Arrival at Jupiter Hotel was late and through some possibly illegal methods, I discover that the Breeders are lodging there that evening as well.
The Ben Blackwell of 2002 in this situation would have shit his pants followed immediately by the cleaning of said shit pants and a surreptitious casing of the joint to find which room Kim Deal was staying in. Once I determined what room, I would nervously stare at its door for a half-hour before slipping a Dirtbombs CD accompanied by a hand-written note underneath. My heart rate would rise. I would feel like I'd accomplished something.
The Ben Blackwell of 2008 was tired and went to sleep.
Woke up early to enjoy as many of the Portland delights as possible. Voodoo Donuts delivered with its trusty, yummy morning goodness (a cruller and a bacon-covered maple log) and an exploratory visit into Powell's was nice and quick and left me prepared for later.
Would spend time walking dogs and waiting in the parking lot of BMW repair shop to finish the replacement of a broken headlight all while sitting on the concrete and discussing the individualistic perils and pet peeves of the touring musician. Grilled cheese lunch at the restaurant attached to the Jupiter was sufficient.
After lunch I was dropped off at Powell's. I picked up three books in the 33 1/3rd series…DAYDREAM NATION, KICK OUT THE JAMS and the self-titled Ramones record. I also got a book about the cultural history of blue jeans, another about the influx of amateur content creators and the supposed negative effect it's having on culture, vis a vis blogs and other new media (a text Mick dubbed "reactionary"), the thick, non-Stevie Chick Sonic Youth bio and a New York Times almanac-type tome called their "Guide to Essential Knowledge."
Was surprised they did not have a copy of Sugrue's ORIGIN OF THE URBAN CRISIS and still need to grab a copy for myself.
Walked to Berbati's for soundcheck and after that partook in a healthy debate about documentarians and their possible love/detachment from their subjects, in regards to people like Rodney King, Errol Morris, Michael Moore and others. After an entire month of relentless Ian Mackaye, vegan, straight-edge and "new guy in the band" barbs, it took my questioning of Zack's pronunciation of "Truman Capote" (which, to me, sounded like "Truman Compote") for him to finally go off.
It seems the hazing is finally complete.
Little Claw opened and was glad to see them. Wasn't expecting the violin and wish there were a tad more people to see them, but I enjoyed it and that's all that matters. Didn't watch as much of Eat Skull as I should've, but it seemed like the line-up was, barring one person, completely different from the one I'd seen in Detroit in September.
While not expecting much from the show I think all of us in the band were pleasantly surprised. It seemed the crowd in Portland had come to dance. Such is a beautiful sight from the stage. We'd forgotten that when headlining our own shows, as opposed to opening for other groups, people actually know what they're in for and have showed up (usually) expressly for your performance. It's a nice thing to be reminded of every once in awhile.
While loading out after the show made my second trip of the day to Voodoo Donuts and bought an Old Dirty Bastard…a chocolate donut with bits of Oreo cookie on top and some peanut butter (as a topping? Filling? I cannot remember) and it might be the best donut I've had there yet. Zack was excited about vegan donuts available at 2am.
Breakfast the next morn at the hotel restaurant was scrumptious and crowded and still left me with an overwhelming desire to play the Doug Fir lounge downstairs. Made a third visit to Powell's after that and bought 33 1/3's IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA.
Drove straight to the club, Chop Suey, in Seattle and enjoyed the fact that I could order Chinese food from a little kitchen situated inside the club. I thought the meal was tasty but my bowels seemed to disagree a little while later. Has anyone ever followed these "eat right for your blood type" recommendations? Just now in life I've begun to realize that particular foods have an adverse effect on my insides and that maybe I could prevent it.
Didn't watch the opening acts and instead spent time catching up with Henry from Chunklet who happened to be in town promoting his new book "The Rock Bible." We, as a band, bought four copies. Ko had apparently already received one for free. He also came up with the single best Zach joke yet.
Q: What's the difference between a straight-edge vegan and a bucket of shit?
A: You can at least party with a bucket of shit.
