How am I going to write about this day? We pulled up to Knickerbockers, in Lincoln, Nebraska, it was around 85 degrees out, just beautiful. Lincoln has these massive buildings and wide streets again, like a western town. It's also full of thrift shops. Jon from Mercy Rule pulled up on his BMW bike and the next thing we knew, we were at the Mercy Rule house, meeting Zoie, Heidi and Jon's gorgeous little girl, and then, eating a picnic dinner with Heidi's parents and brother and sister. Where do you think someone like Heidi, Bass Goddess of the World, comes from? A gorgeous, exquisite mom who just got her master's degree yesterday, she'll be dealing with studying and helping abused, unfortunate, and homeless children. She said that she'd just read that the most re-entered field for women her age was that of social work. "Because who really wants to be told how to live their life by a 22-year old kid?" she exclaimed. Heidi's dad teaches keyboard music, and also plays shows and sells his own CDs at his concerts. "We taught him how to be an indie rocker," Heidi says proudly. Both parents are involved in music. Heidi's sister is starting a cake business on the web, and is also a web designer. Heidi's brother, who seems very quiet compared to everyone else, offers us a place to stay at his house in Seattle. (We will soon find out he lives in the most beautiful house in the world in Seattle.) Together they form such a loving, functional family that I want to spend a month studying Heidi and how she deals with little Zoie, before I have a kid of my own.
there was a magical moment when a family member brought heidi some of her old records, wrapped up, and zoie was unwrapping them. i could have had a great picture of zoie holding up a sex pistols "never mind the bollocks" record, smiling - it's so pretty and pink compared to the others! - and the younger family members cooing to her, "that's the Sex Pistols, Zoie!"
Jon tells us he is planning on building a house for his family. Why not? Why stop at just guitars and bikes and everything else? Why draw a line for the DIY ethic?
And now, on to little Zoie. Is it normal for a 2 1/2 year old girl to be creating elaborate chemistry experiments in the backyard? I came out there and the rest of my band was captivated, watching her by her little sandbox and oven set. "I am baking Dolphin Pie" she informed us. Is a 2 year old supposed to be speaking in full paragraphs? How about, creating recipes like this? "First you add apple juice. Now I have to add some dolphin. Now ummmm... some more dolphin!" She just kept baking and talking, adding more ingredients (sand) to her little pie. I am fascinated by her, because about 1 out of every 10 or so sentences is incomprehensible to me - little Zoie gets herself just a bit too excited and starts talking way to quickly for us to understand - and those lost sentences fascinate me. What are those sentences? Heidi watches her proudly and tells us that the thing she really loves is that there are no rules to the toys that Zoie uses in her baking. The large plastic bubble-blower and bubble liquid goes underneath the pie. Duh. It's all tools, and Heidi loves that Zoie creates different uses for them. "I am baking this pie for you for Mother's Day!" Zoie exclaimed to Heidi - and I wanted to see what Heidi would do when the pie was finished. I mean, the pie is made of a heaping bread dish full of sand. How do you eat this pie for your child, I wondered, fascinated and a bit scared. This is why I want to watch Heidi. I think she's the perfect mother. "OH Thank You! Thank You So MUCH!!" Heidi cried, "May I eat it now?" and Zoie said, "Yes," and then I watched Heidi bend down and put a heaping spoon of sand close up to her lips and pretend to eat it, "Num num num num num, Oh it's WONDERFUL!" she cried. Zoie screamed with laughter and happiness. And that's how you do it.
And we'll all remember that Zoie was 8 months in Heidi's womb when Heidi sang and played her parts on the newest Mercy Rule record. "That baby came out WIRED" Heidi said. That baby is very special, very gifted. My sister's boyfriend's mom studies the effects of music on infants; there is definitely a correlation between intelligence and introduction to music at an early age.
At least I know what records to play for my baby when I decide to have one.
Very nice. Danced. Good crowd!
