below decks there’s a room that’s like a lobby/restaraunt/bar of a nice resort hotel, and some stairs that lead down to a handful of cabins and up to a lounge area. I don’t know most of the people here except for Steve Olson. Some of them look like they are on vacation— like maybe this boat is a kind of hotel.

I rode a bus from Floristree to get to the boat. We crossed a Baltimore I have seen at least once before but never while awake. It’s long and there’s water along the eastern edge, like Chicago, but it’s more narrow and there is more of a NYC level of skyscrapers going on.

In the boat, I go to the counter where a woman is selling food. There’s a lot of different things you can buy, like a tupperware containing 8 poppyseed bagels stacked on top of one another, or a tupperware containing 8 flavored cream cheese bricks stacked on top of one another, or hot dogs. I pull two bills out of my pocket— a five and a one curled into a tight tube— and I uncurl them and I look at the glowing menu above the counter (it includes a few pictures of gourmet-looking hoagies) and at the lit display case where the bagels and other tupperware-wearing delicacies are kept behind glass. I talk with the lady about what I ought to get with my six dollars and I believe I did get something but I can’t remember what it is now.

I take my food item to the lounge and talk to Steve— we try and discern what the deal is with the other people on the boat. Our guesses are amusing but we assume they are probably not very accurate. It’s getting later and later and no one has called me to tell me whether I ought to be back at the Floristree yet. I feel anxious about that but not anxious enough to turn my cell on. Mark Brown is around here somewhere, I think— he’ll tell me if it gets too late, right? I walk to the stairs that go down to the cabins and notice that the stairwell is almost completely full of water. The bottom level is definitely completely full of water. I turn around and tell Steve that we should get the hell off the boat because it’s sinking.

Other people keep walking around like the water problem doesn’t concern them, as if it were being attended to by some professional already, even though I can’t find any evidence that anyone besides me has taken it seriously enough to mention out loud. I’m creeped and I make my way out of the boat. Steve goes to find somebody else he knows on the boat and I don’t see him again after that. When I get out of the boat I’m naked except for a towel wrapped around my waist.

Instead of being docked at a dock or any noticeable maritime location, leaving the boat dumps me into a dark parking lot. There’s lots of people around, the kind of steady, clumpy, dumpy crowds you see walking from parking garages to Camden Yards when there’s baseball games. No one points out my nudity but it’s embarassing. I get a City Paper to hold casually at crotch-level while I walk across the street to a lit-up bus shelter.

I recognize a guy there sitting on the ground— curly, dark hair and nearly-olive skin, tall and slim and smiling and has smiling eyes and I think he comes off a little like a Greek Big Bird. He recognizes me, too. We don’t know each other very well—I don’t think we’ve ever actually conversed to any depth— but I am happy to know anyone at all at this bus stop and the big Bird-Man is always nice to everyone who engages him and we make much out of having seen each other a few times before. He doesn’t mention the fact that I am almost naked.

I watch a big crowd of like 7 or 8 fat high schoolers get into a fight on the opposite sidewalk. I can’t tell how serious the fight is but it looks funny and I try to watch even though the big Bird-man keeps standing in my way, blocking my view (but unintentionally.) I don’t tell him he’s in my way— I’d hate to tell the big Bird-Man he’s in my way and then have to see him smile and apologize because then I’d start apologizing and smiling and the idea of us smiling and apologizing to each other over something neither of us really care about makes me feel dark, so I just skip the whole thing. The fat kids are probably all friends just horsing around, anyway.

I can tell it’s a lot later than it was before, I might be missing my set— the whole show, really. What would I play anyway? Is anyone going to notice I’m not there? Is anyone going to be sad? I can’t imagine who would be sad, and trying to think about where my phone might be seems like a painful process, so I decide to just wait for the bus and ride back to Floristree and just deal when I get there. I cross the street, though, to sit next to a wall away from the bus shelter where my nudity is all lit up—- I don’t want people to think I’m getting off exposing myself at the bus stop or something.

