on tour, day 5

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Day Five was the shortest of our drives. Unfortunately, it was also the earliest show. We had a three-and-a-half-hour drive, and we had to be in Cedar City by 10:30 in the morning, so you can pretty much do the math on that. It was another crazy early morning. I was the first one up, at 5:45 again, so I took a shower and packed all up my stuff before anyone else was even awake. Then I took my camera out and went for a little walk to admire the scenery. I didn’t have to go far; just through Wendy’s orchard, actually.

When I returned, everyone else was up, and getting their stuff together to load up the van and head out. Wendy gave us huckleberry pie (or was it loganberry? Can’t quite remember. . .) and muffins, and then we raced off into the morning. We stopped at a truck stop along the way, where I saw two T-shirts that made me feel very disheartened with our society. They were marriage-related. One had stick-figure drawings of a smiling bride and a frowning groom above the caption, “Sentenced to life.” The other simply said, “All men are idiots, and I married their king.” Those made me really angry. I tried to imagine if I was married, and one day either my wife or I was wearing one of those shirts. Is the other person just supposed to laugh, or look away? I mean, if my theoretical wife wore a shirt that said, “my husband is the king of idiots”. . .well, actually, I don’t even need to finish that thought, because I’m NOT the king of idiots, and everyone who knows me (certainly anyone who’s likely to marry me) knows that very well.

Something else we found at this particular truck stop was hard-boiled eggs. We each bought a pack of two and devoured them, only to regret our decision about an hour later, when we all started to have stomach issues. We pulled over, ran inside, and absolutely destroyed the bathrooms at that next truck stop we arrived at. I hereby apologize to anyone who was in those bathrooms at the same time the three of us were.

But it wasn’t all eggs and poop. This was Utah, after all, so the scenery, even in the not-special areas, is breathtakingly beautiful. Breanna and I each took a lot of pictures just by rolling down the window of the van.

I’m sure there’s a way to get rid of those stupid power lines using Photoshop or something, but I don’t know how to do it, and the picture is pretty enough that I figured I’d include it nonetheless. Most of the pictures didn’t end up looking very good, but I managed to keep a few of my friends updated through pictures sent by text message also.

So finally we arrived in Cedar City, and we weren’t even very late. The sound crew had been working out some technical difficulties, so they were running a bit behind also. This bought us a little time to walk around, take pictures, get souvenirs, that sort of thing.

Each of the participating musicians got a T-shirt, but I splurged for a second one in a different color, and then I got a pin and a kazoo also. Breanna and Justin bought a frisbee, and a pin, and a nice little cloth bag. I walked around the grounds and talked for a while on the phone until Justin motioned for me that the group before us was almost done. We were the second group in the entire festival, so we watched the first group, tuned our instruments, and paced around the grassy backstage area.

Finally it was our turn. We were pretty nervous. We didn’t make any mistakes, but we just felt like mimes or something up there. There was one guy in the audience who kept yelling things to us. He wasn’t heckling us, but he was extremely drunk (incidentally, it was well before noon) and it was obnoxious. Luckily he liked us, or it could have been much worse. He clapped extremely slowly and out of time with the songs, on purpose. He also pointed at each of us in turn and yelled things like (to Breanna) “You have a really good voice!” and (to Justin) “Dude! You’re a really good guitar player!” and (to me, after I’d played a song on the melodica instead of the cello) “You’re good at. . .everything that. . .you do!” See what I mean? It was nice enough, but he still affected the flow of the show, and made us nervous.

So we finished our set and got off stage by about 1:30. We found the photographer guy who we’d been talking with earlier, and asked him to take a picture of us as soon as we put away our instruments.

It was really hot, and we were planning to be out and about for quite a while, so I wanted to go looking for a hat to protect myself from the sun. Breanna suggested that I wear her cowboy hat, which ended up looking really cool, so I wore it for the rest of the day, and actually got lots of compliments.

I know; I’m hot.

We were very relieved by the fact that we now had the rest of the day to ourselves. We went and checked into BestMotelInTheWest. There was an older couple checking in at the same time, who kept making jokes like, “Oh, we didn’t know that there would be live music in our room.” Ha ha. “Hey, that’s really great that we have musicians playing a free show just for us.” Ha ha. “Want to play us a song right here?” Ha ha.

