Lasting Impressions

Posted: April 8th, 2013

The end of the last tour was a blur. Space and time were pulled out beneath me like a rug. Each time, that happens. In a blink the shows in Portland, Seattle, Ashland, Tahoe, Vegas, and LA are behind me. They’re all great shows. moe., as a unit, has taken their game to another higher level.

I try to remember things that place the whole experience in context. In Tahoe, on the north end of the lake, at Crystal Bay, right on the California-Nevada border, the caravan came to a halt. It, Lake Tahoe, is completely surrounded by mountains—big fuckers. The terrain is inclined and rugged, steep in places, covered with giant boulders, Ponderosa Pines, and patches of snow. Lake Cottages crowd the forest for the trees throughout the landscape, vying for a view of the lake, or mountains, or other trees and boulders. There, moe., et al,  hunkered down for 3 days; one off and two show days. Some of us, band and crew, went skiing. The rest of us lay low—sleep, drink, gamble—think about life and a deuce in the hole.

I was balls deep into reading, The Cell Biology of the Testis—Alien vs. the African Honey Badger: What If?, a friend of mine’s autobiography.

There’s nothing much else to do.

Crystal Bay is not a town but a place. Situated there are 4 casinos, 3 of them are run down and in dire need of renovation; a fire station, a few hotels, a log cabin that doubles as a high-end restaurant, and—thanks be to the heavens above—a newly opened craft beer dispensary. The place used to be an ice cream parlor, but it folded. Inside, the décor still looks like the ice cream parlor that was abandoned—a retro Andy Warhol meets Beaver Cleaver. Instead of a soda fountain and a soft serve behind the counter, on the wall, there’s about 50 beer taps. Suddenly, Crystal Bay got interesting.

But then it was over. Two great shows and we’re back on the bus attempting to get out in a snow storm high in the Sierras. It was 3 am and our bus driver had to put chains on the tires. It was snowing sideways. We had to make Las Vegas in 8 hours. It would take 10. The Hard Rock Café is right on the strip in the middle of it all. People walk the strip like narcotized herds of cattle, which many of them are: buzzed and bovine. moe. is to perform on the top floor of the Hard Rock, the third floor. Exhibits are displayed throughout the level. Myriad guitars signed by notable musicians are encased everywhere. There’s clothing, too. Stuff like, a coat Bruce Springsteen wore for ten minutes, or a suit Jimi Hendrix tried on, or ZZ Top’s formal wear. It’s not much steak, but the presentations sizzle. I’m setting up merch next to the Elvis room under a picture of Bo Diddley that’s framed with one of his square guitars. The level is closed to the public while we set up. It is cordoned off and there is signage up that says so. Yet people, buzzed and bovine, come off the elevator or escalator, ignore the signs and walk around the barrier to gawk. They wander from exhibit to exhibit in awe. It’s like they’re at the Smithsonian, viewing Charles Lindbergh’s plane, The Spirit of Saint Louis, contemplating how in the hell he could fly a thing, around the size of a one engine Cessna, across the country, let alone the Atlantic Ocean, and in doing so, usher in a revolution in aviation that would take man to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Except here, at the Hard Rock, they stare at some rock star’s pants, which are only strips of sequined, sparkly leggings attached to a padded ball pouch. Women gasp, but men suppress homo-erotic urges and equate the Spirit of Saint Louis to the amount of Budweiser they’re going to need to wash the thought of those pants and urges away. Is it me, Vegas, or is it really what’s become of the country? People are awed by bright lights, the pomp and pageantry of mediocrity, celebrate the lowest common denominator, and are hypnotized by the cult of celebrity. It is here where I have an epiphany: Wherever I go in this country the only thing I find we have in common as a nation is that English is still mother tongue, currency is still green, and shit still stinks. Vegas can do that to you.

If it doesn’t, then may I suggest a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, the one in the City of Angels, and the street the Henry Fonda Theater’s located, and where moe. went to perform after Vegas. I suppose when the first Spanish settlers arrived and drove the natives out, and then squatted on the narrow plain between the hills and mountains and the Pacific, they must have thought they’d found heaven, or a piece of it. There are 18 million people looking for a piece of heaven on that narrow plain today. As I walk to the theater from the hotel there is much to see. Out on Hollywood Boulevard there are many dominatrix-dressed women walking about. Enough that I wonder if there’s a convention. They are happy, joking, and hooting, and are varying in size, shape, and color. One walks near me. Her ass cheeks fill a miniskirt-fishnet thingy and hang like plump ham hocks in a butcher’s window. It’s an impressive sight. Enough that the transvestite at the bus stop quits arguing into his-her cell phone to watch the plump dominatrix walk by him-her. By then, I notice a phalanx of motorcycle cops and small Public Works trucks begin to close down the boulevard. They’re driving around in tight circles like the clowns do on small bikes in a Shriner’s parade. They’re redirecting traffic and setting up roadblocks. We wonder what’s going on. One friend wonders if it’s the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade a week early. There’s so many cops, another wonders if Obama’s in town. Destitute street people are about, though, so it couldn’t be Obama, or they’d of been cleaned up. Near a Starbucks I passed, in the parking lot, one lay dead (nearly) drunk. He’s facedown under a dumpster in a drying pool of booze and urine. Out on the sidewalk, another guy, with big bushy hair and a wild scraggily beard, is laid out on his side, his back flat against a wall. Though his eyes are shut, his free arm is reaching out and up like he’s grasping for an invisible hand. If there’s anything I carry with me from this tour, it’s the amount of homeless people I’ve encountered throughout the country—everywhere. One bum, in Madison, Wisconsin, I can’t forget. A man—he could have been 45 or 75—I could not tell—passed by me, late morning. He had a faraway look in his eyes. His pace was quickened—by the cold? Man it was cold. It was the morning after a snow and was around 20 degrees. But I don’t know if he could feel it anymore. His coat was open. He may have mumbled. What I can’t forget, because it’s freeze-framed in my head, is the greenish-yellowish icicles hanging from his nostrils like stalactites … It really made me think ... Dammit ... It was cold in Madison …

… It’s cold everywhere. Even here in LA. That guy with his arm stretched out, in his own filth, reaching for what? Now that’s in my head, too. I try to convince myself that there are people who will always live outside of society, even if it’s in the middle of 18 million of them. …I’m distracted. My thoughts are interrupted… Hey, there is a parade, about 80-100 people, mostly women, are holding banners and signs and shouting out for women’s equality. Suddenly, a guy with a big, 5 foot high crucifix draped in colorful beads, runs out from nowhere to the very front of the marchers and parade bombs the procession for Christ. It’s like he’d laid in ambush, but the women don’t seem to notice or care. Neither do any of the cops. I imagine this is an average Saturday afternoon on Hollywood Boulevard for them. I don’t know what to make of it all. Between here and Vegas, I’m confused.  I sense no danger, and I’m not here to pass Judgment. I’d like to think, with these words, I’m leaving impressions.