Today we had the plan that we were going to drive close to Yellowstone Park, and then spend some of the day tomorrow in the Park. Like, the Park was the size of Central Park in NY or something. (It's not, by the way. There are roads bounding it that you must take at about 5-10 miles per hour. The park is HUGE.) Anyway, the first 8 hours was on I-80 and I-25 and then we'd take one of the small roads off I-25 through the mountains out to a town near one of the Yellowstone entrances. That would put us driving around 10pm through the 2-lane mountain road up to a small town, and then looking for a hotel. "No problem," I said.
So we started out driving in Lincoln, Nebraska, where it was a very balmy 70 degrees. We drove all the way through Nebraska - there was a hot wind blowing. It looked like we'd reach Thermopolis, Wyoming, Home of the World's Largest Hot Springs, by around 10:30pm, after 132 miles on I20-26. As we got closer, I was going to research that road to make sure it was drivable. It's May, so they should be passable. Rick had read on the Yellowstone website that all the entrances were open.
So we drove and drove and drove, through nothing, and then less, in western Nebraska. It was beautifully sunny the whole day, and the sky is so huge out here that you can see storms approaching for miles. I took tons of pictures of these huge clouds off in the distance.
The rest areas in Western Nebraska all have huge CRT displays in them that tell you the up-to-date weather. Where I was standing it was in the 70s. West of me, where I was driving, it was in the 30s. That really made me suspicious. And then a couple of hours later, the next time we stopped, in Southern Wyoming, it was damn cold out. A midwesterner never thinks about the fact that 5000 ft above sea-level (where we were now) is going to be colder, no matter what. I even tried to ignore the little snow flurries that I noticed after I came out of the 50th gas station we'd been to that day.
The rest areas in Wyoming are passively solar-heated! And they have CRTs in them too. By the time we got up an hour south of Casper, Wyoming, still on the main road I-25, we hit the pretty clouds I'd been taking pictures of all day. BLIZZARD!!! That took care of all of the plans for tiny I20-26 2-lane drive through the mountains to Thermopolis. DAMN. I should have known something was up when I called the Super 8 in Thermopolis and "We're showing ALL rooms available tonight."
The woman at the Motel 6 in Casper, Wyoming, informed us that all eastern entrances to Yellowstone are closed.
Tonight we ate at "Casper's" - in Casper. All locally owned. It looked closed from the outside. The waitress had an attitude problem, and the diner was filled with cops, hitting on her. I ate a steak wrapped in bacon. It was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen or eaten in my life. I just had to have a steak after a day full of driving past cows! We're at the table laughing. We can't contain our glee. To eat is always such a pleasure, such a festival, something we learned in France. We're all in such good moods!
I-25 Up through Wyoming is surrounded by hours upon hours of green, grassy hills, and a ranch here and there. The last vehicle we passed on the road was a huge truck carrying massive cylinders. The license plate was from Alaska. Earlier, yesterday, we passed a bus with a destination sign "Los Angeles" on it. Wyoming is the 50th most populated state with a total count of around 450,000 people, 4 times as many as live in Champaign-Urbana. You'd somehow expect the people here to look a bit different, but they don't. They look the same as everywhere else in America. I blame the television.
We had a good laugh last night about a poor band called "Remy Zero," whom none of us had ever heard of. We were laughing because our label and manager had suggested that we tour with them. They asked us if we wanted to open for them, since Apples In Stereo weren't available. Now, we can't really do it anyway, because we're going to be finishing up the Salaryman record, but we also realized how silly it'd be for us. They'd be playing the exact same clubs that we just finished playing, for a higher ticket price, making less money, and we'd be opening for them. We'd have to explain to the 5 or 6 PC fans who'd come out to the show and pay the $15 cover charge exactly why we were back, opening for this band we'd never heard of. And the reason would be because: "They have a song on the radio." NO. NEVER AGAIN. "Someone would die on that tour," Howie exclaimed. "Maybe it would be someone in the other band," said one of our others. NO. NEVER AGAIN. NEVER OPEN FOR ANOTHER BAND YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF. That's the RULE.
