Woke up something early—7:45 maybe? Ryan is awake, brewing what smells like some excep-tionally strong coffee. Their long hang is flowing freely in the morning sun. A big smile on their face and some light mellow Sunday music is flowing from the wi-fi. Susan the dog is out in the yard doing her business. A beautiful basset hound with some years on her, she still gets some dog joy by chasing after the gophers in the yards.
Load the whip up and bounce on out. Long Drive to St. Louis, but it’s manageable; there was talk of visiting The City Museum before load-in. All my years living in the midwest, I never went; from a distance Chicago doesn’t look that far from St. Louis, but really it’s like six hours. I know it looks like four, but it’s really six. No matter how you slice it, and really if you’re gonna drive six hours somewhere, there’s Minneapolis at your disposal, or Nashville if you’re a Leadfoot Lucy behind the wheel. But St. Louis does have all that beautiful red brick, which is such a choice look. I’ve never had a chance to get deep on St. Louis. Honestly it’s usually the off broadway and then crash out in the neighborhood. That one record store that isn’t there no more; used to have a basement with some real rough trade going on. Played a set in that room once. I think they hated us.
I tuck into the back and get into my book; I am determined to read this stupid thing. Okay, not stupid, just daunting. Every sentence on every page is a rich nugget of history, a thread in the webbing of a complicated decade, the side the baby boomers don’t romanticize as much as they do say, Woodstock. But I also fall asleep when I’m cradled by the movement of the whip, it’s rocking and swaying on a windy day, or the endless, warm vibration of the wheels on the road. So, trying to digest all this information, up against the cradle of comfort, comfort wins. Konked out, book in hand or lap, looking like an idiot. Then a photo is taken of me. Then I’m Marissa’s muse. “My new art project, ‘Sleeping In Nixonland.’”
Family members Dawn (ex-Bad Canoes) and Megan (Marissa’s wife) are traveling across the country right now, so the plan is a sleepover/shindig tonight. They got us a room with multiple giant beds and a nice shower. Stoked. I love washing this fleshbag that I’ve hated for years and years. If I could shower everyday, if I could be in water somehow everyday I’d be so so happy. My old boss has a giant clawfoot tub, and honestly people, life goals. It’d be nice to have the comfort of living with a long clawfoot tub—one that can fit this long fleshbag that I’ve hated for years and years. It’s a hell of a carbon footprint, a bath. Really though, at this time in my life, I’d like to just live in a place without all my stuff scattered two thousand miles away. At this point in my life, I’m torn between sinking the last of my savings into buying an ice cream truck and spill-ing soft serve around the bay, or go into birth work, helping queer families welcome newborns into their world. I absolutely adore babies and children, but have no interest in having my own. Thats one of the many reasons I moved; more options for that kind of work. I moved out of love. I moved to save my brain. I moved to avoid psychic death. I moved to see what it felt like. I have no answers, but I do indeed miss so much about Chicago. So much that I would want to slice and box and send west, but know it can’t happen because Chicago’s culture is a confit. It cooks in its own juices. To take it out of Chicago loses all of its charms and its tenacity.
That’s the midwest. St. Louis, Madison, Lawrence, Bloomington, Chicago—all drops of unique beauty over the flat lands. But here we are—in the red bricks. Pat Buchanan is from here. So Is Luther Thomas. Guess which one I’m more fond of. Less than 22 miles from the venue, Marissa starts gambling: the engine light is on, the advisor says “18 miles of gas left in the tank,” and we aren’t stopping until we get to the venue. Just fine, there’s a gas station next door. Then she took a wrong turn.
In the ‘90s, my best friend Bill and I drove two and half hours on a lark. We were finishing up our crummy retail jobs in our hometown of Plattsburgh, NY. It was late July, and a bunch of friends drove down to Saratoga Springs to see the Allman Brothers perform. This being Plattsburgh and us still being underage, we had nothing to do other than a) get high in the woods b) sit in an Ihop and talk about movies or music or whatever drama our social circle of weirdos were on c) drive to Saratoga Springs and maybe sneak into this show, if it’s even still happening. I loved riding in Bills car. I didn’t have a drivers license, and within our group it was often a given that I rode shotgun. I just loved that boy so much and he loved me, and those were our positions.
