Regular readers may remember my misguided and
intense personal desire to visit "The Thing?" in
Eastern Arizona. Call it silly. Call it ridiculous. Call
it naive suseptability to a hundred and fifty miles
of billboard advertisements. I had to see the
Thing. And my bandmates, god bless 'em, promised
to oblige. Of course, that was before the
transmission on our erstwhile van resigned less
than a week into our tour. What follows is the
story of how we finally saw the Thing.
Chapter 1: Hello Tucson. Can I get a drink? Stat.
Through dumb (and I mean really, really dumb)
luck or through the benign love of Gods unknown
we made it from Yuma to Tucson with a busted
transmission. It was one of those nail-biting,
pants-crapping journeys known only to astronauts
hurtling into orbit in a shuttle jerry-rigged with
duct tape, safety pins, and eight sticks of pre
-chewed Juicy Fruit. Alright, not quite. You get the
We arrived to hugs from Division Day, explained the
rather taxing stories of the day. Like being turned
away from two mechanics before finding a friendly
one who delivered Patrick Stewart's death
sentence while his leather-skinned lizard wife
looked on, probably pondering the wherebouts of
her meth. The bartendress there, aware of our
plight, supplied drinks made mostly of rubbing
alcohol and suddenly, the day made sense. Not
because we were blotto, but because we realized
why we'd forced the issue and forced our way into
Tucson. After a twelve hour drive, watching great
bands and playing music makes everything
wonderful again, albeit in a very, very temporary
way. We hung around as long as we could before,
as previously ordained in a rather resigned
discussion, we drove to Phoenix. The thinking: we'd
have a better chance at night. As it turned out, we
were completely right.
Chapter 2: Stop kicking me. I've lost my ability to
laugh through this.
We made it to Phoenix. Barely. There was plenty
of shuddering, a particularly nervy incline, and
more nail-biting (getting near the cuticles at this
point). Clairvoyantly, or rather, obviously, we
predicted further issues with Sir Patrick, so we
checked into a motel for two nights, unloaded the
gear, and prepped for the morning. The plan: wake
up rooster early, eat some Waffle House, buy a
new van, sell our old van, play a show in town, and
get a fitful rest. In the end, we went four for six.
The first two were easy. We finished our Waffle
House and made our disgruntled way to the first
auto mall of the day. After thirty minutes of
telling salesmen we were looking for four seat,
heavy-towing, used vans, getting shown brand new
two seaters, and wondering whether murder would
be justifiable at that point. We went to the next
place, got shown around by a serious dudebro who
had the same problem with the English language,
and started bleeding out our ears. Thankfully, that
was only an hour of our day. So we plopped back in
Patrick Stewart and rode off towards the next
auto mall. The choices were clinically depressing.
So on to the next. Only, well, when you're driving
city miles in a hundred plus heat on a blown
transmission, its only a matter of time until
you've got the tow truck driver on speed dial.
So yeah. We broke down. Again. And we sat there,
oh so much more than mildly aggitated, and we
decided to split up. Dave & I would figure out what
to do with the old van while Pete & Zach took a
variety of expensive cab rides around Phoenix in
search of the new van. Meanwhile, Divison Day
was eating a sandwich while we tried not to hate
Chapter 3: In which we bid adieu to Patrick Stewart.
There was a large part of me that wanted to give
Sir Patrick a viking funeral. An ex-coworker of
mine once gave her son's goldfish one and I always
thought that was pretty fantastic. I hope that kid
realizes how epic that is. I hope she realizes I'm
stealing her idea when I have a whippersnap of my
Of course, its hard to get money for a viking
funeral without charging admission and its hard to
charge admission without proper publicity and we
were between a rock and a hard place and a rather
shitty place to boot, so we decided for the next
best thing: Los Amigos Salvage Yard.