After checking in, we went to our separate rooms and collapsed for a while. I unpacked my stuff and took a little mini-nap, and Justin and Breanna presumably did whatever young couples do when they’ve been cooped up in a van, or a house, or a studio apartment, for days on end, being constantly surrounded by at least one other person, then finally get some time to themselves. We met up afterwards, and walked over to get our complimentary meal at PizzaPlaceNamedAfterMafia. Naturally, our next plan was to find a bottle of wine or something for later.

That takes a bit of doing in Utah, where anything stronger than beer is controlled by the state, and has to be purchased at a liquor store. We were so sick of driving around in the van by this time that we were prepared to walk anywhere in Cedar City, no matter the distance or the heat. The nearest place was about a mile and a half away, and it was ninety-five degrees. Perfect.

Hey, look, it’s the Village People!

Nothing like a little shock value for the street full of locals driving by. But as you can see, I’m all about da ladeez. Howdy, ma’am. Much obliged.

So the three of us got what we wanted at the store, and then we walked the mile and a half back. We left our bounty in our respective motel rooms, and then went across the street to the festival to listen to some music and just check out The Scene a bit. We must have been there for a couple of hours, buying gifts, watching bands and getting more food, before we decided we were completely exhausted and done for the day. We headed back to the hotel, took some pictures. . .

. . .and then went our own ways. I can only imagine what those two ended up doing, but I talked on the phone with my friend again for about an hour and a half, and then watched cable TV shows, like Home Movies. The movie War Games also happened to be on, so I kept an eye on that while I wrote in my little notebook about the things I wanted to remember about the day. Things such as this; there are Gideon Bibles in just about every motel room in the country, but if you’re in a motel in Utah, you get a special bonus.

Hey, it’s a rock star’s life for me. Phone calls, Home Movies, War Games, the Book of Mormon. . .the debauchery just never ends.

Or DOES it? Find out for yourself in the next edition of. . .ON TOUR.


on tour, day 4

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Thursday, June 26th was our longest day. We had a twelve-hour drive ahead of us, from Reno to a tiny town in Utah called Torrey.

I was the first one up, at 5:45 in the morning. I took a shower, got dressed, and then took some pictures of the hazy morning street scene of Reno. The haze is actually the smoke from the California wildfires. It didn’t clear up until we were well into Utah, by the way. Incidentally, all of these thumbnail pictures expand to full size if you click on them.

While I was packing up my suitcase, Kate woke up. We talked for a while, she in her makeshift bed in the windowsill and I on her papasan chair. I took pictures of the cats, and of her place, and out the window, and even some of her. The best ones were of her, waking up and snuggling with her cat Samantha.

From there, it was time for breakfast and various morning activities, which on that particular day meant more picture opportunities. Here we all are.

The water-drinking one actually has a little video too, as if by technology.

I would be remiss if I didn’t post a picture of Kate’s other cat, Secret. She and I became instant friends, and she actually slept on my sleeping bag for a while during the night.

Suddenly it was time to say our goodbyes, give hugs all around, and hit the road. The scenery in the rest of Nevada was uneventful. If you haven’t driven through it, it basically consists of many hours of rolling hills covered with sagebrush. There are only a couple of sections where it’s beautifully desolate in a good way, and the rest of the time it’s pretty much God-forsaken wasteland, broken up only by the occasional bit of run-down machinery or mining equipment, or even a power station out in the middle of nowhere. At one point there are even a couple of tunnels. Wowee! Breanna and I both took pictures of the tunnels, in fact. That’s how exciting it was. Nevada is a very strange place. Luckily, we had an especially deep (and private) conversation that day, with which to while away the hours.

Oh yeah, I just remembered. We stopped at the same rest area that Stephanie and I were so horrified by when she and I played in Elko last summer. This time was not nearly so eventful, but I should mention that each of the rest areas we stopped at in Nevada had neither soap nor running water, so we weren’t able wash to our hands. Pretty sexy, huh?

Incidentally, and apropos of nothing, the lasting inside joke from this day was when I told Justin, “I’m gonna punch your mouth right in the face.” That would have been the name of this entry, if I didn’t have the more plebeian title so firmly established already.

