Oh, we try to be good.
To live on the dark side of fifty, we now put on the reading glasses when haunting the grocery aisle.
Sodium count is noted and discretely added to the end count abacus that constantly clicks in our heads.
Cans of luxurious fatty corned beef, just the thing for that hungover breakfast on Sunday, are inspected and regretfully placed back on the shelf.
Maybe those rice cakes will be okay, and, whoa! dipped in plain yogurt if we’re feeling crazy, huh?
But it’s a different story out on the weekend road, brother, when we briefly escape the earthly bounds of mortality and sensible footwear.
For a glorious 3 or 4 days it is perfectly fine to hydrate with Mountain Dew and oil cans of warm PBR, and that late night cheese covered snack, calorie count fifteen times the local speed limit, is not only logical but necessary.
Goopy bar snacks, gas station sausages, strip club breakfasts, tamales sold out of plastic hefty bags by the one eyed midget in Portland: all fair game.
We order not only the Tonkatsu ramen at Biwa, more than enough for any man, but also every skewer of gizzard and organ that can fit on the glowing robata grill.
We start each day in the same way, different motel bathrooms.
Vitamin C, Sam-E, Prilosec, Lipitor, Immodium.
These are the backstage drugs now.
We line the pills up like vintage Soviet tanks awaiting their turn in a North Korean military parade.
And when they are finally waved through, after their presentation before the tiny uvula dictator, we are ready to start another day, with all its glorious nutrition, anew.
We show up at the club and drop the guest list, its size depending on how badly we burned bridges last time through.
Some towns, we know enough people for a good sized Tupperware party.
Others, not so much.
Those nights, we scan the crowd for the one dude with the homemade CH3 T shirt, ply him with drinks and get him to sit behind the merch booth while we inspect the equipment we are borrowing tonight.
For we travel light, only guitars in hand, and have to rely on the kindness of the local bands for backline.
We will say this: The quality of the gear, amps and drums, is unquestionably better these days.
Gone are the days of plugging straight into the board or the homemade toaster head sitting atop a plywood 3 x 12 cabinet.
Oh, those nights of dodgy input jacks and tricky amps, that have to be turned on just so……
No, the stuff is pretty good, and most nights better than the poor abused boxes that wait for us back home.
But our lips still hold the subtle callous of the constantly electrocuted.
Ah. those sweet nights of being kissed with visible blue spark, our human heads completing the circuit between guitar string, microphone and faulty ground.
And if only our loved ones can detect the slight scar of lower lip, and feel the still buzzing electricity that has altered our internal pulse by just a click, they mercifully accept us, and put a gentle fingertip up to the wound, as if to soothe us and say shhhh.
They say we have no change of Seasons in Southern California….pffft.
What do you call that subtle change in late September, when the germinated Queen Palms along Ocean Boulevard suddenly sprout with snowy seed?
Or hoho, when the temperature dips below 75 that first time of the year, and sends us scurrying for the Winter wardrobe of closed toed shoes and sturdy Pendleton?
Or what about….ah fuck it, yer right.
I got nothing here.
It’s the same familiar unfamiliarity, when we hit the tarmac and and that first blast of cool Fall air hits us.
Oh, so this is what it feels like, weather.
We fall to knee right there on the moving walkway and pull out thermals and drinking sweaters, giggling at the goosebumps upon our tan forearms.
We arrive at the car rental counter bundled and fuzzy warm as preschoolers ready to assemble the first snowman of the year.
It is the grand treat to come back to these places, and we measure ourselves against the glowing memories of the last time through.
In the cramped rental car, with head lodged between anvil case and box of merch, it is more than enough to just gaze out the window at the world going by.
In these quiet times you take a quick survey of the day, how the voice is holding up with a discete hmmmm, and how many miles it is til the next city appears on the horizon.
You look out and see a sudden, outrageous burst of color above tree trunk, a fiery final protest of life before the bleak Winter to come.
It’s that same sensation, every night.
You pull open the door to the club, and are met with that first exhalation of smoke and sweat, the sound of people drinking, maybe clank and tang of a kitchen being closed up for the night.
You try to detect in a sniff which way the night will go, before taking a peek inside to see the headcount and making the quick calculations if the promoter will be jolly or tearfull at night’s end.
A dozen eyes glow out from the darkness, canine and hungry, and you can just make out the comic caption clouds floating above the twinned fireflies:
The band is here.
Alright fuckers, show us what ya got!
We see dear and familiar faces from other adventures, re connect with heroes from our past:
And without fail, we end up with new friends by night’s end.
Seattle, we meet up with Andy Nystrom for a quick interview post-set. He does an admirable job getting his story, as we’re all obsessed with last call and missing guitar cords.
Maybe you remember a Sunday afternoon when you were pulled out of treehouse and made to put on shoes, only to be swept into the station wagon, soon lulled into a carbon monoxide slumber on some interminable cross town jaunt.
Then you reached your destination, and your parents only set you loose in a different backyard, sometimes kid free, other times jealously guarded over by your snot nosed doppelganger.
And when you cupped your tiny paws around your eyes to peer through the screen door, you could see your parents in there, with another couple or maybe two: Dad with legs crossed in a jaunty way, conducting some ribald tale with his miniature cigarette baton.
There is a peal of laughter and then Mom punches Pop in the arm, good natured, her eyes shiny with laughter and love.
For God sake, they’re just in there…..talking!
Visiting, is what they’d call it….. old people.
And then you’d roll your eyes to the heavens and slap your thighs once again as you turned back to the yard in search of a toy to break or insect to torture.
They’re just in there talking!
And besides those brief minutes, when we strap on the guitars and roam around the stage, that’s all we’re really doing: visiting.