This was up on the old Meat Puppets blog for a decade. No point in trying to disavow any of it now.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2ND PHX
Come home from running around trying to get ready to leave and find a message on my machine. it’s Suzanne in New York, wanting to know if I’m bringing my laptop on tour with me. Wants to know if I’ll do a tour diary for Prodigy! God, there is no rest from these bloodsuckers. It’s bad enough that I have leave my home and friends and family for a month to slog around in the cold weather and subject myself to judgment of total strangers for a month, now I’m expected to share my innermost thoughts as well. Without pay, or course, as if I somehow went to all the effort and expense to buy this Power Book and lug it around all over the country just so’s to facilitate her career. Fat chance, baby, and besides, the world doesn’t want to know what I’m thinking anyway.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3RD L.A.
Flight to California with Curt’s kids in tow for a show with REM in San Bernardino at the Blockbuster Pavilion. The Gin Blossoms were also on the bill, which gave me a chance to catch up with them. Used to see them all the time three years ago, but now both bands are thankfully quite busy. I also got to check out Luscious Jackson (verdict: two thumbs up). Also got to spend time with my nephew and his mother who live in Hollywood.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH PHX
My last day home for a month. Visit with friends, pack, program the VCR.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5TH NYC
Fly to JFK. This year I got smart and bought a pair of pants two sizes too big just for these cross-country flights. Called a friend once we got to Manhattan and got together for a nice dinner.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6TH NYC
A day of phoners at the Polygram office. Stuck inside a windowless conference room for six hours playing phone tag with the college press. Got a hold of five out of seven of them. After a wonderful dinner in Little Italy, a live chat for a competing online service.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7TH NYC
A day of radio promotions. First at the SW Network, for their “Static” program. We began to get smart-mouthed right out of the chute, answering questions no doubt offered sincerely for for us, tedious with “humorous” responses. The host swung with it for the most part, but I could see a little discomfort on his part. The next place was the ABC network building, where space was rented for us to do three satellite remotes. Obliviously feeling our wise-ass oats, we continued in the vein begun at the previous taping. The Houston guy was fairly accommodating and the Minneapolis team was a little confused, but the Buffalo team was not into it and cut the interview short. They still ran it the next morning, but apparently got some negative feedback from the listeners. Now we’ve got to do some damage control when we get up there.
That’s been a pitfall in the new post-”Backwater” reality. We get into much more mainstream stations, and while many of these stations have Stern-influenced “morning-show” funny guy jocks who like to have a good time, they are much more easily derailed by our attempts to give “zany” answers. They interpret this as an attempt on our part to wrest control from them, and they resent it. Either way, we knew we’d blown it, so for the remainder of the taping that day we minded our “p”s and “q”s.
Afterward, we got a hold of some tickets to see the Knicks battle the Suns at Madison Square Garden. We had four seats, but only two us, me and my tour manager, were free. We considered scalping the tickets, but decided against it after I remember a friend of mine’s similar situation. After negotiating the sale of some unneeded tickets, he found that he’d gotten nothing but fake twenties wrapped around a ten-dollar bill. Thinking he could just pass them on, he tried to pay his cab fare after the game with one. All the driver had to do was touch the bill. He dropped back on the floor of the backseat and locked all the doors until real currency was produced.
By the way, the Suns beat the Knicks in a fourth quarter upset.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8TH NYC
Gig in NYC with Big Star celebrating the publication of the new revised edition of the Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll. I get on stage and say, “History is written by the victors.” A couple people get it (or do they?). Afterward, I look around for Suzanne to see what kind of concessions I can eke out of her in return for this tour diary. If her terms are acceptable, I might do it. She of course caves for all of my demands, and even offers to loan me a nice digital camera to take pix. Her boss also gives me a free Prodigy pen and some affectionate invasions of my personal space, but they weren’t necessary. I’ve already agreed. Hopefully, they know how to retrieve jpegs from non-Prodigy-users, or else they’re gonna have to throw in some free Prodigy service as well.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9TH NYC
The band hauls itself over to National Studios to tape a visit to MTV’s 120 Minutes program. Unlike the last visit, where we were propped up on the set and made to read a teleprompter cold (a squinty, mumbling mess which in no way translated into units sold), we got to talk to an actual host. While waiting backstage, we watched Daisy interview Chris Issacs for some thing or another. Aside from their label rep, who was effervescent, Chris and the boys looked and acted like how I’m sure I’ll be looking and acting after I’ve been on tour for a few months. When Chris came back to the dressing room to collect his entourage, we introduced ourselves. He not-so-deftly ignored us and focused his attention on the host’s nine-year-old daughter.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10TH DAVENPORT, IA
The first day of the Primus tour. A typically obnoxious torture-run from NYC to Cedar Rapids, Iowa (via Chicago) crushed into the window by some guy sitting next to me who was far too big for coach. They should make planes like amusement parks. If you’re too large, you either pay extra for first class or you don’t ride. The bus driver, Tim, meets us at the airport, and we’re off down the road to Davenport. I take the opportunity to finish up “Skinwalkers” by Tony Hillerman, and promptly fall asleep.
The gig is on a campus. It’s raining pretty good by the time we get there, with snow expected within the hour. I poke around a bit, hook up with the roadies, who are driving separately from us in a Ryder truck full of gear. This time around, all my drums are in one big rolling case instead of a half dozen flight cases. I ask my one roadie, Danny, how he likes it and he says, “It’s a challenge.” (He’s not quite tall enough to reach all the way down into the bottom of the thing.) The Primus drummer’s kit is like three times the size of mine. He’s obviously more “musically inclined” than myself. Not that the audience will notice anything except a larger target.
A largely uneventful beginning. I meet the production staff and extract permission to use their copying machine to create set lists. I check out everyone’s computer, mostly PCs, but a few Macs as well. The Power Book of choice is the 160, a very durable machine, and without that nasty track pad. I myself am toting a 165c with a fast modem and extra memory and storage. I’ve got along a book about C++ and the Symantec compiler, and am going to make a stab at learning something about programming.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11 INDIANAPOLIS, IN
Really cold here. Wind, snow, the whole nine-yards. Also a kinda rough crowd. Clouds of cigarette smoke and stuff being thrown. Curt got beaned in the face twice with coins. One kid yelled out, “Kurt Cobain’s dead!” I assumed he meant we were coattail-riding has-beens. Whatever: things are tough all over. The show was good none the less. There was some thing going on in town and no hotels could be got for love or money, so the whole kit and kaboodle of us packed up and drove to Detroit. I was crossing my fingers that we could get a fairly early start and things looked smooth, when suddenly… an obstacle. Some girl on our bus brandishing a homemade Christmas gift. A woodcut reindeer with a painted smiling face and a “Happy Holidays.” Jeez, she was cute enough; if she was friendly too it would hours before we got on the road. I started the ball rolling in my inimitable fashion.
“Are you a woodworker, my dear?” I asked.
“Unfortunately, I am,” came the inevitable reply. it seems no fan I’ve ever talked to likes their job. Well, they’re not alone. Compulsory anything just rubs me the wrong way.
“Well if that’s the way you feel about it,” I chirped, “you can keep your damned present!”
Luckily the bus driver roared with laughter to key the kid in that I was kidding. Afterward, I got lucky. All it took was a photo of her with the band and she was on her way. As we drove off, I noticed that the woodcut was blank on the back, so i took a Sharpie and drew in a Satan reindeer holding a sign that said, “Merry Fucking Christmas.”
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12 DETROIT, MI
Rolled into town around 3:30 in the a.m. No snow up here. Puttered around up in the room for two hours before finally getting to sleep. Slept until just before two in the afternoon. Snack on fruit, etc. pilfered from the dressing room the night before. more puttering (writing the first two pages of this thing, for instance). Then a walk to the gig. Start seeing things right off the bat that I wish I had the digital camera for. Detroit is a classic. Opulent once, now a downtown full of wig stores, boarded up buildings, and statues honoring nothing really except the glorious corruption of previous municipal regimes. And right in the middle of it, this awesome old monument: the gig, a completely restored Fox Theater. Full of ersatz Siamese/Cambodian fixtures, the theater’s huge front piece towers above the stage, dwarfing it’s performers with full-sized human figures and a giant elephant head crown, all painted in gold. The ceiling was equally ornate. If I were a better student of architecture, I could better describe it. let’s just say that for the Fox Theater and Prodigy, the digital camera came too late.
