June 30 - Fat Ass Lives Lean

6am occurred.
It was on time again.
My body ached.
That one jog yesterday really kicked my asshole.
I called Jogging Headquarters to let them know that I would not be in today.
All of Chicago's joggers wore a black armband in mourning.
The Mayor of Exercise shed a tear on an empty stretch of lakefront bike trail.

Expenses that finally caught up to me:
Parking tickets
City sticker
Tune-up for the van
Mastering the record
Spontaneous one night vacation

I got paid today for the first time since Europe.
The amount on it was kind of funny.
I scanned the check to see if it was a gag "1993" paycheck.
Alas, it was not.

Things I could sell:
Technics turntable that I can only get one channel to work
My other bike

Boy, that's not much.
Maybe this upcoming "lean lifestyle" will rub off on my non-jogging belly.

Verdict: Loss

June 29 - Jogging Machine

This time I did get up at 6am.
And I did jog.

I jogged to the lake.
Then I jogged along the lake for a half mile.
Then I jogged away from the lake.
Then I switched to walking.

Upon walking, a windy pain coursed through my middlings.
Somehow this is a sign of something good.
I'm doing it!
I'm being healthy sort of!!
I'm punishing my body into a shape that is more socially acceptable!!!
Hooray for me!!

Actually, it did feel good almost.
If you don't count feeling exhausted for the remainder of the entire day.
Vanity is a wonderful thing.

Verdict: Win

June 28 - The Blogging Jogger

I was supposed to start my world famous jogging regimen today.
World famous?
Yes, I told Lauren about it.
I told her sister and brother in law about it.
I told The Nurse Novels about it.
I'm blogging about it.
It's world famous!

So how did it go?

I didn't go jogging.

The alarm went off at 6am, as promised
But last night I drank a six pack of beer.
And then got five hours of sleep.

But I haven't given up yet.
Because I am a jogger!
I'm a jogger and a blogger.
I jog and I blog.
I write the blogs.
And I run the jogs.
I'm the blogger that joggers!
I'm the blogification of the jogging nation!!

Verdict: Loss

June 27 - Nostalgia Guards

I watched the green hills of Pittsburgh disappear into the grumpy clouds that consumed us.
See you soon I hope, Allegheny County.

Back at home The Nurse Novels met to discuss the future and practice some new songs.
Everyone in the band is over-extended with outside projects.
A couple of us will be moving in the next year or so.
We decided to put out as much music as we can while we're all still in the same city.
Our first single is mastered and ready to go:

The Nurse Novels
In Poor Tense
(The Roydale Recording Company Corporation Incorporated)

1. War (Lux)
2. Sea Day (Mendoza)
3. Make Me Cry (Vale)

Plus two bonus cuts that will only be available on the 200 copies of the CD.

4. A Mouthful of Sores Ain't No Fun (Brighton)
5. Game Over (Mendoza)

Look for it soon on iTunes or at our next for sure show: September 11th at Schuba's.

We practiced two newish songs, Thea's "Carnie's Gone", about a carnival that came and went - and "Mary Hartman 1-25", a song I wrote about the first 25 episodes of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman.

We drank and drank. Thea and I stayed late to play old hits with guarded nostalgia, like exes do.

I got home around 1am, loaded, and set the alarm for 6am.

Verdict: Win

June 26 - To A Great Life

Lauren's grandfather was 93.
He saw much.

Let's start with war.
Check these out:
World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Storm II: For Daddy.

He saw prohibition, The Great Depression, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the gas crisis of the 70's, the crisis of people comparing our current recession to The Great Depression.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy.
The space shuttle Challenger exploding.
And who could forget September 11th?

What are some other fun things he witnessed?
The invention of talking films, television, the internet, Pac-man, Laser Tag, paintball, televised golf.
He never saw the Cubs win a World Series.
But the Pirates won it four times in his lifetime.
The Penguins won three Stanley Cups.
The Steelers won six Super Bowls.
And according to our airport driver yesterday, The Steel City Renegades are undefeated this season (3-0).

What else did he witness?
The fall of the Berlin Wall.
The annexation of Alaska and Hawaii.
The popularization of jazz, Elvis, The Beatles, disco.
The punk rock episode of CHiPs.
The construction of the CN Tower, Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge.
The episode of Full House where the Beach Boys performed "Kokomo."
The victory of the civil rights movement.
Sammy Davis Jr. kissing Archie Bunker.
The discovery of Pluto and its ousting from the solar system.
The landing of a man on the moon.
Alf searching Death Valley for treasure after finding an old map.
An African American as president of the United States.
Trapped In The Closet.

I'd say the good outweighs the bad.
To a great life, Jerome.

Verdict: Win

June 25 - McKeesport

A death in the family jostled us in a bumpy plane to Pittsburgh.
McKeesport to be specific.
It's a steeler town.
Though the steel was shooed away decades ago.
There's poverty for sure.
I can't tell if its a proud poverty or just a quiet poverty.
It seems calmer than Chicago's version.
But maybe it was just another slow day.

We drove past ghost bars, vacant roller rinks, and a crumbling but functioning newspaper building, hanging on by a vowel.
Large, cheap, cozy looking homes lined the green hills.
I like McKeesport.

Our driver from the airport told us about all the celebrities he's driven.
Burt Bacharach, The Who, Richard Simmons...
He also coaches one of Pittsburgh's three women's football teams.
They were to play the West Virginia Bruisers the next day.
"Oh boy, let me tell ya. Those are some of the ugliest women I have ever seen."

There was a funeral home that we entered.
Inside, we spent some quality time with family and friends, and then exited.

I got to know the family some more at Tillie's, a McKeesport institution for Italian dining since 1962. Lauren enjoyed homemade fettucini with a salad, while I wolfed down homemade spaghetti with hot Italian sausage and Italian wedding soup. It was all very delicious.

Lauren's family is very cool.
They seem to like me.
I like them, too.

I'm not quite family yet.
Though getting down on one knee during the wake seemed inappropriate.
Plus I don't have a ring.
Or a career that screams "husband material."

I like McKeesport though.

Verdict: Win

June 24 - I Was Dressed For Suck

I'm happy for my friends.
I read about them.

Book deals.
Working with their/my idols.
Writing for respected comedy outlets.
Appearing on nationally syndicated shows.

Today was another eight hour marathon of traffic.
I sat all day in sweat-soaked jeans.
It might as well have been piss.

I suppose we all feel this way sometimes.
Watching people mow past you.
Smiling for them while they do it.
Reflecting on your own choices.
Trying not to cry.

When I was 24, all I wanted to do was put up comedy shows at The Annoyance.
When I was 25, the theater closed temporarily.
I waited for it to open again, so I could put up shows.
In the meantime, I did independent shows at rental spaces and formed a band or two.
But I waited around because I had set a goal.
When I was 31, the theater finally reopened.
I put up a few shows.
And realized I had outgrown the desire to put up shows.

The point is: I didn't set my goals high enough.
Instead of believing in myself, and taking a risk on the unknown, I chose to wait for the familiar.
And because I waited, I remain sweating in a van that needs a tune-up.

Last year I was writing freelance comedy pieces for a company that is doing well.
They were grooming me for a full-time position.
Then I went on tour for five weeks.
When I came back the position had been filled.
And the freelancing ended.
"You know, you had that job," my friend said. He's a writer there.
"But then you went on tour."

