I think the first sign of things to come were the fact that 3 out of 4 people inside the venue (all under 17) were smoking. This led me to wonder if this was a benefit against cancer or for it. I went outside to escape the smoke and found Jessie #3 smoking next to our van while it’s doors and windows were open. I could imagine all our things taking on the sullied smell of burnt tar and nicotine so I crawled inside, closed all the doors and windows and tried to nap. The mosquito problem coupled with the extreme heat made it impossible to stay in the van so I went back inside the venue with a fast-growing agitation. There I saw the first band rip into their set with a great build up that culminated into a power failure – an issue that would plague the rest of the night. To make matters worse they ended up being a rap-metal band. The next band were obviously a ‘punk’ band but every time there was a rad guitar break the rest of the band would come in with a wimpy groove beat instead of a kick-ass two-beat. Our set sucked and as much as I hate to admit it, even HALT sorta blew (well, by my inflated standards anyway…). By the way, we had to pay for bowling and even that sucked.
We were all a little cranky by shows-end but Jessie #3 was nice enough to secure us all a house to crash at. Oddly, the guy whose house it was was also named Jessie. From here on out I will call him Drunk Jessie. We could actually hear Drunk Jessie’s party in progress before we shut the engine off. Half of us walked in and walked right back out. The house was filthy, loud, small, full of smokers and not at all suitable for anyone wishing to sleep. Those of us who didn’t retire to the van tried to socialize, if only because there was promise of pizza coming. Ernesto and Chuck asked where they could sleep and Drunk Jessie led them to a closet with no lights. They stepped in and felt the squash of untold and uncountable bugs before going back out to the van. Sandwiched between Robert and I on a spring-less thrift store couch sat a teen-aged girl with braces and pig-tails. Her friend sitting across the room from us warned us that the young lady between Robert and I was a virgin and not one to put out. The young lady then assured us that her friend was not a virgin and would most likely put out. Robert informed both of them that he was at least 10 years older then them and married but it was obvious that made no difference. I was thinking, ‘I’d better write this down before I forget.’
Instead of writing it down I decided to do one better and call someone, anyone. At this point that I found myself wanting total withdraw. I was not homesick or even tired of tour – far from it – but I was definitely exhausted, frustrated, uncomfortable, bug-bitten, over-heated, and tired of drunk/stoned obnoxiousness. I was just looking for some sort of device capable of suspending the inevitable bad night’s sleep. Outside the house the town was absolutely dead. I walked in the direction of some huge fluorescent light towers that usually indicated some sort of store or gas station. A block before the lights I saw a figure walking towards me. I didn’t want to make eye contact so I kept my head down and then heard the figure say, "The gas station is closed, the phones don’t work and this place sucks." It was Devon. We walked – slowly, very slowly – back to the house where we found Robert uncharacteristically stoked on the party situation. For the first time this whole tour he was choosing not to sleep in the van. At the risk of a sore back, tarred lungs and/or scabies we walked in the house ready to endure and overcome.
was loaded so it was not hard to achieve small talk. What was hard was
figuring out who was dangerous and who was just drunk. For instance, the
Christian emo band we played with tonight were all tanked and blatantly
trying to doink any girl awake. A lame dichotomy to be sure, but not dangerous
except to anything except them or their ‘faith.’ Besides, their combined
total weight (white belts included) was comparable to a Danelectro guitar.
But then there was this creepy albino guy with an oversized Sepultura
shirt who resembled the banjo playing kid from Deliverance. The
conversation started normal enough:
As creepy as he was I rather enjoy indulging in the weirdness of things. We talked for a while and once he found out I was in a band he asked all sorts of naïve questions about the band, touring, California and the like. ("You guys write your own songs?" "You make lots of money and get lots of chicks?" "You all surf?") Each of his questions was separated by a long pause wherein his body and face froze. I fought the urge to look for a clock to make sure time was still running.
He turned and walked away without any sort good-bye so I walked outside and found Noel by himself. It was starting to rain lightly but it was still warm and there was lightening in the distance so we stayed outside and talked. He is the only HALTer who seems to have no qualms about living on the road and as such I could easily relate his state of mind. Even in the lameness of tonight we both felt we were doing the right thing at the right time with ourselves, however erotic-fiction that sounds. When the rain got too heavy we went back inside. At the backdoor I was stopped by the creepy albino. He asked if I was leaving and I told him I was gonna try and find a place to sleep. Without a hint of slowness or naïveté he said, "Before you go I wanna tell you that I really dig your band – and I especially like LIFES HALT – and I appreciate what you guys sing about. It’s good knowing bands like you guys are out there. I hope the rest of your tour goes well. Take care."
All of a sudden I wondered if this whole night was some sort of joke – like everyone in this town was totally on the ball but just playing up the weirdness for the sake of the Californians. I walked inside and saw a group of guys in the kitchen playing some sort of game involving punching each other in the solar plexus and thought maybe the albino was just a fluke.
I climbed the stairs to Drunk Jessie’s room. He lived in the attic and was playing the new TRAGEDY record at full blast. I saw Devon and Carl in the corner reading a book with earplugs in his ears. I asked what he was doing up here and he said Drunk Jessie invited him up to sleep because it was quiet. Apparently Drunk Jessie forgot about Devon and invited some of his drunk friends to come up and listen to music on 10. I followed Devon’s lead by putting earplugs in and trying to read myself to sleep. Twenty minutes went by and Drunk Jessie and his friends left the room, with the stereo still blaring. Devon, Carl and I looked at each other and then jumped as quickly as we could towards the stereo and lights and shut them both off. Minutes later Drunk Jessie came back with more friends and restored the lights and the music and the volume to it’s original state.