The audience meanwhile, relegated to reserved seating in this ornate palace, participated in another great Meat Puppets performance by sitting on their hands.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 13 KALAMAZOO, MI
Day off. Nothing to do but walk around the hotel, watch” Melrose Place,” and prepare for this week’s update of the Meat Puppets world wide web site. A quick search for “Meat Puppets” reveals an ad for old issues of “Take It!” magazine, including the issue featuring a flexidisk we did in 1982. The song remains unreleased, a pastiche called “Teenager(s),” which starts off as a fast Cris punk rocker with a cut-up poem by me for lyrics, than segues into a long, slow, spacey jam written by Curt. The recording marks our official turn from screamy punk. A must-have item for the dream MP boxed set.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14TH KALAMAZOO, MI
A little more of the richly deserved and wildly enjoyed down time in the morning. Wouldn’t this be a great diary if all I described were the teevee shows I watched? I don’t have cable at home, so I end up watching more teevee than usual. Late night, a fascinating Charlie Rose about the recent “60 Minute” backpedaling on the cigarette companies story. Plus, a wonderful documentary on that most entertaining event in human history, the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
But anyway, back to our story. Nabbed a quick but nasty lunch in the hotel before journeying forth with local Rep Kevin for a little radio schmooz. One, a straight station where the jock got my name wrong on the air twice (in two different ways), but where we could share our mutual enthusiasm over the upcoming Beatles onslaught, and the other a fledgling alternative station which didn’t even have copy of the new C.D. I left both establishments awash with the glow of my ebullient, effusive charm. Anyway…
This was a our second time at Wings Stadium. The first time was with Nirvana two years ago. Basically a hockey arena. Once again, we rocked them. My apologies to my readers for the dearth of description when it comes to the gigs. We are old hands at this sort of thing, edging up to our sixteenth anniversary in a couple of months, and if there’s any one problem with our shows, it’s that they are predictably professional and boringly efficient. A nightly 120-percent give-fest. Unless someone is injured or somebody shows tit, there’s really not that much to describe. Unless the following sets your blood afire:
It was 8:05 pm. We had been onstage now for 35 minutes, with ten minutes to go. My glance moved from my watch to the set list at my feet. I noted that we had done ten songs and had three to go. In my estimation we would arrive at the end of song thirteen at approximately 8:14 and 28 seconds. Another perfectly-timed set. I winked to our road manager who nodded, turned to the stage manager and flashed him a triumphant “thumbs up.”
After the gig, I return to my room and complete my www site update.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 15TH DAYTON, OH
Another venue from the two-years-previous Nirvana tour. As we were pulling in, I see a pretty brunette slide out of a cab and run indoors. She looked familiar. Sure enough, it was our second guitarist Kyle’s girlfriend, come to join us for a day or two. I go inside myself and find the dressing stocked with all sorts of candy and other fattening stuff. Woe is me.
That morning at 7:30am, some clown set off the fire alarm, so I was rudely awakened to the sound of a recorded voice enjoining me to take the stair down the lobby in my underwear. I think not, I said to myself. After about ten minutes, this recording was replaced by a new one telling me to return to my normal activities. Too late for that. Though I slept for another three hours, I awoke feeling groggy and unrested. This feeling lasted all day. Plus it was gig four for this particular set of drum heads. So I didn’t really get 100% of my thing tonight, but tell that to the kids who left the gig with no shoes and two black eyes. These kids today! They love their rock and roll!
Afterward, I get back to my room and, noticing this is the first hotel so far to offer Comedy Central, settle back for an evening of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” even though I’ve already seen this one (“The Day The Earth Froze,” with “Here Comes The Circus!”). But about ten minutes into it, every cable channel starts showing a snowy Bob Newhart rerun. So I’m stuck watching Leeza Gibbons talk about the “soul-killers on daytime,” to an eye-rolling Tom Snyder.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16TH CORAOPOLIS, PA
Back home, Thursday is comics day, but back home I have access to a comics store. Not so this Thursday where I find myself good and ensconced in Interstate Hell. An all-day drive with a mighty slow and inconsiderate driver (our original driver was forced out by a nasty turn of insider politics which shall remain undescribed in this journal) to this pathetic strip of no-man’s land where the food is a particularly anemic plate of “pasta” and a desperation-run to a convenience store. I tune in “Raging Bull” on the box just long enough to realize it’s been edited for television, rendering it unwatchable.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17TH MONACA, PA
A full plate of phoners in the afternoon while I continue to play catch-up with the tour diary. Get an e-mail from Suzanne telling me to expect the digital camera tomorrow in Albany. When we get the the gig, I see that our soundman is already tense with the anticipation of tonight’s overnight drive. Albany is nine hours away through mountains, and of course, Dave is assuming the worst, weather-wise. The gig is in a place called the Beaver Dome, and it is indeed shaped like a dome.
After the gig, we wait around for almost two hours for our bus driver to show up. He was at the hotel supposedly getting some sleep in preparation for the drive. When he shows up, we found out he hasn’t bothered to sleep at all, but he’s gotten here late enough for us to sit in place for forty-five minutes until the post-show traffic jam subsides. Cris and I sit in the back of the bus fuming. As we finally get underway, Cris tells me to check out the guy’s driving. Sure enough, he’s lurching back and forth and jamming the breaks and gears, sending a huge jolt through the whole vehicle every few minutes. Soon, the driver decides he wants to take a break, so Cris and I sit in the bus continuing to fume while we wait for him. Curt is passed out in a bunk, having wisely drank heavily before the trip had begun.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18TH ALBANY, NY
We finally pulled into Albany around noon the next day, a full three hours later than we should of. I didn’t sleep a wink. I felt more like the driver’s wife and kid whom he could treat any way he chose, rather than a highly-paying employer. I march up to my tour manager’s room, where I am assured that another bus and driver are on their way. Also, I claim the digital camera, which I take back to my room only to discover that the software included is for an IBM-compatible. After futzing around with it for a while, I decide there is no workaround and I can’t get the pictures from the camera to my hard drive to edit them. I place calls to my contacts at Prodigy but get a round chorus of answering machines, on which I leave messages that are not returned. I am left with the choice of either not using the camera, or using it and overnighting it back to Prodigy and letting them retrieve the photos and use them without my ever seeing them, or finding a computer graphics shop in a town somewhere on our trip and seeing if they an help me. The latter seems like the best option, and I’ll just bill Prodigy for the extra cost.
We take a cab to the gig, since the bus driver, having budgeted his time so poorly the night before, is still asleep. I snap a round of cute pix throughout the evening, drag my ass through a performance I am under-rested for, and return. Before retiring, I return my bus key to my tour manager.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19TH HAMBURG, NY
A day off, but with an afternoon on the road to Hamburg, NY outside of Buffalo. The new bus a sleek, black ’95 with only thirty-thousand miles on it. It was mostly recently used by Nine Inch Nails. We settle in a begin to tool off down the road. Ahh, this driver’s got an ample clue and it’s smoothest ride ever. Plus it’s got tons of videotapes. I pop in “The Breakfast Club” just to make sure that my tour diary has as much to offer as Courtney’s Lollapaloosa diary in “SPIN.” Sorry, fans; it really sucked.
Get to the hotel in the evening, get some grub, watch Lois and Superman, experience the much-touted Beatles Anthology special, and check out the new Beatle song, “Wings Of A Bird,” or whatever it’s called. The verdict?: Not necessarily a bad thing.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20TH HAMBURG, NY
Have decided to give up on the photos thing for now. Putting too much effort into the whole project will defeat the terms of my agreement with myself that I made when I took on this project. Besides, I won’t be able to see the final layout in Prodigy, since they keep their “www” pages behind a firewall and their proprietary “web browser” doesn’t support the Mac O.S. I cannot stress enough how perfect these online services are for people interested in talking about sports or exchanging recipes at five bucks an hour.
Anyway, the gig was spooky tonight, mostly due to the aforementioned accidental animosity Cris invoked during the satellite hookup with the Buffalo station. Even though Cris went back on the air this afternoon to mend fences, we all couldn’t help but feel there was somebody out there with a bag of rotten tomatoes. Curt messed up the intro to “Sam” twice, he was so nervous. Me, I validated my whole Hamburg experience by finding a comics store in town and checking in with my old pal Superman. Had to walk a good hour to find him, but I managed to avoid getting any soakers in the process. Also a brief visit after the gig with my friends back in California (you know, the ones that live on Melrose Place). A dull episode. Too much Kimberly and Jane. There was an exciting knife-fight with Jake and his current plot-device, even if it was poorly-written (please note that I’m not trying to sound surprised).
