Monday, October 30, 2006
"Have you ever heard of Hansel und Gretel?"
"No. No, I haven't"
"My favorite song by them is 'Third Reich from the Sun.' Have you ever heard that song?"
Excuse me? Did I hear that? I don't remember walking in here with a tiny Chaplin-mustache, wearing a white hood, carrying a flaming crucifix. Do you? No? Then why assume we share some sort of communal nostalgia for Hitler's German government? What? I don't know either. Excuse me? Okay. I'm just going to walk out this door over here. Yeah. Good luck with...no. Enjoy your midnight to eight a.m. shift at the Exxon. Here's a tip. Drinking petrol: surprisingly delicious. Just so you know.
Those of your who remember our last trip to Ohio will remember our outing at Peabody's, wherein we were surrounded by bad metal and worse white-boy-rapping, where said rappers sounded almost exactly like the Insane Clown Posse, except without the inherent shame of goofy clown make-up to hide the lack of skills and common decency. This time, well, this time was different. I won't say worse or better, necessarily. I'll just say different. Let me explain.
It was better because, well, no ICP wannabe's. Always a good thing. It was worse because there were a few less folks there. Including the other bands, the bartenders, and security guards, there were ten people in the audience. Not counting people paid to be there there were, um, zero. Yes. The big donut. A highlight of every band's career, really. But we made the best of it. In fact, we all did. La Rocca did a set positively drenched in covers, from some ABBA* song I can't recall to "Help Me Rhonda," while La Rocca did a cover I never knew in the first place and wore a whole shit-ton of sequins. We went on, played a new-new ditty we had no business playing, Springsteen's "Atlantic City" and, on La Rocca's prodding (after they bought us a shot---ingredients: brandy, vodka, red wine; taste: reminiscent of rubbing alcohol), the first song we ever wrote together, essentially a bastardization of twelve bar blues I remembered how to play two minutes into the two and a half minute song.
We finished our last song with a majority of the people in attendance onstage, banging cymbals, tambourines, and each other's more percusive body parts and I decided, for no reason at all, to begin a solo, sloppy-as-all-get-out "Down on the Corner" bassline. Why? Because I'd just had brandy-vodka-white-wine horror poured down my throat, that's why. And suddenly, everyone was back onstage, (or a least eight of us), running through a slurry, drunken rendition of that Creedence classic, much to the bartender's chagrin. Let me go home, she was obviously thinking. You live in Cleveland, I thought back. I'm doing you a favor. (Sorry Cleveland. Sorry, LeBron. Sorry that Band song about the storm coming through.)
Now? I'm at an ancient iMac, working on the second draft of this here entry, since the last one was devoured by the ether of dial-up internet. Tragic, I know. I've got a three-week old beard I have to shave into Prince-esque facial hair and I just finished critiqueing my bandmate's Hallowe'en costumes. Dave looks a mean Joe Perry, while Pete is a picture perfect 80's Springsteen, red bandana and all. Zach...well. He'll remain a mystery. Tomorrow, we begin five days in New York, at a festival, which means: a) lots of shows, b) lots of scamming free schwag. If I come back in new pants, listening to new CDs, riding a brand new centaur, you'll know why. Godspeed & La'Chiam.
* Today's cool factoid I learned from a crossword puzzle: ABBA is the only palendromic band with a palendromic hit single: "S.O.S." Now, don't say I never taught you nothing.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
In which Birdmonster, not unlike Dorothy, returns to Kansas and, quite unlike Dorothy, sees very few flying Monkeys. Also: Minnesota.
When you're spending no less than seven hours a
day in a van, amusements are at a premium. Games
like Name That Bloke, 20 Questions, and Throw
Sharp Things at the Driver's Face can pass the
time but they can also get stale or result in
unfortunate scarring. The Donald has a backseat
VCR which is used primarily for viewing vampire
-related cinema but, well, there are only two
Fright Nights, two Blackulas, and three Blades.
This, indeed, is one of life's great tragedies. We've
got books but sometimes you bring the wrong ones
and suddenly you're in the backseat reading about
the Holocaust on a stomach full of Burger King and
that poses problems both philosophical and
So I asked the fine Irish gentlemen of La Rocca
how they pass the long hours. A lot of lists, they
say. Like "50 famous blind people" or "10 people
who became more famous after horrific injuries or
diseases." And then there's "Call It."
Now, I didn't get the particulars of this game. Irish
people talk fast, clubs are loud, and memories can
get sogged over with low price swill. What I do
remember is the sheer brutality of the thing.
Basically, the game is predicated on embarrassing
your bandmates to a degree that borders on
criminal. Essentially, you put words into their
mouths or deeds on their hands such as (here's a
benign one) waiting until a cashier turns around,
saying "hurry up you slow piece of shite" then
scurrying out while your friend is left waiting for
his change, looking like a total prick. My favorite
(and I do realize this could send me to hell) is
honking the horn when you aren't driving and an
elderly woman is pushing her walker across the
crosswalk. Delightfully horrible. It doesn't really
sound like it passes the time that well, but writing
about it did, so, in some weird way, success is
ours. Or mine. Or something. I think I need to move
along here. Let's talk about Kansas, shall we?
