Tour Diary: SF to Portland (US / Days 10 -11)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: Smallwood’s Harvest Spicy Cheese Nuggets – Excellent for a spicy varietal. People have begun to bring me doodles. This is an excellent development. These are more like a bag of curds in puff form but legit.

Texture: Kind of chewy, like stale Pirate’s Booty.

Flavor: Spicy and salty. The best of the spicy ones.

Idiocy from the Van: Chile Kim Carne (courtesy of Chris Brokaw)

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I’m way behind with the blog now. It’s been a couple of days of curvy roads and very little sleep. The morning after our very late check-in at the fancy hotel with the kitty litter smelling lobby, I walked across a field to the old looking “round barn” for which the hotel was named. It wasn’t actually round but some sort of –agon. (I didn’t count the sides.) I came upon a plaque that told me the barn had been built by a Japanese Samurai who then became a prominent viticulturist in the Napa Valley. I gave the band this info in the van but no one gave a shit. It’s like they’re dead inside.

We wanted to take the 101 because part of the fun of this tour is showing Olie the country. It’s such a gorgeous drive, but by doing so it meant another very long day in the van. We needed to get near Eugene in order to make getting to Portland reasonable. I tried to write but by dint of following the geographical contours of our beloved continent I couldn’t keep the keyboard under my fingers, and it was a semi-car sick kind of drive anyway. We stopped at a Safeway, loaded up on groceries, (our attempt to eat fresh and healthy bowed but not yet broken) and made the Avenue of the Giants by mid-afternoon. I’ve said it before but it holds true for me, an hour in the Redwoods is equivalent to a year of Sundays at church. The light filtering through branches so high they don’t even begin where most trees end gives a glow to the preternatural hush. I found a fallen Redwood circled by six of the really old trees. I laid down and stared up and felt like I was surrounded by sentinels watching over and mourning their loss. This being nature and not the ‘Shire or some shit, the death of the tree I was laying on probably created enough light so that the trees surrounding it could finally thrive. Like that dick in “The Giving Tree.” Olie was blown away by the forest. It was lovely to see his reaction and to feel like we’d given him a little gift.

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We stopped at Eureka because that’s what we do; we stop. “He who travels fastest travels alone” being practically pornographic in its illicit feelings of unobtainable fantasy. On the other hand, expediency with seven people in one automotive is the equivalent of having your mother walk in on you holding a Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit issue (the one with Elle McPherson) after having just moved home because you flunked out of college. (sad trombone sound) I walked down to the waterfront and found a classic rock cover band on break and the local rock dj giving away prizes to the winner who could correctly answer questions like, “9% of homeowners don’t do this… (the dishes?) No. I won’t dish out any prizes for that answer ha ha. “ (clean the bathroom?) Close enough! So do you clean the bathroom? No? It’s pretty bad when the toilet flushes itself ha ha. I’ve got one more question. Hmmm… let’s pick a good one. Ok, 9% of drivers wish they could do this. (run over your unfunny ass, then back the car over your broken body while blasting “More Than a Feeling” on the radio?) Ooh ouch!! ha ha (Not wear a seatbelt?) You missed that one whole cloth ha ha. (run over your parents before they conceived your bloviated friendless existence?) You must know my ex-wife ha ha. (pee through the eye of a needle into a Capri Sun bag without spilling a drop?) Oh urine trouble for that one ha ha. No the answer is drive naked drive naked. And now back to some great rocknroll.”*

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We stopped and communed with the ocean around sunset, and as the sky tipped into blackness the drive took on an air of low-grade terror. Hairpin turns and steep clines (of both the in and de variety) in pitch-blackness sucks. We waited in a short line blinded by emergency vehicle’s flashing lights as they dealt with a car off the road and on its side. We rolled into a hotel of which I have no memory around 2:30 in the morning.

We had an early soundcheck in Portland but with only a two-hour drive and a late check out procured we tried to get some sleep. At 8:30 a.m. a housekeeper came into the room and in the immortal words of Shakespeare said, “Housekeeping.” How is this still a thing? With all the information technology available, networks that stagger the imagination, the only way to ascertain whether a hotel room has been vacated is to make like a Jehovah’s Witness and** knock? I’m not impugning the cleaning staff. That’s a hard job and it’s my understanding they have some serious time constraints put on them. Plus, bad things happen. I know, and I’m sorry. I tried to clean-up. No, I feel the hospitality industry as a whole is under-motivated to improve this one glaring antithesis to the word hospitality. You have one job. Provide a safe and clean place to sleep. Then in an insouciantly perverse twist you design a system that takes away the very thing the customer paid for. It’s like buying a hamburger and then having someone walk around and removing the meat from the bun halfway through the meal. But wait! You say there is a magic card you can place on the door that will guarantee you a peaceful uninterrupted sleep? Sure, but what if you forget, or it falls off, or you walk down the hallway removing all the do not disturb signs from every door in a futile act of rebellion against the impotence you feel in an increasingly cold and isolated world?

We were playing the Star Theater, which had played once before. It’s a beautiful place to play and everyone was very nice there. The last time we played we sat with our equipment on the patio for several hours waiting for a comedy*** show to end. Then we set up in front of the headlining band on the approximately 8 inches of stage lip left us. This time we had the whole stage and it was as luxuriant as softened butter.

After soundcheck Chuck and I went out to do some banking and he remarked that everyone seemed high. And acknowledging this could be a preconceived notion, the rather large indigent population had a different air about them. It was a softer sadness that made me think heroin was still very much a part of the region. Of course there were a lot of teens on the streets with duffel bags and dogs, but more about that later.

I walked all over the downtown and it seemed like a regular, relatively affluent business building fancy storefront kind of place. The hipsters must enclave elsewhere. I spent hours in Powell’s Books, my second favorite bookstore, (The Strand still gets the nod) and bought several books by/about Alexander Von Humboldt, who I’ve decided to become obsessed with.

The show was a blast. Count, the sound engineer, had the stage sound dialed in, and the audience demanded an extra encore.

 

*Those were all real questions and mostly real answers. Guess which!!

**Look up 141 Things Jehovah’s Witness followers cannot do.

*** In the broadest sense of that word.