Another overnight drive afterward. A relatively painless one which got me into my room by a little after four. Too early to even try to fall asleep. So here I sit, actually caught up to the present finally. Preparing to send this first week of diary in to the forces that be. With any luck they’ll get it, although they never replied to my query last week as to whether or not I had the right address. We’ll just wait and see.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21ST DANBURY, CN
Not sleeping well these days for some reason. This morning I was forced to go down to the bus and make myself a peanut butter sandwich at four in the morning. Got up, still hungry, and went down to the bus to find Lupe the driver doing a little cleaning. I remark how disconcerting it is to wake up and find yourself out in the middle of nowhere stranded on the side of some damned interstate. Turns out he wants to make a mall run himself. We collect Curt and Cory (Cris and Kyle can’t sleep at night either, but they also can’t wake up in the morning), and off we go. I’m looking for the Beatles CD of course, and I find it. Curt wants some boots, since he came on tour with just a thin pair of tennis shoes. Lupe needs some sunglasses. Once I get back to the bus with my purchase, I am too excited to listen to it, so we put on Curt’s new selection, a package of greatest hits from Merle Haggard’s Capital days. Soon, we’re grooving to “Silver Wings,” “The Fightin’ Side Of Me,” “Mama Tried,” and “Working Man Blues.”
Tonight was the actual Turkey-Day as far as catering was concerned. The whole nine yards was presented. About what you’d expect if you had Thanksgiving dinner at Price Club. I stuck with the alternate meatless fare, a very nice potpourri of squash rolled up in fillo dough.
Found out over dinner a good friend of mine had been in a car accident back in Phoenix that day. Gave her a jingle after I got back to my room, and sure enough. She was depressed and angry. Her little boy was not riding with her at the time thank goodness, but none the less, she said to me, “What’s he gonna say when I pick him up this evening? He loves that truck!” She got good and broadsided and spun around a couple of times. Lawsuit.
Later I log in to CompuServe to get an update on missed episodes of “Guiding Light” and find that Jim and Kevin from “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ are holding a chat. They roundly criticize the film “Billy Madison,” and hype their upcoming film. I then switch to a chat with crime writer Andrew Vasch, who is an activist for children’s rights. he is hyping a ban on all things Thai, due to that country’s atrocious record of children being sold into sex slavery.
That night was no better than the night before, sleep-wise. I noticed my skin was breaking out in a bona fide rash from shitty hotel soap, cheaply-laundered hotel sheets, and too much exposure to hotel heating units. Soon, I would be forced to use that most despised substance, skin lotion.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22ND BETHLEHEM, PA
Get a chance to rock out with the Beatles CD during the drive today. Much of it was new, but there were a couple of my favorite outtakes heard previously on bootlegs. There’s are great demos of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “One After 909,” “And I Love Her,” “No Reply,” and others. George obviously composed his leads before he recorded them; his extemporaneous scratch leads are uproariously inept. Also apparent was that George Martin managed to squeeze most of the Beatles’ sheer love of rocking out from the final product.
The early part of our day contained a bit of a detour to a car rental place where Curt picked up a vehicle to help facilitate his drive up to his girlfriend’s parent’s house for the holidays. As we pulled up to the airport, Curt expressed bitter confusion over why his gal was flying into Philadelphia when there was a perfectly good airport right here in Bethlehem. We decided it was a problem with our travel agent’s mind. Curt’s girlfriend was scheduled to show up just after we finished playing. Curt and she would spend the night in town, then jam up to the Hyde Park area, rejoining us in Uniondale on Friday. Unfortunately, the young woman’s plane was a couple hours late in taking off. Par for the T-Day course if you ask me.
Also visiting us was Kyle’s mom, Bonnie, and a couple of her friends. She was a charming woman who insisted that I was “underrated.” As a drummer, she meant. One of her friends managed Kyle’s last band Pariah’s fan club, so I asked her to put together something for me to look at in the way of setting up a fan club for us. Some damned person who shall remain nameless put a false claim that we have a fan club on the new CD, so now I’ve got to make good on it.
After the show, we ran in to another guest, an old pal from Philly, who had driven all the way up to Bethlehem in time to miss the show. Another few minutes and he would have missed us, as we were preparing to bust a move to NYC when he walked up. We kicked back with him for a while and then beat it. Manhattan was only an hour and a half away, so we were at the hotel in midtown before midnight. But not in time to see either this week’s “90210″ or the second installment of the Beatles special. But I did get to my room in time to get a message that my friend Rob, who lives in town, was having dinner right across the street.
I sauntered over, dirty Super-tee still clinging to my body, joined Rob, and introduced myself to his out-of-town guests. Much to my delight, they told me that they had seen Jason Priestly and his sweetheart in the lobby of the hotel they were staying at. I, of course, have met the Priest-meister on two different occasions. The first time was at the filming of the “90210″ pilot, which we appeared in, and the second time was in Santa Barbara. That was the weekend after the riots following the King beating verdicts, and Jason, like so many, had escaped L.A. for a while. We were partying backstage before our show, when he comes up, says “hey,” and tipsily announces that he’s playing the drums for the Puppets that night. Unfortunately, it did not happen.
Anyway, back to the present. Rob cannot understand why I am so loathe to meet his friends even when I comport myself so well and hold my end up conversationally with such panache. He cannot know how depressing it is to run among the normal non-showbiz “civilians,” who only want to talk about great it must be for me to do what I do. No one it seems is proud of their own occupations. The whole country is star struck. Is it the money or the attention or the chance to “express yourself”? (The notion of self-expression is a hopelessly civilian one anyway. Any true artist will tell you that human beings have no “self” to express.) Nope, it seems what thrills people about stardom is the notion that we get to treat people like dirt and get away with it.
Anyway, we’re sitting around in the lobby of this hotel (I remember now: it was the Royalton) and suddenly my Rob’s guest’s wife leans over and says, Do you see who’s checking in? It’s George Clooney!” Sure enough. There must be some sort of “E.R.” convention, since Jason Priestly’s sweetie is on that show as well. These stars deserve the Royalton. The bill for four coffees and a treat was thirty bucks. I get back to my hotel, check my e-mail and find out that my friend Bruce’s wife’s kitty has died.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23RD NYC
My hotel in NYC, formerly the Macklowe, now the Millennium, is right around the corner from Broadway at 44th, directly above the parade, which was clearly audible this morning even from 42 stories up. I was awakened at 9:00 am to the sound of a marching band playing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Being in show business myself, I found this ironic: like I need to be awakened at 9:00 in the morning to be told this? (Spartans take note: Still being on Phoenix time, nine is seven to me. I still can’t sleep at night. At home, I like to get up a decent hour.)
I got back to sleep and was then awakened around 11:30 by Rob who tells me that “Mitchell” is on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and who asks when I’m coming over. I fear at first that the parade is gonna screw up my subway trip to Tribeca, since I can’t cross Broadway to get on the 1 at 50th and Broadway, so I tell him to give me a little time. But once I get out on the street, I find the parade has already dissipated. I get downtown sooner than expected and find Rob enthralled by the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon. “Mitchell” is over and in it’s place is an ad for tonight’s season premiere, a showing of “Night Of The Blood Beast.” It is the first episode since the departure of T.V.’s Frank, who has been replaced by Dr. Forrester’s mother. Rob and I are a little apprehensive.
We are going to a friend of Rob’s for dinner, a catered vegetarian affair. I am glad for the vegetarianism, but am unhappy about the catering. I’ve been eating nothing but catering and restaurant food for the past two weeks. While I wait for Rob to get out of the shower, I call friends and family back home to wish them a happy holidays. Mostly, I leave messages, but I do get a hold of my sister, who informs me that she has nothing new to report. God, I miss Phoenix.
The dinner itself is unremarkable but Rob’s friends are very nice. Our host works as computer networking consultant. Later in the evening, we surf the web a bit and discover much to our horror that Disney is planning a sequel to the dreaded “Fantasia” for some time in ’97. Afterward, we head back to Rob’s place for the “Blood Beast” film. Dr. Forrester’s mom is no major scream. At one point, the ‘bots flip over the clearly visible dressing side of a zombie. “Stop looking at my area!” yells one.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24TH UNIONDALE, NY
I’m expecting a visitor today, so I get up a little early this morning to bust out a quick run to a nearby comic store. No new Super-title. When I get back to the Millennium, Glenn from Prodigy is waiting for me. He’s set up in Cory’s room, waiting for me to break out the digital camera. We hook it up, and after Glenn gets his ports all properly configured (gotta love these non-Macs), we dig my photos out of the thing. There they are. Mighty good looking, too. Unfortunately, there is no Mac software available, so I swap Glenn for one of those Polaroids with the little window in the back that takes those itty-bitty pictures. I will then have to overnight them to Glenn, who will have to scan them by hand. We turn my digi-pix into jpegs and make copies of them for me to look over and write captions for. Enjoyers of last week’s diary installment have already seen the cream of these pix.
