Up in Houston, and the ghost of Saturday night’s cheap whiskey haunts our mouths:
The stubborn bouquet of the squashed skunk in the gutter.
A shrimp scampi doggy bag left in the backseat over the weekend.
These are the things that come to mind.
Thankfully, Houston is on the cutting edge of drive-thru frozen cocktail dispensaries, so we’re soon back on the road, destination New Orleans, piña coladas in hand!
We’d pulled into Houston still woozy from the long lunch in Austin.
It was an uneventful drive, save a couple hilarious piss stops along the way.
Tacky souvenirs are bought, roadside delicacies sampled:
We check in -late- to the Post Oak Hilton, none too happy about the prospect of another night without our beloved nap.
We are consoled, however, by the sight of brilliant couples loading the elevators for the reception floors:
It’s prom night in Houston baby!
It’s a quick drop off, whore’s bath and lace up the boots before we’re back in the ride and heading over to Walter’s and our date with the Stitches and LCB–one more time…!
We load into a non descript warehouse on the edge of town, all abandoned railroad tracks and the lonesome baying of stray mongrels.
We each breathe out a sigh, for it’s a scene we’ve seen a thousand times before.
The bored look on the kids’ faces, the worried look on the promoter’s.
We silently wonder if we set the DVR for SNL properly, isn’t this the night Mick Jagger is hosting?
It is times like these that you need to remind yourself that it is Saturday Night in America, and some of these kids have waited patiently a month for this gig to arrive.
But soon enough, we’re pulled back into the belly of that familiar monster, and the crew is all in fine spirit:
Tonight it’s the Brats that have to headline, so we do our little act and then adjourn to the plywood bar for many doses of that cheap whiskey we were talking about…..
Upon seeing the lousy selection of booze, a smarter group of chaps might just say No thanks, I’ll wait til we get back to the Lobby Bar ,
But come on!
If we were a smarter group of chaps, we would’ve started a ska band instead, and comfortably be out on the Warped Tour every Summer and get to wear suits and flat tops…but no!
And then, as always, the night comes to a sloppy end.
We take group photos and group hugs, for we have to say goodbye to the Stitches and Brats for now.
Smart fellas they are, they’ve passed on the extra show in N.O., so we each take to the streets in our separate caravans, on the lookout for that late night greasy food that will only complicate matters in the morning.
Taking to Bourbon Street at a run, we stop only to shoot icy cold doses of Jager and swallow giant Blue Points raw.
We’ve come here straight off of the hellish hungover drive, but suddenly energized by the town, we are unable to sit still more than 5 minutes.
We wear whitefaced grins from too many powdered Beignets….
We are, literally, kids in a candy store.
Beanie has to drag us kicking and crying away from the French Quarter for tonight’s gig.
We pout into our to-go 32ouncers all the way over to Siberia, where the mighty Poots have taken to stage!
And then, once again, it’s our turn.
We ask to borrow strange amplifiers, Alf adapts to yet another unfamiliar drum set.
Yet somehow, we pull it all together again, and give the kind people an idea of what we’re all about.
It’s a Sunday night, a couple thousand miles away from familiar beds, and our bowels have been destroyed by the unrelenting onslaught of cheap booze and barbecued meats.
We feel great.
We get to hang out with the locals and some visiting chums, and the people of this nutty town, they don’t seem to notice that Sunday has somehow turned into a Monday morning!
And double checking the itinerary–yep–we’re done!
The day gets light, we hit Bourbon–the street and the beverage! once again, and before you know it, the day starts to darken once more.
We hit a million bars and talk about a million things.
We come up with brilliant ideas for the band, ideas that somehow no one can remember the next day.
And we’re here amongst friends, and feeling finally free.
One by one, we start to leave wordly posessions on bartops, keys and phones, those beeping talismans that connect us to the responsible world.
Drunkenly misplaced or thrown away in disgust of what we’ve become–leashed to the world at all times!–we suddenly see.
We don’t need these things, not anymore.
Maybe we’ll just stay right here, off the grid, living on the banks of the Mississippi.
We’ll sleep under the smoky stars and eat our fill of mudbugs and wild green onions every day.
We get up and leave, onto yet the next joint.
Some of these things we’ve abandoned are brought back out to us, on the shadowy sidewalk, by vigilant bartenders.
