The Zookeepers Road Stories - Late '97

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Mon, Nov. 24, 1997, 5:00 pm, 83,150 (new van, name Claude?)
I-5, just south of Kettlemen City, headed home

Only 2 hours or so from home. This has been a long trip for us. Longest of the year. And only 12 days at that. We've become the masters of short tours. Always leaving LA on Wednesday or Thursday and returning almost every Sunday to go back to work Monday morning.

But not this trip. Trip #26 for the year. We crossed the 100 show mark for '97 on this trip. We left LA 12 days ago, on Thursday, Nov. 13. Headed to Davis for a show at our familiar stomping ground, Cantina del Cabo. We then had shows in Klamath Falls and Eugene, OR. Then Ellensburg, Yakima and Spokane, WA. Then Lewiston and Coeur d'Alene, ID. Lastly, another show in Spokane showcasing at the NACA (Nat'l Assoc. for Campus Activities) conference there, in front of a crowd of 300 or so from 50 different colleges, most of whom will hopefully be booking us this spring.

We were really lazy this trip in terms of documentation. We took only 1 picture that I can remember. A very exciting photo of a gas station's price sign. In Richland, WA, a price war for gas rages on, and we felt compelled to document getting gas for only $0.919 a gallon. Over the next hill it was only $0.879, but it didn't depress us. When you have to fill a 35 gallon tank almost every day, you get pretty excited by low gas prices.

So we didn't do our jobs in taking photos. Nor did we keep up our road stories. I'm finally pulling the laptop out now, just 2 hours from home, trying to recall highlights from the road... I bought a long winter coat in Ellensburg for only $7, and a Bible for 50 cents at Good Will, making me look like the perverted Bible Flasher while I walked around with both; we had a little furry visitor in our motel room in Spokane, but we figured it was our own fault for leaving pizza out for a couple of days, and for staying in a place that only cost $38 for a suite; we got to explore another band's tour bus, and though it was cool to have all that space, their power steering had failed and they were contemplating towing the thing from Spokane to Portland, making our little van seem like a dream vehicle..... perhaps I should start at the top and see what comes up.

The day before we left on this trip we had 2 shows near LA. First a nooner at Cal. State San Bernardino. The most exciting thing about the show occured when I fell over my monitor, knocked down and broke my mic stand, and skinned my elbow on the carpet. Fortunately, I didn't damage the guitar I was holding, though my ego took a beating. I don't think the fall entertained the crowd any more than our 50 minutes of music, though the folks that booked us claimed they loved us and wanted to have us back. I was contemplating never playing at another Southern California college, because I don't think the students get us. We're not hip enough, or something.

But that night we played UC Riverside, just 30 minutes from the nooner. We've played there a few times before, most recently just 5 weeks ago in a different place on campus. I expected the same non-responsive Southern California crowd, but we got just the opposite. People were requesting songs and really having a good time. As did we. Sold a bunch of stuff, too, which has become a sort of barometer for us in telling how well we're going over. Sometimes it seems like people aren't digging you, and in fact they are, but you can't tell from stage. When they buy stuff, you know you did all right.

We got back to LA late after the Riverside gig, and went to our separate abodes before meeting up again Thursday morning for the long drive to Davis. A 6+ hour drive before the 4 hour show makes for a long day. The show went fine. The owner was happy that we weren't too loud. When I went out in the crowd during a lead, I could barely hear the band over the crowd noise. A little frustrating for a band to be so quite, but the guy has a packed club. Can't argue about that!

We drove over to my Mom's after the show in Davis. Asleep not long after 3. Up around 10:30 for another awesome breakfast with the folks. Left not long after noon to get to Klamath Falls. Took over 5 hours. Crummy weather, too, so a little tense getting over the pass into Oregon. We had an awesome dinner with our friends Lan and Ron who always take great care of us when we come to town. They are too damn good to us.

That night's show was a lot of fun. A new small venue called Father John's was packed, and we were in fine moods having eaten so well with our friends. I had a few beers and took my pants off briefly. I put 'em back on pretty quick though, because the stage in this club is in the front window, and I was mooning Main St. We recorded the show on our new 8 track live recording rig. Hopefully it came out all right. We're thinking about doing a live album, if we can get some good live recordings in the next few months.

We were downright lazy getting out of Klamath Falls on Saturday. Had a huge breakfast, again thanks to our hosts, Lan & Ron. Went to the club to load out around 12:30. Hung out with our hosts. Hit the road around 3, which sort of sucked because that meant going over the pass to Eugene in the dark. But the weather held, and we got to Eugene without incident.

We had our favorite Eugene dinner, Cajun Stuffed Chicken Breast, at the club and hung out with our Eugene hosts, Trang (Lan's sister) and her roommie Debbie. Again, people being nicer to us than we deserve. The show was pretty fun. A very late crowd, but a jumping one by the end of the night. The dance floor was crowded when we had to cut it off soon after 1:30 a.m. We were pretty damn tired by then. It's a tough energy thing, a band playing 3-4 hours. At 10pm when we started, not much was going on in the club, but we had plenty of energy. At 1:30 a.m., the place was hopping, but we were dragging. Dragging in a hopping way, of course. We feed energy from the crowd, but knowing that in the next hour that you have to pack everything into the van sort of bleeds your energy.

One of our pet peeves is when the audience is begging us to keep playing after 1:30, but were totally ignoring us from 10 to 1. Where were you 2 hours ago if you wanted to dance? It's a funny evolution of the night. In some clubs, they almost never dance until you say, "This is gonna be our last song." Then I guess they figure they better go ahead and get up. Then they get mad at us for stopping!