A couple things about Los Amigos. First, I don't
want my auto wrecking to pretend to be my
friend. Have you ever been to a salvage yard? It's
depressing. And Los Amigos was one yard among
about fifteen on West Broadway, also known as
the street where all machinery goes to rust and
die. And you know what gives you massive
bargaining power? An out of state title to an oil
-stained van that gets dropped off by your second
tow truck in as many days.
It's tacky to harp on how we haggled an extra few
hundred dollars out of our Amigos so I won't. It
made me feel slightly dirty but it was a dirty day
and we weren't even to early evening yet. Out of
expired gratitude, I refrained from hitting Sir
Patrick with a sledgehammer, instead patted her
hood, called a cab, and watched her dissapear in a
taxi's rear view. Dear Pat: may you be gutted for
a greater good.
Oh yeah. Somehow my phone got left in the cab.
Chapter 4: That van might work. If it wasn't
pissing coolant after a five mile test drive.
Meanwhile, Pete and Zach continued the
Sisyphusian task of finding a van in Phoenix. See
the title of this chapter for how well that was
turning out. Our cab dropped us off at what ended
up being the last strike out of the day, where we
drove a four thousand dollar lemon with a porous
radiator, and begrundingly decided that August
20th would contain an early morning roll to Budget
or National or What Have You. By this time, Zach
and Peter had a chauffeur, or, more correctly, a
cabbie whom they'd called twice already. He drove
us home for forty dollars. I wept profusely.
There are worse things in the world than ending up
in a hotel room filled with instruments, phoneless,
carless, and dejected, but we weren't thinking of
those things. We were, as it was, fairly glum.
Brett, a mutual friend of the Day and the
Monster, showed up in the DDay mobile, helped us
pack our gear, and ferried us to Modified Arts. Yet
again, we showed up mid-set-first-band and yet
again it all made sense. A few songs into the
evening, some old friends: right. That's the idea.
Two trips back to Ramada and a few hours of
schmoozing with the Day and we felt even
better. Sure, we had a plan that was vague at
best, but, baring bodily injury or Jeb announcing an
'08 bid, things couldn't really get a whole lot
worse. From the bottom, you can only look up.
Well, I guess you could look at you socks, but,
mine don't match.
Chapter 5: The Thing
That evening we flipped coins. Losers woke up to
rent a van, winners slept in, watched Harry Potter
on HBO and made sure we were out of the hotel in
time to avoid an extra day's charge. I won. Dave
won. Pete and Zach set the alarm clock for a
quarter till nine.
We get a phone call---or rather, Dave does, since,
well, my phone was being used by our cabbie at
that point---from Zach at a bit past ten. Turns
out, since he and Peter had trekked through most
of the dealerships in Phoenix the day before, they
decided to go for a clean sweep and visit the last
Suddenly there's a van outside our room. A real
van. Three years old, shiny, grey, gorgeous, less
than 20 thousand miles, with air conditioning, bells,
whistles, and a goddamn TV in the back. I looked
at it with trepidation. Wait, I thought. They
actually make cars like this? Ones without holes
in vital engine parts? Ones that don't smell
vaguely of petrol death? What does something like
this cost? My first born? My Faberge egg? Just
We crunched the numbers. A rental would be in the
thousands faster than you can say "we're in El
Paso" and, well dammit: we're going to be a band
for a long time, so what's the problem with a bit
of financing? How incredibly adult we felt. Also, I
almost shat myself. Bills: not my forte.
Jump with me three hours later, when the new van
rolls up, as yet unchristened, with Divison Day
waiting around perhaps out of curiosity or some
strange band-maternal instinct hitherto
unbeknowst to me, everyone anxious to leave and
sweaty with 14 hours till San Antonio and, hey:
everyone's clapping. We're poor. We're happy. And
Ryan suggests a name. Considering the price and
the relative luxury, we agreed. We now drive the
And the Thing? Well, it's dissapointing. It's a
pseudo mummified explorer, under a glass case
covered in bird shit. I just saved you a dollar. I
wish Patrick could've been there.
But then again, no I don't.