Jim decided we would go to Little Big Horn (US$6), today, on our 2nd day off, instead of trying to break into Yellowstone Park. It's freezing out here and snowing most of the time on the road anyway. We would most likely die on the first mountain pass we'd hit. And, apparently if you go down a road that is closed, you can actually be fined lots of money - Rick says, "No TREE COP is going to fine ME!" Rick calls all forest rangers "Tree Cops."
Little Big Horn, as you know from the movie "Little Big Man" with Dustin Hoffman (a most excellent movie by the way) was the only battle that the Native Americans won against the white men. In southern Montana, amidst green felt-covered mountains, there are white marble markers set sporadically in the ground in an area about 5 miles wide, marking where certain soldiers fell. A black-covered marker stands out as the one marking where Custer fell. It's actually really neat; in the middle of these fields a battle took place and they have the ground marked where each man died. Standing out in the midst of them, looking around the surrounding hills, you almost get a sense of how large a battle really is, in 3 dimensions. You can imagine people on horses, shooting at each other.
We were told that new marble markers were coming in today that would mark where certain Native Americans fell, too. About 20 cars line the parking lot of the Little Big Horn Monument, and a handful of people walking up and down the hill taking pictures of the marble markers. Rick reads every word, every sign, every exhibit in the tiny museum room, tries vainly to convince the rest of the band to watch the 40-minute movie on Little Big Horn, (he's already movie-starved) and then goes back outside and sits in the van making fun of the "Tree Cops," who are marching back and forth guarding the area from - what, maybe tumbleweeds? There is a diorama inside the museum that has tiny light-up dots marking the pathways that the troops took to fight the battle, and where they finally surrendered. I liked the pretty light-up dots and thought that if there was more of that in grammar school I might have learned more about The Great Wars. Outside on the hill, you can see Custer and his men's markers are at the top of one side of a hill; it looks like they were probably forced up the hill where they couldn't see what was on the other side, and probably when they got to the top of the hill, they probably noticed that they were surrounded on the other side too.
I hate history. Let me get this straight. I don't know how I ever got out of grade school knowing as little as I did. I always try to figure out where I went wrong, and why so many females just don't get anything out of history, and how to better teach it to them, history and politics. I know when I was little, I just never understood war. I never, ever understood why people were killing each other. No one could ever explain it to me well enough.
Jim notes that people who live in the mountains and hills just don't take advantage of the beauty of their surroundings. He points to various shacks situated in the hills along the road; they have a house in the midst of all this beauty and they will usually have about 15 old rusted cars and car parts and other pieces of junk laying out in their front yard. I always thought that was part of the beauty of these kinds of areas, that the junk is part of the charm, that the land is so beautiful that it overpowers the rusted riding mowers and old quansit hut pieces fenced in with the rest of the garbage. But it's neat to hear an unsolicited opinion from Jim about something like this.
In Missoula tonight, a guy and one of the most beautiful, sparkely girls I've ever seen, both driven up from Bozeman, give us Star Wars blow-toy party favors, which Jim and Howie accidentally leave on their table when they go play. Thugs! Rick and I have ours ready to blow at the first appropriate moment.
We've been here so many times. I still feel like it's so surreal to be in a town, to know a couple of parts of a town so well, a town so far from home. I love that feeling. I love the mountains, and I wish I had taken a picture of the student Union here, because it's a huge building with trees growing inside it. It's gorgeous. You can climb the big yellow mountain with the big "M" on it just outside the Union - our promoter tells us that in the summer, people climb the zigzag path up the mountain wearing white shirts and it looks like some sort of religious procession.
The promoter and his wife have this gorgeous house with a built-in greenhouse, a telescope, a 4-color screen-printing maching in the basement, and he's building a studio in the other basement room. He's totally into so many things; it reminds me of us at our house; we've got lots and lots of different interests; something to turn to each time we get bored with our current project.