Jessie #3 came up to ask Drunk Jessie to turn the music down because people downstairs were trying to sleep (yeah, it was that loud). Jessie #3 saw us in the corner trying to sleep and incredulously pointed to us and told Drunk Jessie that he was being a jerk. Drunk Jessie looked at us and apologized, saying, "Only two more songs, man."
Another twenty minutes later Drunk Jessie and friends left (with stereo still on) so Devon, Carl and I turned everything off and went so far as to unplug everything that made either light or sound. A few minutes later a drunk girl with an obnoxious and screechy voice opened the door at the foot of the attic stairs and yelled, "OK, turn on the fucking light." No one said a word and she repeated herself. We stayed quiet hoping she would go away. Instead she stood there yelling into the darkness that was our sleeping quarters. To make herself perfectly clear, and thereby signing her death warrant, she said "I'm not going anywhere until someone turns on the fucking light." Carl got up for some water and intercepted her at the foot of the stairs, forcing her out with him. There was much rejoicing.
In the kitchen Carl saw Drunk Jessie passed out face-down on the floor. His friends were crowded around him saying crazy things like, "We should carry him up to his room." Carl, thinking quickly of his comrades upstairs, told them he overheard Jessie say earlier that he wanted to sleep downstairs. Everyone shrugged and probably thought about how much energy it would take to cart his dead weight up the stairs. So they left him there, passed out, face down and, as Carl was giddy to point out, in a puddle of milk.
The next morning we found Drunk Jessie asleep at the foot of the stairs leading to his room. With half our party asleep in the vans and the other half itching to get out of town ASAP we were on the road as day was breaking.
Today we stopped at a national park dedicated to the preservation of the buffalo. To do this the park erected a 25-foot tall statue of a buffalo, kept a few buffalo in a small fenced area, and sold buffalo jerky.
Played in a bar that has stood since the 1800s. It is now run by a guy and his girlfriend who rent it for $150/month. They have no jobs and pay the rent by having shows. The guy’s brother was an amazing specimen of mooch, trying to get us to give him anything we could. If he hadn’t been so whiney about it we might have passed something along to him but when he tried to sell us a compilation CD of bands that had played here – bands that no doubt gave him a free CD not knowing he was gonna try and sell their stuff on a comp – we did our best to avoid him. He pleaded with us saying we were gonna get paid later tonight so why not buy some of his CDs. We told him we made $30 between both bands last night which barely got both vans to the freeway, much less across the state. He didn’t get it. At the end of the night when both bands got paid another $30 he still didn't understand that we could not afford the fucking $8 for his bootleg comp CD.
We all slept in the bar-cum-home and asked our promoter to tell us some ghost stories that had to exist in an old building like his. Rather than regale us with tales of the unexplained he told us all about the bugs that come out of the vents every night and how last summer he had one crawl in his ear and how he had to have some sort of surgery to get it removed. Devon’s head happened to be lying on such a vent and he made a quiet suggestion to me that I NEVER ask for spooky stories again.
After the show our old friend Jason Wade (who was back in town for a court date after getting caught stealing lawn gnomes) took us and Dale’s raver neighbors for midnight cliff-diving where everyone skinny-dipped while Carl the Pervert kept his documentary camera (with light) poised on the swimmers. He didn’t capture any part of the Most Fun Show of the tour but he was surely not gonna miss night shots of skinny-dippers.
The SCOTT BAIO ARMY guys gave us directions to the junkyard where the show was held. None of us really expected it was gonna be an actual, bona fide junkyard but there it was, heaps of metal and rubber and plastic and oil and trash everywhere. Devon claims to have pooped somewhere in the junkyard because there was no working bathroom facility but I guess only the junkyard dog will know for sure.
The next morning SBA led us out of Denver and to the closest Family Fun Center where we all wasted our earnings on air hockey (I am GOD), go-carts, mini-golf, and laser-tag (I am WEAK). It was everything I love about touring – hanging out with out of town friends away from home and doing goofy fun stuff.
When all the tokens were spent we all headed to Laramie, WY where we all sat in a Safeway parking lot for a few hours because nobody showed up to the show, not even the guy who booked it.
Collectively the members of WHN? have tried 15 times to play in Utah with this and past bands. The only ‘successes’ were ALL YOU CAN EAT playing an open mic night and FUCKFA*E playing one song before getting maced and arrested. So we were all pretty surprised when the whole show went off without a hitch. Too bad TSOL was playing around the block and stealing our audience.
Portland is amazingly punk-trified. At first I was looking at everyone and thinking, Hey, I bet I know that person until eventually I started looking for non punk-looking people because they were harder to spot. There are so many punks in Portland that at the place we played no one knew the KUNG FU RICK guys were playing with another band down the street. And those folks didn’t know about our show until we just happened to walk by each other. The word ‘jaded’ comes to mind. Speaking of walking, I walked to a licka sto' where I was the only white guy for a couple blocks. All the parking spots in front of the sto' were full and everyone was hanging out and leaning on their cars. As I walked up most everyone stopped and watched me. The second before I walked into the sto' one of the guys not looking at me finally looked up and with genuine surprise yelled, "Hey, check out the cracker, yo!" I waved back at the guy with a parade-type wave and everyone laughed.
Once we got into California we drove through a forest fire. With only a hundred feet visibility and shrouded in an unnaturally orange and yellow mist the twenty minutes it took to drive through were very apocalyptic. We played another awesome basement show in Reno. Watched skinheads make out with under-aged girls. Drove the 4 hours back to San Francisco and with only 60 miles to go the HALT van took a huge dump. We all made it to the show at Mission Rex and it was fucking crazy packed. So packed in fact that it almost sucked. Almost.
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