Today around 3pm, I pried myself out of the van-sauna at a loading dock in the suburbs.
Sweating and spacey, I accidentally walked right into my open driver's side door.
Some women in the loading dock began giggling.
"It's hot out," I tried to explain.
They whispered something to a guy in a hard hat, and then they laughed again.
"What are they giggling about?" I asked one of the dock guys.
He was noncommittal.
"Are they laughing at me? I'm not into that."
"No, no, no," he lied.

For eight years I was a bike messenger.
I kept a blog about it.
Then I wrote a show about it.
It ran at Second City.
People liked it.
We took it to New York.
It won "Outstanding Musical" at the New York Fringe Festival.
Someone wanted to turn it into a pilot.
I wrote the pilot.
They thought it was too dark.
They wanted to make the main character a buffoon.
An idiot.
I pulled the plug on the project.
After eight years of bike messengering, my knees began to ache.
I had to switch to driving.
For two years, I've watched my body get softer.
I feel my clothes getting tighter.
I look different.
I hate it.
The real burn is that driving is more exhausting than biking.
When I get home, all I want to do is lie down.
So that's what I do.

What else am I doing this year?
Drumming, recording, putting out records, touring.
Directing a short comedy show, teaching comedy.
Pitching ideas to a local paper, reading my written work in public, maintaining this blog.

We passed the half way point of the year I think.
I'm finding that this blog is a collection of first drafts.

A couple of months ago my friend John complimented me on the blog.
He said something about looking forward to it taking the next step.
Me, too.
Can you imagine?
The next step!
I guess I'll lay here and wait for that to come along.

Hey, there's another one of my friends on the TV.

Verdict: Loss

June 23 - Untitled

Death in the family.

Verdict: Loss

June 22 - Ode To Summer

A hot one.
The heat sucks AIDS.

Sitting in your own butt sweat.
Sweating on your own ball sweat.
Tainting the couch with your own taint sweat.

Fuck summer up the asshole with a file.

Verdict: Loss

June 21 - Make Believe Sell Out

Last week I had the opportunity to sell out.
It would have been a for a big beer company you've heard about.
I was to portray a roadie for a rock band.
And my face would not be filmed.
I informed my boss of the situation, and he was cool with it.
Ultimately the big beer company decided against the roadie role for me.
But they thought about using just my drum kit.
My drum kit has sold out before.
This would be nice, too.
The drums would make money for me while I drove around in misery at my day job.
But alas, they chose not to use my drum kit, either.
That was last week.

Today I decided that I was needed by the big beer company.
They wanted to see me unload gear, without seeing my face.
They wanted to film my drums.
They wanted to give me money.
I let my boss know that I would be unavailable.

And I began the long process of catching up on this backlogged blog.

Verdict: Win

June 20 - Fish Boil! Fish Boil!

We're on vacation!
Lauren and I hadn't had a vacation in close to a year.
We've travelled, yes, but it has always been tied to work or family.
These things are not a vacation.

Here's something:
If you sing The Go Go's hit "Vacation" very slowly, it's actually a sorrowful plea.

We spent our six hours of vacation driving to Door County, Wisconsin.
My folks and I went there when I was six.
For under six dollars, they bought me a pendant which decorated my wall for years.

Decades later I returned with a lady on my arm.
We laid waste to the place!
Not really.
I just like to say that when I'm traveling.
Also, things like, "Okay, Door County. Show us your tits."
Classy quotes.

As it turns out, Door County does have nice tits.
In Ephraim, we walked along the shore, and watched the kayakers.
The other side of the shore houses the Peninsula State Park, a forest on the bay.
It made for a tranquil Sunday afternoon.
We made reservations for a fish boil at The White Gull Inn in Fish Creek.
I had never heard of a fish boil.
At first it conjured up difficult images of nasty blisters secreting scaly pusy oils.
Ah but no.
It's when a pot is filled with freshly caught, salted whitefish and hung above an open fire.
Then kerosene is doused onto the lickety flames.
And people go close to bananas.
You debone the fish, eat potatoes, drink beer, and eat raspberry, blueberry, and Swedish rye bread.
Followed by cherry pie, the kind those nice lads in Warrant sang about.

Then you drive home.
But not before making reservations to come back again for a real vacation in October.

I personally cannot fucking wait.

Verdict: Win

June 19 - Shebloyganovich

Lauren and I had a day off together (without jet lag) for the first time in months.
We rode bikes.
We ate hauraches.
We attended The Paper Machete, a weekly live magazine. This issue's theme was Father's Day. It featured a touching suicide piece by Jonathan Messinger, a scathingly hilarious suicide piece by Ian Belknap, and Bob Hungerford from Spatula City.

"What do you want to do after this?"
Tacked to the wall of the bar was a laminated map of the United States.
"Let's go to the UP," I suggested half-jokingly.
Lauren's eyes lit up.

We rode more bikes.
On the way home, I saw a lumbering figure with a great wad of hair approaching.
As he neared and got into focus, I realized it was our impeached governor, Rod Blagojevich.
I waved and said, "Hey!" surprised at my own excitement about seeing this probable criminal.
Lauren also said hi and introduced herself.
She had met Blago last year when he attended and performed alongside her in Rod Blagojevich: Superstar.
"Hey, how ya doin', Lauren?"
And he kept jogging.

It was 6pm, so the UP was deemed too far.
We decided to drive along the lake and stake a claim somewhere in Wisconsin.
To my delight, traffic had taken the day off, too.
Around 8pm we found Sheboygan and a shanty along the river called The Mucky Duck, where Lauren had blue marlin and I had clam chowder and orange roughy.
And mugs of beer.

It's nice in Wisconsin.
There's very little racket.
And the lake water is safe to be around.

We found a motel and stayed inside of it.
There would be no yelling douchebags tonight.
Nor would be there be any loud 6am garbage trucks.
Or screaming kids, or yapping dogs, or blaring sirens, or bottles being broken.

Just us.

Verdict: Win

June 18 - Odenkirk Bashfulness vs. Adriatic Bashing

An envelope wanted to go to Rogers Park to die in a theater cafe.
Around 1pm, I made its wish come true.
On the way out of the theater, I heard a distinctly familiar voice coming from the stage.
It belonged to Bob Odenkirk.

In the late 90's I was a bit of a comedy geek, and I practically jacked off to Mr. Show.
My sketch comedy group Teenage Sports Parade, acquired bootleg VHS cassettes and studied them over and over again. As I eventually found my own voice in comedy, I discovered that I hung around with people that knew him. Years ago, I saw him at an improv festival in Chicago, but chose not to bother him. I figured I didn't have anything to say that would be new for him.

So here he was in Chicago doing the pre-show tech for his engagement at the Just For Laughs Festival. He was in work mode, directing the sound and light cues from the stage. I had heard that my friends in Sad On Vacation were doing a sketch with him as part of the show. In the darkness of the balcony I peered toward the edge to see if my friends were there with one of my idols.
"Can I help you?" said a girl in black eating lunch. A headset rested around her neck.
"No," I said guardedly. "I'm just...listening..."
Obviously, she gave me a weird look.
And with that I backed away.
What was I supposed to do?
"Yes, you can help me! Please interrupt this tech rehearsal so I can meet Bob Odenkirk. We have many friends in common! In fact, his wife manages my ex-girlfriend. No, Bob has never met me. But I'm friends with the guys that are performing one sketch with him at this festival. Huh, I don't see any of them here, but they are my friends! So, now that I'm meeting Bob, let me think of something to say to him!"
So I never saw him or met him, but it was nice to hear Bob Odenkirk's voice and feel like an idiot all over again. It made me feel so young!