A sparse 100 or so people show up to our show here in Missoula and dance heartily while we play. These crowds are always very nice and we are so honored that people so far away from our home know who we are and come out to see us.
What is it about Idaho that makes the sunset turn the land gold? I think that my favorite mountains are the yellow grassy foothills in the middle of Idaho. I'll bet I'm the only person on earth who feels that way. They are so odd and distinct and sparse and uniform! This area contains my most favorite drive of all, a drive that no one in the van could be persuaded to take today. In fact, many people asked us last night how we were going to get to Boise from Missoula, and when tested on the smaller roads, they all shook their heads knowingly and said, ominously, "I'd stay on the Interstate for as LONG AS YOU CAN."
So, no cutting through Idaho for us today. No Arco, The First City Of Atomic Power, and no "Craters of the National Moon" monument, and no West Yellowstone blizzard, and no driving straight up to a big yellow grassy mountain and then at the last second, the road cutting around it, onward through more yellow grasslands. No "Do Not Go Down This Road - SINKHOLES" signs, and no "Road Closed - US Government Chemical Station" signs.
The interstate-West sweeps dumbly in an anti-clockwise curve around the bottom of Idaho, steering you far away from the mysterious forest center of Idaho and the "Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area." (No kidding, that's what it says on our map.) So instead, following the interstate, we got lots and lots of cows, sheep, farmland, Taco Muertes, and McDonald's. We did hit one blizzard on a mountain pass, and we saw an exotic Kentucky Fried Chicken/Casino Gas Station. There was one or two miles that had a preview of "Craters of the Moon" National Monument - all of the sudden for no apparent reason, the brown shrub desert on either side of the road turns into huge volcanic black rocks - then goes back to grasslands. The farm lands near the end of the day all were being irrigated - there is no way I could take a picture of this and have it come out like the full experience it was: seeing hundreds of rotating sprinklers spraying silver water on a bright green field set in the golden moutains. At one point above the sprinklers I noticed a huge TA gas station sign, off in the distance, and underneath the sprinklers and sign, 3 white swans on the green lawn, which we drove by at 90 miles an hour.
Boise's crowd tonight makes me long for Cour D'Alene, the perfectly straight drive from Missoula to Seattle. No,
I'm just kidding. I'm starving to death, and I'm ready to kill someone, seething with anger tonight, and it's all
because of The Crown.
Behind the stage is a working, life-sized ex-Best Western Road Sign, the flashing Crown you would
see from miles away, on the highway. Neurolux obtained
this Crown years ago; "they were throwing it out, so I just asked for it," we were told by the bar owner. The Crown
is fabulous, and about as big as 4 people; it's probably 6 feet tall and wide, and it's filled with flashing lights,
gleaming gold, yellow and white like a strobe light,
and it's always ON when we come into this club. In fact if it's not on, I make them turn it on. It sits on the stage
with you; hundreds of lightbulbs as big as your fists all flashing frantically; you can touch it and lean into it,
and its flashing can easily give you a seizure. I know now that whenever I get on this stage, I spend about
5 minutes on it with that damn flashing Crown and I want to kill someone. No matter how happy I am to see Boise - and
I am always happy to see Boise; I come off that stage after the first 5 minutes of soundcheck and I'm ready
to blow someone's brains out. It's that Damn Crown.
A small dancing crowd and some onlookers gathered in Neurolux, in the center of Boise, ID, to watch us play, and to shout "IF YOU SEE KAY" at the end of the show. We kept the Crown on for the entire night, and after about 2 hours of the flashing, I began to find the colors SOOTHING in an odd way. I even found myself calling the Best Western across the street to see if we could afford a room there for tonight (we couldn't). "I think I like Best Western," I said to band, eyes glazed, in a hypnotic monotone.
