Sunday, November 09, 2008

And now for something completely different. Or, actually, not that different. But it's in a different place, so there's that

Touring always renews our faith in humanity. We're essentially a band of roving hobos (and, really, all hobos are roving hobos. I've learned that there are three brands of homeless people: bums, tramps, and hobos. Bums don't travel and refuse to work (see: San Francisco, Market Street). Tramps travel but also refuse to work. They are not to be confused with traveling college student. Then there are bums: they travel and work. Mostly, I think, they paint fences. That's what I've been led to believe).

Where was I? Hobos. Faith in humanity. Right. We go to towns, we've got no place to stay, we've got no food to eat. Granted, we have money, which I understand can be exchanged for these things, but you get the idea. We simply arrive.

But see, sometimes, people take care of us. They feed us, they put us up, they clothe us in the soft furs of their livestock. One of these people is a man named Kevin. He has a blog called So Much Silence. He also has a lovable but decidedly psychopathic bulldog named Oliver that David often threatens to abscond with.

A while back, he was nice enough to ask me to scribble something for him. And guess what? I done did it. It's about music and I think you'll like it.

Check it out.

Friday, November 07, 2008

In which Birdmonster applauds America, shames California, and goes to Hooters. Everybody wins

Well done, America. A few months ago, you had me worried. Despite the selection of an aggressively ignorant rube as his running mate, Jowls McCain was leading in many major polls and I left for tour fearing unmitigated badness. However, our economy, a leaning Jenga tower when we departed, kept swaying, swayed further, and, while it didn't quite topple, the financial atmosphere last week felt like that Jenga tower but after somebody let a toddler high on Vault Cola and Pixie Stix into the room. Which is to say: precarious.

In the end, some say that Obama was elected because of this uneasy situation. We could argue whether that's true. Personally, I could give a shit; I'm just proud of us.

Of course, it's good to remember that not everyone feels this way. Despite what I thought was a rousing, somber, optimistic speech, the first non-Birdmonster, non-family member analysis I heard was from an obese man filling the candy machines at a rest stop in Pennsylvania. He said to his cohort, "You know how much I hate that guy," barely able to keep the anger from quavering his voice, and then postulated on how long Obama would remain alive. It made me sad. Then I reminded myself he was morbidly overweight and his job was putting Butterfingers in a coin-op vending device in the middle of Amish country and somehow felt happier. Point being: it's good to remind yourself of that. 56 million people disagree with me at this moment and many of them are handling more important things than year old Zagnut bars. But we all get on; we live together, eat in the same restaurants, talk at the same bus stops, and spend our money on each other's products. It's how the whole thing works. I lived in Bush's America for nearly a decade and made it out alive. Now it's Baby Ruth's turn.

What I'm not proud of is California. We voted for Prop Eight. I mean, really? What are we thinking here? It's like walking out the Red Lobster bathroom with the ass-flap of your overalls unbuttoned: it's embarrassing. In the words of Mark Jackson, NBA commentator extraordinaire: Come on, California. You're better than that.

I truly don't understand. I've tried. I've listened to the arguments for denying gay folks the right to marry. One is that gay marriage violates some deeply held religious tenet. Well, fine. But we separate church and state here. Nobody's not saying gays have to be married in your church. Your church is your deal: eat communion, wear a yarmulke, do the Cabbage Patch. But in America it's supposed to be about equal rights, right?

Then there are those who say, hey, gays can have "civil unions." We must protect the sanctity of marriage, meaning marriage as defined as a union between a man and a woman. On which I call "bullshit." This is just another way of saying "A rose by any other name is still a rose." Which is also bullshit. A rose by any other name isn't a rose anymore, it's a rose by another name. I'm confusing myself, but bear with me. Let's say I called someone's religion a "cult" or a "superstition." That's done with intent and with purpose, that purpose being to ridicule the thing; to set it apart; to demean it. And while the religion remains as true and vital to the practitioner of it, to those calling it a "superstition," sooner or later it becomes something lower, something more akin to throwing spilt salt over your shoulder than to the path of spiritual enlightenment. That's how words work.

So shame on you California. We actually voted to take away people's rights. That's pathetic. The Supreme Court will rebuke us in the next generation.

Meanwhile, in a less political vein, I have two things making me happy today. One is that on the compass in the van, there's a "W." That's right. We're going home. I couldn't be happier about that. My bed, my house, whatever it is I call my shabby, duct-taped semblance of a life back home is rushing towards us at a brisk 67 mph. I can't wait. And also, I can't afford it. I look forward to demeaning myself in some hilarious way for money during the Christmas season. Maybe I'll get a job at Baby GAP.

The other thing making me happy? We went to Hooters. There were hooters. And chicken sandwiches. And Allen Iverson on the Pistons. It was the confluence of many wonders. I'd never been to a Hooters before and, first off, was surprised by the clientele. I expected the five or six tables of single, fugly looking dudes with wing sauce on their bibs, but what I didn't expect were the families: Mom, Dad, and their two daughters; an elderly couple sharing curly fries, a dad with six elementary aged boys in tow. I think that last dad was planning on taking those kids to a cock fight afterwards.

Anyway, a bizarrely unbizarre experience. If that means anything.