When the bus turns the corner, it stops with its headlights right on me, and I hold up my paper and my arm to shield my eyes. I can’t see how many people are on the bus but I imagine it’s probably full and they’ve all got to be laughing at my naked ass. No one has mentioned it yet but I can’t believe they’re not all noticing. I turn around and go behind the little wall and back onto the boat. It’s tilted like crazy now, and water is up to my neck in that lounge area. The lobby and cabins are totally submerged. A big black goat is loose in here, too, and doesn’t stop following me around when he sees me. He walks around a railing in the center of the lounge that’s still dry, the last thing dry in the room. He can only walk on 3/4s of it though because the tilting has put one corner of it into the drink. I wade around with water up to my chin, trying to stay out of striking distance of the railing while the goat, obviously frustrated, follows and snarls and sniffs maliciously.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hilarious return of the classic: first day of tour, just a few hours before the show starts, in some town that looks cousin to Blacksburg or Bloomington or possibly Athens. I’m in a new band with Matt and two other guys. I’m the just-singer. I make a set list of all Alice In Chains covers and I am more excited about this set than I have been about any show in the last few years. Maybe ever. No seriously, maybe ever— I’m better at this now, I’ve never been less afraid of audiences or more convinced that I know how to effortlessly put all the effort I can into leading them right up to my rib cage so they can peek in between the slats...

I close my eyes and visualize how nuclear the room will go when we hit the opening notes of “Would?” to start our set. I run over the lyrics to “Rotten Apple” and “Brother” in my head, focusing on my favorite verse from each song so that if I get nervous and forget some words, I can just repeat those really awesome verses every time. It wouldn’t be so bad:

“My-eye-eye-eye-eye /
gift of self is raped /
My-aye-aye-aye-aye /
privacy is raped /

(I know this maybe isn’t the actual line here but it’s how I always sing it)

“And yet I find, and yet I find /
repeating in my head /
If I can’t be my own /
I’d feel better dead.”

(The “Brother” verse I like is, of course, the bit that talks about the bloodstained roses “because my hand is / pulling them hard as I can.”)

I could sing those verses over and over and I could make the crowd love it— we could make the songs twice as long and I could sell it, I know I could have them singing along with me and we’d take it up a notch every time, until everyone in the room knew exactly what the fuck we were singing about and why, until the guys in the band would just kinda stop playing and just stand on the stage baffled and amused by the sea of heads roaring the same words, no longer needing the crutch of the drums and distorted guitar to be able to feel the song happening. I hope to God no asshole starts clapping when they do that— when they stop playing their instruments I’m sure some turd will start the clap which will spread like syphilis through the crowd, turning my huge wall of voices into some gospel parody, I’d have to do something to make sure nobody clapped when the guys stopped playing…

But in the back of my head I know that Matt’s not going to want to play even one Alice In Chains cover, that very shortly I’m going to have to sing at least thirty straight minutes of brand newborn originals whose tunes I am, at that moment, unable to conjure mentally— Layne and Jerry are wailing away in there, my skull is the only practice space they can meet up and jam in anymore. I am powerless to evict them while they are singing together, I wouldn’t do it even if I could, I just won’t, I can’t even imagine a song that has nothing to do with bloody hands or gifts of self…

I walk across the stage, surveying the monitors and the outlets and nodding to myself and mumbling like pediatricians sometimes do during exams, not really talking to anyone, just trying to bring all the authority I know how to wield here to the front, to the ready. I still have my set list in my hand, and when I turn to look at something on the stage behind me I turn fast and deliberately and the paper makes a crinkling noise as it moves in the air. I talk to the sound guy and anybody else he talks to, looking as fast as I can for things besides this show and this stage that we might both like to talk about and really digging, not letting the conversation end at the first convenient spot or even the second— I talk and talk as if I had forgotten we were even there for a show, as if the concept of treating a sound guy like a waiter or butler had never even occurred to me and all the while I’m trying to tactfully discern whether he’s a pothead or not. When I gesture, I gesture with the hand that holds the set list and it whups and whaps whenever my hand flies out in some direction. My set list is written in Sharpie, and I still have the Sharpie in my back pocket, and some distant part of my brain wonders whether it’s our team’s only Sharpie, which would of course mean that if somehow the set is decided by whichever list looks the best at a real fast glance, there would be no choice but to at least open with “Would?” and see how it goes…

Do the other guys know the notes and chords and shit for “Would?” Matt almost certainly doesn’t, but I know he’s good enough that he could fake it if he wanted to. At this point I admit to myself I will probably not even bring up Alice in Chains to him, I will probably hide this set list in my bag and look at it again when I get home…