Finally the bus comes, and we head over to Uniondale, about an hour and half away. Kyle’s mom and friends come along. Suddenly, Kyle whips out the new Elvis boxed set, which he’s bought for his mom. It’s a compilation of The King’s best material from the seventies, which was always my favorite Elvis period. I turn to Cris and say, “We never used to listen to this stuff much, did we?” Ten years ago, it was about all we listened to. In fact, during the height of our success with “Up On The Sun,” we would play a couple of songs from that album, then fill up the bulk of our live shows with Elvis covers. So I deejay about an hour and a half’s worth of cream from the box (“The Wonder Of You,” “Stranger In The Crowd,” “I’ve Lost You,” “Cindy Cindy,” “Washed My Hands In Muddy Water”). We get to the gig in no time.
Cris is all excited because our name is on the marquee out in front of the arena. It’s the same place the Islanders play in, with the hotel right next door. I try to snap a picture of it, but find that this new camera is already giving me a hard time. When I pop it up into it’s picture-taking mode, it refuses to power up. I fume about this all through dinner and sound check, then I take it back to my room and fiddle with it. According to the instructions, it’s behaving as it would if there were no film in it. So I replace the film cartridge with a new one and now it seems to work fine. Whatever. Either way, when I look at the clock, I realize I’m late, and I rush out of there, forgetting the camera in my haste. I manage to make it to the stage with literally seconds to spare. It’s a great show; the kids go apeshit. Afterward I appropriate one of the hats thrown onstage: an elaborately-embroidered Notre Dame cap.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 25TH BALTIMORE, MD
I’m a little late to the bus the next morning because there’s a treat in my e-mail. An old pal from Phoenix, currently working abroad, has resurfaced after nearly three months. She claims she’s been transposing two of the characters in my e-mail address, and it’s taken her this long to get it straight. I instantly sit down to the computer and pound out an unconditional forgiveness. I finally head down to the bus (where, as usual, I am far from the last to arrive) and snap off a quick couple of pix, one of some fans surrounding what I presume to be an Islander, and one of Kyle and his mom, who’s headed for the airport this morning. Cris grumbles that he ought to go with her and try to catch a flight out of JFK to Baltimore. And he ought to, too, since there’s bound to be dozens of them. But he’s been up all night with local friends and barely has the energy to just lie there and complain.
Our plan is follow Curt and his sweetie back to Bethlehem, drop off his rental, and head down into Baltimore. Before we’re even out of Long Island, we developed vehicular trouble. All of a sudden, the bus fills up with nasty steam that smells like overheated engine. We pull over in time to see the last of our antifreeze accumulate in a puddle and begin to drift down the street. Curt pulls up behind us, his windshield coated with vile green liquid. Lupe digs around in the engine for a while, and determines that some gauge or another has gone bad on us. He turns off a valve or two, we replace the antifreeze, and we’re on our way only an hour poorer. When Cory checks in with Primus, it turns out they too are running late, so we won’t get a sound check anyway. The only really annoying thing is that when I whip out the Polaroid to snap a picture of our dilemma, the damned thing has stopped working again!
We pull into town at around six-thirty. We’ve actually played this venue before, with Blind Melon, which makes it the third venue previously-visited with a member of the now-deceased. We pull off a great gig and repair to our dressing room for a quick meet-and-greet. One girl asks me if I would do her the honor of riding on her back as she get down on all fours. I accommodate her. Another guy tell me he’s going to try and start a Meat Puppets newsgroup on Usenet. I tell him to let me know. Soon the fans all shuffle out, so we beat it back to the hotel. I actually fall asleep before two.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 26TH HAMPTON, VA
We have to leave kind of early this morning, since we have to do a radio show at two in the afternoon. So we leave around nine. We mostly just sleep during the drive. During a gas stop, I realize I’ve fallen asleep with an open bottle of Perrier at my feet. This is ironic to me because I’ve manged to keep my feet dry for two weeks as we travel through snow country. Now, as we finally move south towards the Mason-Dixon line, I manage to get a soaker in my own bunk!
The radio show is actually in a studio across the brunnel (that’s bridge-tunnel) in Virginia Beach. It’s more of a small concert than a radio show. We are playing acoustically, I on a rented drum kit, for about two-dozen kids. We do about thirty minutes — eight songs and some change, sign a few autographs, and take off. Curt gets in a rental car for a trip to another radio station, and since Cris has to sit there and jaw with fans for an hour, I jam to the gig with Dave. Meanwhile, I develop a workaround for the camera. It seems it will power up once I put film in it, and will stay on as long as I don’t close it up into it’s portable position. So I just leave it open until all ten pix are taken. Not convenient, but workable.
I borrow Dave’s bike and go tooling around the area, mostly to look for comic stores. I’m still without my weekly Super-title. When I return, I learn that something is wrong with Curt’s Midi controller, which stores all the presets he uses for his effects. We get nothing out of it at all. some of the Primus crew guys, who are familiar with the Bradshaw unit tell us it is a regular occurrence for the things to lose all their memory. Dave puts a call in to the builder, but it is of course Sunday night. Curt has to use his old set-up. I kill time waiting for Curt and Dave to sort things out by playing Tetris with the stage manager. He’s got two Game Boys linked together for a two-player challenge. This is new to me, and I get my ass whupped.
We have no problem overcoming this technical adversity, and put on an energetic show. Afterward, I stomp a round the dressing room in a towel, bellowing while Cris makes a mess with the some apples and breaks a bottle or two. We leave around ten for the long overnight drive to Athens, Georgia.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27TH ATHENS, GA.
I awaken in Athens, on the bus, at around eleven. I slept on and off all night, but mostly on, so I’m up to stay. I wrestled with some throat soreness last night, so I’m fearing the worst. I check in to my room, do a little laundry in the sink, take a shower, and head off to explore the town. This is an honest-to-goodness day off with nothing to do, in an honest-to-goodness town, not a strip off the interstate. We haven’t been to Athens in three years. The last time we were here, Kim Bassinger was in attendance. The P.A. fucked up during the show, so Cris shoved his bass into the ceiling, shattering the fluorescent bulbs overhead, showering the stage with minute chunks of glass.
Things have changed little since then. The Forty-Watt Club is either gone or moved. The comics store is above the Wuxtry is still there, however, and I find the two Super-titles I need to complete my collection. No new one though. It seems they didn’t ship last week due to some distribution rescheduling. I did find on sale the brand new Superman action figures, and a new volume of the R. Crumb sketchbooks. I also buy a second-hand copy of “The Blessing Way” by Tony Hillerman, and two by Andrew Vasch. Now, shopped out, I stop in an organic restaurant for a bowl of rice and beans. Afterwards, I return to my room and check in on “Guiding Light,” which I haven’t seen for a week. Then I take a nap, answer my e-mail, determine that it’s too much trouble to catch a showing of “Casino,” and watch “Melrose Place.”
Later, I walk around looking for food. most of the town is closed up, even though it’s only 9:30. As I head back towards the hotel, resigned to room service, I run into Dave. It turns out he’s fleeing a plate of inedible room service himself. We take a drive to a nearby Taco Bell and compare our woes over the next couple of days. Even though we drove all night to get down to Athens, our next show is clear up in Winston-Salem, six hours north, and about three hours from Hampton, VA, where we just came from. Then we have to drive clear down to Orlando, Florida. You run into this kind of screwy scheduling all the time. Athens is half way between Winston-Salem and Orlando. Davo is obviously exhausted from driving the equipment truck all night, then spending all day trying to get the Midi-controller fixed.
Taco Bell doesn’t float my boat, so I get him to drive me around the school area until I find something open. I end up in a little Italian place with plate of pasta. Good enough. I’m still feeling the beginnings of a cold, so I go back to my room and plan to make an early night of it. Before I get to sleep, Suzanne calls. She just wants to tell me how much she enjoyed installment one of the tour diary. We chat for a little while, then I settle in for what I hope is a good night’s sleep.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28TH ATHENS, GA
The grim specter of illness is nagging me today. Your standard symptoms: Sore sinuses, scratchy throat, headache, grim substances accumulating for expectoration, and overall weakness as your body does the right thing (that is, fights). Luckily we’re in a fairly trippy locale where organo-chow is not hard to come by. I slam the wheatgrass juice for lunch, along with a smoothie. I key Davo in on my find and he joins me for lunch before driving off to the gig. He too is in need of health, since his ability to sleep has been so compromised. He tells me that a front of nasty weather is on the way, but it is so damned nice out at the moment, I refuse to listen. We run into Kyle at the restaurant as well, and he tells a few good-natured if lacking-in-professional-strength jokes, but I am so caught up in fighting my sickness that I impolitely forget to laugh.
“Get out of here Kyle,” He says self-deprecatingly.
Cris and I stop in later on our way to the gig for more wheat grass. The counter help says he is unlicensed to squeeze the stuff, so we wait for a woman who can. I ask her what it takes to become an authorized wheat grass juice squeezer. She hems and haws, and finally says, noncommittally, “I guess you just have to enjoy doing it.” I found this amusing enough, so I replied, “I guess that makes me an authorized wheat grass juice creation witness.” I was ignored.