It was hot today.
The sun was being a piece of shit.
Breathing its asshole breath all over everyone's lifestyle.
Fuck you, the sun.
You stupid fucking cocksucker.

Because I have chosen driving as my miserable vocation, my left arm and left knee are the color of a desert meth hippie, while the rest of my body is Irish sausage.
I look and feel like a failure on wheels.
Sometimes I hate summer.
Because it's so fucking stupid.

Thankfully the clouds snuck in out of nowhere and got evil, turning downtown Chicago into turn of the century Edinbergh. The lamp posts burned yellow, and the air swung around like a ghoulish ghost. Then our sky hacked and cackled, smacking down cool sheets of koo koo rain.
I took a brief jog and got silly soaked. I prefer being drenched in nature's fluids over my own.

It did take forever to get home, but I got there. And when I did our friend Lori stopped by for some snacks and some wine. Lori and Lauren both performed in last year's hit musical Rod Blagojevich: Superstar! This year they will reprise their roles as Patti Mell and Lisa Madigan for a revival out in the burbs. It was great to catch up with Lori. We ought to have people over more often.

It was 9pm and we hadn't eaten any dinner yet. Starving and a bit loaded, we decided to try the brand new restaurant that opened up around the corner from us. For two years, the corner by our apartment has been vacant, with a ghostly sign mumbling "Gilley's Place", with no sign of Gilley. So we watched with anticipation as renovation on this prime real estate began early this year.
The restaurant's theme is Adriatic.
We eyed the selection of Greek and Italian and Moroccan and American and dishes and.
Dizzy, Lauren accidentally set her paper menu down on a candle, and it caught fire.
None of the patrons seemed to notice though.
Our waiter might have had no previous experience, but was nice and well meaning.
I don't think he meant to not give us bread rolls or salt and pepper.
We ordered some saganaki and when it arrived, I had forgotten what an asshole of appetizer it is.
They light it on fire and yell "Opa!" and you're supposed to look dazzled.
But we were less dazzled because Lauren had already set the menu on fire.
Maybe they needed some more waiters to come in and sing a birthday jingle at us.
Anyway, it tasted like fried cheese, and we did not mention that it tasted nothing like the amazing saganaki we once had on the shores of Mykonos.

Lauren ordered a salad that lied.
"Does this salad have onions?"
The salad had onions.
The balsamic dressing was Kraft Italian.
I had the fish that Morocco forgot to season.
We asked for salt and pepper, and eventually got some rolls, too.
It just wasn't good.
And nobody cared.
Then the music got really horrid.
Some screamo band took over, emoting about counting sheep and other magnet poetry topics.
They became my enemies.

On the wall, an opulent plaque transcribed how this restaurant was born:

FEMALE ASSHOLE: Hey, I got all this stupid money.
FACEFART: Whoa, cool. Let's take over that fucken corner over there.
SHITHEAD: Fuck yeah.
(Too many high fives)
FACEFART: Oh shit. What're we gunna do on it?
SHITHEAD: Let's do a restaurant on it.
FEMALE ASSHOLE: I love hummus!
SHITHEAD: I know a guy that has the internet about it.
FEMALE ASSHOLE: I love the internet!
FACEFART: Everybody shut the fuck up! Satellite radio is playing some amazing fucken music right now.
(Shitty song about counting sheep)
ALL: We're fucken restaurant owners!!!

Now we have to pass that place every time we go home.
Let's hope for more paper menu blazes.

Verdict: Loss

June 17 - Haircuts, Conan, Twix

For logistical reasons Lauren joined me at the barber for my semi-annual haircut.
The place I've been frequenting of late is a tiny two-chair spot in Logan Square run by an old school owner and his rockabilly accomplice. It exudes masculinity like an Italian beef and a GTO. Though its quirks are what keep me coming back.

Lauren and I walked in as a violent movie played on the DVD player. The owner shut it off, out of respect to Lauren's gender. She said it was okay and he began the movie from the beginning.
As I sat in the barber's chair on this Thursday morning, the opening credits rolled for an update on the 1993 revenge fantasy Falling Down.
The film was B in nature and had some unnecessarily loose dialogue. The main characters, pissed off at the world, harbored truly vague left wing ideology, and walked around town waiting for something to trigger their postal potential. As my hair became shorter and shorter I was entranced by the protagonist, first getting driven to the edge by a barista who didn't put enough foam on his latte, then by a combo-ordering nightmare at a fast food chicken place.
Sample dialogue:
"Why do we eat this fuckin' shit?"
"'Cuz we're fuckin' Americans, we're supposed to eat this fuckin' shit."
My barber rewound the moment when the fast food waitress accidentally spilled a beverage on the protagonists and they sort of flipped out. We watched it three times.
He told me if I needed movies, he was the guy to see, showing off a DVD of a Samuel Jackson vehicle that hadn't hit theaters yet.
Meanwhile my hair was beginning to look more Italian beef and less GTO.
I love the old school barber, but next time I'm going to camp outside the door until a spot in the rockabilly guy's chair opens up.

After work, I rode my bike downtown and met John from the Bitter Tears. We had plans to see the Conan writers at the old Shubert Theater as part of the Just For Laughs Festival. I signed up for free tickets through my connections at the Annoyance. When we arrived there was a line around the block, and we were at the end of it. It seems 14,000 other people also had connections.
But John is a good conversationalist. In fact, John can have a conservation about anything. If you wanted to discuss tangelos, ceiling fan blades, or branches, John could do it. So we caught up in the stagnant queue. After awhile though, I was willing to bail on the show. I didn't need to stand next to a forever closing Forever 21 for over an hour to see people I vaguely knew from my days as a beginning improviser. But as luck would have it, the line started moving so we had to see the show.
Our seats were extremely shitty at first. We were up in the balcony directly behind the guy that operates the spotlight. I had a nice view of his shoes and his water bottle, but it was time to really consider leaving. But then, as fate would have it, some seats opened up a few rows in front of the spotlight guy so we had to continue with plans to see the show.
TBS was taping the show for televisions in the future.
The audience was youthful and twinkling with college wonder.
They obediently made all that yippy yappy noise when the crowd fluffer conducted his symphony of manufactured excitement.
I have never understood the idea of wasting energy before a show begins.
It's the reason I hate warm ups before doing an improv show.
It's the reason I take a nap sometimes minutes before I go on.
But that's me.
A grouchy, jaded curmudgeon.

Believe me, though, I still do love and appreciate comedy.
So when the warm up comic came out yelling "YEEEAAAHHH!!!" about 16 times, I was on the edge of Laugh Heaven. He went right into his act without even introducing himself. It could have just been some random person, and maybe was. He yelled his routine through the world's trebliest microphone. Maybe treble is the new going viral. To keep myself entertained I plugged my ears and hummed a decent Bruce Willis blues jam until he went away.

Okay, time for the show to start!
After some more tired, manufactured audience screaming.
Andy Richter hosted the evening, an evening of stand up comedy it turns out.
I thought this would be a sketch comedy show from Conan's writers.
Okay, then. Stand up.
Oh, wait, I don't know any of these people.

It was pretty good really.
The first comic had some Catskills twists, the Chicago guy had a fun cellphone bit, and the abstract comic in an ascot was moist fun. Reggie Watts was a favorite from both behind and in front of his Nord and sampler set up.
About halfway through John leaned over and said, "I think if I were watching this on TV I'd turn it."
I think I would, too.
After the show, the loudspeaker asked us to remain in our seats so they could retape the opening with more audience screaming and acting like stupid assholes. John and I said fuck to that and split.
But it was free and we got to try the new java flavored Twix bar.

