In which Birdmonster falls in love with Minneapolis for the third time, Mason Proper for the first, and violates child labor laws for the...uh...only time ever. We swear.
I have a hatred of buffets which can be best described as "irrational." I figure, if I'm going to a restaurant, I'd like my food cooked fresh, or, at the very least, not sitting in a vat of grease getting fondled by some filthy guy in overalls who just sneezed into his palm. And I know that when you're eating at truck stops that same guy could easily be in the kitchen, ashing his Pall Mall into your meatloaf, but, you know: out of sight, out of mind. I'm comfortable being lied to. Just make sure I can't see into the kitchen.
On the flip side, there's almost nothing better than eating at a greasy spoon with a chef and a buffet. (And yes, we're both aware I'm using the term "chef" rather liberally. Just bear with me). The fun part of this scenario is that you can scope out the buffet from a safe distance; it becomes comedic. Since you don't have to eat the mashed peas in runny sauce, you get to laugh at it. When you get right down to it, a truck stop buffet is at least ten times funnier than Rob Schneider---of course, so is getting eye cancer. But you get the idea.
So, if it's not obvious, I always feel a disconnect with anyone who would choose the pre-cooked, half-warm, yesterday's leftovers option. But the place we ate at yesterday, somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin, was other-wordly. Obese children in sweat pants and NRA Summer Camp T-shirt with massive grease stains on the belly eating giblets? They were there. A guy in head-to-toe camouflage with spiderweb neck tattoos? Two of 'em. Shambling geezer in a jean tuxedo who couldn't even be troubled with a plate and who, in a feat of slovenly originality, smashed two pieces of plastinated pizza together and created the pizza sandwich? You know it. You don't have to leave America to get culture shock.
That short trip to the restaurant equivalent of a Siberian gulag stands in sharp contrast to the days before in Minneapolis/St. Paul. In fact, there's not a single bad thing I can say about that city and, well, I can get a little snarky (see last three paragraphs). Everytime we end up there, I love it a little more. This trip involved a too-early stop over at MPR (the Current, to be precise), where we played a three song, rather mellow acoustic set for a DJ who we'd met originally at the once-defunct WOXY station in Cincinnatti. We loved the way they turned out and, as per usual, will share them when they become available via the internet, which, we hope, will be in the next couple days. We brought with us Steven, the son of the couple we were staying with, who acted as our guide and manager, and yeah, he's only eleven, but if he wasn't stuck in grammar school, we'd take him on tour to break legs, haggle contracts, and lay down the goon-hand. That night, we played a gorgeous club in Minneapolis called the Varsity which looked sort of like the opium den in Dorian Gray, except with disco balls, which, sadly, were unavailable in the early 1900s. Notably, the band Belles of Skin City played before us and rocked part if not all of my face off. Our best to them.
Minneapolis was also the front bookend of an eight shows in eight days sprint, unless you count radio stuff, which would actually make it more like ten in eight days. If you need me on day nine, I'll be in the back seat sucking on a pacifier. Anyway, we followed Minnesota with the aforementioned Wisconsonian buffet non-experience and, far more importantly, Chicago. I've spent more in the Windy City than any other place I've never actually lived in, owing to having a set of grandfolks there and an extended family that numbers in the tens of thousands. Many childhood afternoons of cheek-pinches from fifth great aunts were had. Many of those aunt's names were forgotten. Hopefully none of them know how to use the internet. If so, sorry...Lucille.
Chicago, as usual, was wonderful. It's one of those places where we look forward to going, where we're always surrounded by lovely people, and where we inevitably take advantage of the fact bars don't close till three a.m., sometimes five. I won't bore you with details or pointless name-dropping, but: wheeee!
We also met Mason Proper, who we'll be touring with for the next week-ish, and again: wheee! We've got the same friends, the same enemies. Plus, I should mention they rock really hard. Not hard rock, really, so get that mental image of Bon Jovi out of your head; they just bounce around and play really good music. I stood in the front row starry-eyed during their entire set and, almost indubitably, will be doing so again tonight.
Man. I'm full of good cheer today. I'm like that guy at a wedding who has three glasses of champagne too many and hugs everyone thirty times and professes love for people he's never even met before he ends up praying over a toilet bowl. Onwards, to Convington Kentucky. And a big happy birthday to Dave. All together now: "Happy Birthday, Dave." Until soon.