The gig is in a brand new structure, obviously built for product conventions, not rocking out. It is essentially a big box, a noise trap. Great if you like your live shows distorted by boomy echo, not so good otherwise. None the less, the audience is receptive, as they have been since we dropped below New York. The Southeast has always been good for us. After the show, Davo brings back a gal we met years ago in Los Angeles. She moved to Athens three years ago to get out of the rat race. She used to work for a health food store and gave me a bunch of herbal detoxing compounds when I gave up drugs five years ago. I chat with her for a while, then take her to say hi to Curt, who is in the dressing room visiting with Vic Chestnut.
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped back once again at the organo restaurant (I guess too much backstage catering and interstate food will do this to you) for a salad and a carrot juice. Turns out the guy who earlier claimed to be unauthorized to make wheat grass juice used to work in Wooster, Mass as a field rep for our record company. Now he works down here in a recording studio (moonlighting I guess as counter help). Turns out he also worked at Mark Of The Unicorn, which makes music composition software for Macintosh.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29TH WINSTON-SALEM, NC
Another quick visit to the juice bar in the morning for once last glass of health and we’re off. I think I have gotten over the hump, illness-wise. Painfully expensive phone charges from being in a backwater town with no local online access number. It’s still pretty nice out, despite the ominous weather predictions of the day before. Lupe says the really nasty stuff will outrun us.
Spend most of the drive screwing around with Cory’s Power Book (150). He’s got hard drive organization like a lot of people who are in the dark. Fonts all over his system folder, programs that had just vanished one day turning up in the sub-directory of another unrelated program (it’s called “Find;” learn to use it), preferences set to not take advantage of important time-saving features. Your average mess. Three different versions of AOL uninstalled, aliases for deleted programs, 23Megs of the next version of System 7 uninstalled. Strange stuff. I do a little housecleaning, create an organization of the Apple Menu which will make his life easier, and show him a scheme so that this mess will not happen again. Of course, about an hour later he says to me, “When you get the chance, you’ll have to show me all that again. I can’t remember any of what you just showed me.” Now he will have to be punished.
Turnouts are getting slim as we near the final leg of this tour. Tonight, the stage is pushed so far up that we are only playing to about a fifth of the hockey arena. The Orlando gig has been moved from a large arena to a small club. Looks like it’s time for Primus to get off the road and begin work on the next batch of hit songs.
We played in Winston-Salem with Blind Melon last year I think, but I could be wrong. I know we were here in August of ’85. I have lots of memories of that. Baseball went on strike just as the Mets took first place away from the Cardinals (only to lose it again once the strike was resolved), Rock Hudson died of AIDS, “The Treasure Of Sierra Madre” was on the bar teevee, and there was a nasty fight in the parking lot after the gig. I’d almost swear we’re right around that gig tonight, but I don’t think this huge-o-drome was there then. There’s a barbecue place across the street cutely named “Pig Pickin’s,” as well as a bar where our old crony Ed Fromohio is playing. Cris draws him a little hello picture and sends it along with a guy we know who’s going to that gig after ours is finished. We, on the other hand, have to get on down the road. We want to spend our day off in Daytona Beach.
It’s hard enough to get to sleep on tour and near impossible on the bus. Cris and I stay up all night watching movies. We make it about forty-five minutes through “Major Payne” before we decide we are wasting our time. (We saw “Billy Madison” the other night, and I am now one of its staunch supporters. Of course, I also genuflect at the alter of Jerry Lewis. ) Next we put in “Above The Law” with Steven Sagal. An almost completely unintelligible plot concerning rogue CIA and the Sanctuary movement. I waited patiently for over an hour for the neat, one sentence explanation of what it was we were seeing. When it came, Cris and I had to admit that the conspiracy sounded plausible enough (the CIA works for the banking community starting wars around the world which the bankers can then profit upon). Of course, having a reactionary action thriller wrap itself up in Liberation Theology politics doesn’t wring very true. Afterward, we popped in “The Shankshaw Redemption” for a little feel good entertainment the whole family could enjoy.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30TH DAYTONA BEACH, FL
Shame on Cory for trying to wake me up when we get to town. I’ve told him this is not to be done. I hate it when one of my employees tries to think for himself. And what was so important that he had to disturb my already fitful slumber? Gosh, we’re parked a whole half a block away from the hotel. I don’t think I’m gonna be able to find it! The sleep thing just barely happened last night, but who cares. I might backslide a bit on the illness thing, but it’s so damned nice outside. We are staying directly across the street from where we gigged with STP last year, a large convention center. It was the last place I cut all my hair off. A week later, I taped a Jon Stewart Show and vowed never to cut it that short again after I saw the broadcast.
I check in to my room, get my bearings and head out for a long walk. I head up the coast for about four miles, just as far as I can stand it, until I’m whining and dragging my feet. I get myself a cup of coffee and sit at a bus stop, praying that the city’s planners have a clue and aren’t just using the bus service as a punishment for the poor. Luckily enough, the bus comes promptly and takes me right back to where I want to go. The motivation for my walk, outside of getting some leg-stretching, sun-soaking exercise, was to find comics. I failed miserably (actually I came within a quarter-mile, but my legs gave out). There was nothing but the typical Florida-coast hotels and tee-shirt shacks. Dozens and dozens of them. In the window of one, I saw a most offensive shirt. It had a pictures of the Confederate flag on it and bore the logo, “You wear your ‘X,” I’ll wear mine.”
I go back to the room to grab an access number and check my e-mail. This hotel is the biggest rip-off yet: they even charge for 1-800 numbers. Well, we are in tourist hell after all. I get like fifteen messages (a new one-day record), mostly hailing me for my fine tour diary work. Also a message from a gal in Orlando who wants to get in on the guest-list. No, I’m not handing out free passes to cyberstrangers; we met her last year on the STP tour. Afterward, Cris and I take a stroll along the old boardwalk taking pix with the Polaroid. There is a really cool old miniature golf course with crumbling Humpty Dumpties and the like, but it is fenced up and I can’t get any good shots. I manage to get get a good shot of Cris amidst the funky pinball arcade.
Nothing much to shout about on NBC-Thursday. Reruns (a funny “Seinfeld” I’d seen before featuring my favorite running bit, about Jerry’s intolerance of the habits of his girlfriends. It doesn’t matter how drop-dead she is, he’s always got an excuse to break up with her. Oh, how familiar it sounds. Tonight, it’s because she eats her peas one at a time. He asks he why, and when she replies, “What’s the hurry,” he gives her the most excellent withering look of disgust. The punch-line payoff comes later when he reveals that even though she eats her peas one at a time, she shovels her corn. “That’s what was so odd,” claims Jerry.)
I experience the Jack Benny tribute (not a bad thing), and tune in Jay to see Howard Stern. Howard was a major pig and I was not impressed. I find Siskel and Ebert to be much funnier. Howard did get one good line in, as he cut down the other books sharing the best-sellers list with him . When he gets to Bill Gates’ “The Road Ahead,” Howard remarks, “Why should we listen to the lies of this computer geek?” Howard is on a book tour right now, and being a veteran tourer myself, I could see the pitfalls of touring written all over him. What can I say? Howard has been nothing but nice to us, and in person he is truly decent, but his shtick is too infantile for me to like.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1ST ORLANDO, FL
Got up this morning, sorted through my Polaroids, wrote captions for a half dozen, and dropped them off at the post office across the street. Then I got on a bus and rode to the next beach over to the comics store I almost made it to yesterday. Snapped up the new Superman (a lovely green cover of the man of steel bound to a rocket illuminated by a green cloud) and beat it back to the hotel. The comic takes less time to read than it took to get it; so what else is new.
We leave around three for the hour and half drive to Orlando. Kyle’s girlfriend Lisa has materialized during the day off, so she joins us along with Curt’s girlfriend Jo, who is leaving shortly after we get into town. We pull into a typical rock club in a half-abandoned strip mall. Oh joy. Here’s an environment I don’t miss. It seems I’ll never be rid of the smell of piss, vomit, and industrial-strength club-antiseptic. Of course the sound is more natural, bouncing as it does against real walls instead of sounding like we’re playing in an airplane hanger.
