It's Monday afternoon and we're driving to Asheville, NC. One of the more interesting aspects of the traveling we get to do is the differing ways America as both a word and idea is treated as you get further and further from the northeast. As we crossed the border into Tennessee about fifteen minutes ago we're immediately hit with billboards and bright colors from all angles. Mostly for fireworks. A tremendous warehouse-slash-barn surrounded by iron carousel ponies and an out of order ferris wheel promotes itself not only as a top notch fireworks dealer but a Great American Event. I read "God Bless America" four times within a minute beginning with this wacky shack. Even as I type this we've just driven by a billboard that was simply an American flag with a short essay in front of it about how we've got to persevere through this "socialist" regime (in parenthesis it names Obama, Pelosi, Reid) before we can all have jobs again. It seemed pretty vengeful and billboard space ain't cheap. I'd know, I was raised by a billboard man.
The religious and patriotic imagery will start blending within miles (alongside the pro-life billboards, and I've gotta tell you, pro-lifers have some crack writing staffs because those things are fucking priceless), but my absolute favorite was back towards the border. Surrounded by stars and stripes we pass a cross that stood a couple hundred feet towards the sky. Just about as many hundred feet behind it was this mammoth of a porno shop. I could feel the stickiness under my feet all the way from the van. This dichotomy was almost poetic, and appropriately enveloped in red, white and blue. I couldn't tell if the tingling in me that I was feeling was my emotional reaction to this porno patriotism or a divine warning (or perhaps more of a divine "kiss my ass") manifesting itself through the upside down cross that got shaved into my stomach in Indianapolis.
My new subversive hair art was my payment for a haircut (of surprising quality!) I received from Eric on Friday morning. While I initially resisted it's made for one hell of a conversation piece, and conversation pieces are valuable when you're traveling. I woke up that morning pretty beat up. You see, I'd planned on using our day off Wednesday in Kalamazoo to recover both my body and my throat which had turned to garbage wrapped in whatever a throat is made of. Thursday morning in the van I find myself watching a video on Mike's blackberry of me screaming myself horse leading the house in an acoustic singalong of "Let's Get It On" between swigs of Rich & Rare. Doops!
Now is as good a time as any to mention that the inhabitants of the Fat Guy House (which passed the Fat Guy test from both me and Mike with flying colors) knocked it out the park in showing us a good time. They even stepped to the plate in a NY vs. MI game of Ninja. Me, Jarad and showstopper Eric "The Human Highlight Reel" Bedell won handily but these Kalamadoofs were no slouches.
In Indianapolis our show was set up by the most legit man of them all, Nick Selm. Nick used to live at the Halloween House and he's booked us and put us up more times than we can count. In fact, two years ago, in lieu of the very Gainesville Fest this tour is booked around, we spent our Halloween in children's overalls (and a little else) playing Hot Water Music covers poorly in his basement. It was not pretty. He's one of those people that we always can't wait to see not just because he's awesome, but because we genuinely miss our dude in a big way. We play a newer space in Indy called the Dojo that is excellent and I hope it continues to succeed for a long time. In the morning we get a tour of the school Nick teaches in and it's a blast. Everyone we meet is eager to help us out and show us around, the whole building looks like an art project (and I mean that in a really good way) and we get goofy name tags that immediately got slapped up onto the roof of the van.
We hit Berea, KY next, and got to hang out with several of our buddies from Lexington, included among them top bud Anthony who's booked us more times than I count and also puts on the yearly Crucial Fun Fest. The others got a chance to take a peak at a potential location for this year's and said good things. Our Lexington squad is like a second family, even now when a bunch of them have scattered out of Lexington. Indy to Lexington ends up being a sweet reminder of how cool it is that we've gotten to build relationships like these around the eastern half of the country. I almost note that this is the first time in years I've gone to sleep in Lexington and note woken up viciously sick. Then I note that I'm actually not in Lexington but in Berea. Whew. It's in Berea that we learn of an unfortunate circumstance regarding a band of dudes that we love. I don't want to name anyone involved because it's really not my place to talk about it publicly, but we learn that a band we adore not just as a band but as friends we've gotten to play and hang with at length are likely coming to an abrupt end because one among their ranks can no longer tour due to a new job that won't give him the time off that he's not willing to risk losing.
I hate hearing this sort of thing, and not just because it means that's another friend we might never sleep on a cramped floor with again, and not because I'm not happy for him if he's into what he's doing. I very much am. It's because it brings to mind this mentality that I think back at home we've been trying to escape more and more as time goes on and we keep getting in this van. This idea that we're living in some type of smellier Neverland scenario and every so often one of the stupid Lost Boys has to grow up. Life moves fast and you do what you've got to do but I don't think that at all describes what this is. It may be stupid but this feels important to us. You only live once it seems, and you need to live with the choices you've made and the ones you let escape you back before it was too late. We get to always be proud of the things we've been entitled to experiencing and feel a sort of fulfillment that I've watched others look for endlessly in their own day to day.
My mother tried talking to me about it before we left. She doesn't so much support us touring and I can't really blame her for that. She, along with anyone else close to me, has heard me speak at length about how much of my life has just been totally boned in choosing to do this even as little as we're able to. It has cost me jobs I actually sort of liked, school schedules that I don't hate, relationships that meant the world to me and often anything resembling financial comfort. But I'm always laughing when I mention that stuff, and I don't feel weird or self indulgent speaking so personally in a format that sort of represents our entire band because I know in some capacity I'm also telling the story of each of the other passengers with me in this van as it heads to Atlanta. It's Wednesday now, a week since Marvin Gaye wrecked me. Apparently it's no-shirts o'clock.
There's nothing noble, essential or even necessarily intelligent about it, but the reality is we're doing something, living a life (when we can), that we've been romanticizing in our heads since we were fourteen for better or for worse, and a lot of people never really get to do that. And we get to feel like we're at home going from Indy to Lexington, and a bunch of other places too. And when it sucks, and it certainly can suck, that's just our cross to bear. I guess mine has company at least, in the upside down one etched into my belly.