Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Well, sure. But I still love the "Secret of N.I.H.M."

I'm always conflicted before a long tour. While most of me is overjoyed at the prospect of trundling across America with my three closest friends, playing music nightly, and clogging our arteries with all manner of regional grease, there's that other part that hyperventilates over the loose ends and responsibilities I'm leaving behind. Have I saved enough money for rent? Why hasn't my absentee ballot come? Should I get that fungal bloom behind my ear checked out? These are the important issues.

And so I began the perfunctory week-before-tour last Friday. Uncharacteristically, I'd made a list of to-do's, a two page list filled brim high with errand running, duct tape instrument surgery, van maintenance, and preemptive boozing. And of course, there are contingencies: an old friend inviting me out for a going away lunch, for example. Or a sudden onset of Stephen King addiction. Or a Kurt Russell movie on T.V. Or, say, a bunch of rats in your kitchen.

That last one can really ruin your plans.

It started on Sunday. Which is to say, we noticed it on Sunday. A gnawed apple behind the oven, the scuttling of vermin feet, tiny turds on the hardwood floor. We responded with violent alacrity: cleared the counter of produce, cleaned the kitchen with Michael-Jackson-strength bleach, purchased rat traps. We caught one instantaneously and, after allowing ourselves the hallucination that maybe we only had a rat, a second one came and made our problem plural.


Now, if you've been in a similar situation, you're familiar with the emotions that come with rat/mouse/roach/guy-who-won't-get-off-the-effing-couch infestation: a sense of invasion, anger, and straight ickiness. Or, if you're of a more philosophical bent, perhaps a knowledge of your own fragile mortality. To put it another way: you never know when a spring-loaded trap is going to fly down and crush your brains.

However you feel about it, it's unpleasant. For us four Birdmonsters though, it's a prelude to what we can expect out of our motels this tour. No. That's not fair. It's what we can expect out of non-chain-motels. Because, while being a San Franciscan means you're supposed to hate chain stores because they gut the community, displace small businesses, and take money out of neighborhoods, touring has proven to me the overall greatness of chain motels. The gecko we found under the covers in Florida? Not a chain. The possible-blood-stain on the bathroom door in Oregon? Not a chain. The decapitated hooker under the bed? You get the idea.

But it does, in it's own weird way, highlight what touring is about. If I was at home, I'd be engaged in an epic battle of wills with a legions of vermin, simultaneously grossed out and bonding with my roommates over small triumphs like squished rat heads. Instead, I'll be in a new town every night, bonding with my bandmates over small triumphs like making it to soundcheck on time and selling the last XXL yellow Birdmonster shirt. What I'm saying is that the whole affairs reminded me how much different bar/van/hotel life really is that normal life. The things you deal with at home, even the mundane ones like making your bed or going grocery shopping, simply do not exist on the road, replaced instead with stripping your bed of the herpes-infected comforter and deciding which fast food you'll be choking down at this particular rest stop. It's not better or worse, per se. Just different. And, of course, incredibly fun.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get my Pied Piper on.


mrs. brisby said...

sadly, the sound of the birdvan roaring to life did NOT inspire the rats to simultaneously throw down their cheese and become groupies. the snap trap claimed another victim last night - this time in the stairwell. at least they're in retreat...or massing an army. hard to tell.

JaniceO said...

well, who'd have thought reading about rat infestations and cheap non-chain motels would be so hilarious?? just for fun some years ago I did a road trip in my Mustang from SJ to Crater Lake in Oregon and back to SJ, and the really cheap motel I stayed in before driving the final leg of the trip home was in Laytonville - and only as a last resort (ha, ha) because I was too tired to keep driving and it was maybe 2AM already. And there was nothing amusing at all about that experience.. thankfully to date that's been the only "worst place" I've ever stayed. Didn't sleep very well; kinda hard to sleep when you're trying to minimize the amount of body surface area in contact with the bed.