We got to the shed just as the gates closed up. No dice. I think we found a little pathway into the adjacent park and we strolled through that—lights in the distance weaving around and behind trees. I’m certain we got spooked and we bailed. This is the part where I—a dyed in the wool washed person—remind you that this was before cell phones were easily accessible. This was also before every gas station off the highway was 24 hours. Driving back, Bill started getting drowsy eyed. He let out a gutteral yelp, took his shirt off, “SOWLEY turn the music up.” He rolled all the windows down, lit a camel, and demanded I throw water at his face. All to the tune of Li-onel Richie’s dancing on the ceiling. Then the gas light came on.
“We got it…this exit has gas.” Pull off, and closed. “Okay next one.” Pull off and closed. We’re burning off our supply in a feeble attempt to refill, each turn taking away a chance at survival. “Fuck it, I know where the 24 hour one is. We’ll make it.” True gambling: not knowing just how much is left, and fighting sleep to get to the oasis. We made it somehow, hook or by crook, but when I took the cap off the gas, all that came out was a hissing of gas. Down to the fumes.
This is what I thought about while Marissa gambled. These “lifers” burning the fumes because of one wrong turn and pushing the whip to the venue. Okay, dramatic, but we made it out okay. Pulled off into a gas station where I found a couple bottles of Clearly Canadian. Another 90s flashback, welcomed back into the world on the wave of the current fizz/bubbly craze. One sip off the black cherry and I’m transported to my friend Ann’s bedroom, sitting on her floor, drink bottle after bottle, listening to “Low End Theory” and talking about boys and our disdain for the right like we were these well spoken radicals at 17. We didn’t know anything…well, I didn’t. Ann probably did. I hope she’s doing well out there. Last I heard she was living in Brooklyn, doing abortion advocacy work.
Made it to the venue, and like clockwork venue manager Steve greets us outside. I’ve done this bit with him like five times now.
“Hey, I’m Steve.”
“Hi, I’m Stephen”
“That should be easy.”
Here’s hoping, chief. There’s a local sunday free afternoon event that’s about to wrap up. Some-thing free for the neighborhood, older crowd and a handful of bands doing 20 minute sets. Someone is performing a pretty decent rendition of The Band’s “The Weight.” It’s very muggy here and the bugs are biting. I go through two t-shirts in the first hour. Load in, and set the merch up with maximum efficiency. I like having the solitude and the space to do this without rush, with-out someone asking me questions, without my large fleshbag of a body that I’ve hated for years and years getting in someone else’s way.
Set up and now, relax. The Off Broadway has a vast patio, with tons of benches, and grassy terrain should you want to take your shoes off. Screamales and Kitten Forever sit around and gab about amusement parks and fun rides and the like, before the conversation turns to the hor-rific New Jersey jewel known as “Action Park.” The plan is to hit a fun park in Santa Cruz, but I’ll keep it low to the ground—me and rolly coasters don’t mix. I’ll hold the purse, thank you. Hope-fully they’ll have bumper cars.
Glued kicked the night off with some righteous dream wave that at times sounded like Swirlies or Yo La Tango but then occasionally shift towards something a smidge harder. The harder songs had shouty vocals, but still holding the dreamy guitar blur. The drummer also had a style and look that I wish I could pull off.
Kitten Forever followed through with their massive rhythm attack. So cool. They’re just a right-eous groove thing that you can’t help but shout along and pop lock too. I like to do a hucklebuck every now and then, but my stomach is turning from some horrible Chinese food we ordered and I’m deep in my book, so I’m gonna sit this one out and point along to some sick breakdowns, and choruses.
Screamales sound great. Top form. “Halfway Down” blasts the night off, giving way to a sonic exploration during “Step Outside” but lets not forget the boom-boom-boom-BOOM of “ Ripe” into “Foulmouth” into “Bell” into “New Kid.” Does everyone have health insurance to cover the bang over your necks gonna have the next day? Life is a hideous struggle, but the 45 minutes that you get with this band can be so affirming.
Load out, and head to our abode with Meg and Dawn where there’s gossip talk, Golden Girls talk, talk of loons, and a dope shower. No fumes, but an early whip call for the next day so it’s off to bed.