Sunday was no-gig day, but we had to get from Eugene to Ellensburg, WA. We had a great breakfast with Trang and Debbie before hitting the wet road early in the afternoon. We tried to find a place outside of Portland to watch the Redskins/Cowboys game. Wasted time in a sports bar and in a mall. Could only get the 49ers. We found the game on the radio for a while, but lost it as we followed the Columbia River eastbound toward the Dalles.

In Ellensburg, we went to the Student Union Building at Central Washington University to get the keys to our rooms from the building manager. We had 2 nice suites, with 2 twin beds in each and a little living room. TV's and VCR's. We went to dinner at Red Robin, and on the way home we rented "Foreskin Gump" from a sleazy video rental place downtown. The video was hot, but not as hot as the female student Doug and I saw taking her shirt off in front of her window in the dorm across from our window.

Monday's nooner at CWU was pretty fun. A couple folks were singing along with songs from "Set Me Free" that they must have picked up last spring when we came through Ellensburg. After the show, we did a long interview with Kevin at the radio station there, KCAT. Then we went walking downtown, where I found my cool long winter coat for only $7. We bought some Christmas lights at the hardware store to repair our dead chile pepper lights. I think the cashier was an ex-stripper. Hot chicks in Ellensburg at the hardware store, go figure.

We played again at 7:30, again on the CWU campus. This show was funner. It was dark except for stage lights. A very receptive though small audience. Bought a bunch of stuff, too. We even did "Railway Station" as an encore for a guy who that afternoon was asking about the live cut from "Set Me Free" (there's a live version of "Railway" as a bonus on there). "What the hell does that mean?" he asked. Nothing, I told him. I just make it up as I go along. "You gonna do that one tonight?" We did it, but it wasn't nearly as funny as the "you've got cotton, I've got satin" spiel.

Tuesday we got up at what felt like the crack of dawn to get to a diner's $2.99 eggs benedict special we had seen the day before but missed. It was f**king worth it! We all three got 'em and they rocked! Then we mosied the 1/2 hour drive down to Yakima to do a nooner at the community college there. The folks there were very nice, and had gotten us a fruit plate that also rocked. Good eatin' that morning. The show was pretty fun, though it was hard to tell how we were going over. But afterwards, we sold a bunch of stuff again, and again that validated our effort.

After the show, and after the cafeteria lady loaded us up with cookies and Yakima apples, as well as the cinnamon rolls, pizza, sandwich and chicken burger we ordered, after that we decided to get on to Spokane. The 3 hour'ish drive was uneventful, and we arrived just after sundown. We figured we'd check out a couple of local dive motels rather than just head straight to the 6 (Motel 6 that is). Motel 6 is great when you're in a hurry because you know what you'll be getting. But we weren't in a hurry, and we were going to be in Spokane for 5 nights in a row.

The first motel we found was called the Downtowner. It was downtown. Duh. I haggled the woman down to $38 a night including taxes, and she gave me a key to go check out the room. The room was cool, a rundown suite. Two rooms, two double beds. A sofa bed. Doug & I peed, marking our territory before going back down to accept the room.

That night we found a buffet and had good salads along with some greasy food. The waitress flirted with us. Life on the road with the Zookeepers is just too much!

Wednesday was laundry day. It was noon before we were out of the room looking for food. Strangely, we ended up at another buffet. This one sucked. Salad sucked. No flirting waitresses. A real scary guy waved to me as he left. He scared Doug, too.

We complained, then went to do laundry. Doing laundry is very exciting. Want the details?

Wednesday night's show was at Gonzaga University. It was cold and rainy, but load-in was pretty easy nonetheless. We set up in front of the wide-screen TV in the student lounge. The guy who booked us brought us a pizza then said, "I've got a paper to do. Just start whenever." He grabbed a slice of pizza and took off.

We started at 8 for a couple dozen folks, maybe. Again, a couple of people were singing along to "Set Me Free" songs. That was cool. We were supposed to stop at 9, but a bunch of people starting coming in, and we were told another event was just ending. So we played until 9:30, and it was pretty darn fun by the end of it. We sold a bunch of stuff again, and were feeling like we were on a pretty good streak. We took the leftover pizza back to the room afterwards. This is an important detail by Friday morning.

Thursday we went to the conference center where the NACA conference was being held. We helped Chris, our NACA rep, set up the booth for the conference. Then we grabbed burgers at Dick's before heading down towards Lewiston, ID, for Thursday night's show. The 2 hour drive was without incident, though Albie was getting blown around pretty good by the wind.

In Lewiston, we easilty found the Freternal Order of the Eagles club right next the the DQ. A sound company was already setting up what appeared to be far more equipment than necessary for the little 40'x30' room. And the sound system wasn't for us, but for DJ'ing between our sets. They easily had 3 times the system we had, brought in a big Ryder truck, and I couldn't help but wonder how much the college was paying them to be there. And were they necessary, and could we just have that money, too, and not take breaks!

We loaded in and went out to dinner with the college guy that booked us and all the other sound guys (a crew of 3). Nice guys, and a good dinner at the Italian restaurant (Paulino's) that we went to almost 2 years ago when the Zookeepers first played at Lewis Clark State College.

Back at the Eagles, the DJ'ing began at 8 pm, and the audience just sat there. Nobody got near the dance floor in the smokey room. At 9 o'clock, we started, and still they just sat there. And we wondered, "Are they liking this?" And they were. They were very enthusiastic, and everyone had a very good time in the extremely smokey Eagles club. During our break, we spent almost 20 minutes selling and signing CDs. The DJ's politely played music quietly, not approaching 1/10 of the capacity of the sound system they had loaded in.

We sold more stuff than we had all week, and we were really feeling like we were on a streak. After the break, stangely, most everybody left. By the end of the 2nd set, perhaps only a dozen or so of the original 70 remained. But they were an enthusiastic dozen, and we had a really good time throughout the show, though it seemed strange that everyone bought and left.

