Tour Diary: Los Angeles (US / Day 8)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: No Doodles. So what am I to do? Try a random snack from the Hispanic section that’s what. Specifically Tiritas con Chile. Imagine a strawberry licorice rope covered in paprika, citric acid, and cayenne in decreasing order of flavor. Chuck was the first to try and started making a nyuh nyuh sounds like a stooge and then spit it out. I went next and it wasn’t that bad. Much like the stages of grief it started out bitter, moved to sour, then to hot, and finished up sickly sweet. You regret having eaten it and vow never to do so again. I haven’t translated but I think the bag might describe them as divorce sticks.


Idiocy from the Van: To the tune of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”

“Let’s go lay some pipe, Squat, grunt, and then we wipe.”

This will likely be an ongoing piece of work.

Tour Diary: The Desert (US / Days 6-7)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: Hill Country Fare Cheese Puffs: Middling

Bought at the same H-E-B store as the Store Brand Intense Cheese Flavored ones, but seemed like the doodle created for their poor cheese flavored snack customers. You know the bag: more clear plastic, duller colors, primitive graphics. I didn’t much like them but everyone else thought they were fine. Obviously this exercise has refined my palette far beyond their plebian tastes.

Texture: Excellent – Well it was.

Flavor: Tasted chemically to me. Much like an over-oaked chardonnay there were strong notes of butter. Rancid oily movie theater butter.

Idiocy from the Van: “Oooh, I adagio’d in my pants a little.”

Tour Diary: Austin (US / Day 5)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: H-E-B Intense Cheese Flavored Puffs* – Excellent   H-E-B is chain of supermarkets and these were their store brand. And finally a good damn doodle.

Texture: Good – Rougher than a Cheeto, but not enough to abuse your delicate mouth-branes.

Flavor: More salt than cheese but we destroyed this bag. I had to pour bottled water over my fingers to get the orange off. You know what I’m saying’?

Idiocy from the Van: Square Bob Sponge Cake and his best friend Pee-C-Pee-Oh

Tour Diary: Tulsa (US / Day 3)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: Flavor Mill Jalapeno Popper Flavored Cheese Curls: I suspect Flavor Mill is a shell brand for a major corporate doodle manufacturer, because they appear at those gas stations that only carry Frito-Lay products. And because the core doodle underneath the fake jalapeno flavor is very Cheetos-esque.

Texture: Good – Like a Cheeto.

Flavor: Once again the damn pursuit of mouth pain ruins the subtle delights of powdered cheese.

Idiocy from the Van: “Could you all hate me so I can go home?”


Our sub-Blanche DuBois hotel fun continued with John waking up to this window washer singing “I’ve got the perfect body” over and over while understandably lingering outside John’s room.* I still couldn’t find much to do but went inside the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Museum. (Or the JNEMM for short) This is where you go to buy your tickets to the arch, and there’s a little bit of a museum there as well. A very little bit of museum. Maybe it’s temporary because of the construction but my kid’s junior high history fair was more trenchant and illuminating. The actual fascinating event that took place there was the Dred Scott court case. And I must say in the museum’s defense the preserved courtrooms are pretty cool. There is a hallway (albeit a short one) devoted to this momentous event, but when I went to the museum’s web site I read this quote:

“Although few whites considered the human factor in Dred Scott’s slave suit, today we acknowledge that it is wrong to hold people against their will and force them to work as people did in the days of slavery.”

Really? We acknowledge that it is wrong? No. It was an egregious moral failing that led to one of the worst human rights catastrophe’s this country has committed. It’s this kind of tepid response that allows apologists to continue to exist. This country’s refusal to truly acknowledge (uttered bitterly) the unbroken sequence of abuse prevents us from healing. I’m not talking about obscure or alternative history here: slavery, Reconstruction, lynchings, Jim Crow, bombings, high-pressure hoses, and on and on until today, are events well documented. Those last few happened during my lifetime. We have to do better.

And then we drive to Tulsa. The countryside south of St. Louis was pretty, green, and kind of lush, but the majority of Missouri on this route was indistinguishable from a lot of Ohio. Rolling grassy hills with small patches of trees scattered about. We left the highway briefly for a short jaunt on the famed Highway 66. Which looked suspiciously like a road. That people drive on. The reason for the departure was we wanted to go to the Uranus Fudge Factory. Obviously a tourist trap but we were willing to bite. There were dinosaurs in the parking lot and a double decker bus. All the obvious touchstones of Americana. And then when you walk in the store the poor lady at the counter says, “Welcome to Uranus.” To every single customer. You know how when Wesley was saying, “As you wish” he was really saying, “I love you”? Well when this young lady said, “Welcome to Uranus” what she was really saying was, “Kill me. Please.” I really thought I would enjoy the place but somehow the over-commercialization of the Uranus joke made me sad. Combining Uranus and Fudge onto a t-shirt is just too obvious. Besides, they didn’t sell any fudge with corn in it, so authenticity was obviously not a going concern. If it wasn’t for the Monkfish it would have been a disappointing venture. Our next stop was the Kum & Go gas station/convenience store. Oklahoma has some things to work through.


Upon arrival we had time to check in to the hotel before heading to the club, and while standing at the front desk a 75-year old gentleman with charisma to spare approached the other desk worker.

“Well that was a huge mistake”


“I’m getting too old for this. I’m 75 years old.”

“Really? You look good!”

“Ah well it’s all rotten on the inside.”