People in Lawrence, Kansas tell us that Kansas is
Lawrence. They frowned on Topeka like an ugly
bastardchild who they ignored except on its
birthday, and even then they just got him a gift
certificate to Nordstrom's and begged him to get
some real clothes because, frankly, Topeka was
embarrassing them in front of Missouri, which is no
small feat in it of itself. The club (the
Bottleneck) was a gorgeous, wooden sort of place,
wall-to-wall with stickers and promo shots of
bands you love or forgot or wish you could forget
(damn you Tesla. Damn you). The bartenders were
cheery and accomidating (read: it was one of
thooooose shows) and the crowd was, well,
intimate. As Pete reminds us, that's how bands say
"nobody was there." But there were a few. A guy
from the Get Up Kids, for example, who were
always an unexpectedly fabulous show and
another gent who worked at the Freestate
Brewery and brought us two Moonshine jugs of
delicious beer, one of which fell out of the side
door the next day, shattered all over the parking
lot at the oil change place, and caused much
weeping and sweeping. Hopefully a pidgeon flew
down and got blotto but I've come to distrust the
intelligence of pidgeons. Must be the mangy,
disease-ridden thing. Anyway, those sma--intimate
shows are quite often secret gems on tours,
where you stay out too long, play a bit sloppy, and
it feels like you're playing to old friends instead of
people you've never met. A fine time was had by
all, regardless of the size of that all.
Minnesota was livelier. We got bumrushed onstage
by tambourinists from the audience and regaled
with stories at the end of the night about
Replacements and Soul Asylum tours which
involved drug smuggling, cop-dodging, and
interpersonal violence. It sounded like a 2 a.m.
Cinemax movie, just without all the exposed
boobies. I love that town. Great accents, pleasant
people, and my Halloween costume lives there.
Now? Heading to Chicago and a day off before a
Thursday night at Schubas. If you'll excuse me,
there's a girl scout helping a man in a wheelchair
cross the street. I need to honk Dave's horn.
Monday, October 23, 2006
You learn things while you travel. You learn, for
example, that you can't get an oil change in
Denver on a Sunday, presumably because
Colorado's proximity to Utah forces it to act
religious and respect the Sabbath, even though
people in Denver like John Elway more than God.
And who could blame them? He'll cut you a deal on
a used Acura. God never does. You learn that it's
illegal for any road in Kansas to curve or turn or
have anything resembling what you and I consider
civilization within a twenty mile radius. You learn
that if you see a family dressed in construction
-cone orange, you can assume they'll have some
sort of hooved carcass shoved awkwardly in the
back of their rusted Jeep. You also learn about Hot
Now, Hot Mama is not a laughing matter. Hot
Mama must be feared and respected, not unlike
your dad's chainsaw or the neighbor's mentally
unbalanced Pug. Hot Mama lives in a jar, covered in
brine, and is encased in a red balloon of hideous
rubbery somesuch. Hot Mama can be eaten,
although calling her edible is stretching that word
to the furthest hinterlands of its legal definition.
Let me explain.
We were somewhere in Utah when our gas gauge
suddenly dipped to levels which could best be
described as dangerous. The problem was, by the
time we realized this, we were nearly a hundred
miles from the nearest "town" on the freeway
and, with the prospect of a horror-movie style
breakdown in the middle of Whoknowswhere Utah,
we decided to head twenty miles off the beaten
path to Ferron, a bustling metropolis of a couple
hundred, connected to the highway via a road
paved once since the Spanish American War. We
arrived, gassed up, drank burnt coffee devoid of
flavor and caffiene. And then I saw her. Over by
the carbonated syrup machine. A giant jar of Hot
The ingredients, in order: Beef, soy, beef heart,
cereal, spices of various levels of sickening horror.
We laughed. We walked outside. We made towards
the car. And then, something happened. I can't
explain what, but suddenly, we had decided that
someone needed to eat Hot Mama. Not
surprisingly, nobody volunteered. So we played
Odds & Evens (ostensibly the bastardchild of
Rock, Paper, Scissors) and, well, when I say no one
wanted to lose, I'm putting it mildly. If there was
a way to cheat, I would've cheated. I didn't. I won,
in the sense that I wasn't Peter. We all won in
that sense. Except Peter.
From about the time Pete threw a 1 while the rest
of us threw 2s, no one could stop laughing, and
that laughter soon devolved into spastic weeping.
Part of the bet was, in the spirit of The Three
Muskateers (the book, not the candy bar), if one
guy had to eat most of Hot Mama, the other guys
had to take a bite, just for the sake of comraderie.
Plus, if it was poisonous, we'd die together.
Optimism: not exactly running rampant.
It's hard to properly explain the stench of Hot
Mama. Imagine fast food jalepenos smothered in
gasoline. It's easier to describe her habitat: a
plastic tub, filled with blood red brine, packed
sardine tight with identical, ancient sausages. It's
disturbing to even remember her taste. It
resembled the smell, like most tastes do as it
turns out, but the texture was something
altogether more intense. Unbeknownst to us, Hot
Mama was three layers thick: the outer,
waterballoony casing, a mantle of greyish sinew,
and a core of brown. Brown what? you might ask.
Brown-I-don't-know, I might answer. And without
getting too graphic, biting into Hot Mama was like
biting into a meat plum filled with creamed dirt.
Okay. Probably too graphic.
So, let's move on. I've spent far too long talking
about Hot Mama. It was a good bonding experience
though. Not unlike spending five years in a
Vietnamese P.O.W. camp together.
But tour is more than collective suffering. It's
also about music. We, once again, got lucky with
our tourmates in La Rocca and Los Abandoned.
Last night was our first of roughly seven evenings
together and, well, we really enjoyed both of their
sets. Added bonuses: Pilar from Los Abandoned has
a ukulele, which bodes well for late night hoe
-downing. La Rocca are all from Dublin which means
great accents. Both bands get all dressy too,
which means I personally will spend the whole tour
feeling like a man in pajamas at a debutante ball. I
didn't have a whole lot of time to get to know La
Rocca last night, but Los Abandoned stayed around
late, ate at the adjacent table, and proved to be
great people. I'm excited for this tour, even if it
is, as it is, barely a week long. Tonight, Lawrence
Kansis. Tomorrow Minnesota. Maybe we'll see
more snow and gawk at it like the Californians
that we are.