It was a late drive back to Spokane. Arrived around 2 am and crashed out. No need to get up early Friday. We had a disappointing breakfast, actually lunch for me, at Perkins before the boys dropped me off at the NACA conference. They headed off to change the oil and do some shopping at CostCo. I did the conference thing until the guys picked me up at 6. Then we headed to Coeur d'Alene for Friday night's show at Tub's cafe.

Tub's was a very cool place. A warm, wooden cottage on a cold November night in Idaho. Everyone inside was very friendly, and the wood stove cranked the heat and smelled great. Felt like we were in Vermont. We set up a very small sound system and played "acoustically." The small crowd didn't seem to pay much attention. We were basically being paid to be background music, and we did a good job at that. But it's not very fulfilling. The owner apparently liked us a lot, and if we get to go back, we will, just for the awesome sandwiches if nothing else.

We're in LA now. I've been typing quite a while. We're about a block from Albie's house. Already dropped Doug off.

To wrap it up, we rocked NACA at our showcase Saturday night. I think we'll get a lot of college shows from it. Should be a busy spring. Then we spent the next 2 days driving back to L.A.

Sat, Oct. 18, 1997, 1:00 pm, 78,290 (new van, still no name)
US 101, just north of Santa Barbara, headed home

Apparently there's a band out there called Sugar Ray. We're thinkingof changing our name to Tyson. A band that bites.

Last Saturday night was the rocking'est night ever at Coyote Creek in Sonora. The room was hopping. What a great finale to our Vegas trip. A really good show.

This week has been quite a contrast from last. Last week was Vegas and Sonora. This week was San Jacinto (near Riverside), San Luis Obispo and Monterey. We did 2 noon-time shows, Tuesday and Wednesday, one at each campus of Mt. San Jacinto College (Menifee and San Jacinto). I've concluded that Southern California kids really don't get us. We aren't cool enough. We're not skate punk or ska, so we suck. But the faculty usually digs us. Pretty weird.

At the first show, in Menifee, a couple of kids approached us after our set. They were basically Beavis and Butthead incarnate. One guy said, "Can we use your stuff, and show you how it's done." Uh..... No. Am I already a generation away from today's youth? I just don't get it.

Wednesday we had no Beavis and Butthead encounters, but the kids paid us no mind. The faculty grooved and applauded, but except for maybe two guys, none of the students seem to notice there was a band playing. One guy did buy 2 CDs. So we were happy, because if we can save just one life, it's worth it! Oh yeah, we're not saving lives. Well then, we'll need more than one, I guess. Wait a minute, there was a girl who said, "You guys are pretty good." That must count for something. Of course, the tone of her voice said, "For like older people's music, y'all don't suck that bad." Is that a good review?

Thursday we hit the road out of L.A. bright and early to get to a nooner on the campus of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo (3 hour drive). When we arrived, the quad (or whatever that area is called) was jam-packed with students. Tons of folks. And a really lame band was playing. I'm sure they were really nice guys, and are having a lot of fun withe their band, but after a couple of days playing to skate punks in the desert, I was a little bitter. We set up inside a place called BackStage Pizza and had a really good gig. We had our reservations about a pizza place, but this had a really nice space, and a cool little stage. And folks in SLO are a lot more laid back and groovy than skate punks. We sold a good bit of stuff, and munched out on free food (including a bitching salad bar and a huge pizza).

Thursday night sucked. Gotta be honest. We were back for the 2nd time at SLO Brew, which is a really nice venue. Good food. Nice place. Great stage and sound. But nobody goes there. The place was MT. I mean empty! Damn there was nobody there. Literally, 2 people other than staff at one point. (At least those 2 were fans, one of whom is from Sonora.) It would be nice to have more than 2 fans, though. The true hand-tear (as in torn) was that we were working for the door. Ouch! Somehow we made enough to pay for the motel room.

We slept in Friday, checking out right at noon, before hitting what we had earlier dubbed the best Denny's (see somewhere below). My burger was excellent, but Doug and Albie complained about the food and the burnt coffee. So we removed our nomination to vote the SLO Denny's the best. Doug seems to remember a Denny's near Seattle that really rocked.

We drove up the coast on Highway 1 to Monterey. Beautiful drive. Everybody should do that drive at least once. Just incredible. A little nauseating, yes, after a couple of hours. But well worth it.

We wheeled into Monterey soon after 5 pm. Found the venue, the Blue Fin, no problem. Really nice place. Big. Great location on Cannery Row. We loaded in and headed off to find our Motel 6. Just enough time to change and get back to the club for dinner. Pretty good food, too.

And the place was packed. Hundreds of folks playing pool and hanging out. A well-dressed crowd, too. Our people watching skills were honed. But boy, they couldn't care less about us. It's tough in a new venue. If we just had a dozen Zookies there to dance and bridge the gap between band and audience, it would have been great. But nobody wanted to make that first move. Only a couple dancers for a few minutes. So much potential!

I'd like to blame the lack of connection with the band to the recent death of John Denver, right there in Monterey. But the crowd really didn't look like they were mourning. They just weren't listening to us.

On the bright side, our friends Yasmin and Zarina came over from Santa Clara to see us. Yasmin books bands at Santa Clara University, a job her sister Zarina held a couple years back. We'll see them both again next week, as we're playing at SCU. And we're counting on you two to get the crowd dancing this time!

We're almost in Ventura now. Just an hour from home. It will be nice to be home for a Saturday night for a change.

Fri, Oct. 10, 12:30 pm, 76,480 (new van)
I-15, 45 minutes south of Vegas

We rocked Vegas!

