8 am on the 405, the numeric code for running late to LAX.
We are all glued to our phone screens, as we hold image after terrifying image of savage wildfires in our paws.
The air is already a balmy 98 fucking degrees, combined with a Santa Ana blast that makes this smoldering town a natural blow dryer: 5000 watts baby!
The land is burning, people are pushed toward the edge by the unseasonable heat.
And like cowards, we’re gonna hoof it out of town and hope the city is not a pile of charcoal by the time we return.
It is so traumatic that Ant and Alf have a third Mimosa to calm their shattered nerves, the poor lambs!
We hit the ground running, and after being bitched out for trying to carry guitars on board-late, natch, we are tucked into wee cabin seats and told to shut up.
And away, it seems, we go.
Curbside in Columbus Ohio and it is a delightful 55 degrees at 6pm.
We take a moment to strip off shirts and do the Shawshank happy dance, finally cooled.
Our heartland handler Mr Beenie scoops us up in the minivan and we take in the sights of this storied college burg.
Our fist time to Columbus, don’t ya know, so we’re just navigating by Yelp reviews and Alf’s goddamn Untappd beer badge app to make our way around town.
The gig is at Ace of Cups, a delightful club with high ceilings and crafty brews that are as cloudy as the eyes of a 15 year old Bichon Frise.
We seem to be onto our theme of the trip as Alf snorts and sniffs each ale, comparing them with the other beer maniacs at the rail.
We have to pull him away from the bar for set time, and he is still shouting things like hoppy, crispy and notes of chocolate!
Oh brother—one tall PBR for me thanks!
We play a quick set, though we apparently do not have any photographic proof–trust us for once, alright?
We did however get this shot of Alf’s nifty kit for the night!
Up at a sensible time and it’s off toward that Windy slut of a town, Chicago!
Lunch stop is at the charming Fat Cat Diner in Lima Ohio, where they serve up some quality chow without pretense.
It’s still a breezy 58 degrees out, but after a few calls home tell us about rising temps, power blackouts and looters lining up outside the Best Buy, we toast the chilly Spring day and sit on the patio.
We get onto Lake Shore Drive just as Friday rush hour traffic congeals.
It takes a good 30 minutes to crawl into midtown, so we say fuck it and head to The Lodge to wait out the traffic.
Over to the Northside now, and load into Red Line Tap.
Very cool club, attached to the Heartland Cafe, where we are comped down with some great comfort food and, yes, more of the beers with honest pedigree.
Alf taps away at his phone with each new beer, apparently he’s winning at something here.
It keeps him from fidgeting at the dinner table.
Ant is thrilled to have a TV showing the Kings game, and it isn’t long until they inevitably come back from a down series and dispatch the Ducks.
Yeah, you got it–Chicago Blackhawks!
We hit the stage and it isn’t 3 songs before Anthony is baiting the crowd with his hockey shit talk.
And then we while away the night with our Chi town chums.
It’s not long before beds at the swanky Heart o Chicago fleabag are calling, but not before a sensible late night stop at, you guessed it-White Castle!
Saturday breaks all too early, and we consider the leftover chicken rings littering the soiled carpet of the motel.
Yes, I said chicken rings, as the clever crew at White Castle has apparently discovered a new part of the chicken for us to eat.
Heh. We need to rinse the foul fast foodness off palate, so it’s over to Fat Willy’s for a light morning snack.
On the advice of vodka-and-tomato juice expert Jeff, we order up the best Bloody Mary’s in town.
He’s right, they are damn good, and we can’t control ourselves with this menu and these smells.
Bring on the meat!
There’s time for a quick pulled pint over at Owen & Engine, as Alf hasn’t had his handcrafted Ale for the day yet! The horror!
It’s an easy drive into Cleveland, and we have just enough time to check into Beenie’s pad and say hello to Mackie:
And then it’s into that den of wickedness, Cleveland’s own Now That’s Class!
Refreshingly, we don’t see any craft beers on tap, so while Alf goes and pouts in the basement we dig into a literal rainbow of fine fortified wines.
The mighty The Plain Dealers are letting loose on stage now, and they bring it as they always do!
Great to catch up with all our Cleveland pals, but it’s back to the basement for us to tune, for there’s still one show left on this little jaunt.
And then we hit that stage and it’s all we expect from this crazy town:
A beer soaked, sweaty night, the stage sticky from a dozen spilled drinks, the crowd loud and loose: perfect.
The night ends with the tables turned, as they put us to work behind the bar and the staff sits down at the rail.
The bartenders, they yell at us to hurry up and call us baby.
Someone actually snaps their fingers, just to give us a taste of our own medicine.
We hold back the tears as we count our meager tips at the end of our shift.
And just like that, we’re waking up on Sunday morning and hustled back to the airport.
We finally touchdown in LA.
We load out to the curb and find the fever has broken, the temperatures have dropped to a comfy 79 degrees at 8pm.
And as we make our way back down the 405, each of us silent with our own calculations of calories consumed over this whirlwind weekend, Alf’s phone chimes yet one more time: