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.

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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: Dallas (US / Day 4)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: There were none.

So here’s a recipe for making your own! I expect pictures and reviews in the comments section.

http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/crunchy-cheese-puffs

Idiocy From the Van: Monocle Lewinsky

 

Our hotel in Tulsa was directly across the road from ORU. No, not The Winnie the Pooh Center for Zen Iconography but Oral Roberts University. For those lucky enough to be ignorant of the Oral’s legacy he was one of the original televangelist preachers, who came up with a version of Christianity whereupon gifts of money to God resulted in tangible blessing from heaven. He was a poor, itinerant Pentacostal preacher, charismatic enough to draw 10,000 people to his tent meetings for faith healings. Eventually, by hiring advertising companies and pioneering direct mail solicitations he became incredibly wealthy. In a bid for respect he founded the Orally Roberted University in the 1960’s. Oral’s son Robert, a twat, spent the University’s money and ran it into the ground by the 1990’s. Then that douche who owns Hobby Lobby gave the University over 50 million dollars and it was restored to its former glory. There’s nothing I can add to the topic of evangelists that a hundred earnest 1980’s songs hasn’t said better. Charlatans preying on the weak. Jesus.

So the reason for that backstory is the architecture of the Uni. It’s awesome. It was designed primarily by Frank Wallace and was in the Futurist style. Admittedly it all looks like the Disney/Epcot view of what the future would be like, but it’s a bright, shiny, golden, angular view nonetheless. The Prayer Tower, modeled off the Seattle Space Needle, is a flying space crown of thorns, with a heavenly tractor beam projecting down to earth in order to lift us up into heaven’s gently probing arms. At least that’s what it looks like to me. The main cathedral is at is heart just an auditorium, but the atrium was really cool with vaulting white triangles and sweeping staircases. Maybe because it’s summer and school is out, but I was virtually alone on campus. Just me and the gardeners piping the tears of fleeced senior citizens onto the Forget-Me-Nots and Jack-in-the Pulpits. I could’ve rolled around naked on the pulpit/stage and no one would’ve said boo.*

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I don’t remember much from the drive to Dallas except maybe one of the biggest differences between England and here: the never-ending sprawl that surrounds our cities. Mile after indistinguishable mile of dollar stores in cracked cement strip malls. It’s depressing as hell and creates a longing in me for nature to reassert itself and place our vanities in their proper place. I was also ambivalent about returning to Dallas. Our last show there was one of our worst. The smell of sewage outside the club strong enough to make a Welshman blink, horrible sound, disinterested audience, and we got into a fight onstage. This time we were playing in the Deep Elum area. We were in contact with Olie, who had landed in Dallas earlier that morning and he was reporting that the area around the club was one of the coolest places he’d ever been. We were putting that down to the over-heated excitement at being in a new country because Dallas is, you know, fine. It’s Dallas. We found him at the club and had a huggy, happy reunion; his natural, diffident, British reserve temporarily broken down in a rush of unfamiliar moist emotions. Much like I assume how people reacted to Churchill’s victory speech. “In all our long history we have never seen a day as this!” Or so I assume.

Deep Elum was pretty cool with lots of really good restaurants and bars. It was obvious it would be a better night than our previous Dallas effort. I liked it better during the day before it became a bro-centric entertainment district. Everyone went to the Pecan Lodge for apparently amazing barbecue and I went to Il Cane Rosso and had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. Truly.

3 Links is a great rock club, the sound guy was top notch and I loved it there. We had around six hours between soundcheck and playing. Dinner killed some time but there really wasn’t much else to do.** It was hot as the back of Andre the Giant’s balls slung in a singlet on the sun. Fortunately the opener Joe Gorgeous was very good, and the American Werewolf Academy were inspiring. I contend they might be one of the best rock bands working these days. There’s a timeless quality to their songs and they don’t really require any hyphenated descriptors, although they do remind me a bit of an american You Am I. IMG_2974

We played to a good-sized crowd of people largely unfamiliar with our music. It’s a good thing I think. We’re trying to build a following and all. Did it work? I guess we’ll find out when we come back.

 

Tomorrow is Austin.

 

*They’re not booing they’re saying put your damn clothes back on you pudgy bald freek.

** I did go into this vintage toy store and played a game I had never heard of: Baby Pac Man. It’s a combo pinball machine and video game and it was ridiculously difficult. When playing the video game there were no things to eat in order to turn the tables on the ghosts but you could escape down two pathways in the bottom whereupon you would disappear and a pinball would pop out. But there was nothing to bounce the ball off of and the paddle gap was wide.