This trip, for all its amazing qualities, was not without tragedy. Justin realized at some point along the way that he had left his pillow behind in Reno. This was not just any pillow, either, but a super-special pillow that was bluish gray in color, weighed a ton, and was apparently the most comfortable pillow in the history of pillows. He was seriously distraught about it. I imagine that he’s gotten it back by now, because he offered to pay Kate a bunch of money to ship it overnight that same day.

Utah is as beautiful as Nevada is barren. Almost from the minute we crossed the state line, the landscape became more interesting. We drove through the Bonneville Salt Flats, which are gigantic, and a bit eerie too. We kept expecting the weather to be cold, because we were seeing what looked like snow on the ground everywhere. Very strange.

After that, the landscape became more green, the hills became more steep, and everything seemed more inviting somehow. In the immortal words of the Lewis and Clark journals, ‘we continued on.’

As we got closer and closer to our destination of Torrey, the landscape just kept getting more and more beautiful. The hills turned red, and the sun started getting lower and lower in the sky. The Picture of the Day Award definitely goes to Breanna for this lovely, cinematic shot. My pictures I had to touch up a bit with Photoshop, but this one is perfectly fine without any so-called enhancements.

We arrived at the venue and met Wendy, who was very sweet. She opened for us, and also took pictures for us during our set. At first we thought we’d play unplugged and unmic’ed, which ended up being too quiet, even for the smallish space we were playing in. So we mic’ed everything and played a normal show.

Can I just take a minute to say that while Reno was definitely the place I had the most fun, the gig in Torrey was by far my favorite venue we played. I mean, here’s this tiny little venue in the middle of nowhere, with these amazing red cliffs all around. And I’ve never seen as many stars as I did that night. We kept looking off into our surroundings the entire time. It’s a miracle that we didn’t play any wrong notes. Here’s what I’m talking about. Justin was singing, and Breanna and I were totally staring off into the distance. And yes, Justin and I did the same thing on Breanna’s songs too.

Between the cliffs and the stars, and the interesting people, we had a total blast. Afterwards, Wendy put us up at her place. We all stayed up for a little while, and then Justin and Breanna went to bed. Wendy and I stayed up talking, and she asked if I played with any other groups. I told her about the people I play with, and the various instruments that I play, and when I mentioned the accordion, she said, “Oh, really? I have two accordions. Maybe you could show me some things.” I agreed to do that, and we pulled them out. So after getting up at 5:45, driving twelve hours, and playing a gig, I stayed up until about 1:30 giving an impromptu accordion lesson. After a while, exhaustion got the better of me, and I had to give in and go to bed. The room I stayed in was very warm, so I opened the window and the blinds, which meant that I fell asleep staring at the huge canopy of bright stars, in which the band of the Milky Way Galaxy was clearly visible. That’s a nice way to fall asleep, by the way. I totally recommend it.

More to come in the next installment of. . .ON TOUR.


on tour, day 2

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Day Two consisted of us driving from Breanna’s aunt’s house in Salem, Oregon down to Redding, California.  I did the lion’s share of the driving, all the way from Salem to the first rest stop after the California border, when Justin took over.  Although it was a clear and sunny day, Mt. Shasta was almost completely hidden by haze until we were practically right up next to it.  The little town of Mt. Shasta City is really pretty, and we only drove through it long enough to park and switch drivers, but I would love to explore it sometime.  Northern California is so pretty.  So I drove from there to Redding, where we had Gig #2.

I love that both Breanna’s and Karlee’s names are misspelled on the sign.

Karlee is none other than ViolinistKarlee, who plays with us often when she’s here in PDX, which is where she goes to school.  Her parents live in Redding, and they very generously welcomed us into their home.  There were many wildfires burning in Northern California at the time (there still are, as I’m writing this more than a week later), and the smoke in Redding was thick and acrid.  It was actually very uncomfortable to breathe outside, so we spent the whole time inside talking and eating.  Karlee made these amazing ‘wraps’, her own special fried potatoes, and an amazing grape salad.  Then it was time to leave for the show.

Karlee (on the left) cracks me up in that picture.  Don’t be fooled by her sweet and innocent exterior; just under the surface lurks a straight-up gangsta who can’t wait to pop a cap in yo’ ass.  I just look constipated.  What, you think we gangstas can’t have a little trouble wit da stool once in a while?  Sheit.