By the way: the proof is in the pudding. Or the
brine, in this case. See below. (Regardless of the
fact I called it Big Mama, perhaps thinking of Cat
on A Hot Tin Roof, perhaps having lost my mind
far too early this tour).
...sent via sidecrack...
Sunday, October 22, 2006
In which Birdmonster plays KCRW too early, gambles at Whiskey Pete's till too late, and drives, drives, drives
After a day bookended by a 6:30 wake-up call from
a robed, bearded host and a 1:30 double-down on an
11 against a 6 at Whiskey Pete's in Primm Nevada,
today is shaping up to be a bit of a letdown. All
we've got going this Saturday is a long roll through
a beerless Utah. We're ten miles from Sulphurdale
right now, which, really: Sulphurdale? Why allude
to the fact your town smells vaguely worse than
fecal matter? Maybe it's like that legend about
Iceland. Maybe it's gorgeous and the unappealing
name is just too keep foreigners from
overpopulating their own private little slice of
heaven. Of course, maybe it's in Utah. Actually,
I'm pretty sure about that last part. Utah: not
exactly Iceland. Just for the record.
But it is rather pretty here. It's like an upgraded
Arizona. Arizona 2.0. Now under religious law. Take
At any rate, in contrast to today (which is shaping
up to store no surprises beyond a far more horrific
than expected casino buffett brunch), yesterday
was a red letter day. As I mentioned, we were
awoken by John, our booking agent and one-night
flophouse, who was brandishing coffee, bedhead,
and a far too chipper attitude. Four hours of couch
sleep tend to make morning cheeriness unbearable,
but the early rise-and-shine proved necessary as
we spent almost an hour languishing on the parking
lot that was the 405 as Los Angeles continued
proving that there is no traffic but L.A. traffic.
Everything else is a dream.
So we were late to KCRW. Not "sir, you'll have to
stay outside until intermission" late, but late
enough that breakfast became an impossibility.
That always makes me sad. I have a clinical
addiction to flaky breakfast things so the whole
coffee-as-a-meal thing makes me die a little inside.
The low-grade seizures: also a downside.
And not that there was ever really any question,
but Morning Becomes Eclectic was a total joy.
The staff is professional and pleasant, the
soundman's skills are nearly magical, and Nic
Harcourt is far cooler than I am. Until I can reach
a real computer, kcrw.com should suffice for a
link. Listen and watch: we had a great time and
think it sounds pretty damn good. Plus I look like a
buffoon on the webcam (I'm nearly positive that
the hat-earphones-headband ensemble will be in all
this season's major fashion shows, including that
fashion show on TV where Heidi Klum pretends
we're listening to her, not staring at her. Added
bonus: it keeps the earphones from falling off.)
After a slow load out, a lunch with our lawyer (oh
so L.A., I know), and another hour on the freeway
spent going slower than a turtle with a blown
ACL, we began our two and a half day roll to
Denver. Lack of proper sleep and a dinner at Panda
Express shattered our resolve and sanity in mere
minutes. We ended up in Primm, Nevada, which is
the first town on the 15 where gambling and
whores are legal and regulated. Dave and I partook
in the former.
Now, I can't explain the reason why. Running on
four hours sleep, two terrible in-van horror
movies, and some particularly depressing Chinese
food, staying up and wagering money we don't
have isn't just ill-advised, it's downright fun.* We
saddled up to an empty blackjack table where a
woman who may or may not have understood any
English, let alone the incoherent, exhausted
ramblings we were spouting, was waiting to deal.
And deal she did. A cover band who looked like
reject extras from Back to the Future II
serenaded us with "Footloose," an Aerosmith song
I happily disremembered, and some sort of Nu
Metal I happily never knew in the first place. A
tall Eastern European woman brought beers too
slowly. And we gambled. An old excitable Asian guy
with a combover of epic proportions joined us as
we won a few, lost a few, and waited for the
Ukrainian cocktail waitress to come back. She
At that point, Dave & I stood up and should've
walked back to the room. I was up thirty bucks
and he was breaking even and, like I said, we were
tired enough to qualify for mental disability. But
no. That would've been intelligent. What we did
was play Craps. What Dave did was lose
feverishly. What I did was bet like someone who
didn't want to lose much more than ten bucks.
What I did was lose fifteen and fall asleep.
Now? It's 29 degrees outside & we're looking for
gas in the middle of Utah. I miss Primm, Nevada.
Especially the earthy cigarette, B.O., stale beer
aroma. Until soon.
* You thought I was going to say "stupid," didn't
you? It's okay. I forgive you. And to Webb: forgive
us. We didn't think we could make the drive. Hope
you did better than Klein.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
In which Birdmonster leaves San Francisco behind, looks ahead to Los Angeles, and just won't shut up about Gummi Bears
Some people say you can get too much of a good
thing. They're the sort of people who say "put the
frosting down" or"not now, I'm tired" or "haven't
you seen Demolition Man enough times?" And
sometimes, those people and I see eye to eye.
Yeah, maybe the cake looks alright how it is, I'm a
little sleepy myself, I did just watch it
yesterday. But if these selfsame people were to
say "do you really think you can eat and enjoy 36
packs of gummi bears?" well, I might have to get
hysterical and violent on their faces. I hope they
wouldn't take it personally. I'd certainly pay the
At this point, we're down to 33 packs. I give them
till Denver, which is Sunday, which is, admittedly,
a bit disgusting. But my God they're delicious.