The local gal never materializes. We’re beating it out of there as soon as we finish anyway. Tonight, we watch a tape of an old “Lost In Space” episode, the two-parter called “The Keeper.” I made myself good and sick of that show twenty years ago, but it was fun to watch after that long. We finally pull off at a truck stop around one in the morning, and immediately the counter girl is demanding to know who’s on the bus. I tell her it’s Garth Brooks and if she gives me the tape I’m buying for free, she can come on tour with us. She doesn’t buy it, however. She claims she met Boys 2 Men last year, who wanted her to party with them. I don’t extend a similar offer, since she reminds me of an old girlfriend (not a good thing in this case). We leave, and I check out my new tape, a Rhino compilation of country songs expressing the “America: Love It Or Leave It” attitude. A definite hoot.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2ND PENSACOLA, FL
Actually fell asleep on the bus last night around one-ish. It was a deep enough sleep that when I awoke around eleven in Pensacola I was stiff as a board. I couldn’t even straighten up, my lower back was so spasmed out. I hobbled up to my day room, checked my messages, had lunch at the gig across the street, did an interview, and called a friend back home who’s birthday it is today. Got the scoop on local dirt back home: who’s sick, who’s pregnant, who’s broken up with her boyfriend, etc. Often, when we leave home for a month, nothing happens. But it’s the holiday, and things always go down then. The weather is still fantastic back home, and I’m getting e-mail from my bikin’ buddy who’s anxious for the reunion of the dynamic duo. Unfortunately, warm weather in the winter can mean only one thing in Phoenix: inversion. The smog layer is thick, and people are already advised not to exercise out of doors. I usually go out of town for a little hikin’ in the wintertime, either to the east to the Superstitions (where you can still see the ugly brown cloud hanging over the city) or north on the I-17, up to around Sunset Point.
Nothing can shake the spacey feeling I’ve got. It’s so damned nice outside that I just feel like lying around in the sun, not doing or thinking about anything. I read the paper while drifting in an out of slumber. The best thing in it is a short article about a gesture made by our Secretary of The Interior and Arizona’s former Governor, Bruce Babbitt. Forced once again to hand over the mining rights to the mining companies for next to nothing (under two thousand dollars), Babbitt wrapped up the contract in a big box wrapped in Christmas paper with a card that read “From the American Taxpayers. A 17-million dollar gift,” or something like that. Then he went off about how it’s nothing but another subsidy of the wealthy. Go get ‘em Bruce!
Another wonderful gig as we reach the home stretch. I try to limber my back up by listening to Kyle’s mom’s Elvis CD a little. Our old pal Richard Butgeriet is in attendance backstage and he gets the mandatory teasing. We’ve got another fucking overnight drive waiting for us when we get offstage, but tomorrow’s a day off.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3RD NASHVILLE, TN
We pull into town around six. I’m pissed off because I found out about an hour out of Pensacola that we can’t check into the hotel when we get to Nashville. The place is full up, so we’re supposed to wait on the bus as people trickle down to the lobby to check out. This could take anywhere from two to six hours. Our tour manager has decided to take this lying down, literally. He’s in his bunk, reading some fucking drumming magazine, just accepting it. Not getting on the phone to find us alternate lodgings. Nor did he bother to appraise us of the situation days ago and give us the option to stay in Pensacola overnight.
I know Cris will be stewing as well. Sure enough, he’s in the front of the bus. We commiserate, and he agrees to be the one to get Cory off his ass, since I am in greater pain, being less of a “morning person.” I listen as it takes Cris a good five minutes to convince Cory that he’s not being asked, but being told to get a move on. Cory hems and haws, saying things like, “it won’t be very long,” and “I’ll let you have the first room available.” He obviously doesn’t know Cris very well, or else he wouldn’t have said anything. We’re not paying him to participate in an experiment in democracy. Of course, there are other hotels with vacancies, and soon, I am in real bed trying to get some real rest. It’s a good thing too, because when I wake up around noon, it’s pissing down with rain.
Get up around noon, drink some coffee and log in to CompuServe to get some soap opera updates. As usual, things really jump when I’m on tour and unable to watch. Also, I see a piece of news that the actor who plays Henry Chamberlain on “Guiding Light” was killed in a car accident on Thursday. While checking around in some other areas, I get called on to chat from some 24-year-old girl in NYC. She claims to have met me, but she is just kidding around. She doesn’t seem to know “who” I “am,” and I manage to resist the temptation to tell her. It always ruins the flirting when they find out I’m someone they’ve heard of.
The rain has pretty much stopped by evening, so I go out for a while to stretch my legs. I find a good comics store to check out in the morning, and a Tower Records to kill some time in. I actually find a CD I’d been looking for: a bunch of classic Salsoul disco tunes remixed for the modern techno audience. I promised myself I’d buy it the next time I saw it (the last time was over a year ago in Philadelphia), so I do. It’s raining again by the time I get back outside, so I go back to hotel, order some bullshit hotel pasta (my seven hundredth helping of it this tour, it seems), and settle in.
Not much of a day, really.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4TH NASHVILLE, TN
It’s nice and sunny today, but that only helps contribute to the poor mood I wake up in this morning. It’s not really all that bad, I just don’t feel like doing anything today. I fear I may have hit the wall, tour-wise, and am ready to take a break. I go downstairs and walk to the comics store I saw yesterday. I’m almost positive it’s the same place I visited when I first came to Nashville thirteen years ago. The neighborhood looks familiar, but I can’t place the club. Finally, I find this comic I’m looking for. The damned thing is only a month old, but somehow I missed it. Actually, I know why: the poor state of the comics industry right now caused many comic store owners to cool on this particular title (one of the yearly crossover miniseries designed to bilk completists) and order only as much as they thought they’d actually sell. This place (The Great Escape) also has a couple of boxes of crime comics from the late forties and early fifties, all ranging in price from four dollars to twenty. Beautiful things with lurid, crudely drawn covers. Late numbers of “Crime Does Not Pay,” “Crime And Punishment,” and even an issue or two of Jack Kirby’s “Police Trap,” and “Justice Traps The Guilty.” If I’d had an extra five hundred dollars in my bank account that I’d just as soon throw away as keep, I’d own those comics now.
Seeing beautiful things always lifts my spirits (if they’re comics, anyway) so I feel a bit better by the time I get to my room. I read my purchase, take a shower, and do an interview with a young lad in Madison, Wisconsin. When I finish, I turn on “Guiding Light” in time to see the recently-returned Hart walk out on his father, and the newly-returned Reva witness her hospitalized father’s heart stop. Actually, it’s not the “real” Hart. He was injured in a hang-gliding accident two years ago and spent over a year in a coma. He was replaced and quickly written out of the show. The actor will apparently never recover (the last I heard he was just learning how to remember his family), so they’ve gone ahead and replaced him. Reva, on the other hand, was a very popular character who apparently left years ago to move to California with her family. She recently returned after the earthquakes and wanted her job back. A neat trick, since her character was killed off. I won’t bore rock fans with the silly plot that was contrived to bring her back. Let it suffice to say the silliness continues.
After the show ends, I call my mechanic back in Phoenix to see if the insurance company of the guy who rear-ended my car has coughed up the bread to pay for it yet. My car was finished the day after I left on this tour, of course. My mechanic says they should have sent a huge check to my home. I so call my friend who’s collecting my mail, and ask her to gather it all up, dig through it, and get back to me. Then I call Cory to see if he’s found me a flight back to Phoenix from Denver on Sunday night after the gig rather than the following day. He has, but it’ll be a tight one.
I decide to walk to the gig, which is about a mile and a half away, through downtown Nashville. It’s just what I need, since I’ve been cooped up for a couple of days. By the time I get there, my headache’s gone. I find the dressing room and realize that I know someone in town. There she is, a girl I know from the SST days, who used to work in the office there. She introduces me to her friend, we visit for a while, she dances around to the sound check, we eat some catering.
I take her and her friend back to the bus to check out my new CD and to watch “Melrose Place.” Allison is shocked and sickened to find that her recently-deceased husband had divorced her two weeks ago. Apparently, he’d had her sign the papers amidst a stack of some other thing and she was none-the-wiser. It’s obvious to me that he did it because he was heavily insolvent and didn’t want his creditors coming for her after he committed suicide (which he undoubtedly did). I am satisfied by this, the only way a bit-player can be noble on this show. Generally, he’ll either get caught with another woman or beat his lover after a spurned advance. If he’s not found out to be a cad, well then he’ll just have to die.