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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?”

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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.

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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”

“Sir?”

“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.

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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

Terms:

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.

 

Wiseserviceable

Cheese flavor negligible

Texture pretty good

Herr’sgood

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.

Tour Diary: St. Louis (US / Day 2)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: 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 (see previous post) to such an extent I think they will remain uneaten as well.

Idiocy from the Van: Egregious Philbin

We drove the four hours from Davenport to St. Louis the night before and still got in around 10:00. We were staying at a hotel right near the arch. A hotel whose scratched hallways and undusted chandeliers echoed with the laughter and sighs of a more beautiful, elegant era. Like say 2006. The employees dragging through their assigned duties like the crew of the Titanic if it had taken 6 years to sink rather than 2 hours and 40 minutes. Case in point: The boxer shorts and washcloth crumpled on the floor by the ice machine that weren’t removed for almost 24 hours. I could almost deal with the shorts, as they were flannel and flannel seems benign, but it was the washcloth in conjunction with the boxers that worried me. It was an upscale hotel going to seed almost everywhere you looked. The best example of this was the huge patio on the second floor,easily the size of a football field, with rotting gravelly cement and scrubby shrubbery. And in the center was a structure that looked like it had jumped to its death during construction and just landed apropos of nothing right in the middle. Obviously it used to be used for special functions, what with it’s lovely view of the arch, but now was full of ripped curtains, knocked over chairs, peeling walls, and a trail mix of dust and droppings.

And then John was outside the hotel early in the morning smoking a cigarette and a fellow comes up to him and tells him he’s Tim Burton’s brother. He was wearing sandals showcasing his blistery feet, a thick gold chain, and a red baseball shirt. I wasn’t there so I’ll paraphrase to the best of my ability.

“I’m Tim Burton’s brother. I’m actually a millionaire, but the film industry is such a cash heavy game I don’t have access to it right now. Do you have a cigarette? I make documentaries. “What kind of documentaries? “ Oh well ummm… you know about like selling drugs……… and ummm…. prostitutes. “

He told John that he had started a bunch of companies and gave him his e-mail. John later looked them up and there was a whole page of fake LLC’s. I kind of admire his approach though. It’s that kind of chutzpah that can take a bum and elevate him to a hobo.

I wanted to go up in the arch as I’ve never done that, but the whole park is under massive construction for its 50th anniversary. Pretty much everything of interest downtown was fenced off. The mix of architectural styles and ages bore a striking similarity to Cincinnati, with some German, the odd Art Deco, and a few modern glass corporate trifles thrown in. The odd thing to me was how few people were out and about on Wednesday afternoon. I walked around for a while but never found anything open except a lovely little sculpture garden with public swimming fountains full of kids. The thing is I’ve been to St. Louis several times and I know there are wonderful parts. I love the Soulard Farmer’s Market, Forest Park with its free museums, and the Delmar district. It’s once again the curse of how everything gets so spread out. They were miles away, not really walkable destinations, with the only public transportation being the bus. And there are few things more impenetrable than local bus routes to a visitor. Outside of a few major cities, the U.S. really forces one to drive.

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Then we were off to Off Broadway for the show. We were playing Twangfest, a yearly Americana festival celebrating its 20th year. I think this is our third time playing it and for the life of us we don’t know why they keep asking us back. They’ve even had us play their show at SXSW a couple of times. It’s a super well run festival and we’ve always been treated incredibly well. Last time we played with Kelly Hogan and this time James McMurtry. So, not too bad there. I think my favorite thing about the Twangfest audience is that the people who support and attend something like this for 20 years are foremost music fans. The kinds of people who collect records, read reviews, and argue about different line-ups. We played the Off Broadway a long, almost forgotten time ago and it’s turned into a wonderful venue. They’ve built a little courtyard with chairs, a fire pit, and an outside covered bar. The room sounds great and has a balcony. Before the set I went and walked around the neighborhood. It was eerie, but once again there was almost no one around. The houses were mostly well kept with flower boxes watered and such, but no one was outside. It was a little unnerving.

Oh and the show was just wonderful. The sound was clear and perfect onstage and the crowd was super enthusiastic. The cheers at the end of “Teenage Wasteland” made us feel like The Who. An absolutely perfect way to start the tour in earnest.

Tomorrow is Tulsa.