They're everything I remembered and more. It's
delightful when your nostalgic mania for a thing
turns out to be well founded.
(Sometimes though, you just exagerrate bygone
preferences. I always come across albums I swore
were brilliant at 15, decent at 20, and then at 25, I
put them on the stereo and they eat shit. But the
records, just like the gummi bears*, were always
the same: it's not you, Iron Maiden, it's me. You
can keep the VCR, though.)
We're fresh off a short but rather taxing show at
the Warfield last night. Taxing because, well,
we're a little rusty. I sure am. After a twenty
five minute show, I needed a defribillator. But the
stamina always comes back faster than I expect
it to. In two weeks I'll feel like playing two shows
a day, volunteering at a soup kitchen, and brokering
a standing peace between Israel and Palestine; for
now, my arms and knees are sore.
And all of a sudden, we're on tour. I mean, here I
am, sitting shotgun on the 5 South, hours from Los
Angeles and three weeks of hotels, loudness,
drastic weather changes, and wary looks from
obese truckers with mysterious stains on shirts
that would look form-fitting of a woman in her
third trimester. I barely feel like we were home
this last go 'round. Which, in essence, we weren't.
Three weeks is barely long enough to get bored at
work, let alone feel settled back into a normal,
comfy day to day. But then again, this is our job
(sometimes, at least), and it's fun and it would be
ludicrous to complain about it. Plus, we missed the
middle of the country, so the scenery will be
different. I'm actually going back to Kansas. Never
thought I'd say that.
Tomorrow, or, odds are, by the time you're reading
this, today, we're playing on Morning Becomes
Eclectic on KCRW. Which, now that I think of it, is
another thing I never thought I'd say. It all starts
at 11:15 and should be free at the KCRW website,
www.kcrw.com. We're looking forward to it. We
wanted to bring Nic Harcourt a pumpkin but we
left it at home and, in retrospect, coming without
one will make us look less like a bunch of
obsequious bootlicks. Still: wish we would've
remembered. This clump of crab grass I pulled out
of a crack in the gas station asphault has far less
Now, I must help Dave naviagate through the
bovine stank pit that is Central California. Check
out the show Friday morning if you aren't doing
anything---which, considering you're reading this
here, you probably aren't. Ha. I caught you.
* Shermans: I thank you for the gift of gummis.
We thank you. My dentist thanks you.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
So, why wake up early? I would say I need the money, but regular readers will remember that I'm planning on coming into roughly 41 million dollars this evening, so that excuse is out. Some bizarre sense of obligation, perhaps? The same sense of obligation that requires I wake up at 7:30 only to spend my first half hour writing this blog, the next half hour hanging out in the kitchen, and the rest of the day hiding in my desk fort, eating fake cheese cracker snack'ems? That's probably it. Either that or I've developed a masochistic streak, which, if so, I promise to not take to its logical end (read: crotch-less leather chaps and a dog collar. Well, actually: let me think about the chaps). At any rate, I'm here. I'm working. Or will be in a couple paragraphs. Let's not nit pick, shall we?
I've learned from experience that the day before you leave for tour, or any big trip for that matter, has to be a good one. Your room has to be clean so you don't return to vaguely reeking filth; you have to have enough wine to get purple teeth but not enough to wake up with a headache; you have to eat food you're sure you're going to miss a week from now when you're in Ohio deciding between Subway, Bojangles, and a non-political hungerstrike.
Yesterday was, then, by the above criteria, a resounding success. I ate dim sum and pasta; the room is clean; I split a bottle of wine with my girlfriend; I carved a jackolantern. Even tried to see a show for free at Amoeba, but Badly Drawn Boy was, well, kind of boring. I have that one album with some bastardization of the word wildebeasts in the title that's really rather good, but the show we saw yesterday was something you'd expect to see at a Thursday night coffee shop while complaining about powdered cocoa. It was free though, so, no real complaints. I'm sure when it's dark and there are drums and booze, they're way better. And it got me into Amoeba, which means I have new music for the road: we're all winners here, I swears.
Tonight: the Warfield. Tomorrow: the beginning of a 6000 mile tour. Gilligan, you'll remember, had a three hour tour. Gilligan was a bitch.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
See, my thought is this: most people just buy a lotto ticket on a whim or out of the same obligatory gambling instinct that makes people go to the dog track.* Me? I only buy one when it's a sure thing. And this, ladies and gentleman, is a sure thing. In fact, I need to buy it now, for fear that I forget to capitalize on my foolproof plan to become an accidental tycoon.
"Hey, buddy. How can I help you?"
"I need a lotto ticket. I'm planning on winning."
"You sure about that buddy?"
"Deadly sure...better make it two tickets."
"Ok, buddy. Good luck."
But see, I don't need luck. Luck is for saps. I'm making reservations for a lobster dinner. I'm calling Wesley Snipes and letting him know "Simon Phoenix, I got you covered." I'm bidding on houses on eBay. This can't turn out badly. After all, I let the lotto robot choose my numbers and if I've learned anything from watching 2001 and The Terminator it's this: Always trust the robot.
While I wait for my innevitable windfall, I thought I'd make a brief announcement. Tomorrow night, we're playing an SF Weekly shindig at the Warfield. A few things worth mentioning here: 1) SF Weekly had more GAP ads this week than articles. It's daunting, but, worth mentioning if only for the sheer bredth of celebrities involved: Mary J. Blige, Spielberg, that speed-skating guy who, for no real, discernable reason, is naked with a GAP headband on. At least they're all alive. Kudos for that. 2) We play early. In fact, we play first. This means, roughly, right when doors open. Foolishly, we'd originally planned on being in Salt Lake City the next evening before realizing the Autobahn was in Germany, so we asked to play early. Silly Birdmonster. We're on at 8. So if you're coming, come early. Awards will be given to people who are not us. I will buy them with the $41 million I'm due to inheret around dinnertime tomorrow. Should be fun.