We didn't actually get to open for Loverboy, as was scheduled. There was a major problem with the sound system that wasn't corrected until Loverboy was ready to hit the stage. We were all suited up and ready to go, but it was not to be. We ended up performing on a smaller stage, also at the Fremont Street Experience, but down the street from the big Loverboy stage. And we performed before they played: we had the 8-9 slot. They started at 9. So, I guess you could say we opened up for them, just not on the same stage.

A funny by-product of our change of stages was the Loverboy fans that were hanging out in front of the little stage we played on. They were programmed to think that Loverboy was coming on after the Zookeepers. When they saw us playing, they thought Loverboy must be next. Near the end of our set, one of their buddies came running up, frantically hand signaling his friends to follow him. "Come on!" his hands said, "Loverboy is down here." They ran off hurriedly. By that time, the suckers had listened to 40 minutes of our set. And of course, we thought they just loved us to be right up front like that.

When we were done, we returned to the Loverboy stage area. They were rocking it up, to a crowd about 20 times the size of our crowd. (And they got paid about 20 times what we got paid.) We were impressed to hear so many songs we had forgotten. And a a few we hadn't. We hung around backstage, scavenging Loverboy food and drinks, and watching the band. We went out front for a while before we left the crowd to go munch on $3.95 spaghetti and meatballs at the Plaza.

The best food of the weekend, I think, was the $3.25 ham steak and eggs breakfast at Main St. Station, the hotel the venue put us in. Beat the hell out of Motel 6 and Denny's, I'll tell ya. (By the way, we're headed towards the Motel 6 in Barstow for tonight's sleep.) The 99 cent shrimp cocktails at Golden Gate were pretty damn good, though they'd get a little funky at the bottom. The Loverboy food tray was good, too. Ham, roast beef, turkey, rolls, slaw. It brought back memories of when we used to eat nothing but turkey and cole slaw on bagels in the van. We drank lots of Loverboy water, stole a couple of their towels, and had a couple of what I like to call "Mike Reno beers." We were warned to stay away from their Gatorade and Perrier.

What're you gonna do in Vegas after a night of Loverboy and spaghetti? Lose money! I lost $30. Doug lost $30. Albie came out ahead, although you can never tell exactly how much Albie wins. He has a very weird way of counting money that makes it sound like he's always winning, until all of a sudden he can't afford to split the cab with you. "I was doing great, until that last table!" My problem is I'm never doing great. I start losing from the get-go. This time, Albie seems to have really come out ahead, in the $50 range. Even better than the money, Albie coined a new phrase, "Viva Lost Wages."

There is other big news in the Zookeeper camp. Tupie's gone. Sold. Bub-bye. I sold her Wednesday on my lunch hour. It's strange to let her go. But that's rock'n'roll. She was just a stepping stone. We're still looking for the right name for the new van. I suggested Loverboy, but it hasn't caught on. "Doug, can you go move Loverboy around back?" It doesn't quite sound right. And it might get us beat up in some areas.

It's one in the morning now, and the guys in the front seem to have lost their minds. It sounds like they're trying to sing some instrumental Yes song. If they don't stop soon, I might lose my mind. I just found out that it was Rush they were singing. Same difference. Now they've broken into Beavis and Butt-head singing Rush. God help me.

I'm running out of steam here. I hope Loverboy gets us to Barstow safe and sound!

Sun, Oct. 5, 9pm, 75,866 (new van)
I-5, 30 miles south of Santa Nella

All driving and no sleep make Albie somthing somthing. This ride is very long and we still got 3and half hours to go. 13 hours from Eugene to LA and no cinnamon rolls from exit 174. We did start the day with the traditional mocha from the Coffe People shop down the street from Taylors. I had first shift behind the wheel. I made it to Redding CA , then Doug took over to Santa Nella. PV's got the home stretch. The smelly cow place is coming up soon. Man! does that place stink!! Everytime we drive by that place I always see people who working in the yard. Glad I don't have that job. Just like clockwork here we are excuse me I have to hold my nose.

Saturday PV and I took to the streets of Eugene gear shopping . There are alot of cool music stores in Eugene. PV found 3 guitars, a banjo, 2 or 3 harmonicas and guitar multi-effects unit. I found 2 basses, a pe-amp, keyboard and 1963 Martin acoustic guitar. Over $4,000.00 worth of gear. And guess what we came home with?? A jaw harp total cost $4.50. Hey I'm the big spender and I' m worth it.

Viva Las Vegas!!! Opening for Loverboy this Thursday!!! what more can you really say after that. Well for starters Friday in Las Vegas for a second show (without Loverboy) And then Saturday Coyote Creek Cafe in Sonora CA , Great food And always a great crowd. So home I go to start Working for the Weekend so I can start Riding Out the Weekend. GET IT? (man I just crack myself up!! ) All driving and no sleep make Albie somthing somthing.

Sun, Oct. 5, 6pm, 75,711 (new van)
I-5, going thru Sacramento toward home

What a week. We're heading toward home, e.t.a. about midnight. We played 5 shows last week, Tuesday thru Saturday. Tuesday night was Santa Cruz. A usual light crowd there at the Front St. Pub. Little did we know that there would be more people there than the next 2 nights combined. After the Santa Cruz show, we drove to Sacramento to my mom's house to crash for a few hours. Arrived 2:30 a.m. Wake up 8 a.m.

Wednesday was the big drive to Oregon. We arrived in Monmouth at 7 pm to set up for our 7:30 start time. That was calling it close. We started a few minutes late, which wasn't a problem because pretty much nobody was there. We had a good time nonetheless with the few folks who were there. Somehow we sold a handful of CDs.

