Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In which Birdmonster gets all fashionable, smiles at New Orleans, and finally finishes "The Gunslinger," thus giving me my life back

Some people are Abercrombie folks; others prefer H&M; still others opt for Nordstrom's or Salvation Army or, God forbid, Big Dogs. We've all got our own personal style, in other words, from the hipster who looks like she walked out a Pat Benetar video to the one-eyed cowboy with a taste for Wranglers and Carhart. But see, Fashion is fickle. What's cool now will be dreadfully lame in a month. That, when added to the simple fact of my overwhelming poorness, keeps me steered clear of trends like Crocs or those tribal earrings that are leaving an entire generation with saggy lobes their children will laugh at. So, call it "classy" or "chickenshit," I've tended to opt for the American Uniform: jeans, t-shirt, and some ratty sneakers. It's simple, it's easy, and, hell, we get free shirts at radio stations and via merch trades. What I'm saying is I don't really buy clothes anymore. I simply don't need to.

Unless I'm at The Thing.

On the surface, The Thing is an impressive gas station on the 10, a gas station which boasts advertisements for two hundred miles in both directions, billboards which would surely infuriate Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang but which fill me with childlike joy and anticipation. The Thing, longtime readers might remember, is the first place our new van made it to after Patrick Stewart, our erstwhile lemon, died on the way to Phoenix. It's a magical place where you can pay 75 cents to see "The Thing" (a thing that doesn't even warrant capitalization, sadly) and spend much more on useless bric a brac to burden your friends and relatives with. Merry Christmas Dad: I got you a plastic die-cast gila monster. Thanks for sending me to college.

But the Thing is also all about Fashion. Last time around I got a shirt with glitter on it and what I thought was a unicorn. Upon closer inspection, it had no horn, which made it what I believe zoologists call a "horse." This time? Way more super awesome. It's a shirt with a giant tiger jumping at you, ready to tear your face off. But wait! If you turn around you see the tiger's ass and tail. Eat my shit Versace.

By the time we made it to Arizona, we were in the Tour Zone. Which is to say: used to spending eight hours sedentary in a van reading the Gunslinger (I've finished now, by the by), used to eating McDonald's at the last possible moment, used to stumbling out into a different climate each time we stop, used to playing music every evening. That first week is always a bit surreal---it takes a while for it to sink in that you're actually going to spend the next month and a half rolling across America. Part of me never believes it. By now, that part of me is dead. I left him in Pennsylvania so he could vote in a swing state. And also so he could hang out by the Rocky statue. I know what does me.

What I'm saying is that the shows themselves have all been, well, they've all been good. Not to toot our own horn, but by the time everyone's mentally settled into the aforesaid Tour Zone, we simply play better*. It's not just us, either. Every band we've ever played with gets better playing every night, simply by the serendipity of enjoyable repetition. It's like a good basketball team: you can throw Karl Malone and Gary Payton or the Lakers but without the time to gel, they end up losing to the Pistons. Just writing that makes me happy. And not simply because 'Sheed is involved, though, admittedly, that's at least 51% of the thing.

Last we chatted, we were just rolling into New Orleans and I was hoping that it resembled the vacation I took there not the ill-fated, mildewy hotel, aftermath of Katrina NOLA we visited as a band. And you know what? It was some place in between. Closer, certainly, to the lively and bizarre New Orleans of 2004 I vaguely remembered through a brandy milk punch induced haze. We played the House of Blues, which is a nice enough room and a venue kind enough to dole out meal tickets to the bands playing, but, really, do you want to be eating out a House of Blues in New Fucking Orleans? I don't. I want my fresh oysters, my proper gumbo. Eating at a House of Blues in New Orleans is like playing nickel slots at the Bellagio: you can do it, sure, but don't expect me not to heckle you.

In a spasm of indefatigable genius, we decided to go from the west to the east to the west to the east to the west coast this tour. Brilliant, I'm aware, but the refreshing postscript of this plan was that we were able to come home to California smack dab in the middle of the thing. I wrote that story, but really, we're already quite up there in paragraphs. Tomorrow, then. We're covering the entirety of North Dakota then, so I should have a minute or, say, seven hundred.

* Toot, toot.

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