* If you've never been to the dog track, it's basically the height of degenerate gambling sadness. Ill-fed canines chasing a surprisingly loud roborabbit while shower-phobic guys in trenchcoats half-heartedly scream "bitch" then rip their tickets in half. Fun for the whole family, really. Take the kids.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Of course, there are marked improvements this time. For starters, we have a van capable of ascending hills at over fifteen miles per hour. That's a biggie. Plus, this van has a crappy little TV in the back, which means hours of "Freddie's Dead," "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid," and, maybe, if we're lucky, a good movie. We have a new song too, which we may or may not play, but we can talk about playing it a lot, which will be kind of like playing it in the first place. Or not.
Another nice part of this tour is that our first stop is Los Angeles (obviously on the way to New York from San Francisco. Thanks public schooling). L.A. as a town isn't what I'm excited about----although once I saw Ethan Embry on the street; soooo dreamy----it's that we get to go into KCRW and play Morning Becomes Eclectic. Almost makes me feel legitimate, you know. I should wear a monocle to enhance the feeling. Nothing makes me feel more legitimate than a monocle. Not even a cape.
Anyway (I don't know what that was all about either, just bear with me: it's Monday and my coffee is half empty---definately not half full): it's going to be fun, if only to hear Nic Harcourt say Birdmonster a half dozen times. Honestly, I can't think of anyone with a more pleasing voice, besides maybe Rod Roddy, who's dead, so he doesn't count. Although if I could get Zombie Rod Roddy to say "Birdmonster: cooooooome on down," I'd die a happy man. Presumably at the hands of Zombie Rod Roddy, come to think of it.
But we've still got three days. Three days to do laundry, scrape together November rent, and watch the Departed again. Three days to pack up, go back on sabbatical from the office, and say yet another set of goodbyes. Here we go again.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Friday, October 13, 2006
In which we are constantly weirded out, frightened, and finally blown away on an otherwise normal weekday
To be specific, his forehead. Right above his eye. Now, here's the thing: when you haven't seen someone in a half dozen years, it's hard to just come right out and ask "So, did that thing hurt?" You've got to be polite, make small talk, find out that the man is doing well, is back in school, is visiting family. But all you're thinking is: Tattoo. Forehead. I mean, Mike Tyson has a tattoo on his forehead. That's not exactly prestigious company.
But we chatted. We reminisced. I spent three minutes avoiding his forehead. He went his merry way and Zach & I went ours. We practiced, loudly. We got tired. I went to see the National.
But it was as if Forehead opened up some rip in the space-time continuum. Everything was suddenly and aggressively weird. I ran into Brett (who goes on tour with DDay & us from time to time & who knew Forehead back six years ago & who I'd already called to tell the above story & now, strangely was next to me in line at the Great American Music Hall). Brett told me of his cab ride there wherein the cabbie played his own personal recordings, which were apparently jazzy little ditties about his aunt growing a mustache after testoterone treatments. We were accosted by a gravel-voiced bum who told us white women saved his life. Uneasy stares were exchanged. Someone walked up to me and asked if I wouldn't mind lighting their cigarette. An odd request, I thought. Oh wait, I realized, he's only got one arm. We hurried inside.
And thank God for the National. They were normal. Which is to say, as fantastic as normal. To anyone who has never seen the National, take it from me: you need to go. We played with them and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! more than a year ago and I was blown away during soundcheck. Which is saying something. When half the lyrics are "can I get some of the left guitar in my monitor?" and the song is still epic, then, well, you win. I surrender.
Hopefully today will be...well...not normal, per se, but weird in a more pleasant way. Like, say, seeing Lady Godiva riding a unicorn outside my office. Something whimsical. Something without unfortunate tattoos. We'll see how it goes. San Francisco has never been reknowned for normalcy.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
So yes: I call people all day long. Often, my end of the conversation goes something like this: "Right...Yes...I'm sorry sir...I understand why you're upset, sir, bu....uh-huh...no sir...you want me to stick what where?" and then we hang up and I do it again, this time with a woman from Nebraska who I'm hoping won't pick up her phone, but of course does.
This morning I called an old guy in North Carolina who was surprisingly unaware of what the internet was. He called it "the internets." It was adorable. But it got me thinking about how it was going to be when I'm old and the whole world seems like one fairly depressing, pointless Sci-Fi book I should've never started reading. In times like those I hope my fingers still work because, well, the banjo never changes. And naturally, I'm looking forward to perplexing whippersnaps with my cuddly ignorance.
The point of this story (if indeed, there is one) is that I was stuck trying to explain what the internet was. I doubt I succeeded. Hell, I don't really know how a radio works. Once it's more complicated than a hammer, I'm lost. But you don't need to understand something to love it. Ask anyone who purports to enjoy "Finnegans Wake" and they'll tell you the same thing. Just don't ask me. I made it to page six and I enjoyed none of it.*
In honor of the internets, I decided to throw out a couple links for your perusal and, hopefully, enjoyment. Your boss hates me. Carry on:
- Less than a month ago, we visited KEXP in Seattle, played some music, ate some frankfurters, and watched Street Fighter the Movie in our van. I highly recommend all three. Here's a recording of our performance. Here's way too much information about hot dogs. Here's to Raul Julia.
- As you know, I enjoy Gasoline Hobo. This is a week old now, but I love it.