Verdict: Win

June 16 - Foot, Door, Hopefully

A publication I avidly read has accepted one of my pitches as a trial piece.
Today I interviewed folks via the internet.
I need to get a portable tape recorder.
Or a phone that isn't from 2004.
Oh no!

Verdict: Win

June 15 - Sainthood

An easel was taken from a north side theater to a civic action group in the Loop.
A medal of honor was driven from a law school to the southwest suburbs.
A box of some kind was given to a concierge collective by The Blue Man Group.

Also, a few boxes of business cards had to be picked up in Lansing.
That's on the Illinois-Indiana border.
I dropped into the Hoosier state for some cheap gas.
Then I saw cigarettes were only $4 so I had to buy some of those stupid things.
A sign advertised DEEP FRIED PEANUTS, and so I ate those "shell-n-all".
I wanted to get some fireworks but I didn't have time.
Luckily next door to the business card printer was a big neon sign that shouted GUNS.
I entertained the idea of buying all the guns and handing them out at the border as a kind of saintly deed to our under-armed brethren.
I would become The Patron Saint of Firearms.
And my cool, handsome, winged statue would straddle the divide between our two states.
But I had to get going.
It's always nice to get out of the city.

Verdict: Win

June 14 - Business Solutions

While waiting at a bakery for a cake and cookie delivery, I read Geoff Emerick's book on engineering the Fab Four. I definitely need to read another book about The Beatles instead of the Studs Terkel book I checked out from the library.
After all, the golden rule of writing is "Read what you know."

While I read, the company that would receive the sweet treats grew impatient, and my boss contacted me about the status of the baking. I used my pager (yes) to inform him that we were waiting for the apricot cookies to cool.
I continued reading.

When making large deliveries to big, dumb skyscrappies, sometimes an escort will be employed to make sure you don't steal important plans or pens. My escort on this cake delivery was a mild mannered man in his late twenties. He's always been nice to me.
Today on our freight elevator ride he opened up to me about his personal life.
"Females, man."
His ex-wife is giving him hell about not buying enough summer outfits for their infant daughter. I remained empathetic and neutrally male, and said things like "can't have it both ways" and "that's a lot of money". Then I delivered the cake and the cooled apricot cookies and returned to my simple life.

A magazine about money was sent on a direct service to a mental ward in Evanston. Most of the patients walked with a slow or broken gait. A man in a suit and combed hair approached the main lobby receptionists, a gaggle that hadn't had a giggle in some time. As I walked the magazine to the administrative office, I heard the man in the suit calmly and firmly declare, "Fuck you" and walk out.

Then it was time to go out to Niles to pick up 40 cartons of pre-made catered meals for a fancy fat ass conference at a fancy fat ass downtown hotel. The client said one van would be able to take them all. Upon arrival, it was discovered that we could only fit 12 cartons in my van.
So I lugged as much tangible crap as I could through real-life crap traffic to the crap 'n' mortar hotel in sixty actual minutes.
At the loading dock, I spoke with a man through a tiny sliding window, and informed him that I was here to deliver some-
"Yeah, yeah, I'll call them," I heard under the noise inherent to loading docks.
I tried to give him more information about what I was delivering and to whom it would-
The window slid shut.
I unloaded the cartons and sat in the van waiting and reading.
A few chapters later, I went back to the loading dock attendant and asked him if there had been any word on this delivery I was making.
He seemed agitated.
"How am I supposed to know?"
I told him I thought he was going to call upstairs.
"How am I supposed to know who all this is for?"
He talked to me like I was an idiot.
I was an idiot for thinking that the loading dock attendant would have anything to do with the goings on in the loading dock.
I calmly explained that I had heard him say earlier that he would make a call to find out about the delivery.
"Is that what you heard?" he laughed.

I used to get upset by these things.
I'm actually getting better at handling it.
Here's the key: I get paid to wait.
So I called my boss, told him what was up, and waited and waited for the fatso hotel to get its shit together. Eventually while I was deep into my book, two guys barked at me sharply.
I told them they should have hired a company that uses trucks, and offered a crocodile apology.

Eventually they warmed up to me.
We were all participating in a grand clusterfuck, and they decided to laugh it off.
I even laughed.
And waited additional twenty minute$ for someone to sign for the delivery.
No one ever did.

Verdict: Win

June 13 - PRF 4

I got up early though.
This way I could make the shuttle to the PRF BBQ on its last day.
And wouldn't have to worry about my precious mommyvan being graffito'ed by Sooge Knight and all those crazy Humboldt Park G-funk El Rukns out there on the west cizzoast.

It was a quiet Sunday midday when the PRF shuttle pulled up, and I joined two guys on the way to the venue. We were the first to arrive, and helped clean up after last night's festivities.
Apparently I had missed a great night. All the bands proved their worthiness while actual crowd surfing occurred, both by the audience and members of Police Teeth. Then during Bottomless Pit's set, Steve Albini arrived, fresh from a 14th place finish in the World Series of Poker. He karoaked some Cheap Trick (I think, I wasn't there).

But the cops arrived, too. Apparently the neighbors didn't appreciate the flash photography coming from the roof of the BBQ.
Some people don't like being photographed by outsiders.
Other people don't like feeling as if they are part of a zoo.
Still other people don't like when outsiders bring the cops into their neighborhood.
So sometime in the middle of the night someone threw a brick through the window of the venue.

The guy who owns the venue arrived to find us cleaning.
He's a tall, coiled wire of a man with Minor Threat tattooed on his ethics.
When he found out about the window, he made us clean more and constantly and now.
Suddenly I found myself on a day off being forced a broom and ordered to sweep.
I swept a hallway that hadn't seen a broom since the Korean War.
Others mopped floors for the second and third time.
More people trickled in, carrying snacks, meats, and beers.
Their hungover grins became quizzical stares as they were put to immediate work by the 2.13.61 drill sergeant.
After sweeping 14 pounds of dirt, all created last night by the PRF BBQ, I sat down with a beer and a root beer, ready to relax at a barbeque.
The owner spotted me and handed me a mop.
"You wanna help out?"
By now, I had watched five other people mop that floor.
But I did not wish to be the BBQ asshole.
So I wrapped my tongue taut around my mind like a tourniquet, and learned the honor of discipline from a scattered, stressed out, art space owner with misplaced anger issues.
And I mopped that same floor again.
Knox from The Columbines, carrying some sort of workload, noticed my handiwork.
"You look like the saddest person in the world."
Meanwhile Karkoa soundchecked, a yard away from the wettest, most clean, unclean floor in a ghetto art space.

Because I was two-fisting root and beer, it also looked like I was picking up errant cans to throw out. While hiding from the fucking wigged out owner in the equipment room, the tattooed tornado eventually found me and some other guys. He handed me some more cans to throw out, full of beer currently being used.
"We gotta get some order in here! Who's a musician in here?!"
Most people escaped, but he was able to lasso one unlucky soul with yet another broom. I think the poor kid was even visiting from somewhere far away. The bands were ready to start playing any minute. Then he turned to me.
"Are you a musician?"
"Which of this stuff is yours?"
None of it.
"Then get out of here!" And he annoyingly shooed me away.

Thankfully the bands started playing and the concept of fun cautiously emerged for the first time all day. The owner remained by the front door, scrubbing the walls furiously. Occasionally, he would pull aside the PRF organizer in order to scream at him.
I got the fuck away from that miserable miserable creation.