So we played our show, then we got off the stage, and by the time I finished washing my face in the bathroom, there were just a bunch of audience members standing around the stage looking confused. And that was it. A couple of people came up and politely asked if we would play "If You See Kay." but it was too late. An encore is a terribly touchy thing. You can't do it wrong, or you look like an asshole. If you get up and play with no provocation, after your set, you look like an asshole. You even look like an asshole if you write possible encore songs down on your setlist. How about if you draw a line after your setlist, and jot a couple of songs down after it? Asshole. We were convinced that if we got back up on the stage even though there was no one yelling, we'd look stupid. If the audience wants more, they usually scream and shout and jump around and pound on the stage. They do that almost everywhere when they want more. A girl asked me, "Is that all it takes? We just have to go out there and make lots and lots more noise, so you'll play that song? Because if that's what it takes, I'll go do it." I had no idea what to do. None of us did. I still don't. We didn't do an encore. And you know, I think maybe we should have.
Boise is a gorgeous town, filled with restaurants and art galleries and people and skaters everywhere. Since it's about 10 hours from any other city, we arrived starving, and walked around the town and there was a restaurant every 25 feet, and they were ALL CLOSED. The ONLY restaurant, out of HUNDREDS, that stays open all night is a DENNY'S. What is WRONG with these people? On top of it, the night was just beginning as we left the Neurolux; people all seemed to know each other like a big family; they brought out a ping-pong board and started playing. It was around 2am and people were going strong, the place was filled on the Thursday night. Where will these people get food after hours? I worry for them! It's strange; there are so many people walking around outside at night here, even in the cold, so many nice-looking store fronts, but it all closes earlier in the day. And the sun didn't set until around 10!
We have been notified by our Reno, NV Promoter (where we'll be on Day 1 of Star Wars) that we HAVE STAR WARS TICKETS!! FOR THE 19th!!! THE FIRST DAY!!! We started researching Star Wars today in USA Today, and decided we had to stop at Taco Bell to get our first Star Wars Toys. Howie is already complaining about the Spectacle and threatening not to go, but when we threaten to sell his movie ticket for $500 he shuts up. We walked into Taco Bell and the Star Wars Theme was blaring over the loudspeaker. There are Star Wars Toys and Star Wars Cup Toppers. I asked the woman at the cash register for a Tatooine Star Wars Toy and she looked at me like I had just asked her to take all her clothes off. I don't think she's ever heard of Star Wars. I pointed at the circular object and pointed at the sign a couple of inches from her face and she disappeared for about 15 minutes and when she returned she noted that "I don't think we have those." When I asked her for a different type of cup, she told me she didn't think she could sell me that one. Taco Bell employees are notorious for not understanding anything unless it specifically related to one of their orders. It's strange because the foods are complicated enough where you'd think they'd have to have some sort of brain power to fill orders, but apparently they just don't.
Because This is what life is for
Over 200 people showed up to our Seattle show, even though the Afghan Whigs are playing down the street! I looked out at the crowd with sheer glee - I feel like we've accomplished something so wonderful to have such a large crowd in Seattle! This is the only success I need! Our crowd pressed against the stage and were as Cool as a Seattle crowd could be - with midwesterners interspersed amongst the crowd who just couldn't keep their feet on the ground, so a sizable portion of this audience was jumping up and down as we played. And that was just FINE with me!
They wouldn't let us stop, either. On the stage I started feeling sicker and sicker, I've been sick for
weeks now, but I won't let up. I will give until I drop, because this is what life is for. We just kept
on playing and playing, encore after encore, and the Soundguy at the Breakroom sure didn't mind.
No one stopped us. I love Seattle.