Thursday we could sleep in a bit. Still had to rush to get out of the Courtesy Inn by 11 a.m. Albie and Doug picked up coffee in downtown Salem, then we walked around the mall for a while. The highlight there was the women's hat section, where we amused ourselves at length -- especially Doug in elaborate pimp-looking hats. The lacey veiled hats were nice, too.

We walked around to some music stores, pawn shops and record stores. One place had an especially good used CD selection. We picked up a combined 15 CDs there for $44. I bought Cardigans, Gin Blossoms, The Doors, 10,000 Maniacs, Del Amitri, Dishwalla, Letters to Cleo and a Dolly Parton/Linda Ronstadt/Emmylou Harris CD. We didn't like the Dishwalla or Cardigans discs. Doug got MC 900 Ft. Jesus, Black Crowes & KD Lang. Albie got Sheryl Crow, The Cars, Danny Peck, and Hootie & the Blowfish.

After lunch at our favorite pizza spot, Pietro's, we hit the nickle arcade. I had to run around to nearby motels to send a fax to Vegas to confirm next week's last minute Vegas shows (opening for Loverboy!?!). We took a quick nap at the Motel 6 before heading to Portland to play Lewis and Clark College's Rusty Nail. A fun little crowd at times. When we started, there was literrally nobody there but the employees. So we ran through some new tunes. Sort of made a practice out of it. After a while a crowd developed and even danced a while. Doug & I bought a box of Reese's Peanut-Butter Ice Cream bars, and Albie got Ho-Ho's and milk at the Fred Meyers near the college. Then we drove the hour back to the Salem Motel 6.

We got up late morning Friday and hit Denny's. This Salem Denny's is one of the worst. We reminisced about the excellent Denny's down in San Luis Obispo while we begrudgingly consumed the Salem Denny's sub-par fare. Notoriously bad coffee. Burnt popcorn flavored. My over-medium eggs were over-easy. I couldn't eat the sausage. Pancakes OK.

After Denny's we pulled the new van into a Sears Auto Shop to get the brakes checked. Going over the mountains into Oregon, especially the downgrade into Ashland, the brakes were doing some serious vibrating thing. While they checked the van at Sears we wondered aimlessly around a Circuit City, looking at all the cool stuff we wanted but couldn't afford. You know you're getting old when looking at washer-dryers is a thrill.

There was good news and bad with the brake inspection. The good news - it isn't dangerous. The bad news - she needs new discs and drums. Not just brake pads. They gave us an estimate for $795. We smiled bemusingly and left, shakey brakes and all.

We drove the hour to Eugene and hit the Q-Lube to round out our Van Maintenance Day. Her first oil change on the road. Yummmy Yummy in her tummy. We are still looking for the right name for this new van. We're not even sure of the gender. On the one hand, a vehice generally is considered female. On the other, this is a manly van! With a big rack on top and a suped up front bumper guard with fog lights. We're sort of waiting for something to happen, I think. Like, we'll hit a cow and call it the Cow Van, or something. Of course, Tupie was named totally randomly and for no purpose. But the name somehow fit perfectly. Now we feel the pressure to come up with a perfect name, instead of some random name.

Friday night we returned to Taylor's. The place was hopping. More crowded than we'd ever seen it (until Saturday night, when it was even more packed). A home football game and relatively clear and mild weather were on our side. Friday nights crowd was rowdy, but relatively unresponsive to the band. We never quite connected. But Saturday night's show was a barnburner. Thanks in big part to our good friends Ron & Lan, who drove up from Klamath Falls, and brought an entourage (all of whose names we are currently racking our brains to get right!!!).

We all had dinner together there at the club. Then when we started, our clan got right up and started dancing. It was just what we needed to reach the crowd. Nobody wants to be the first to dance, but once it gets going..... Buy the end of the night it was a sea of heads bobbing up and down in front of the stage. We ended the evening with an extended jam based around the song "Brick House," which a girl had requested and which we had never played before. But it sounded great. We weaved from Brick House into Main Street USA and also into Knocking Round the Zoo. A big highlight of the evening for me was getting the entire crowd to yell, "Left Nipple!" during Jackie Toothless.

We're nearing Stockton right now and traffic is stopped. Road work ahead. Fuck! We're already getting into LA way late. Gotta get up tomorrow morning for work. I hope we get home by 1.

Sat, Sept. 27, 8pm, 73,618 (new van)
I-40, eastbound, just entered California

We just crossed the border into California from Arizona. No fruit to claim. What is the deal with that California border bullshit. Our tax dollars at work paying people to stop every single car that's coming into the state to say, "Got any fruit or vegetables?" Is this really accomplishing something other than delaying thousands of people every day for no good reason? Got any fruit or vegetables? Uh, can we go? They should have a "don't have any fruit" express lane. No Fruit - This Lane.

Which reminds me of a game I like to play. It's called, I'm Glad I Don't Have That Job. This is an especially good game to play when you're feeling down and out; pissing and moaning about how crappy your life is. Play a round of I'm Glad I Don't Have That Job. Here's how you play: 1) Hop in the car - it's the fastest way to play. You can walk, but it isn't as fun. 2) Every time you see someone doing some shitty job, you say, "God, I'm glad I don't have that job." Now you see where the game gets its name.

Some good places to go to play I'm Glad I Don't Have That Job are: fast food restaurants; construction sites; highway constructions sites (especially good); paid parking lots with attendants; banks; hospitals (some really good ones in there if you search hard); city streets (be on the lookout for meter maids, garbage trucks and street sweepers); County of Los Angeles Department of Mental Health headquarters (that's a joke because that's where I work); bars (another joke, because that's where the Zookeepers work); and last, but not least, go to the California border in a mountainous area in the middle of winter. When they ask, "Got any fruit or vegetables," you can say to yourself, "God, I'm glad I don't have that job."