Others are lost, forever.
Bourbon Street, the site of hilarity so very recently, unfolds serious and hot before us.
It’s Tuesday afternoon, the shows are done, and I’m walking in front of Kimm, behind Ant and Alf, each of us keeping 5 yards apart:
The chance to luxuriate upon Egyptian 1200 thread count sheets in soft terrycloth robes?
That small yet heartwarming gesture, the nightly gift of a mint on the pillow?
Perhaps you just like to scroll mindlessly through the Adults-Only titles on the 50” LCD monitor, is that it, you naughty rascal?
Heh—if you’re like us on a Friday afternoon at America’s Best Value Inn, East Austin, packed into one room as the other is being finished by the maids, your best values tend to aim a little lower…..
We keep checking the hallway, but the maid’s cumbersome workstation remains outside our door.
The day labororers standing around the front office, 40 oz jugs of amber malt liquor in hand, eyed us warily as we checked in.
We hear a lot of chingas and maricóns muttered in the background as we climb the stairs holding guitar cases.
There is a pickup game of soccer happening in the parking lot at the moment, apparently the drywallers are outscoring the busboys 3-1.
And now, I shit you not, Maintenance has been called to our room-in-waiting.
A big smiling chap comes back out into the hallway, carrying the dorm-sized fridge, and begins happily washing the congealed blood out of it.
Misters, your room is good now!
A quick vote is taken, and fearing to rest our pubis anywhere near the inevitably lice ridden bedspreads, we decide to forgo our customary nap and head straight to our beloved Casino El Camino: Let’s say say hello to the town.
Austin, you slutty drunk of a town, how we missed you!
We head over to Rainey Street, its burnt out hovels reimagined as ritzy dive bar hovels now, a playground for the Docker and Ralph Lauren set…
Foreclosed shacks are now home to 14 dollar Appletinis, and there are ATM machines set up on gravel driveways amongst the clucking chickens and dog shit.
Why can’t we have something like this, say, in Santa Fe Springs back home?!
Loading in and setting up merch, the bands meet up and talk about new grandkids and used guitars: Gonna be a fun night!
It turns out to be just a grand time, the bands are all on point and everywhere you look there is a familiar face wearing a goofy smile!
We’re on the outdoor stage tonight, and a warm yellow moon rises above the howling pack of degenerates at Red 7…..all we’re missing is a bonfire and a split haunch of venison and this primal ritual would be complete!
Luckily, Stitches have to close out this night.
Funny, in the old days, bands would fight over the headlining spot, going as far as faking car trouble or ailing Grandmothers to show up late.
Now, like value-minded Senior Citizens lining up for the 4:30 earlybird at the Parasol Diner, we’re at the club early and scrapping for the chance to play first!
Heh—you close out the show Sonny, we got some reruns of Matlock to catch up on!
We sip our final cocktails at last call, load out and call the night.
We get back to America’s Best Value and fall into deep slumber clutching oozing Whataburgers, nary a thought of frozen blood or crab infestation disturbing our blissful sleep.
It’s up and out, and plans are made for a light breakfast at IronWorks BBQ:
And then, clever boys that we are, it’s back to Casino before hitting the road to Houston.
2 shows down and 9600 milligrams of Sodium up, I know we all are at that point in the weekend that we take a personal inventory:
Just need to choke down a couple litres of water, some Immodium and Vitamin C and we’re good, yeah?
But maybe there is an extra gram of tiredness in the limbs, an unfamiliar grumbling of stomach… but nothing we can’t get through.
After all, you’ve done it before: that becomes the true mantra of any man past the age of fifty, I suspect.
We measure our performance against the past, and tend to ignore the added seconds at the finish line, the stubborn top button on the favorite Levis.
Ah, but these little markers become the telltales of time claiming its territory.
And so we get back in and drive on, comforted only by the thought that it’s a Hilton booked for tonight.
Bourbon Street, the site of hilarity so very recently, unfolds serious and hot before us.
It’s Tuesday afternoon, the shows are done, and I’m walking in front of Kimm, behind Ant and Alf, each of us keeping 5 yards apart: Apparently, there is nothing left to say.
Passing the bars and open courtyards, the city gives up its funky secrets in the naked light of day.
Beer is being delivered, vomit is being removed.