After the show, we went back to Karlee’s place and ate (I really should say ‘gorged ourselves on’) ice cream, pretzels, otter pops (made from real otters!  I’m lying.) and various other delectable treats while we watched DVD’s of Planet Earth.  What an amazing show.  We watched the episodes about mountains and about caves.  The cave one was particularly riveting.

Then we all crashed and went to bed.  Find out what happened in the morning in the next installment of. . .ON TOUR.

Nevada trip

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I’ll write more about my sadness et cetera some other time soon, but in the meantime, it’s like I’ve always said. If you’re having a rough time emotionally, it helps to have great friends and a busy, fun life to fall back on while your wounds heal.

The trip and the gig were both a total blast. Stephanie and I flew down to Reno, then drove four hours to Elko to play at Great Basin College. We played there last year with Dirty Martini, and Steph had played there twice before that, with DM and on her own. So she has a considerable base of fans there, and it turned out that I even had a small (but strong!) contingent as well, which was surprising and cool to learn. It was just an all-around great experience.

We played outside this time, in the ampitheater right in the middle of the campus. It was a warm, breezy night, and it was particularly beautiful. Steph played acoustic guitar and piano–they wheeled a real piano out to the ampitheater for us to use!–and I played electric guitar, accordion and piano on a few songs too. We were totally on. We barely missed a note, and we felt totally in sync with each other. After some of the tough gigs we’ve had lately, this was a welcome relief. Total blast, and I have a feeling we’ll be back down in Elko again before too long.

After dropping our instruments at the hotel, we decided to try our hands at gambling. I tried a slot machine at the first place; put in a dollar and instantly won eight dollars back, so I took that as a good sign and stopped. We walked through the rest of the place and were unimpressed, so we walked across the street to a larger, more bustling casino. We each got a drink, and she played blackjack for a while. I don’t know how, so I watched. She got on a nice little winning streak too, earning twenty dollars from the five she started with, but she left empty-handed after a few more hands, despite one of the other players’ advice, “Hey, you should quit now, while you’re ahead.” We walked around again, and I decided to try some slot machines again, since I’d had good luck with them before. I started with twenty dollars, got down to almost nothing, and then won thirty five, so I decided to quit too.

The drive back was really nice. Steph had about a million phone calls to take care of, so I drove the whole way back to Reno. We stopped at a wide spot in the road called Trinity, which I think used to be a mine, but has since been reduced to a rest stop on one side of the highway and a dilapidated truck stop sign on the other. We stopped for a few minutes so I could take some pictures.

At the rest stop there, we encountered the most foul and disgusting porta-potties either of us had seen in our entire lives.
Steph opened the door to one and instantly stepped back, hands over her face in horror. “I’ve never seen anything that disgusting before,” she said. With a statement like that, my morbid curiosity was piqued, so I took a peek. The inside was smeared with feces, and there was an enormous pile of it on the back of the toilet seat. Repulsive. We both cracked up laughing, and I said, “I’m so sorry you had to see that.”
Good-hearted Steph gave the unknown person the benefit of the doubt and said, “Maybe it was dark, and they just couldn’t see what they were doing.”
“But there are huge flood lights everywhere. I can’t imagine they wouldn’t be able to see. I’m gonna have to ‘poo-poo’ that theory.” (Now THAT’S good comedy.)

We arrived at the Reno airport and ate at a really good little brew pub there. The flight, however, was pretty rough. Despite the nice weather, there was lots of turbulence. We were all getting increasingly nervous as the plane kept shuddering and lurching. Finally it settled down and so did we. But once again, when we started our descent into Portland, it happened again. It was very nice to be down on solid ground again. And can I just say how nice Portland’s airport is? It’s really beautiful, especially in the evening sunshine.

I hung out with NeighborFriendSusan for a little while, since I hadn’t seen her for a few days, then I went to bed at 10:30. Slept until 11:30 the next morning, when BoringFish called to see how I was doing. We talked for a while, then I got up and decided that today is the day I’m going to get my pictures framed and hung in my apartment. I chose my favorites and took them over to the photo printing place, where they’ll be done any minute now, so I’m gonna head back out. I’ll take pictures of my new-and-improved apartment once I get them hung. I daresay you’ll be impressed with the new look.