Tour Diary: Denver (US / Day 15)

“John slept in the van and the other six of us crammed in one room old school style. That’s the thing about nostalgia – it only exists if you never actually go back to the good old days..”

Ranking Cheese Doodle:

FlavorMill-BuffBlueFlavor Mill Buffalo Blue Cheese Flavored Cheese CurlsExcellent with a caveat – You might remember Flavor Mill, the suspected off-brand of some mysterious major corporate doodle manufacturer. The caveat is that when you open the bag it smells like someone barfed. I like them though. They make me pleasantly uneasy. Like climbing the rope in gym class.

Texture: Perfect.

Flavor: Lots of finger sticking orange powder that tastes of a distant echo of a memory of blue cheese.

 Idiocy from the Van: I bet Stevie Nicks leaves a snail trail of glitter. (Uttered by Lisa so don’t get all in a huff.)

IMG_2424It’s a 12-13 hour drive from Boise. Oh, did you know that it’s pronounced Boysee not Boyzee? I didn’t. I feel they should change it. Think about it. Which would you rather watch: Boyce in the Hood or Boyz in the Hood? Duh. Anyway, another oddity with our time in Boise was that we ended up paying more for one room than we had for multiple rooms the whole tour. Turns out there was a soccer tournament in town and there were next to no rooms. John slept in the van and the other six of us crammed in one room old school style. That’s the thing about nostalgia – it only exists of you never actually go back to the good old days.

IMG_2354We had hoped to stay at Moab and see some arches, but once again the practicalities of ensuring a timely arrival at the show meant we decided to take the fastest route. We set the goal of Rawlins, Wyoming as our destination because that meant we’d have a little under four hours to get to Denver the next day. Lisa had done a little research on Rawlins and discovered the story of Big Nose George.

George “Big Nose” Parrott was a wild west outlaw – robbing trains, killing lawmen, having a gang that is pursued by posses, etc. He made the classic blunder whereupon you get drunk and brag loudly about having killed people. Thus, and inevitably he was captured. He used a pocket knife and a sandstone to file down his shackles in an escape attempt from the Rawlins Penitentiary. With his keen wits and steely eyes he quickly formed a plan that involved bashing his jailer on the head with the shackles and then getting caught by the jailers wife. The townspeople, incensed by his lawlessness formed a lawless mob and broke into the jail.

IMG_3187Having sprung “Big Beak” Parrott they promptly strung him from the nearest pole. Now this where the story gets interesting. The local medical professional wanted to examine his brain for clues to his criminal mind, so they cut off the top of his skull and gave the lid to a 15-year old medical assistant who would eventually use it as an ash tray. They then removed several swatches of his skin (including a nipple he wrote salaciously) and sent them to a tannery in Denver to be turned into a medical bag and a pair of shoes. The medical examiner then wore the shoes to his inauguration when he was elected governor of Wyoming. The rest of Parrott’s body was stuck in a whiskey barrel, filled with salt and buried in the back yard.

IMG_3198One of the frustrations with this tour is that with no days off and the enormous distances between shows there has been almost no time for exploration. Obviously it was worth waking up early to look about Rawlins. It was about a mile walk into town, passing a virtual (actual?) time-line of shuttered motels from decades past. The Carbon County Museum with the skin shoes wasn’t open until 10 so I walked to the Frontier Prison figuring it would be a reconstructed log cabin with some bars for windows. Oh no, it was way better than that. It was the actual Wyoming State Penitentiary that had been in use until the early 1980’s. Ignore the nightmare that is our current racism for profit correctional approach and just enjoy with me the time when incarceration was fun and fraught with adventure! I didn’t have time for the tour but went through the museum. The first part of the museum was dedicated to the innumerable escape attempts. One of the inmates created such a sophisticated skeleton key it could open almost half the cells. There were shelves full of all the shanks that had been confiscated. Perversely there were hanks of hanging ropes displayed with the photos of the terminal end behind them. It was fascinating.