I miss the tail end in order to get ready to do the gig, so I miss whatever cliff-hanger the show ended with. I make sure the ladies are all set to get the V.I.P. treatment they so richly deserve and get out there. Tonight, there’s a bit of excitement as Cris’ luck runs out. He gets a shoe right in the face during the first song. He puts his guitar down and leaves the stage as Curt, Kyle, and I spin the song into an angry noise jam. Before we can finish and join him, Cris returns. He grabs the mike and calls the motherfucker out, getting the security guys to shine a light on him. After saying his piece, he gets back to work and we have a great set. Afterward he tries to find the guy to have him arrested, but is unsuccessful. I got swatted in the nose with a shoe last year in Cleveland. It was not fun, nor did it feel good. It came right before we finished our last number, so I didn’t bother to make a stink. I just went back to the hotel and went to bed. My head ached and I felt like a had a whiplash. Anyway, we split for the hotel as Cris’ eyes began to blacken. I told The SST gal that I’d be up for a while if she wanted to come by after the gig, but of course she didn’t.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5 LOUISVILLE, KY
Got to bed early enough last night to get up and do my 10AM German interview. It’s with a metal magazine called “The Horror Inferno,” and no real new ground is broken. It’s gotten to the point where I can tell what question is being asked by the first word or two. Mostly, they are hoping to have me complain that there are other bands more popular than mine. My current answer reminds them that unless it turns out that I’m the last human on earth, I will inevitably be surpassed.
I spend the morning writing most of last week’s diary and sending it off. The next thing I know, I’m down in the lobby waiting for the bus, which has been in the shop getting the damage incurred in Long Island repaired. It’s about an hour late. Soon, it becomes apparent that we are doomed to miss sound check. Cris has had a rough night after his beaning, so he sleeps most of the way. When we get to town, he rouses himself and say, “Are we there?”
It turns out he thinks we’re in Springfield. He has spaced a whole town. Poor fool, he should learn to read his tour itinerary. I walk over to the gig to see if I have time to do a line check at least. I do a bit of one, but the crew is mostly trying to overcome the radio signals coming out of the amps. I move towards catering for a plateful of Indian-like food. It’s my second bogus Indian in two days. Afterward, I go downstairs to the dressing room to put my last roll of film in the Polaroid and fire off some shots. I get a cute one of Curt creeping about while Danny grins appreciatively, then the camera starts beeping. I lost the manual for the thing along the way, but I’m guessing the battery has died. It’s just as well; I’ve got enough photo coverage and I’m sick of lugging this thing around with me.
The onstage injuries continue tonight, only this time they’re self-inflicted. Being late to sound check, I don’t get a chance to make sure my drums are far enough in front of the drum riser, and soon I’ve slashed my knuckle on the rim of my floor tom. It’s just a little cut, but since I’ve got to come down on it over and over again, my kit is covered with blood by the end of the set. I also manage to swat myself in the head with a drumstick.
Tonight’s hotel is a German one, and the swastikas aren’t even very well hidden. They’re right there in the detail work on the columns in the lobby. The room is full of old world styling. I catch a documentary about The Who. It’s funny how much I’ve absorbed from Keith Moon, and I’ve never even cared much for him. But during his early days, he scowls just as much as I do when I play. There’s one great clip where, during a show, Keith keels over backward from too much horse tranquilizers and liquor, and looks for all purposes to be dead. After they cart him off, Pete gets on the mike and says, “Can anybody out their play the drums? Somebody good.” Everyone raises their hands, of course.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 6 SPRINGFIELD, IL
Got up this morning, grabbed some free coffee from the hotel lobby, and went back to my room to call my 11AM interview. She wasn’t there. Whoever set it up didn’t take the time difference into account. I leave a message and tell the interviewer to call me in an hour. She actually does, so I get that one out of the way. Turns out she used to be married to one of the Violent Femmes.
We have the day off, and have about seven hours of driving ahead of us to get to Springfield. We couldn’t check in until this afternoon, so we have to spend the day on the road. Cris decided to go with Dave last night and check into some other place, so Larry and Danny are traveling with us today. As I check out, Curt comes walking up, somewhat agitated. He tells us how after making him and Larry wait for almost an hour for their lunch, the waitress got the orders wrong. Curt sent his back, but Larry was so irate that he smashed his sandwich, chips and all, into a big ball and demanded that the waitress be fired. We stopped along the way and had a nice lunch at a Cracker Barrel instead.
Springfield is just the kind of place that makes me homesick. Some damned small Midwestern town where everything is made of rotting wood and the people act like the outside world is some kind of myth. The hotel there, the Springfield Hilton, was a serious dump. Travelers beware. The paint was peeling off the doors, and one side of my bed had collapsed box springs. The food was unorderable, let alone edible. I walked to an Italian restaurant across the street, but by the time I saw the menu, I panicked and fled. Luckily Larry and Kyle were just sauntering out. Kyle offered me his leftovers, which weren’t bad. I supplemented them with bus food. Mostly cold cereal.
We got into town in time to watch “90210,” but it had been preempted by the Billboard Music Awards. I ended up just flipping around, watching accounts of the day’s snow, the first of the year, monitoring an approaching storm on the weather channel, and enjoying news of Michael Jackson’s collapse and Newt Gingrich’s alleged ethics violations. Finally, I realize that I’ve missed Larry Sanders, since it comes on two hours earlier here than at home. I console myself with a rousing episode of “Dragnet” and call it a night.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7 SPRINGFIELD, IL
It’s another Thursday, and that means comics. A town this size is bound to have comics within walking distance. I scope out a map of the area, check the phone book, make my choices, and I’m off. One place is about 27 blocks away and another is fifteen blocks away. It’s early and I have nothing to do all day, so the distance represents a nice walk, but the snow on the ground brings with it the danger of getting a soaker. Not good, since I only have one pair of shoes with me.
The fifteen-block place pans out, and a grab a copy of the new “Adventures Of Superman” and a copy of the new “Power Of Shazam.” Both take me about a half and hour to read. So much for this week. Looming in the distance are thunderclouds over the Clark / Lois relationship. Word has it that Lois is going to break it off for a while so Superman can pursue his old girlfriend the mermaid Lori Lumaris. Clark met her in college and thought she was dead, but she’s returning, and this time with legs! what will these comic guys think of next. Unfortunatley the Super-series is being held hostage by the popular teevee show featuring the same characters, so the comic moves in somewhat of a holding pattern. I don’t like the idea of Superman in love, let alone Superman married. I can deal with the fact that Lois knows Superman’s secret identity, but think they would either break up, or even better, get married and have the marriage turn to shit soon afterward. Ex-girlfriends make even better confidantes than current ones.
Having batted a thousand with the comics, I work towards my next goal: getting rid of the Polaroid. Although there are UPS and FedEx packaging materials in the lobby, I have to go through Airborne Express to use Prodigy’s account number. I call them up and ask them to bring me and airbill and a bubble-pac. Then I go across the street to see if lunch at the gig is worth a shit. It’s not; nothing new. Find out from Larry that Dave is not going to risk freighting out stuff from Minneapolis to Denver when we fly down there (our bus is leaving us in the Twin Cities), and is going to drive a thousand miles overnight instead. Furthermore, he’s going to be snippy and uncooperative about it. I’m sure that if Larry hadn’t accidentally told me, Dave would have gone ahead with his plan without telling anyone, even though there would have been a plane ticket for him and none for Danny. (The original plan was to send Dan and Larry from Madison to Denver, put Dave and the gear we couldn’t rent on the bus with us, and then fly everything down after the Minneapolis gig. Now everything was driving to Minneapolis, we would rent nothing, and Danny would fly with us). It was typical Dave psycho behavior. In his mind, he is the only one whose opinion matters. The rest of us are just along for the ride.
This begins the deterioration of my mood, which continues when I go back to the gig around sound check time to find that the air freighting materials have not shown up. I call Airborne Express back and arrange to have them come back in about an hour and a half. I finish my sound check, get the camera out of my room and get it ready, only to find out the pick-up I’d scheduled for six-thirty came an hour too early. Now I am completely pissed off. I try not to let it affect my performance, but by the time a shoe just barely misses my head (which it would have hit, had I not had time to duck), I am livid.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8 MADISON, WI
It’s snowing when I get up. We probably should have left last night, since the storm will be passing over us all day. I go downstairs to pay my incidentals and leave the damned camera at the desk. To hell with it. It turns out the hotel plans to rip me off for ten local calls. Claiming they were “outside the local dialing area” (although I was able to direct dial each one), they charge me 65 bucks. I told them they were wrong, but they just told me it didn’t matter what I said, they had my credit card number. It still makes me mad to write about it.
The drive is annoying, with ice constantly crusting up the windshield wipers. I sit up in front with Lupe and we bitch and listen to country music most of the way. His taste isn’t too bad, except he changes the station any time a woman singer comes on (except Pam Tillis, or course). We have a terrible buffet at the Iron Skillet. Curt gets up, says he’s got to stop drinking. He’s so bored after the shows that he’s been staying up all night. This morning, he just cleared out of his room and went down to the bus rather than try to sleep at eight. This was do-able, since it was too cold to turn off the generator.