This after having met Zach for all of five minutes.
The show in Seattle was even more good-time-dancing-fun-vibes. For the encore I brought my drums onto the floor and riled up the crowd with pale (Dale) Crover imitations. To end it all, I grabbed my floor tom and threw it head-side down onto my ride cymbal, intending to puncture the drum skin with an exciting boom. While it failed to "boom" as much as I would've liked, I made a quick exit and went to catch my breath backstage.
While sitting backstage I heard pained moans coming from the hallway. Henry, standing halfway in the door showed signs of genuine revulsion on his face and then whispered, "There's a lot of blood" to me.
As it happened, one of the workers at Chop Suey was right there with me when I'd brought my drums into the crowd to make sure no one would fuck with my set. With split-second imprecision, he managed to slide his hand between my floor tom and ride cymbal as I was marrying the two in unholy bliss.
I ventured out into the hallway and there was an adequate amount of blood…way less than Henry'd led me to believe. The tip of his forefinger was just barely still attached. He was given a cup of ice to shove said digit into in preparation for reattaching it. I was freaked out but clearly not as much as the guy who was losing blood. I apologized and asked if there was anything I could do for him, but he seemed in genuine shock and other than telling me not to worry about it, didn't have anything else to say to me.
His bosses said the club would pay for the emergency room visit and his co-workers said if he played his cards right he could get workman's comp. After he was whisked away I got everyone in the band to autograph an LP for him and everyone wrote top-notch, witty and heartfelt inscriptions to the guy. We left him a t-shirt too. I didn't know what else we could do. I truly hope he's alright and I hope he doesn't mind that I don't plan on washing his blood off my bass drum.
Met Kim from the Dutchess and the Duke backstage and went totally fanboy gushing about how much I loved everything that band has done. She was humble and gracious and almost caught off-guard about how much I liked her "faggot-y folk band." When her and Dean from the Stoltz band were looking for beer after closing time, it was an honor for me to buy them a six-pack from the bar, as two finer people in Seattle you will not meet.
Stayed at the Crowne Plaza hotel and were charged $34 to park the van overnight.
Next morn was a requisite trip to the downtown Guitar Center (me: snare wires and floor tom head, Pat: crash cymbal, others: don't know) and then plunked down the big money for a meal from Whole Foods. I focused on dessert with cheese cake AND bread pudding. My main course was orange peel chicken on a bed of rice with some tofu thrown in for kicks. I ate both desserts and barely half of the rest and with a Odwalla I'd spent approximately $21 on lunch. Damn.
Showed up in Misssoula to find that the Badlander is the same room I knew as the Ritz where the infamous Jack White birthday riot went down back in 2001. Luckily, new ownership meant there would be no repeat of that night's shenanigans.
Local openers Rooster Sauce and Victory Smokes were exactly what I'd expected of bands from Missoula. The Sauce even premiered the video for their song "Snakeskin Monkey" this night and that too was everything I'd expected for a self-produced music video for a band from Missoula.
The stage was particularly small and coupled with not having played the town in over four years found us with an absolutely manic crowd completely up-front and in our faces. What upon booking felt like an unnecessary roadblock on our route home would prove to be the best of our headlining shows of this run…all the genuine excitement and dancing of Seattle and Portland increased tenfold and Missoula, despite what one may think, proved it can rock with the best of them. The encore was Zach's first-ever shot at "Granny's Little Chicken" and that devolved into Ko, Mick and I jiving in the crowd (Ko playing fuzz while I balanced her on my shoulders for a spell) and it ALL ended with me saying into the mic "Happy fucking birthday Jack."
The route back to Detroit would prove daunting. The first day of driving found us getting gas across the street from, I shit you not, a place with signage declaring it a used COW lot. Being the beginning of hunting season and Montana being kind-of a hunting state, it was fairly common to find ourselves driving behind a pick-up truck with 12 deer legs just sticking up in the air with the bodies completely obscured from sight. Most establishments had signs saying hunters were not allowed to bring their guns inside and I couldn't imagine why that even needed to be said.