A few band related shenanigans before I go. First off: we had a ball in Ohio at Case Western, thanks in no small part to our showmates, Ha Ha Tonka. They're incredibly enjoyable, fun Ozark-natives who do four-part harmonies and are as lovably country as that sounds. But not "walking out the Red Lobster bathroom with the ass-flap of your overalls unbuttoned" country. I needed to clear that up. Past that, we've got a show in Oklahoma City tomorrow, had a radio thing in Missouri today (it went smashingly and we'll share when we get the tapes), and another radio thing in New Mexico a few days from now and...well...that's it. Then that "W" on the compass means something: not just going home but being home. I can't quite believe that yet. I don't think I will until I'm on the couch, drinking a Tecate, looking for a job as a Christmas tree cutter-downer. For now: roll on Zach. Drive.

Monday, November 03, 2008

In which Birdmonster half-asses Halloween, full-asses New York City, and feels a faint sense of nostalgia and foreboding

Look: you're nervous. Me too. Tomorrow, 'Merica chooses between Jowls McCain and Ears Obama. I'll be out here on the East Coast, absentee ballot safely mailed, three hours ahead of my home state and the usual experience of going to sleep thinking a Democrat won and waking up to apologizing newsmen and a fistful of Zoloft. I will not be sleeping well.

Part of me simply wants to avoid the television all together---the silly race to call states first, the color-coded, kindergarten-easy way they analyze the election, the panels of eighteen well-groomed say-nothings yammering at ever increasing volumes: it's tiresome, really. But I know I'll watch. There's no way I don't. I'll be on Pete's parents' couch with a bottle of Rossi, slowly drinking my way to a proud and inclusive optimism or a dejected, ethereal sadness. I'm sure many of you will be there with me. Though not on the couch in Pete's folk's house. It only seats three.

Since every iota of mass media, individual conversation, and, yes, even your bowel movement (I saw Palin in mine this morning) will be revolving around the upcoming election, let's give ourselves a break. I know our exploits are far less important but, you know, in a way, it's good to be a bit frivolous in times like these; you can only vote once and, no matter how much TV you watch, only one of those guys is winning. Take deep breath. Watch a crappy movie. Read the next few paragraphs. I promise very little will have changed by the time you're done.


Last we spoke, we had been rejected by Canada and I had mistaken John Goodman in King Ralph for John Candy in Canadian Bacon. I hope you can forgive me.

We spent our two forced days off like we spend most of our time: sitting in a van that, despite our best efforts, is smelling more like a junior high locker room daily. We made it to Boston on time and didn't get rejected at the "Are You Wearing Yankee Apparel?" checkpoint and, like Lee Greenwood, felt proud to be an American. After all, there's nothing like spiteful rejection to make you love what you've got.

And here's the thing about Boston: they drive worse than New Yorkers. Pete brought this to my attention and, after an afternoon of getting cut-off by Celtic-bumper-stickered pick-ups and an evening of people refusing to wait in toll lines because they're better people than us, I thoroughly agree. It's like this: in New York, everyone's so aggressive that they expect you to be aggressive too so, deep down inside, they've got their guard up, their palm poised anxiously above the horn. In Boston, everyone drives with a sense of entitlement. They cut you off but they don't expect you to do the same. Of course, both Boston and New York pale in comparison to LA, where driving is not a priority when you're behind the wheel. I've seen people text messaging with one hand while mascara-ing with the other. I wish that was a joke.

We played Boston on Halloween and I bought my costume a good three hours before the show in a Goodwill thrift store that was resembled something out of Los Angeles in late April of 1992. For those who are curious, I asked the Rumble Strips what Halloween is like in England. They said that, basically, it's celebrated but not with the tenacity and vigor it is out here in the States. Furthermore, in Britain the emphasis is on being positively creepy while out here it's just on dressing up. Which is to say, in America, you could dress up like Elton John or a koala or a hot dog, whereas in the U.K., you'd have to be Bleeding-Out-The-Eyes Elton John or a koala with rabies or a hot dog.

At any rate, my costume sucked. I found some nurse scrub pants and a muumuu with pelicans on it and sort of looked like a skinny Dr. Moreau. It was embarrassing. The show was good as Boston shows tend to be and I gave my muumuu to an old friend who never really wanted it in the first place.

Then: New York. What a phenomenal place to end our stint with the Strips. They're still there, in fact, recording their second album beginning today. But New York was a blast. We saw some old friends, family, and, apparently, Jimmy Fallon. We played a fine set at a gorgeous venue. We ate pizza while a probably-homeless man regaled us with Beastie Boys verses. It was one of those days that was fabulous but no fun to write about since, well, who wants to hear a guy revel in his joy? Stories of Canadian-infused suffering are far funnier. Even I know that.

So, before I go, a few important things:

First, to the Rumble Strips: Godspeed, boys. You are a ridiculously tight, completely enjoyable live band. We loved our near-month with you and will be salivating while you record the second disc. Strangely, we've heard most of the songs already, which is an experience afforded to very few people. Thanks for dragging us along through America with y'all.

Second, to our van: thanks for not exploding. Three thousand miles to go, big guy. I know you've got it in you.

Third, to our friends, girlfriends, and family back home: we miss you immensely and smell terribly. Take us back in a week or two, please.

Lastly, we're heading back across the US of A starting National Election Hangover Day. We'll post the days on our website (though I do know the next thing is Cleveland on the 5th at Case Western University) and hope to see anyone we missed on the way out. And back. And out again. We really have to route these things better.