Somewhere, another chocolate-dark roux is patiently being birthed, base for the gumbo to be fed to the tourists and, inevitably, delivered back to the gutter later in the night.
Fuckin’ New Orleans.
30 years ago, we bounced through this same route and were hungry for more.
Actual regret at going home, we’d seen this crazy world and couldn’t wait to be back.
We’re older, me and Kimm anyway, I guess.
A lifetime of sticky bartops and a thousand colorful characters later, we cannot wait to get home.
We are killing time before a 7pm flight, doing the ‘ol walk of shame along Bourbon, trying to collect the things we’ve lost the night before:
Sunglasses, cell phones.
“Here,” says Anthony. He points to an open bar across the way.
“This was the last place we were drinking at last night. Pretty sure.”
We go in and take stools on the zinc bar.
As the bartender goes to check with the manager about lost and found, we sip on cold Dixies and page through the weeklies on the bar:
Ragin’ Roy, twink DJ
Tranny Bingo Wednesdays.
Bear Cave Thursdays—Come to Daddy!
Anthony goes outside and squints up at the rainbow flags fluttering in the breeze.
“Maybe this wasn’t the place.”
We hit the street again, I sit down on a stoop as the fellas go across the street to check out Bloody Mary’s Voodoo Store: Potions, Dolls, Psychic Readings: Know your Future!
Sound good to me.
I have a feeling my immediate future involves a 3 day headache and plenty of hydration.
“What you doing Sugar?”
I look up at the enormous brown ass of a stripper standing in the doorway of Deja Vu.
She is bisected by the glittery white stripe of a thong, which disappears into the twin hemispheres before emerging beneath an elaborate rose and thorn tattoo.
I stand up and start to walk off, but she keeps after me.
“Hey, where you going? You get in here and let Delicious give you a lapdance, hey?”
“Well, that does sound, ah, great, but we have a flight to catch.”
I point across the street at the guys. “We do.”
“Oh, well that’s too bad baby. What, lookit the hair on that one!”
She points at Kimm.
He sees us looking at him, me and Delicious, and flaps his arms once: What now?
“Y’all in some kind of band or something?”
“Yes. Yes we are. We’re called, uh, The Stitches. From LA?”
Delicious lights a Newport and coughs out a laugh.
“Stitches? Whooo, that’s funny. What you doing all the way out here Sugar?”
I sit back down on the stoop, suddenly dizzy from the humidity and toxic ingredients swimming my bloodstream.
Across the street Kimm takes yet another call on his Blackberry and paces back and forth in front of the store.
Doing business, God Bless him.
“Well, we’re on tour, Delicious. Did a few shows this weekend.”
“Is that right? Where y’all been playing?”
I close my eyes and see flashes of red, then the images of the last four days come gushing forth.
An easy flight to Dallas on Thursday afternoon, Kimm has been here for a night and picks us up in a swanky 2012 Yukon.
In the passenger seat is our old mate BeenBoy, in from Cleveland, and the crew is set for shenanigans!
Into Dallas to check out Elm St., and hook up with old pal Mouse Ramone.
He directs us to Serious Pizza next to the club, home of, well, serious sized slices!
We’re fresh as daisies, and skip along Elm Street as we wait for The Stitches to show up and start the night.
We’re thrilled to find a gallery down the way featuring the work of Big Boy guitarist Tim Kerr, surely a good omen for things to come in Austin.
And then we start to see various Stitches appear in the balmy Texas evening, and the night has begun!
The crowd at LaGrange is admittedly a little light.
We blame the Stitches, they blame us.
But we don’t really care, as the crew at the club are kind, the bar and backyard awesome, and opening band Dog Company are rockin’ gentlemen…and hell, we’re on vacation!!
We adjourn to The Black Swan next door to cap off the night, and then drive past the grassy knoll a few times to satisfy Anthony’s conspiracy-minded theories.
Up at a decent hour, we’re shuffling around in boxers and cranky for coffee when the Stitch crew comes bursting in with their plans for the day:
Hit a bike shop, back to Elm St. for some antiquing, lunch is TexMex.
Heh, not us brother—-we’ve been told of a little gem of a town halfway to Austin, that’s right, we’re heading to the Czech Stop in the swingin burg of West, Texas!
Now, that’s not West Texas, I’m talking West, Texas, ya got me? The town is called West, as in W-E-S-T, as we were schooled by the grumpy locals at Mynar’s.