- Bored yesterday, Jax, an old friend from L.A. as well as one of those blog-people (you know the type....oh wait) were arguing about bringing sexy back. So we wrote a point/ counterpoint thing about it. Basically, another place for pseudo-coherent rambling. Hooray! Enjoy.
- Oh yeah. And we have a temporary banner since our old one was eaten by the internets. I feel weird looking at it. I miss my beard.
* Except the author photo. Three cheers for eyepatches.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Today, it's all about learning. And the Learning Annex. And Learning from the Learning Annex. Something like that.
"How much would you like to withdraw?"
"Insufficient Funds. Would you like to do anything else?"
"I hate your face."
I learned yesterday that budgetting is not my strong suit. I should have been bringing Kraft singles and Wonderbread to work. I should have enjoyed free office coffee with that weird oil slick effect that Coffeemate gives any liquid. I shouldn't have gone to those shows or bought those drinks or that Faberge Egg. But I did. I ate Dim Sum instead of grilled cheese, I bought coffee that didn't taste like a burnt tire, I purchased a bejewel egg owned by Tsar Nicolas.
So I figure, maybe I should sign up for a Learning Annex class. I'm sure that someone in the world of adult education can clue me in on ways to solve my monetary woes. I went to their website, I picked up their brochures, I browsed until I could browse no more. I signed up for "Gyrate Your Way to Health with Hula Hoop Fitness," "Intro to Pole Dancing," and "Communicate with the Other World" before realizing I'd put $160 on my credit card, thus defeating the whole purpose of looking for money management seminars.
The big problem: you have to pay money to learn how not to spend money. Seems, well, counter-intuitive. Aren't I ahead of the game if I just don't go in the first place? See, I done outsmarted the Learning Annex. I'd rather be a hula-hoop thin, pole-dancing, paranormal translator than a goddamn sap.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
But what I've wondered about are those times when they aren't operating on my computer, saving it from binary purgatory. I mean, they've got access to everything, right? Or is this just what my bosses have hoped I would believe? Can they tell I'm writing this blog on a blank MS Office email? Do they know I spent my morning reading about Emperor Norton? And if so, why aren't they blackmailing me? In my private, paranoid universe, IT is like that geriatric fellow behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, only way, way more powerful, hiding out with flying monkeys and witches with bumblebee socks, knowing all my sordid internet-y secrets, stockpiling them like some bizarre (albeit bored) fascist dictator.
This, along with a brand new song, was bouncing around my head this morning. The song, I assure you, is more interesting. What with all the touring, van-sitting, show-playing, and getting back together of frantically scattered home lives, it's been a long time since we walked into the studio and finished something in the sum of four or five hours. It's a great feeling. I think making anything is, ostensibly, enjoyable. Even a really good Matzo Ball Soup. Especially a really good Matzo Ball Soup.
But now comes the moment of truth: when do you play something brand new live for the first time? We've learned from experience that "on a stage where you can't hear the drums or vocals" is a bad time. We've learned from experience that live can be a monkey of a different color and that sometimes, that monkey has rabies and is very, very angry.
You must stay clear of that monkey.
p.s. I am aware of the fact our nifty little image on the top of this here page is now the dreaded red X. I'm trying. Or rather, Zach's trying for me. He's like the IT of Birdmonster. See how I brought that full circle? And you thought I was rambling. Shame on you.
Monday, October 09, 2006
But this weekend, I was not bemoaning the massive bilking machine called Corporate America. No. I was applauding it. Because this weekend, instead of perpetrating horrible product placements in otherwise enjoyable movies---Ahem, Thomas Crowne Affair---Corporate America gave me free Young Frankenstein and free blueglass, both outside, on a weekend where San Francisco dressed up like Santa Barbara and hovered its temperatures in the mid 70s. All was well with the world. Or at least, my world. The world at large is never doing all that well.
When everything you do for an entire weekend is free and outdoors, all you really need is food and drink. Which, when you boil it right down, is all most humans need anyway. (Sometimes though, I kind of wish we were more...reptilian. Like a snake. Then, instead all that bothersome eating three times a day thing, you'd just eat one or two elephantine meals a month and spend the next week layed up on a barcalounger digesting. Added bonus: when driving through Ohio, we'd never have to stop at one of those frightening gas station conglomerations of Burger Kings, S'barros, and Bojangleseses, all sharing one dining room filled with astonishingly pale lardos). So, with sandwiches, chips, and beers that even homeless guys would turn their noses at**, I spent the weekend lounging in the sun, sporting a terribly embarrassing mustache & mutton chop combination that was shaved on the way to full baby face. I looked sort of like the villain in an early 1900s silent movie. Picture me tying some blonde to the train tracks, hair slicked back under a top hat, cackling, looking askance, thoroughly enjoying myself.
And you know what? It's hard to make a weekend that includes free Mel Brooks and free Emmylou Harris any better than it already is. In fact, asking for more would be greed bordering on lunacy. But sometimes, the heavens align. Sometimes, you're in a liquor store, stocking up on the aforementioned swill and snack'ems when you see it. Or rather, your girlfriends sees it. Yes indeed. The mystical, sought-after, hitherto invisible Heidi Gummi Bears. Right there. In front of the milk. I picked up a bag, smelled it through the plastic, shrieked loudly. See, this was the culmination of months of fruitless*** searching, whining both public and private, inferior gummi animals both wormlike and ursine first settled on, then regretted, and finally discarded, three quarters full. And you know what? They were even better than I remembered. Like John Lennon should have said, Happiness is a Warm Gummi.
Why I didn't buy ten or twenty packs is a question I can't answer. For now, it's fine just remembering a grassy hill, a sack of gummis, and Gene Wilder going apescat in black and white. I'm getting all cloudy just thinking about it.