Upstairs sat the coziest lair, a low-ceiling lounge of couches and poker. I spent some time up there drinking beer and watching the poker entertainment. I drank a lot of beer and now can't remember some of the great conversations I had with people from all over the board.

I do remember The Columbines set. They played my favorite Columbines song "Letter From Omaha" and dedicated it to drunk me. Then a marvelous 12 year old girl got behind the mic for a Cramps cover that made every band I've ever heard look silly in comparison.

It's fun being drunk and hungry. So I ate a sausage. It was spicy. I kept drinking. Then I fell asleep in the lair on a couch. Alan tugged my foot from a hallway through a hole in the wall.
"It's time to play!"
The Bitter Tears would be closing the barbeque.

I had the best stupid idea for a costume. I would drape a shirt and pants to the front of my body and duct tape it around my joints. Kind of like a paper doll.
Unkind of.
Meanwhile John looked dapper in his Clockwork Orange get-up and Alan looked like a Queen Elizabeth Jimmy Buffet zombie centaur. Mike recycled his winter cabin pajama theme from yesterday. I remember sweating and feeling fat. These were accurate feelings, as I later had to untag Facebook photos of me from the night.

Completely useless after the set, I shared a strange slot in John's car adjacent to his cumbersome 88 key Rhodes. My haircut absorbed headlights in the back window while my ankles hung limply out the passenger window. I looked like a pissed-on pile of hay, smelled like a dead mouth full of spat chaw, and felt like a rebuilt transmission leaking fluids again.

But as Glenn Danzig once said in Passaic, New Jersey on Christmas Day in 1981: "Fuck it, I had fun."

Verdict: Win

June 12 - Granola Bars & Metro No'one

Hey, I got up at 6am!
My spooky alarm told me to.
Because, like an idiot, I had agreed to do this entirely stupid van job earlier in the week.
And it's Saturday.
And no one should be up at 6am.
Not even the newspaper man.
Because no one gives a shit about Saturday news.
And nobody reads a newspaper anymore.
But there I was.
Up like a jerk.
On four hours of sleep.

I made one lousy trip down my stairs with a two wheeler topped with individually wrapped granola bars and loaded them into the van.
Destination: Douche Bag Street Art Festival
I did this again.
Then I did it again.
It seemed early to be bumbling down the steps one clunk at a time with all this stupid fucking bullshit.
It seemed too Saturday morning just after dawn to be doing this stupid fucking bullshit.
It seemed completely uncourteous to my neighbors, who were enjoying this little thing called rest.
But I made another trip.
And even one more.
I was about half way through loading the van with stupid fucking goddamn fucking granola bars when my annoying fucking cellphone rang.
It was Yvette.
She's the overnight driver.
She had the other 72 boxes of fucking granola bars for the fucking art fest.
"Tony. When were you planning on getting there?"
I told her around 7:30am, when they wanted us to be there.
"They said they wanted us there no later than 7:30."
I told her I was doing the best I could.
I almost told her about my fear that the planet would explode if these individually wrapped granola bars arrived at the douchebag art festival slightly after 7:30.
But instead, I closed my shitty cellphone and lugged the two-wheeler back up the stairs.
And made five more trips up and down the steps.
By 7:15 the van was chock full of nutritious garbage.
I raced down to the art festival.
At 7:32 on the donkeydick dot I pulled up to the douche bag art festival.
I was two minutes late.
I let go of the steering wheel and held my arms up in front of my face.
I braced for the inevitable self-destruction of the earth.
The world remained intact.
The planet did not explode.
No one died a flamey flamey death.
In fact, the client wasn't even there.
So I could have gotten four and a half hours of sleep?

We piled the boxes under a tent.
The sky grew dark and foreboding.
It seemed mad.
Like it wanted to explode.
But the sky is the world's assistant, and it doesn't quite have that power.

I went home for an unhealthy breakfast.
Then I loaded my drums into the van and heading for the Metronome Festival.
The Bitter Tears were scheduled to open the day's live music festivities.
When the earth wasn't looking, the sky rained all over the festival.
It was still mad about those granola bars being two minutes late.
I don't mind rain.
In fact, I love it.
If it rained every day, I would be a happier man.
And I would have less wrinkles from squinting.
And less skin cancer from my twelve consecutive years working outdoors.
Unfortunately, most of the world doesn't like the rain.
They don't like getting wet for some reason.
Yet most of these rain haters shower on a daily basis.

Logic aside, when it rains, people don't attend outdoor music festivals.
So The Bitter Tears played to no one.
"What kind of songs does asphalt like?"
The set itself was good.
It was nice to play my own drums for the first time in over a month.
The drying rain drops seemed to like it during their short lifespan.
With a triumphant set under our belts and VIP wristbands adorned to our wrists, we headed toward the VIP tent to indulge in the rumored buffet. Only, we couldn't find the VIP tent. Three people pointed us in three different directions.
We spoke to some festival coordinators.
"Food is coming!" they scowled.
They were clearly annoyed with us.
Starving and glossed in post-show cake-up residuals, we waited some more.
A Latin band was beating the hell out of a wooden box.
We gave up on waiting for food.

At a vendor, we spent a total of $714 on an Italian sausage, a hot dog, and a corn dog.
In front of the register sat a plate of homemade potato chips, piled into a Jenga-like pyramid.
"Are these complimentary?" I inquired.
"Those are just a display. But people actually eat them!" said the cashier, still in his very early twenties.
I told them they seemed inviting.
"I mean, if you wanna eat 'em, fine. But they've been sitting there all day."
The day had just begun. They couldn't be that bad.
"You make it seem like if I decide to eat one of these chips, then I'm an idiot."
They decided to keep quiet.
I plucked a chip from the Rubik's Magic Snake of fried potatoes.
They were stale.
"I see what you mean."

I went home, ate take out Mexican food, drank beer, watched TV, and fell asleep before the sun did.

Verdict: Loss

June 11 - PRF 2 & Death In Yellowstone

Hungover, I had to skip this morning's set of thrust-crunches, 4-count burpees, and plyometric medicine ball training. Right when I was just starting to get buff again.
A neighbor boy poked a vuvuzela out his window and blew a swarm of sour flatulent bees at the end of the year school traffic.
"What the hell was that?"

Work was stupid. It always is when you're hungover.
"Duh. Look at me. I'm having trouble forming thoughts."
Also, the weather was being a dickhead.
All 88 degrees and Nam humid.
The simple ingredients for a trying day.

Earlier in the week, I had agreed to do this nightmare run for today.
I took out the seats in the van, and went down to 35th and Sacramento to pick up 72 boxes full of individually wrapped granola bars. It filled the entire vehicle.
The 800 pounds of granola bars are to be delivered tomorrow morning by 7:30am at a street festival in a douchey part of town.
No problem!
In the meantime I'll just keep them in my van overnight.
Oh wait.
Oh shit.
Tonight I have a show with The Nurse Novels.
In a crime-ridden part of town.
A van full of boxes sitting unprotected in the ghetto is not my idea of awesome.
It looked as if I was going to have to bring them all into my apartment.