Albie and I are shotgunning home from a Saturday afternoon gig in Flagstaff. We played a homecoming festival at Northern Arizona University. A perfect day, weather-wise. 70 degrees and sunny. We had a stage with a big tent. Nice breeze a-blowing. Lots of folks milling about, some of whom paid a little attention to us now and then. All in all, a very good gig.

Doug has headed to the Grand Canyon with his girlfriend Janine. Originally we were all going to camp up there a night, but it fell through. At least one of us is taking advantage of the long drive to Flagstaff. The band often finds itself near some incredible place to visit, but with no time to go and visit. This time, Doug went. Albie and I are racing back to LA because our lives are so full and so important, we don't have time for camping at the Grand Canyon!

But in fairness, we have hit some incredible spots in our travels. We've just never stopped for long. We've actually been to the Grand Canyon before. It was Albie's first trip in the band. We did a show in Prescott, AZ, at Embry-Riddle Univ, and had a show 2 days later at Utah State Univ. These schools are nowhere near each other, but somewhere in between is the Grand Canyon. We pulled up to the south rim, whipped out the cooler, made turkey bagel sandwiches, looked around, ate, and left. We used to live on turkey bagel sandwiches. With cole slaw.

A couple years ago we went to Crater Lake in Oregon. We've also been to Yosemite. And detoured over to the Oregon coast for the view. That was 70,000 miles ago. These days we don't tend to have a day or two off to go sight-seeing. And if we do, we're usually so damn tired of driving, we stay wherever we are and recouperate. A cool place that is a 3 or 4 hour drive out of the way is a hard sell nowadays.

I'm rambling on and on, but I'm not conveying the NEWS. Here's the news: we got a new van! That is the biggest news, and it's the biggest van. Tupie is currently sitting on a Hollywood street, looking dejected with a "For Sale" sign. We love Tupie, but we are spoiled Americans, and we must have MORE. Tupie is a 12 passenger van. The new as yet unnamed van is a 15 passenger van. That's 3 more, idnit! Tupie is an '86 Dodge 250. The new van is a '90 Dodge 350. That's a lot more! Tupie has 145,000 miles. New Van: 73,500. That's less. But sometimes less is better. Just ask Doug's girlfriend! (That is an example of what we call, "Throwing Doug under the bus." Wait a minute. Doug's our current drummer. I shouldn't throw him under the bus....) Just ask Chris Schoop's wife! (Just kidding Noelle. I had to do that because I know Chris is keeping his eye on us.)

By the way, if you are interested in obtaining an '86 Dodge 250 12 passenger van, we've got a special. Buy 2 CDs for $3,015, and get a FREE VAN!!!

The other big news is rather tragic. Albie left the Lion and the 6! These are the coveted pillows that we obtained in a roundabout and discrete way (search for Lion and you'll find the full story below). Albie left our pillows at the Flagstaff Motel 6! We've been lugging these guys around for 18 months! Gadzooks! They're gone! I was angry at first, but now I'm just sad. The Lion and the 6!

(editor's question: did the use of lots of exclamation points in the last paragraph help convey the profundity of the situation? You just don't understand!!!!!!!!! We loved the 6's!!!!!!!! And they're GONE!!!!!!!)

We're listening to Morphine - Cure for Pain.

FYI - this entire entry was brought to you by Nestle's Crunch Ice Cream Bars. One of which I ate an hour ago in Kingman, Arizona. Now I'm crashing. I've got to go pop some Skittles.

Wed, Sept. 3, 9pm, 147,824
2 hrs north of LA on I-5

Tupie's starting to give the signs that she does not want to tour anymore. We were not even an hour out of L A and all of a sudden we notice the temp. in the van is getting warmer and warmer Tupie had decided that we didn't need AC to slow us down. We tried to tell her that we really like the AC and it does not slow us down that much but she said," to bad it's either my way or the walkway." All kidding aside the topic of a new van has started, Tupie is great but she almost has 150,000 miles and she done her duty. PV said that September is van replacement month. I can't believe we are talking replacements, but better her than me.

This weekend of shows went great . It all started in Santa Cruz Thursday with a gig at the Front St. pub. It's a cool gig because the crowd is great and we don't play all night, just 2 sets. Playing all night is cool but can be tiring after driving 5 hours a day then setup, play, teardown, load up and leave. So those nights of 2 sets are a blessing. Friday we made are return to Arcata. We have not played their in almost a year . Saturday found us back in Davis, Sunday the dayoff in Folsom at mom's Then off to Oregon on labor day to play a college on Tuesday.

About a year and a half ago we played our first gig at Taylor's in Eugene. We had to leave that gig and drive all the way back to LA straight . Chris Schoop and myself took the first shift, me driving and Chris the co-pilot. We were about a half hour out of Eugene when Schoop said we should get coffee and a sugar rush. We stopped at this little diner and got 2 cups of coffee and Schoop asked me if i would split a cinnamon bun with him. This was the biggest and best cinnamon bun I'd ever had. We would always tell PV about it and later I would tell Doug of the gold that lies between Eugene and Medford. The problem was I could never remember what exit we stopped at. I thought that I would never get the chance to show these guys how good this place is. Last night by a strange twist of fate we needed a sugar rush to get us down the 5 so the pressure was on. These guys wanted me to find the diner. As we passed exit 180 I thought that we just missed it and started to get a little angry at myself for not getting off their. PV is now giving me a hard time for missing the exit but Doug was saying that if it did not feel right it was not the exit. Boy was he right because as we pulled off exit 174 I just started to smile I had found what Schoop had once called nirvana. We got 2 to go and they were just as good as I remember. It made my night, my trip, and yet it made me miss Christopher T Schoop.