* In fact, I will. Or, just did, depending on when you're reading this.
** I speak, of course, of Busch.
*** Heidi Gummi Bears do in fact contain fruit juice, which makes them even more delicious, and also, come to think of it, makes the asterisked statement a fairly awful pun.
Friday, October 06, 2006
But then, walking past the festive person's desk, something far worse happens. A witch screams. Wait, no. Witches cackle. So let me amend: A witch cackles. A plastic, battery-powered witch the size of the fist I want to crush it with cackles. And then I notice the cotton cobwebs and sequined bat-things and all the other cheesy trappings of suburban Halloween except it's in my office not at old man McGruggin's house. Color me unhappy.
See, I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday of the year, despite the pang of guilt I just received from saying that (thanks Catholic upbringing). I just don't like seeing it sullied by low-rent tackiness. Paper Jackolanterns? Nah. I want to smell all the pumpkinny goodness. Rubber spider? My lame-alarm is positively erupting. That plastic skull? Sorry. Wouldn't even allow it onstage for a kindergarten production of Hamlet (which, come to think of it, really needs to happen. I want hear a six year old say "There has been much throwing about of brains"). Let's not do the Halloween what we did to Christmas.
With this in mind, we need to talk about costumes. We need standards. We need less pirates. And yes, before you point it out, I know I'm taking this far too seriously. True. But like everything I do, it's for the good of the children. I'm like John Walsh and UNICEF with a bad beard, wearing Gymboree short pants.
So: costumes. As far as I can tell, there's really only one rule: no half-assing. If you're going to dress up as a clown, you can't just throw on a rainbow afro and call it a day. You need hammer pants and big shoes and to show up in my illogical nightmares.**
Of course, creativity counts too. I once saw a pair of women who dressed as "Miss Conception" and "Miss Fortune." Miss Conception had a dress that was a diaphram, a hat that was a condom, and shoes that were sponges. Miss Fortune, sadly, I don't remember as well, although she had a purse full of, well, misfortunes. You know, like the ones that come in fortune cookies. But instead of something like "You are well liked by your peers" they'd say "Your pet will die soon." Good cheer all round.
Me? I'm Prince, circa Purple Rain. I got the whole get-up too, frilly shirt and non-intimidating mustache included at no extra charge. And this year, we'll all be dressed up in New York at Piano's for a show. Looking forward to it. But I'll be missing home. I'm just getting used to the alarm clock, daily dim sum, and having all my friends in close proximity. Once more though. Unto the breach. All that.
* A funny thing happened at practice. Not Funny ha-ha (which Dave claims is a terrible movie), but odd. We finished setting up the microphones to record and, somehow, everyone just started playing the same thing. Can't explain it. Almost like we were the US Women's Soccer team, menstruating in unison. In 5 minutes we had a song we'd never even played or mulled over or anything. It's lovely when things come together like that.
** Also, ladies: although part of every guy enjoys "slutty cop" and "slutty nun" and "slutty Amway saleswoman," this falls under the category of half assing it. A bra, hot pants, and a badge is pretty slapdash. It's hot slapdash, sure, but, come on. I know you can do better.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Now then: enough about the weather. That's what people talk about when they have nothing to talk about. It's the classic awkward first date conversation: "So, how 'bout that sunshine?" when he'd rather be saying "So, how 'bout you take off your shirt and/or pants?" We're going to move along. I don't want this to be any more uncomfortable than it already is.
A few random notes today:
- LOST was pretty good last night...ok, who am I kidding? I was giddy during the first twenty minutes. Perhaps it was the wine. Particularly enjoyed the beginning, where all the Others were living in that tropical Levittown and then the plane crashed and then, as we know, island-themed madness ensued. As usual: more weirdness, less answers. As usual: Jack is annoying.
- I just saw a pidgeon with a limp do the Crip Walk. I wish the guy from American Beauty could've been there. Bag in the wind, my ass.
- Apparently, there's a lunatic in Atlanta who wants her child's school to ban all the Harry Potter books under the premise that they "promote the Wiccan religion." Here's the part where we all shake our heads and look dissapointed. I think she also wants to ban Curios George, as he promotes mischief and Clifford the Big Red Dog because he promotes large canine redness. I know: let's just burn all our books and have our kids watch Judge Joe Brown seven hours a day. They'd certainly know a lot about unpaid bills, Devry, and conosolidating their debts into one easy monthly payment. I've sent her an email of undying support.
- There's a show at the Rickshaw you should check out tonight if you're a San Franciscan. The Ex-Boyfriends, our studio neighbors and all around wonderful musicians are playing with Bound Stems from Chicago. And it's Thursday so the weekend starts (unofficially) today. Everyone knows Friday is for aggressive avoidance of anything that remotely resembles work. Might as well do it with an earache and a hangover.
- Lastly, I'd like to give you some erudite political insight. Ignored in this whole Mark Foley debacle is the incontrovertable truth that Dennis Hastert is a scary fat man who looks like a cross between Jabba the Hut, a turtle, and Drew Carey.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Of course, there are silver linings. Regardless of calls to create an all-Simpsons channel, television usually offers three or four reruns a day, which is basically methadone when I'm asking for heroin but it's better than nothing. There's that Myth Busters show we catch on tour all the time which is entertaining, didactic, and always involves something or other getting obliterated loudly. There is ample opportunity to watch our Golden State Warriors crush my dreams of enjoyable hometown basketball every year. And I love Alex Trebeck with all my heart and a large majority of my soul. But beyond that, what is there? I mean, really? Oh wait. I remember. LOST starts tonight.