The first five trips up the four half-flights of stairs with my two-wheeler weren't too bad.
The heat only made me grimy and cranky.
Around this time, Lauren and her smart ass friend Mike were walking home from their lunch date when they spotted my ornery asshole. Mike had just spent four months living on a cruise ship, performing two shows per week and getting paid handsomely. He eyed me and my two-wheeler stacked with boxes.
"Are you moving out before she gets home?"
It was a good joke and I laughed as best I could.
Lauren peaked into the van, now half full of boxes.
"Oh, it's not as bad as I thought it would be."
A drop of sweat stung my eye.
In the apartment they were greeted by a wall of boxes that now lorded over the kitchen. I was only halfway done. Mike, who smelled hard work ahead, immediately vanished. Lauren was kind enough to help me with the remaining five trips up and down the stairs in the nauseating heat for a bunch of fucking granola bars.
"Controlled by a grain. A fucking grain," Rollins yelled.
At least I was getting some exercise though. I'm sure Henry would respect that.
Salty kisses were Lauren's only reward as I needed to head back downtown to deliver two more stupid envelopes to some Loop jagoffs. Then I could immediately begin the never-ending night. There would be no shower.
Lauren and I drove up to Canada to pick up Tom from Nurse Novels. As there were no seats in the back, he sat on the floor as we drove toward the sun for an hour in sticky traffic.
The PRF BBQ was being held at an art space on the west side.
Thanks to Chicago's mandatory segregation laws, this neighborhood was almost entirely black and poor. The mayor likes it this way. I'm not sure if the residents do, but that's their problem.
Chicago Avenue was torn up and alive with activity. It was the hottest, most humid day of the year. So everyone was out walking in traffic. It made me think of that old Chinese proverb: Heat make people think they're car.
We received many stares and glares as my inherited late model soccer mom van shuffled through the ghetto. The van was left uneasily on a side street full of people admiring it.

I met up with the organizer of the BBQ, a guy known on the message board as Marsupialized.
Marsup is an outspoken man with a wicked sense of humor that has pushed many forum members' buttons in the past. He has since mellowed out over the years, and is more selective about the use of his bite.
Worried about the safety of the van, I made this observation to him:
"This is kind of a rough neighborhood. I'm parked on the side street over there."
"It's not so bad. I've parked here a few times before."
"In a 2006 mini van?"
"Well," he said underneath, "then don't drive a mini van."
It was nice to see that Marsup's still got it. Hopefully I'll still have it, the van, by the end of the night. Hopefully, I'll also have it, some dinner, too. And soon!
Lauren and I didn't eat, figuring we'd do that at the barbeque.
To our befuddlement, no one was grilling, nor was there any food to be grilled that evening.
Just a spread of two large eggplants, a bag of salad, some strawberries, four bags of Doritos, some hummus, and my contribution: a tupperware of burnt almond-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates that cost me $30 to overcook. I grabbed a few handfuls of chips, and a baby carrot.
And 26 beers.
Fuck it.
Eat later.
Die now.
Live forever.
Skate or die.
No fat chicks.
Dr. Zog's Sex Wax.
If you're too young, you're too old!

Mark Shippy's new untitled side project played a broken opus to the smoky, sweaty inverted church. I watched from behind the drummer, watched his feet a lot. And Shippy's noodles, his fingernails capped with little finger condom picks. I liked their mess the best.

Before karoake, The Nurse Novels played. We did alright. A guy fell off of a ladder during "War". The kids slow danced to "Sea Day". Some straight guys kissed each other until they crashed onto the sketchy floor. It seemed like there was some ironic sex in the air, or whatever that stuff was we were breathing. We left the stage dripping and dehydrated. People seemed to cheer about it.

I would have like to have stayed for the remaining foodless barbeque festivities, but I had double-booked myself that night. Chris Bower had asked me to write something inspired by Death In Yellowstone, a literary mis-masterpiece of cautionary death tales from Yellowstone National Park. Reading it was a grim treadmill of facts and finger wagging, covering deaths from falling into geysers, bear attacks, stove explosions, and stagecoach tramplings. I was assigned the chapters on accidental shootings, murders, suicides, along with missing and presumed dead.

The venue for the reading was a spot called Ray's, a speakeasy of sorts. The only old man in the old man bar was Ray, who shook my hand with the one that wasn't smoking a cigarette. Lots of people smoked in the small bar adorned with...well, I don't know. I had been nervous all night about performing and put on my pre-show blinders. I don't remember much about the decor other than I liked it and I felt comfortably terrified.
Having missed the first half of the reading while at the BBQ, I just sort of winged my reading. Lots of friends were there, including The Bitter Tears and friends, allowing for a supportive environment.

The pieces went over well, I thought. I revived my crotchety cowboy character for the chapter on murders, and people seemed to laugh at him (to his dismay). I learned a lot while reading my own material aloud to a group of people.
I learned that:
* I should read through the piece aloud more than just once or twice behind the wheel of the van
* I judge my performance while it's happening and take myself out of it
* I sometimes rest my gesturing hand in a position that makes it look like I'm taking a piss
* my hair, when it's humid and wet, resembles Hitler's hairdoo

But I did it, right?
Completely exhausted, we got 1am Wendy's from a drive-thru, dropped Tom off up north, and crashed at home around 2.
In four hours I would have to get up for some more of that fantastic manual labor.

Verdict: Win

June 10 - PRF 1

In Chicago there is a recording studio called Electrical Audio.
It is run by Steve Albini.
On its website there is a forum.
I have been a member of this forum since 2004.
It has provided me with information on how to put out vinyl records, lessons in touring etiquette, gear information, and an endless scroll of musical minutiae with a disciplined smart ass streak.
There used to be a lot of fights on the board.
You know.
The internet.
Most often it was entertaining, the way girl fights can be.
I mostly troll.
Last year a large contingent of the board got together for the first time to throw a barbeque.
We met the faces behind the avatars, the bold posts, the virtual black eyes (cyber-shiners).
About 30 bands played.
Some might call it a "cult" or a "sausage party" or, based on the hundreds of dollars spent at the Paulina Meat Market, a "sausage cult".
But it was great.
Hot food, loud music, warm beer.
The occasional woman.
Even Steve Albini showed up.

This year the premier rock forum is throwing another gala.
Tonight, the first of four consecutive nights, began at Quenchers.
I rode my bike down, enjoyed the music, caught up with old friends, and drank a box of beer.
I even got to ride back home drunk, my ears ringing with six bands worth of fun.
It's just beginning.

Verdict: Win

June 9 - Baby Baby Baby

It's time to get back to doing sit-ups and push-ups and curls in the morning.
And eating better.
And losing this little tour gut.
I am way out of shape, and had to abort my second set of push-ups.
Baby steps.
Shit-in-diaper baby steps.

Really slow day today.
3 runs total.
That's Pullman era money.

A new driver, Eric, had left his lights on.
The car battery was dead at Wells and Van Buren.
I was asked to give him a jump.
It was 4pm.
With Wells closed to the Eisenhower, and construction crippling all flow, the afternoon rush crawled like the world's stupidest baby. The city appointed a traffic director to stand at the intersection and yell at everybody.
I explained my situation and he worked with me on it.
He held up traffic (as if anyone would notice at that point) so I could make a big horseshoe U-turn heading the wrong way on a one-way to face Eric's car head-on.
We jumped his car skittishly. This procedure still makes me timid. It conjures up nightmares of sparks, exploding engines, shrapnel, screams, blood, tourniquets, hospitals, funerals.
But none of this happened to us today. Instead, I performed my good deed of the decade.
Now I can continue being an asshole baby for the next nine and half years.

Verdict: Win

June 8 - Racist Rapist

The phone went off a little after 5am.
It was work, and they needed me to go downtown for a hot one going up to Kenilworth.
Same guy I delivered to a while back.
At 6:30, I found him doing something to a lawn mower as I approached.
"I've been thinking about you."
Rich people are weird.