Fri, Aug. 29, 2pm, 145,935
Hwy 101, north of Hopland

The Story of the Lion and the 6

In the spring of '96, Pat Wilson one night decided to sleep in the van. He borrowed a Motel 6 pillow and headed out the door of our Motel 6 room. In the morning, on our way to the next town, we realized we still had the pillow, which became known as "the 6."

It did not take long to discover the benefits of having a pillow in the van. Soon after, we acquired another "6" and the two became known as "the 6's." When we'd load into a motel room, grabbing our bags and guitars, someone would inevitably hollar, "Grab the 6's!" (Extra pillows in the motel room were also a plus.)

In the following months, we went through a period of upgrades. "This Motel 6 has better pillows! Let's trade!" We'd load in with our old 6's, and load out with new, better 6's.

We reached the top of the mountain in Richland, Washington, in the fall of '96. There, we stayed in a Red Lion, courtesy of the club, Killarney's. That was our final upgrade. A glorious event.

Out of respect, we continued to call the pillows "the 6's." We lived happliy for months.

Then Doug came along.

Doug is particular about his pillow. In fact, Doug only uses HIS pillow. And I use the term "pillow" loosely. I think Doug got his pillow perhaps in 1st grade; maybe even as a toddler. And we're talking no upgrades. It looks like he may have changed the pillow case once in the 80's. But the pillow itself, or what's left of it, lives on. If you took a regular pillow, say, one of the 6's, and put it through a juicer, like an orange juicer thingee, the stuff left over in the top of the juicer would be what you would put in a bag to make a pillow like Doug's.

This is actually a very good thing for me and Albie. That means that Doug is always taken care of, and we can split the 6's and whatever other crummy pillows are in the room between the two of us.

So loading in and out of motel rooms, we'd grab the 6's, and Doug's "pillow." We lived happily for months.

Then one morning, loading out of a Motel 6 (San Luis Obispo, July '97), I saw a stack of pillows, Doug's on top. I assumed that was our stack...the 6's and Doug's. What I failed to realized was that Doug had stacked the pillows, and to Doug there are just two types of pillows: his and all the rest. So Doug had failed to distinguish between the Lion 6's and the other 6's. A few miles down the road, Albie noticed the mistake.

We now have one Lion 6, and one new 6 (which we just upgraded this morning from the Motel 6 in Santa Rosa).

And so the story of the Lion and the 6 continues.

Sat, Aug. 2, 5pm, 145,200
I-5 just south of Kettlemen City

It is now official. We've have now eaten at every Burger King on the 5 between Magic Mountain and Sacramento. I could be wrong but it sure seems like it. A debate has just broken out on why bands like Ford vans. Tupie (thats our van for any newcomers) is a Dodge. I said that Fords and Chevys have more room. PV was quick to say,"bullshit". We seem to be past that and PV has settled in with his book and Doug is driving. More sayings that come out when in the van :Coming in hot!! that means a stopsign/stoplight, corner, off ramp, stoppped car and or traffic is coiming up very fast. We're Dead !! always follows coiming in hot as way to seal our fate. These quotes became part of the everyday vocab in this band after I joined. I wonder why? The last is: Thrown under the bus. This means that one of has just made fun of the other. My best friend Mike met us in Spokane WA for dinner last fall and he said that. We liked it enough to keep it around. Also Mike is now called Mocha Mike. He opened a drive thru espesso shop back home in Easton PA. It seem like I'm typing alot and not saying anything so I'll stop.

Sat, Aug. 2, 3pm, 145,097
I-5 just south of Santa Nella

I'm reading a book about the Lewis & Clark Expedition. (They were the first whites to get to the Pacific Ocean through the northwest, in case you didn't know.) The biggest difference I can discern between their travels and ours is that, when they were really, really hungry, they'd buy scrawny dogs from the Indians and eat them (the dogs, that is). When we get really, really hungry, we generally get Whopper Meals -- no mayo extra pickel for me, no onion extra pickel for Alb, and no tomato for Doug. I'm not sure what condiments Lewis & Clark put on their dogs.

Yesterday's Denny's in San Luis Obispo was decidedly the best Denny's ever. Fluffy pancakes, excellent burger bun, good French toast.... We sent our compliments to the chef.

We played SLO Brew Thursday night for the first time. Very cool place. It's a microbrewery (with an excellent "Summer Blond" brew. There was a great dinner crowd still lingering when we started at 9:30. By 11, the place was all but empty. Sometimes we have that effect...Doooope!

The big surprise was the arrival of some fans from Sonora. Renee and Reiko, and Kristin now from Monterey. They brought a handful of their friends from San Luis Obispo and Monterey and we had a fun little gathering. Including Kip the sound guy and Tammi the manager. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. Then we wrapped it up early and went over to Mothers, a nearby bar, where they had a great swing band with horns and all. Big dancing crowd. Great band.

San Luis Obispo is no closer to Davis than LA is. Maybe a little closer if you don't get stuck in traffic like we did. We left the great SLO Denny's fully satisfied (except we couldn't go to the bathroom because some guy was locked in there forever) at noon. We hit a little traffic around 3 in San Jose, where we stopped to get gas. We were on E, which almost never happens. But we had been holding out hoping for cheaper gas up the road. (Last week in Arizona was awesome for cheap gas, at about $1.25 for mid-grade. We can't find any thing under $1.35 for mid-grade in CA. It was $1.49 for mid in San Jose.)

After gassing up, I handed the keys off to Doug, who got the shitty leg of the drive. The trafficky leg. Above San Jose, we exited at Hwy 84 to cut over to Livermore, but were stopped in our tracks right after the offramp. So we pulled a U and got back on the 680. We decided to cut over around Stockton to avoid the east bay traffic. We hit more traffic in Pleasanton, Livermore, Tracy and Stockton, where we pulled through the Wendy's drive-thru for a sugar/carbo rush -- frosty's and french fries all around.