Yes, yes. I and seven hundred million other obsessive lunatics are salivating for this evening's trip back to the island where no one answers questions or behaves rationally or needs to shave to maintain a thin rugged stubble. Don't you dare tell me you aren't excited. Don't you dare enter my living room unless you are silently handing me a beer and scuttling out again.
Speaking of things I’m unduly overjoyed about, I’d like to mention another: shants. I saw my first pair of shants two years ago in Oakland & hadn’t seen one since. This, I assure you, was a good thing. Shants, which may or may not be the accepted term, are essentially a combination of shorts and pants, with one leg long, the other rather high above the thigh. Yeah. Really. Literally as stupid as the turtleneck wifebeater which I pray does not in fact exist.
So, after twenty four months of shants-free living, there I am, walking to work and…double-take. Triple-take. Cargo camouflage shants. God. We can only hope that it took two years to migrate from Oakland into the overall American fashion scene. It’d be the new millennium equivalent of Hammer-pants. This needs to happen. Not to you, necessarily, but to us. Because there’s nothing funnier than seeing a woman wearing shants. Groucho Marx? Steven Wright? Mel Brooks? All cower before shants. At least the ones that are still alive.
For the record, I’m hoping to see zombie Groucho Marx alongside Audrie Hepburn & Jack Keroauc, right before he finds Zach Braff and Jason Biggs and devours their noggin
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
See, each October in the City, we get this event called Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. I think once it was called Strictly Bluegrass until someone decided to book music made by folks with a majority of their molars. This year, among others, we get Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, and one of the Skuggseses, plus Elvis Costello on Friday night. I will be there for Emmylou because, well, we know how I feel about Emmylou (who, I'm sorry Hellman, has a cooler name than even you. Perhaps you'd think about naming your next daughter Emmylou Hellman? There's simply no topping that, except for Gonz Gonzales, but, really, there's nothing wrong with being second to perfection). If she plays "Red Dirt Girl," I'll become molten putty. Must remember to wear old pants.
The big bonus here: freeness. The whole thing is gratis. I'm sure there's a possibility that water vendors will be onsite, charging Woodstock II prices, but, hey, I didn't spend $300 a ticket to watch Scott Weiland sweat out last night's heroin binge, so I'll pay $4 for a twenty ounce Evian. And, since Hellman & Co. are obvious geniuses, they'll planned the thing for October, the most unseasonably pleasant month on our happy little pennensula.
And I ask you: What weekend couldn't be improved with free bluegrass? Not a one. And that's something you can't say about, say, Bubblegum Pop or Sweedish Gloom Metal or a hundred piece orchestral arrangement of "Do You Like Pina Coladas?" Those things, regardless of their price, would make most casual onlookers go righteously batty. In fact, any permutation of "Do You Like Pina Coladas?" causes me to seriously consider deafening myself with a finely sharpened chop stick. Bluegrass, I think, is just immently loveable. Plus, it comes from Appalacia, which is really only famous for inbreeding and retardation. Embrace their music instead of mocking their low standardized test scores.
Other than that, not much happening in Birdworld. I've settled into work and am moving desks daily like the barely not-expendable employee I am, I've finished reading my most recent book, and I feel like I'm home for real. Finally. The first week back was, well, surreal. At least I had a frozen tomale to greet me. All my produce met a far fuzzier fate.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Many happy returns. Or at least one happy return. The other one is doing alright too. And also: the continuing saga of absent bears
But why focus on the bad? Plenty of delicious things go the way of the gummi dinosaur, plenty quality TV shows go the way of Dinosaurs; good things come and go while Mountain Dew is here to stay. It's the way of the world. I'm accepting it. I'm moving on. I'm talking about Friday.
See, Friday was fantastic. We had the pleasure of playing to a Slim's packed with faces old and new, with two of our favorite bands on the planet, back in a hometown we missed sorely. It was like a family reunion, albeit one that leaves you with tinnitus and a swollen knee. Thanks to everyone that came, said hi, danced, sang, heckled, stabbed, soft-shoed, drank, and anything remotely similar to the aforementioned verbs of enjoyment. Just a complete joy to be back. And thanks to Division Day for soldiering onwards, through broken glasses, transmissions, and, perhaps, spirits, to play one of the best sets I've ever seen them play. Which is truly saying something since I'm one of the world's foremost experts on Division Day. After all, we've done three week-plus tours with them, shows here and there not involved in a greater migratory pattern, own all three of their CDs (including the embarrassing one), and can even sing you the Elliott Smith ditty for which they're named. I know Rohner's blood type (B positive), Seb's shoe size (eight and a half), and the name of Kevin's barber (Blind Joe McGruggin). Two Seconds, also: Bravo. Proud we could be a part of your CD release, even though the printing press you used shat the bed on your font. (That's why we use Pirate's Press. Not only have we never had a problem, but most of them have eyepatches and a degenerative gum disease.) Arial be damned; y'all were great.
It also seems pertinent to divulge the fact that, yes, once again, I've returned to work. A gigantic, expensive van, an illegitimately inflated cell phone bill, and other usurious demands have forced yet another return to the ol' nine to five. But it's not too bad. I'm two hours in and have retained a large portion of my sanity. I sort of forgot what 7:30 in the morning feels like (not so good, by the way), but I can get back into this. And hey, I really don't mind sitting at a computer. I can check email, do this here blog, and---wait. I recall my boss reads this. If so, hey there big guy. Hope you're feeling better. Sorry that WOXY went the way of the gummi dinosaur. We can mourn together, perhaps, over a Lone Star. I'm on hold right now with a client. I swears.
Ah, they, um, they picked up. I better get going. Until shortly.