Attachment-1Then on to the Carbon County Museum. It was a more sophisticated affair with activities for children, carpet under foot, frontier doilies in recreated rooms with mannequins knitting in rocking chairs. But even with all the attempts to educate and inform they know why people are there. The kindly, prototypical elderly lady volunteer welcomed me and then asked pointedly, “Is there something specific you’re here to see?” “The shoes.” “They’re right over there – don’t take any pictures dear.” The shoes were tiny and just weird. What the hell were they thinking? Also displayed was his earless death mask, his proud nose only somewhat diminished in death. I pretended to look at everything else, occasionally emitting a murmured “fascinating” or “well swap my spit and cook me for dinner – I did not know that.” Then I left and walked back to the hotel.

IMG_3222I was looking forward to seeing the big, pointy, green and snowy Rockies but our route seemed to skirt them and we entered Denver with a whimper. We were playing in the bar end of a much bigger venue called the Summit. The sound man, who spoke with the soft rounded tones of a death-bed priest packed into the body of a pre-steroidal Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson made us sound great to the crowd, although the sound on stage was like having an ice pick jabbed into my ear. I should’ve communicated more and we probably could have made it better, but I was starting to feel poorly and we Midwesterners really do find it unseemly to make a fuss. We all had dinner at a Spanish tapas restaurant which was quite a lot of fun and then I tried walking around downtown Denver. I was feeling achy and my stomach was bad, so I gave up and slept in the van until show time.

Photo by Mark Stevens
Photo by Mark Stevens

The total number of people who had come to see us our last two visits to Denver could fit in R. Kelly’s closet, so we were delighted by an actual audience this time around. I wasn’t able to muster much audience interaction or jumping around, but we played pretty well. The audience was super sweet and there were even a few folks who had been at both of our previous shows.

Through a small Priceline miscalculation we were staying 40 minutes in the wrong direction at an Indian casino. If it’s not supposed to be called an Indian casino then I apologize. I think the Cleveland Indians should change their logo so I figure I’m coming out at least even in the cultural sensitivity department. Olie was quite excited to see a casino in action and feeling poorly or not, I was delighted to accompany him.

IMG_2362The experience started off promisingly as accompanying us in the elevator was a goblet of wine carrying gambler with a dead eye that pointed northwest. We dropped our bags off in the room but as soon as we approached the action, a security professional approached us and asked for Olie’s ID. When he saw it was British he said “Follow me” with a depth of seriousness usually reserved for U.N. subcommittees on the illegal trade of Faberge’ eggs. We followed him to his security podium and watched as he ran the ID through what I dearly hope was Interpol. He then actually held the ID up to Olie’s face before allowing us to enter. We walked the outer ring of the casino, organized like the playing pieces in Trivial Pursuit with a wigwam motif floating above it. The top level was filled almost exclusively with those video monitors that pass for slot machines. After a bit Olie waved his hand expansively and said, “Is it all the same shit?” “Pretty much.” He shook his head and we continued down to the lower level.

IMG_2364I don’t have the personality for gambling. I’m not sure I can even imagine the concept of disposable income. Additionally, I really don’t need my worldview that we’re all fucked reinforced by a machine programmed to ensure I will lose. I did once go to an Atlantic City casino long enough ago that they still had mechanical slot machines with the arm you pulled and the feeling of physical mechanisms clattering around. It was kind of fun, and the sound of the coins hitting the metal tray oddly satisfying. Down on the bottom floor we found the café and decided on an expensive late night snack. While waiting for his food Olie was approached by two skeevy, well drunk dudes who had a crumpled piece of paper with a secret code on it. They said, with an urgent lack of personal space, that if we took that code up to the counter it would automatically get us amazing deals. I really didn’t like them and suspect they have pestilence on their pee pees.

IMG_2363Then when I went to get some water I overheard a man with one leg having an argument with his bipedal friend that went something like this: “You’re gonna lose.” “Just let me try.” You’re gonna lose.” “C’mon man, just let me try.” “You’re gonna to lose.” “No, no, no, you don’t know that. Please. I want to try.” “You’re going to lose.” I never heard who won, the wheedling loser or the implacable pragmatist. At about this point Olie looked around and said, “It’s kind of sad isn’t it?” We walked around a few minutes more, Ollie said, “Fuck it” and we went to get some sleep.

Tomorrow is Kansas City.