We later stopped at a gas station that happened to be on an Indian reservation and it was one of the more depressing places we'd been in recent memory. The Kentucky Fried Chicken there carried only a bare-bones menu (scuttling my plans to rock a Famous Bowl) and the cash register sported a hand-written sign saying, in pen, "No credit cards…machine is messed up." The chicken strips were more breading than chicken and there were no fewer than three public service posters in view touting the dangers of methamphetamine use.
At the same time, Zach made a sullen declaration of not being able to dream in this establishment and after a suitable pause, pointed to the window of the gift shop completely filled with dream catchers and said "They just keep getting caught over there." There was a picturesque sunset and across the street was an advertisement for "Cuts-the-Hair." Weird, weird times.
That evening found us staying in Chamberlain, South Dakota. We'd GPS'd a Days Inn at the exit, but noticed the West River Inn and Suites offering 24-hour pool and spa. As frequent lodgers, this is not an everyday offer, and as night owls, it was an something we had to take them up on.
The hotel didn't appear to be a chain but it was clean and comfortable and very, very inviting. While making my way to the pool, Zach said the lady at the front desk said to let her know if we'd be swimming, as she would then turn the lights off for us. Having no idea what this meant I failed to notify her and instead just walked down to the pool by myself.
The indoor, heated pool and hot tub were accented not only by a stereo system that was playing light house music (and later, breezy classical) but by a second floor reminiscent of a projection booth with no less than three club-quality lighting systems in full-effect. We had managed to find the only 24-hour disco pool in all the world and it was in South Dakota.
After requisite hand-stands and underwater stretching I made way to the hot tub and marinated in there. There was no reason a place like this should exist, yet I was reveling in it. The thin, green laser lights coalescing into a circuit of geometric patterns was particularly spellbinding.
After ample time boiling in the tub I made back into the pool and stood in the middle, motionless, focusing on the colors and patterns the lights formed on the floor of the pool, benefiting from the unpredictable refraction caused by the still, chlorinated four feet of water. This is as close as I come to getting stoned, meditating or finding any other higher state of (un)consciousness.
(I later surmised that the only logical reason to have such a set up for a pool was that they probably host orgies there)
Having been away from home for so long, we'd planned to drive the remaining fifteen hours back to Detroit while only stopping for food, gas and pee breaks. And through the remainder of South Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois this proved fine. It wasn't until we'd reached Indiana that shit got messy.
We reached a portion on I-94 where the road was just closed…all cars being forced to exit and most of them winding up at a Flying J Travel Plaza trying to plan alternate routes. Our GPS system helped us to get to the next open entrance ramp and once back on the freeway we were literally in a caravan on a road that was a sheet of ice with a flashing-lights police cruiser as the pace car.
While the icy conditions of the road became somewhat less daunting, the snow storm at that point had reached white-out conditions just around our crossing of the Michigan border. It was a nightmare…all of us had hopes of sleeping in our own beds that night and with home not even three hours away we could almost taste it. At the same time, we could not see more than a couple of feet ahead of our van in these conditions.
None of us wanted to stop, yet we all knew there was no other option.
We exited in Sawyer, Michigan and got rooms at the Super 8. Once checked in Zack (he of hole in his canvas shoe) and I trudged through the snow to eat at the 24-hour Country Pride restaurant at the truck stop across the street. At this point, the snow had ceased.
With nothing but time we had a long, languorous meal/conversation before heading back to grab some sleep. We'd all agreed to leave at 8am as getting home earlier was getting home better.
7:50 rolls around…Zack opens the curtains and coldly says "Fucking hell."
It seemed since we'd fallen asleep another four inches of snow had fallen. Thoughts of not making it home THAT day briefly entered my mind and I trembled. We loaded the van and Pat skillfully and cautiously maneuvered the van through more blizzard and icy road conditions until that spot where I-94 jags eastbound and we were free from the immobilizing grip of lake-effect snow. We would be home in no time and home ain't no time at all.