We get the the gig in time for a late sound check, then the boys go back to sleep (it seems all four of my bus mates stayed up late last night). I have a terrible dinner of mock-Chinese food, during which I finish the book I’ve been reading (the memoirs of Tom Watson, Jr, head of IBM during their entry into the computer business). Afterward, I do a phoner with a guy who does a techno show on the weekends. I tell him to try and wheedle a copy of the “Scum” remixes by Vapour Space out of our record company. The gig is in an exhibition hall on the edge of Madison, Wisconsin. No live performing should be done here, only the exhibiting of new products, just like in Athens. I blame Primus, since they have not sold enough tickets to hold the gig in the huge-odrome next door. Our performance is subdued anyway, since the boys sleep right up till showtime. We play really good though, culminating with a great jam during “Up On The Sun.”
It was still snowing when we finished, but Lupe was anxious to get started on the drive. Suddenly a friend of ours who lives in Minneapolis walks up. it’s taken him eight hours in blizzard conditions to get here, he says, and warns us not to make the drive. Fuck that, get off the bus so I can go, says Lupe. Once he drops us off at the hotel in Minneapolis, he’s free to drive home. We encounter nothing but strong wind on the drive, which is beautiful. When we pull into town five hours later, however, it is fifty below.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9 MINNEAPOLIS, MN
I am awakened at eleven by Danny telling me he’s got my tee-shirt and shorts from last night’s gig, which I hung up to dry in the closet. I go downstairs to look for him and find Lupe and Cory in the restaurant. I also notice the singer for Oasis sitting by himself in the corner. Service is horrible, so I help myself to a cup of coffee, which the waiter doesn’t notice. His treat. Danny is nowhere to be found, but he’s left a second message saying he’s bringing my stuff to the gig. I have myself a salad and prepare for the day’s promo: a phoner at two then a trip to a comics store to appear on a cable access show which is tied into the radio station putting on tonight’s gig. It’s not part of the Primus tour; they have the day off.
The car to take us is too small, so only Cris, Cory and I go. The guy from the radio station, already chastened by Cory for bringing the wrong car, is nervous and won’t stop talking. Tells me what a great “market” Phoenix is, etc. He badgers me with questions for the entire drive. “Don’t you want to save some of this good good stuff for the interview?” I ask, but he doesn’t catch the hint. Just tells me he’s not doing the interview. The scene at the store is mellow, hardly anybody there. Cris and I run through a little shtick, mostly talking about comics. The owner gives Cris a couple of X-Men dolls and me a couple of issues of “Metropolis S.C.U.” which his wife wrote. The story deals with a special squad of police that deal with super-powered villains. An interesting side-note is that the leader of the squad is a lesbian.
The gig itself is a madhouse, of course. Seven bands with their equipment strewn all over, lots of clueless people in charge, all sorts of conflicting agendas, the worst food imaginable, and of course a venue where no live performing should ever be done. I give a call to a friend of mine, who used to live next door to me in Tempe. He’d hoped to come down during sound check, but there are no sound checks and doors are at four-thirty. He’s already left, so I gotta hope that he’s resourceful enough to find me. My cousins have already done the drill, so they get back with ease. I see Kathy, Jim, Mike, and their respective friends and significants. Kathy’s son wants to know what time Green Day goes on. No such luck, kid. Lisa Loeb also makes her way to our dressing room to introduce herself.
By the time we go on, the audience has already sat through five sets of pop-rock and are ready to go off. Dozens of rolls of toilet paper sail through the air, which is not surprising since one of the sponsors of the event is Concerts For The Environment. It’s a relief to play for the first pop-fan crowd since the Big Star show a month ago. The Primus crowd is just a tad too heavy metal for us. All around, despite the hassle of getting there, it’s the best show of the tour. It’s all pretty much lost on Dave, though, who rudely pushes his way around the backstage in his haste to get out of town and into Denver.
I stick around a little while to check out Oasis, who I actually like, although one of our friends comes backstage saying, “And they think they’re The Who??” Most of the songs are unfamiliar to me, since I don’t know the new album yet (and I’m not used to the sound of live rock and roll from in the audience), but I do hear “Cigarettes And Alcohol” before I have my fill of loud noise. I hang around a little in the dressing room before we leave, chatting with a gal who knows one of my cousins and her inevitable spouse who’s a comic artist, and a couple of guys who ask me to mention them in my tour diary. I have of course forgotten their names; sorry guys.
back at the hotel, I make a stab at finding food around the hotel, but my lungs start to freeze before I get a half a block. I settle for a bag of chips from the hotel snack machine. There is a phone message from my friend, who apparently gave up trying to get in before we even went on. Though he’s not specific, I infer from his message that he never went to will-call to get tickets, that he just fought with security to get in the back door. His tone has a nasty “have a nice life” tone to it, but it’s too late to call and commiserate tonight. Tomorrow’s going to come early enough as it is.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10 DENVER, CO
The alarm wakes me up at 7:15. Sleep didn’t come easily last night. The air was so dry that I finally had to get up and turn off the heat. Now the room is an icebox, my lips are still chapped, and my sinuses hurt. I make some coffee, shower, pack up and beat it. The real pain doesn’t really start until a couple of hours later while I’m boarding. I manage to smack some poor old lady’s head while stashing my bag in an overhead compartment. Although I apologized, it must have sounded as un-sincere as I felt, for I could hear her muttering, “nice guy” as I found my seat. In between dosing off, I started another Tony Hillerman mystery. Cris passed flat out next to me.
We got into Denver around eleven, checked into day rooms, and sat around for eight hours before the gig. We saved half the money by getting up so fucking early. Unfortunately, I was too wired to sleep, so I went downstairs for a terrible plate of pasta in the restaurant. I haven’t had non-overcooked pasta in too long. Back upstairs, I drink coffee and work on the diary for a while until my mind gives up. Then I stare into space and play Tetris until it’s time to walk to the gig.
In his hissy state, Dave told us not to bother to come to sound check since he wouldn’t get in until it was too late, but I knew better. He got in around two-thirty. So I headed down to the club around four. Unfortunately, I was so spaced, I walked about ten blocks in the wrong direction. I got my drum check in though, then sat around waiting for dinner. I must say, the caterers tried, and it wasn’t a bad meal, but after five weeks, you get totally sick of cafeteria food. I made a pact with myself that when I got home, I would eat nothing but fruit juice smoothies and wheat toast.
I say my goodbyes before the show starts, hand shakes and back slaps all around, at least for the people I see. Immediately after the performance, Cris and I are to pile into a car and hot-foot it to the airport to grab a flight to Phoenix which leaves at 9:30. The show itself is particularly creepy, coming as it did after the one last night. Metalloids and Primus fans grappling with one another. Faces that you’d never guess are having a good time enjoying music since they look so angry. While playing, I have one of my rare moments of what I call my “John Lennon feeling.”
After the show, I say my goodbyes to Kyle and Cory. Kyle takes it on the lips like a man; Cory turns his head. We make it to the airport on time, though halfway there, Cris realizes he’s left his reading material in the hotel. Not surprising, since he’s almost left his hat behind twice today. The poor lad is more spaced than I am since he takes much worse care of himself than I do. During the flight, his nose begins to run and he starts cursing and whining that he’s getting sick. I give him the rest of my bottle of echinacea, which shuts him up for the time being.
He disappears down the aisle when the plane pulls into the gate and I am officially on my own again. I grab a cab and get my ass home. The first thing I notice when I open my door is that my place is smaller than some of the hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. Definitely time to relocate.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 11 PHOENIX, AZ
A day to pick up the tattered shards of my life and move on. Get up early, something much easier to do when I have more to look forward to than a bus or a hotel room. Unpack while I review videotapes of programs made with the timer. Most of them I’ve already seen along the way. I chance run-in with my bathroom scale imparts the unwelcome news that I’ve gained ten pounds while I was away. I simply have no discipline for all the junk food lying around at the gigs. Now I must pay the price.
I call my friend who’s got all my mail and arrange to pick it up. I call the body shop and arrange to get my car. Since my friend with the mail had a birthday while i was gone, I score a gift for her, along with food for me and fan mail from the P.O. Box. Some fifty pieces, a mountain I will deal with on another day. There are no time bombs waiting in the mail and my car looks good as new. I spend the rest of the afternoon playing with my friend’s three-year-old son. He’s got a great new game: he throws everything within reach onto the floor, then he has me lift him up and “fly” him over the mess. He’s reenacting the scene in Peter Pan where they all fly over London.
Soon, mother and son have to go to a preschool Christmas dinner-party and I go home. “Melrose” is being preempted by something called “America’s Funniest Christmas Moments,” so I continue reviewing video tapes. Soon, I have a splitting headache and nausea. Exhaustion has finally caught up with me. I go into my bedroom to lie down and sleep for twelve hours. The headache is still with me the next morning, but that’s another day and this tour diary ends tonight.