“Oh come now…”

“Have you ever heard of Swift airplanes? I’ve been flying one for 45 years. Well they’re having a get together for the 70-year anniversary of when they started making them, and I decided to fly my plane to it.”

“You flew here?
“Yep, I’ve been bouncing and short hopping all the way from Las Vegas to Tulsa. Still have 600 miles to go.”

“Oh! So you live in Vegas? What’s that like?”

“I hate it. Used to love it though. There’s 2.5 million people there now. When I moved to Vegas there was only 75,000. I met my wife there. She was a showgirl at the Lido.”

“I’ve always wanted to go to Vegas.”

“Oh you should go once to experience it.”

“”I don’t think I’ll make it. My sisters swore they’d never go.”

“Back then $4.95 would get you a prime rib and a show at the Lido. Little did I know, 10 years later I’d be marrying that showgirl. What I need now is a hot shower. Flying that plane – it’s always hot or cold and windy.”**

I think I remember him saying somewhere in there that he had been in the Air Force and had worked at Area 51. How I would’ve loved to have a drink with that guy.


Load-in at the club was 9:00, which is rather late, and when we pulled up John jumped out of the van to see what was going on. He came back a few minutes later and said, “We should probably just leave. There’s a band breaking down in there and the drummer isn’t wearing a shirt, the bartender is wearing a wet suit, no one has any idea what’s going on, and everyone is unfriendly.” We didn’t leave of course, but walked in and saw there was no stage, no monitors, and only a few microphones. We drew a breath, reminded ourselves that for most of our benighted career every show was like this, and to not be all soft. Still, we approached the evening with a little bit of trepidation. It was to be our first of three shows with the American Werewolf Academy, the gents Lisa and Chuck travelled with on their duo tour in the UK a few years back, and it was lovely to see them again. The club was two doors down from Cain’s Ballroom, a famous venue that goes back to Bob Wills, but has also hosted the Sex Pistols and Wilco. Up the street the other way was the Woody Guthrie Center, which was of course closed. Someday I’d really love to go there. Woody is my kind of hero. This section of Tulsa was interesting and arty, with the Philbrook Museum, a nice green space with lots of people hanging out, a Jazz museum in the old Art Deco train depot. Stuff like that.

When I got back to the club patrons were shooting off fireworks in the abandoned parking lot next to the back patio, and everyone seemed to view this exciting combination of alcohol and explosives as not only desirable but not even notable. We had to pre-set all our gear in the parking lot next to the club (but separate from the fireworks) because there was no room inside. We turned on the three microphones set up in front of the speakers, (which is a very feedback prone configuration) adjusted our instruments accordingly, and it ended up sounding amazing. Sometimes it seems with our music that it sounds better when all the sound is coming from one condensed space. Anyway, there were not a lot of people in attendance but the ones that were there were die-hard and generous with their praise and merch purchases.

Tomorrow is Dallas


*John keeps himself quite fit

**I apologize for getting any of the facts wrong. I was eavesdropping after all.

Tour Diary: The 2016 Great American Cheese Doodle Ranking

Cheese Doodle Ranking 2016


Texture – can range from packing peanuts to cylindrical rods of sandpaper roughness. Like what I imagine a cat’s member must be like. If you feel as if the roof of mouth is going to bleed by the end of the bag they’re too rough.

Cheese Profile – is produced by the unique formulations of doodle dust used to coat the doodle. It’s a delicate balance between salt, cheddar and sawdust.



Cheese flavor negligible

Texture pretty good


Taste profile is primarily that of salt with soupcon of cheese underneath. Texture rough

Herr’s Honey Cheesenope

Chuck likes them; I think they’re weird. It’s a doodle coated in brown sugar. Doesn’t even leave your fingers orange.

Carolina Country Snacks Baked Cheese Curls – poor

For all intents and purposes this snack is an orange packing peanut. Smaller than the average doodle, covered in sawdust, and entirely pointless. The bag has Jesus quotes on it, begging the question whether they are praying for our souls or forgiveness.

 High Valley Orchard Spicy Cheese Nuggets. They’re all right. They’re small, like a toddler’s kidney.

Texture: Stale styrofoam

Flavor: The flavor is just like the pizza flavor Combos but really spicy. They inflamed my wretched mouth to such an extent I think they will remain uneaten as well.

 Kitchen Cooked Cheese Kettle Kurls: Just horrible. I ate one and refused to eat another. We threw them away. That’s a damning statement, because after an hour in the van almost anything salty becomes desirable,

Texture: Like that green stuff in the bottom of plant containers. Or time capsule gluten free sponge cake.

Flavor: Fake butter. Seriously.

 Toms – serviceable I guess – I don’t really like them

Tastes like they’re going for a sharp cheddar profile but it ranges from non-existent to an almost sour wisp of cheese. Might be appealing after drinking a lot of beer from a plastic pitcher whilst bowling. Which upon reflection, unless you want to leave your balls* orange would be inadvisable.

Texture is big and kind of rough. Like Garth Brooks scolding his stepchildren in front of a Cinnabon at the mall.

Utz Baked Cheddar Cheese Curls – ultimately disappointing

Cheese flavor is quite good

Texture is a nightmare. It’s like over-cooked air. As if their baking process involves leaving trays of doodle dough inside Chernobyl until they take on the air of a thousand tiny sharpened knives. Plus I’m more nauseous than usual after eating.


*No, I don’t think I’m being subtle.