We stayed in a gorgeous house tonight - John-paul Ore's house, a big, well-kept house run by roomates, on a beautiful, quiet street filled with flowering trees. I have never seen so many beautiful colors - and such blooms - on TREES, no less - in my life. As we left Seattle, John-paul (you remember him, he is Heidi from Mercy Rule's brother) led us to the most beautiful Japanese Garden, in Seattle. I get the feeling that anything anyone from that family touches or looks at, turns to gold - not money-gold, but that sort of magical-gold. We only had about an hour to walk around, and this I think is more of the kind of place where you go and just sit for about 5 hours. It was gorgeous, flowering trees everywhere, and not too many people. This is a new little garden that has just opened up to the public, I believe John-paul said.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Outside, when we pulled up to Satyricon today, there was a huge tour bus parked outside, down the street. There is a larger club across the street, so I figured something's going on over there. It's a really nice, classy looking bus, too; just silver-grey, with no airbrushed horses on it. Probably a good band. Upon inquiring as to whose tour bus it was, we were informed that it was The Red Hot Chili Peppers' tour bus. They were playing a show down the street. The more I looked at it and thought about it, the more it became kind of obvious that it was most likely the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Road Crew's Tour Bus. Why the hell would the actual Chili Peppers (who are now movie stars, aren't they? At least Flea is) be riding around in a tour bus? A roady looking guy told me, "Yeah, that's the crew's bus. They rode in limousines, came through already and did a quick soundcheck and took off again to their hotels." If *I* was a movie star, there's no way I'd be riding around in a tour bus. Those things are STINKY, and you can't take a crap in them. The Chili Peppers would probably fly from show to show, and take limos.
Still, little kids hung around outside the tour bus, waiting for the stars. Girls wore tight, plastic pants and tiny midriff shirts, and boys wore faded Chili Peppers t-shirts and large pants. This show wasn't even open to the public, I found out - you had to write some kind of essay in order to get into the show. It was only for highschool kids! (Which sort of rips off an idea we had a long time ago that we never carried out..)
Anyway, I sat outside, in a grey drizzle, and watched the Red Hot Chili Peppers Crew's Tour Bus, and contemplated what a different type of life it is to be a Rock Star like them. What does touring mean to them? Do the expensive hotel rooms all have a different feel to them? Do they have a favorite restaurant in each town? When they stop at rest areas, do they get that odd pang of deja-vu: 'WOW! We stopped at this same rest area before!' Do they have special fans that they get to talk to each show, or is it all a blur of contest-winners who get to talk to them after each show? Do they even know the difference between each concert hall they play, or is it all just hotelroom to limo to backstage-deli-tray to stage, then back to hotel room? I just don't know if that would be as much fun as what we do. I really don't know. I've been on the bigger tours before, and they are never as much fun.
So after I sat out in the drizzle for about an hour, thinking about how lucky we are to not be famous, I started feeling really sick. I've been sick and cold for about a week now, ever since we left Nebraska. The whole northwest has been freezing cold, and people here are frustrated about it, but tonight, I am just feeling terrible. I don't even know how I'm going to go into Satyricon and talk to those people. We have these wonderful fans here in Portland, and I want to spend time talking to each one, but by nightfall, I have no energy left at all. The only thing that makes me feel better is laying in the van. I'm so tired of being sick. So I lay in the van. I watch in the cold as a limo pulls up outside the tour bus, hear a whoop of the fandom - the limo stops for a while, then drives off after a while. I fall asleep. A couple of hours later I wake up and the limo is gone, but the tour bus is still there. I'll bet the crew is in the Satyricon, watching our show.
We seemed to play well tonight. I am so sick and tired I can barely stand up on the stage, and on top of it, that stage needs to be fixed; it's got holes all over it and is lumpy. A perfectly healthy person probably couldn't stand on that stage, either. I hope we played ok for these people. We only got one encore tonight, and a half-assed sort of continued applause after it, where we could have ventured back out onto the stage again, but we let it peter out. The soundguy had turned on the music again anyway. And it was around 2am already. I make a rule that I am going to go to bed tonight, and sleep and try to get rest tomorrow. I am going to try to get healthy again even if it KILLS ME.