I went back home for breakfast. Our bathroom ceiling had developed these rusty looking cysts and blackheads. The maintenance man, a friendly scarecrow of a man, would be operating on these all day. So Lauren joined me for the morning portion of work.
It was nice.
During a brief lull, I read her my pieces for the upcoming Death In Yellowstone reading on Friday. Her notes proved helpful, and I learned a lot hearing it aloud.
I will be covering four chapters that night:
Deaths from Accidents or Self-Defense
Missing and Presumed Dead
Fun stuff. For one of the chapters I'll be reprising my cowboy character that was created on a road trip through Wyoming and later refined at The Annoyance and aboard The Norwegian Jade.

It rained all day, making for a lazy lazy afternoon.
With no work going on, I went to Reckless Records. TJ from Rush Limbaugh: The Musical had given me a closing show gift certificate to the store. Unfortunately, I had to piss the whole time I was there, and record stores, like thrift stores, are notorious for not having facilities for customers. I held on and danced, though not to the music.
Found some good stuff: off key wedding band versions of surf and flower power tunes courtesy of The Jalopy Five, Santo & Johnny rip-offs Dan & Dale ("The Sleepwalk Guitars of..."), a Les Paul and Mary Ford compilation, Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" 45 on Chess, a Laverne & Shirley record produced by Michael McKean, a reading of "Casey At The Bat" by Johnny Bench and "Peter & The Wolf" by Tom Seaver with the Cincinnati Pops, and an erotic aerobics record from the mid-80's.

I ducked into a bar to use the bathroom and ended up with a Guinness in front of me. It was only $3.50. I read liner notes and watched the rain until the old man down the bar got enough liquid courage to get racist. Everything was going well. He talked about sports mostly. Then the guy started testing out little racist quotes he had heard "the blacks" say. It was like he was flirting. The bartender, a guy younger than me probably, gave a curt "yeah" and got silent. But then the man said he had a lot more of those and wanted to share.
We aren't gonna get raped by your racism.
Zip it, old timer.

I went home early.
I started early.
I went to bed early.

Verdict: Win

June 7 - Bored Loser

First day back at work in a month.
The moustache and goatee on my face has garnered some interest from work-related folks.
My boss used his thick Chicago aaaacent for this observation:
"Yoo look like uh littl' Frenchguy."

I used to have a nemesis at a Lincoln Park post office, an African American woman with a contrarian streak. For awhile it became a great hassle to pick up the daily mail run. Over time it's gotten better, and since my facial hair, she seems even more friendly.
"You look like a secret agent or something."
We talked about Europe for a spell.
She loves Germany and Switzerland.
I agreed.
But she doesn't like France.
I held my tongue.

A receptionist, also African American, noticed the change, too, and paid me a few compliments.
"Are you on Facebook?"
She just turned 60.
Seems the conquistador look I'm going for is a hit with the "sistas".
Am I allowed to use that word?
Even with ironic quotes?
Maybe. But you really shouldn't.

It's summer kind of, so it's slow.
I don't mind.
I'm still recovering from the residual backwash of jet lag.
At a house in Wilmette, I attempted to deliver an envelope, only to be greeted by a wooden sign.
"Gone to the beach," it said, engraved in craft fair cursive.
A two hour nap occurred on tony, tree-lined Astor Street, steps away from a Frank Lloyd Wright. When I awoke I had no idea where or when I was.
I thought I was still in the UK.

For dinner I made South-of-The-West Charburgers.
Hamburger patties rolled with roasted corn, diced poblano peppers, onions, and black beans, seasoned with salts and powders, poked with a raw, sliced jalapeno and topped with cheese. Lauren, who is not a burger lover, actually loved it. Especially the bites that didn't singe her tongue with pure capsaicin. For some reason, she likes my dum-dum grub.

I selected some dopey Moog music for a night of card/board games while Lauren removed the shrink wrap from a game called Sequence. We learned it and she quickly beat the pants off of me. Then we switched to Outburst. It was discovered that I completely suck at Outburst. I suck at Outburst even more than I suck at Sequence. Though at least I was having fun while sucking at it, as opposed to getting touchy, pouty and belligerent (see Bowling, Ping Pong, Twyla Tharp dance lessons, doing a Harold, etc).

But despite the lovely day and recreational evening, I truly ended the day a loser.

Verdict: Loss

June 6 - Return Of The Nurse Novels

The Nurse Novels got together today for the first time in a month.
We rehearsed.
I suppose that's an acting term.
Most bands use the word "practice".
"Rehearsal" conjures up images of make-up and wigs and temper tantrums.
So I guess we practiced today.
Only a few cobwebs to clear out.
We're playing the big top secret Electrical Audio message board BBQ this Friday.
I don't even know the address of the venue.
Jay Ryan lent his talents for the occasion.
Really looking forward to it.
In related news, while I was away both of the Nurse Novels gals got engorged.
I suppose that's an incorrect term.
Most people use the word "engaged".
C'mon now.

Later, I made a jalapeno cheeseburger while Lauren waited tables for a restaurant.
She came home.
We still had some catching up to do.

Then we made fun of the TV.
After all, it was on.

Verdict: Win

June 5 - Sand In My Socks

Just catching up on leisure with Lauren.
Another wonderful breakfast at home.
We added a strawberry puree to the mimosas, a variation on the bellini.
The champagne bottle we polished off, and opened a bottle of sparkling wine.
Round 3 and 4 plus more bad TV.

Today we got out though.
Garage sales, library, the lake.
I got sand in my socks.

I suppose these writings aren't that interesting.
I don't give one fuck.

It rained hard tonight.

Verdict: Win

June 4 - We Stayed In

We stayed in.
We watched dumb TV.
We made breakfast.
The herbs in the eggs were refreshing.
The jalepeno potatoes were just right.
We drank mimosas.
She took a nap.
I did laundry.
We watched The Wire.
She made dinner.
The marinated steak was dark and delicious.
The tomato tart was perfect.
She watched Broken Embraces.
I fell asleep.
We never left the house!

Verdict: Win

June 3 - Home!

I don't care that the crew on the flight to Newark was bitchy.
I don't care that the Newark airport is a messy shithole.
I don't care that it took 16 hours to get home.
I'm just glad to be home with Lauren for the first time in over two months.

Verdict: Win

June 2 - Ohhhh, Last Night

We woke up in France.
We had to return the rented gear and the rented van by the afternoon in Holland.
We drove for an hour or so and had breakfast at a rest stop in Belgium.
I ate a cream of mushroom soup that was not bad.
Since we were in Belgium, I also ate a chocolate waffle.
I sat in the front and worked on a piece about deaths at Yellowstone.
The sun made me sleepy.
I laid down my torso on the front seat and fell asleep.
It was nice.
I woke up violently, my neck thrusting forward.
My mouth caught my vomit before it could escape.
Instincts are quicker than you.
I swallowed it, grimaced, and looked around.
Mike was listening to the second disc of Get In The Van.
Last day of van life for a while.

I took the final leg of driving, through the inexplicably traffic clogged rural by-ways of The Netherlands. I don't know what it is about Holland, but you just sit in traffic, marinating.

Around 4:30 we returned the gear to a warehouse on the outskirts of Amsterdam. We paid the man in cash. What we didn't know was that we also had to pay the same man for the rental of the van. He only takes cash. Unfortunately, we did not have enough cash to pay for the van in cash.
You see, we had been doing alright financially on the tour. Spain really took care of us with handsome fees, as did Holland, Belgium, France, and Switzerland. But once we crossed into the UK, all those savings had vanished. It costs about 300 Euros to get in and out of Britain. The petrol costs more, the guarantees are less than half what we had gotten elsewhere, and nobody buys merch. As a human, I love Britain. As a musician, it's hard.