Full from our Czech delicacies, we wandered down to Mynar’s to wet our whistles and see what the locals were up to.
The screen door slams behind me and I squint a bit against the cool dark of the bar.
There’s beer cooling in a tub behind the bar, stuffed heads on the walls.
The bartender is a gentle faced grandmom sucking on a 120.
There’s a table of locals plopped in front of the projection TV, Natural Lights in hand.
There is that momentary lapse in sound, that cliched’ pause that results whenever you barge into someone else’s turf, a crew of five. Well, well….Hollywood’s come to town!
But soon we’re yukkking it up with the locals, although they sneer at our Converse sneakers–on men our age!— and our amazement at a working Telephone booth inside the bar.
I’m in the back room with Beenie, taking turns in the phone booth when one of the old locals comes out of the head and up to us.
“You there,” he says, and points at me. “Get over here.”
I drop the receiver and come out of the booth.
He looks like Santa Claus on a five day drunk, all grey whiskers and red skin.
He takes a folded piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and unfolds it, looking at me.
“Read this, go on,” he says, “I’ll bet you can appreciate this.”
I look down at the paper, a printout of an old email that has apparently been forwarded many times.
The paper is soiled and worn at the folds, witness to its many presentations, probably in this very room.
I start reading, and I can feel his eyes on me as I read:
Ole Joke “The Norwegian Wrestler”
A Russian and Ole the Norwegian wrestler were set to square off for the Olympic Gold Medal. Before the final match, the Norwegian wrestling coach came to Ole and said, “Now, don’t forget all the research we’ve done on this Russian… He’s never lost a match because of this ‘pretzel’ hold he has”. Whatever you do, do not let him get you in that hold! If he does, you’re finished’. Ole nodded in acknowledgment.
As the match started, Ole and the Russian circled each other several times, looking for an opening. All of a sudden, the Russian lunged forward, grabbing Ole and wrapping him up in the dreaded pretzel hold. A sigh of disappointment arose from the crowd and the coach buried his face in his hands, for he knew all was lost… He couldn’t watch the inevitable happen.
Suddenly, there was a scream, and then a cheer from the crowd and the coach raised his eyes just in time to watch the Russian go flying up in the air. His back hit the mat with a thud and Ole collapsed on top of him making the pin and winning the match. The crowd went crazy. The coach was astounded.
When he finally got his wrestler alone, he asked, “How did you ever get out of that hold? No one has ever done it before!”
Ole answered, “Vel, I vas ready to give up ven he got me in dat hold, but at da last moment, I opened my eyes and saw dis pair of testicles right in front of my face…I had nuttin’ to lose so wid my last ounce of strength I stretched out my neck and bit dose babies just as hard as I could.”
So the trainer exclaimed, “That’s what finished him off!”
“Vel not really. You’d be amazed how strong you get ven you bite your own nuts!”
I look up from the paper and he’s staring at me.
“You get it? He bit his own balls.”
“Heh. He sure did. That’s great.”
He takes the paper out of my hands and folds it back up carefully before putting it back in his pocket.
He nods his head.
“Yep. I knew you’d get it.”
There was a time, maybe not that long ago, when we would be rolling our eyes at the yokels, luxuriating in our superiority.
We’d cluck our tongues at their little lives as we drove off on another adventure beyond their sad little horizon.
But now, standing here, I feel a twinge of envy as Santa goes back to the table, slapping backs on the way.
And for a moment I wish I was here, and staying here, celebrating a Friday afternoon in my own little town, and letting the world pass by.
But we have to get back into that fucking car and keep driving, another gig tonight, and the night after that.
As we’re leaving the bartender calls me over.
“So you guys are a band huh? What’s the band?”
“Ever hear of the Foo Fighters?”
Her eyes light up. “I have! I just bought my grandson Jake the cd….is that you?”
“Um, no. We’re called…. the Stitches?”
The disappointment flashes across her face for a moment and then she fishes something out from beneath the bar.
“Well, you’re the leader, aren’t you? I can tell.”
I look around, and the rest of the guys have already left the bar.
“I am. I am the leader.”
She places something in my hand, it’s a Mynar’s Bar Beer cozy.
“I’m sorry I can’t give each one of y’all one, but you can share, can’t you?”