Yeah, so we had to take out a bunch of Euros to pay for the van.
This is the reality of touring.
And please, don't get me wrong, I love it blah blah blah.
But sometimes my non-music friends have this misconception about what we do. When I get back people think I've made all this money, stayed in these amazing hotels, ate all this amazing food, and was driven around in a big bus.
But really we didn't make money, drove 7,500km ourselves in a cargo van, ate at rest stops, and slept on floors. I had to finish a water bottle in London traffic so I could piss in it.
Oh boo hoo.
I don't know why I feel compelled to shatter the myth for my friends. Why can't I let them think I'm a big, rich rock star stereotype?
I guess that wouldn't be honest or Rollins or some ridiculous nonsense that I need to outgrow.

So we followed the rental guy to the rental van place, and then he took us to the Schiphol airport, where we paid him. He recommended a rock and roll hotel downtown. We put our guitars and heavy shit in an airport storage locker and got on the train to Amsterdam.
Alan made the call.
"Hello, is this the ROCK AND ROLL HOTEL?"
A tram took us to the Leidseplein and eventually we found the hotel, whose name was actually BackStage Hotel. It was a funny spot. There were snare drums and saxophones used as light fixtures. An out of tune piano sat covered in bands' autographs. I couldn't tell if Built to Spill or The Vivian Girls had actually stayed there or if fans of the bands had professed their love.
We didn't sign the piano.
We didn't sign the guest book.
The desk clerk was very nice.
"There are guitars on the wall and if you want to take them into your room you can."
That was the last thing we wanted to do, but we said thank you, and they put our end-of-tour convenience store champagne on ice. We waited a minimal amount of time for it to barely cool and popped it open anticlimactically.

The rest of the night was very fun. We indulged in cliches and got very lost in the red light district. A bit on purpose really. It's still strange for me to see these women behind glass, tapping said glass, and selling you a come hither look. It reduces me to shy, junior high dance behavior; stealing a glimpse and then darting to the floor when our eyes meet for a split second. I get uncomfortable. I don't think I would actually be able to perform if I were to go through with this procedure. Too much pressure and not enough reality. Maybe if I were single, it would be a different story. Or if I wasn't baked on hash.
Still, it's fascinating and I have no judgment about it.
It seems to work.

We got lost for real trying to get away from the red lights, but eventually stumbled upon a New York-style pizza parlour. I ate a chicken tandoori and jalepeno slice that I thought would be stupid, but turned out to be very tasty.
We found the Leidseplein and, one by one, all went back to the hotel to not play guitars.
First Mike, who was eager to get back home to see his lady.
Then Alan, who started feeling dizzy.
Reid and I went out for a couple of beers, watching the party city and admiring the respect it has for itself. It's unlike an American party city in that way. Less shouting. Less self-absorbed attention bullshit. Less public vomiting. After 2am, it still seems to work.
I was next to head back, a Burger King cheeseburger in hand.
And then there was one.

Verdict: Win

June 1 - Customs Cuss Out

I like Britain. There's a still a whimsy and a magic with the language.
For instance, today while driving on a roundabout we saw an ad for a bingo hall:
Bingo...with balls!

Here are some other advertisements we saw for British recreation:
Bingo...with shaved balls!
Cricket...with happy Chinese massage!
Snooker...with VacExtender penis enlargement!
Scrumpy...with a bap, a tin of crisps, and a free escort to participating abortion clinics!

But we had to get out there.
So we drove to Dover for the ferry.
We gave them lots of money to get out of England.
Then it was time to go through the customs checkpoint.
Since I was sitting in the front passenger seat of a non-British vehicle, I was the liaison for the van, as that is customarily where the driver would sit.
I gave the customs gentlemen our passports.
"Where are you going?"
That night we had a reservation for a motel in Calais.
"Calais," I answered.
He gave me a look. You see, the ferry also goes to Calais. What was unbeknownst to me at this point was that I was coming across as a smart ass.
"Then where are you going?"
I told him Amsterdam and then home.
I hate telling strangers that we're going to Amsterdam. It conjures up images of American douchebags getting aggressively high and nodding too much. And wearing stupid clothes. And meat sports. And college.
"Amsterdam, out of Schiphol, then?"
His accent made no sense to me.
"You're flying out of Schiphol?"
Oh, the name of the airport. That word also makes no sense to me.
"Yes, Schiphol."
"Do you have any documentation..." He wanted proof that we were flying out of Amsterdam.
Later I was told that this is when I let out a big, annoyed sigh. I probably did. I do things like that still.
While I begrudgingly reached for my laptop, the customs agent pointed out that he had a right to ask this question, and explained in great detail some sort of important procedure that I tuned out.
At this point Mike, seated in the back, jumped up and took over as liaison. He put on a big smile and explained that we were an American band on tour.
"What kind of music do you play?"
Mike referred to it as "country pop". I shook my head and growled probably. The flight info was in an email.
"I can't get any flight information because I can't get online."
Reid, seated in the non-British driver's seat, spoke.
"What do you need?" He started searching his laptop.
The customs agent continued.
"Are you taking any pounds with you?"
I let out a hearty laugh. We had just been discussing how much the British portion of the tour had put us into debt.
"That wasn't a rhetorical question!"
Mike explained how much we had started with and how little we were leaving with. Reid found the flight information on his laptop and I handed it to the customs agent. He seemed pleased.
While making a final speech to us about how his job works, he held out the passports for me to take. I tried to take them from him, but his grip told me not to. So I let go of them. He continued to orate about the duties of his job, and gestured for me to take the passports. Again, his grip held onto them more convincingly. I let go again. He made a final analogy.
"I need to ask these questions in order to get paid. Just like you need to play a show in order to get paid." Awesome, I get it, let's fucking go already. This time when he offered me the passports, he let me take them. He said something about living the dream and smiled.

I didn't even know I was being difficult.
I had to have The Bitter Tears point it out to me.
Luckily they were laughing about it.
Words like "indignant" and "asshole" were used to describe my customs etiquette.
Later, I got kind of bummed about it.
This is how I go through life, as an indignant asshole.
And I don't even know it.
No wonder I'm unhappy in the straight world.

Reid and I got loaded on the ferry. We had to get rid of this soon-to-be-worthless sterling. I had a cornish pasty and two pints. Then Reid and I split another pint. I still had about two pounds in random brown or small coins. We were getting near Calais. I asked the bartender if she was almost done.
"I get off in Dover."
Whoa. I meant the bar, is the bar almost done?
I got a half pint of cider, I mean scrumpy (still on a British vessel!).

Our motel was on the outskirts of Calais. It was the first hotel in our 25 days on the road that was pre-booked. We decided to walk into town for a bite to eat. It was a long walk. The streets were completely deserted. The windows weren't even lit. It was the 10 o'clock hour, still twilight. Calais was in a coma.
We walked some more. I found a tree to get rid of my scrumpy-turned-cider-turned-waste. Eventually we stumbled onto the main drag and picked the first place we saw, a bar with a restaurant.
While House flashed silently on the TV, reminding us of Home, we ate grassy escargot, mussels, steak tar tar, and drank beer. Nothing mind-blowing but a lot better than closed nothing. On the long road back to the motel we talked about Metallica.
This might seem dumb: Today I ate well, got a bit of exercise, was at sea, would sleep on a bed and knew about it all day. But these childish interactions with authority that cost time and cause aggravation need to stop, despite their entertainment value.

Verdict: Loss