Arrived Davis a little after 6pm. I had some family visiting coincidentally from North Carolina. My brother Jim, wife Page and boys Ben and Amos. They met us at 7:30, at which time we dined on our favorite "Cabo Tacos" right there at the club (Cantina del Cabo). Best tacos I ever had.

The show was a pretty lame one, unfortunately. Sorta hoped for a hoopla for my family, but you never know. Or at least, we never know. Turns out UC Davis just finished summer session earlier in the week, so the town was dead. We were told by the club that we were too loud about 5 times in the first set. Another 5 times in the second set. Meanwhile, we could hear people's conversations better than we could hear ourselves. People sitting right in front of the band were talking without even leaning toward each other. But apparently, someone was complaining back at the bar. And we know who signs the check. So we got queiter and quieter.

It was actually a pretty fun show. I think we, or at least I am a little exhausted after this string of shows we've done. This is the third weekend in a row that we've driven 15-20 hours and performed for 6-10 hours, as well as loaded in and out for 6+ hours. That's 30 hours over the weekend in addition to working 30 hours Monday through Wednesday. We have no traveling for the next three weeks. A nice little break before the busy fall season begins, when colleges are back in session, and we'll be on the road for more than just weekends.

sun July 27, 3pm, 144,184
I-10 west of Blythe, CA

we're dead !! doug is driving and we just ate at the subway in Blythe. 219 miles away from home after a great weekend of shows in AZ. Thursday in Flagstaff , and two nights in Sedona what a cool town but you better like the color red. Well more like a rust brown but cool none the less. My typing teacher (pv) is sitting here making fun at my advanced hunt and peck method. he can type, me? i had one day of typing class, well actually it was more like 5 minutes as soon as the teacher took role i asked to go to the bathroom and went to have my class schedule changed. who would have thought that it would come back to haunt me. but three hours from home and my book finished i figure i have some time to kill.

i like this new computer that pv has brought with him i only hope that this one stays dry. tupie is still running hot gee i can't imagine why,driving through the desert it's 3, 245 degrees and she's all loaded down with the band gear and four people. go tupie go tupie go!!!!! current conditions in the van : doug, driving. janine (that's doug's girlfriend for those of you keeping score at home) reading the hobbit. pv reading the way to the western sea. albie well i'm the one telling you what everybody else is doing. i don't know what else to tell about so i'll leave you with a joke : this mushroom walks in to a bar and orders a drink. the bartender says" hey we don't serve your kind in here". and the mushroom says why not i' a fun guy"!!!! get it??

sat, July 26, 11:30 am
in the Sugar Loaf Lodge, Sedona, AZ

What a place. Sedona is absolutely beautiful. Huge Red Rocks. Everything here is red. Earth-tone orange-red, I mean. The place we play is called Red Rockin' Blues. I was told by a local that anything that is not red becomes red. The red rocks make red pebbles and red dust that covers everything. There are several swimming creeks and a river. Lots of rocks to jump off of into the water. Our mission today is to find a cool swimming hole.

Last night's show was a cool one. Not a very big audience, but an attentive one. They didn't dance much, but they listened. And the sound was good, and I felt like a I could sing again. The latter could be due to the fact that yesterday's drive time was under an hour. When we spend 6 or so hours in the van, we tend to talk ourselves hoarse by the time we get to where we're going. Especially in such a dry place as Arizona. Man is it dry. I have to drink water about 3 times during each song.

After the show, Albie and I stayed up till 3:30 shooting the shit with the owner, Paul. Really nice guy. We covered a lot of ground, discussing: things cats bring home, childbirth (this was a big one, Paul is a new father), the state of live music on the west coast, the attitudes of bands and bar owners.... It turned out that I hadn't told Paul that we are now a 3-piece band. When we loaded in, he said he kept counting to himself "1....2.....3.......Where's #4? I trust Pat. I trust Pat." He was also nervous when we finished setting up, without making any noise in the way of a sound check, and then asked, "OK, where do we eat?" He thought to himself, "1...2.....3..... I trust Pat." It turned out great of course. Fun show.

Thurs, July 24, 7:45 pm
in the Monte Vista Hotel, Flagstaff, AZ

We arrived at the Monte Vista about 7pm. Enough time to load-in, eat, and start playing by 9pm. No big rush. Until we find out they don't have food for us. Dooop! Then we ran out to find a burrito place nearby. Very good burritos. And a cool area, this downtown Flagstaff. A warm summer evening.

We ate quickly and returned to the hotel to check into our rooms. It's pushing 8:30 now, so we only have a half hour before downbeat. We rush to our rooms to "drop the kids off" (this is one of our favorite metaphors... it's personal.....sometimes called "dropping the kids off at the pool"). In his room (this is a hotel gig, so we get more than our customary one room).. in his room, Albie notices on the TV that the local time is 7:30, not 8:30. What!? Turns out Arizona does not do daylight savings time. So in the summer, it's on the same time as L.A.

Now we've got over an hour to digest our burritos and drop off the kids. No hurry. We're set up downstairs already. I've got time to do some typing in here. While watching Seinfeld (the one where Jerry's tax woman is George's girlfriend who goes crazy).

Albie and I got the good rooms, though air conditioning would be nice. Now we have 3 hours of music making to look forward to. With no drinking. It's the law in Arizona.

Until tomorrow....

Thurs, July 24, 4pm, mileage 143,732
I-40 east of Kingman, AZ

Gotta new Laptop! Well, not new... It's an old 386 PC. But it works. Thanks Dennis. He's my boss at the L.A. County Dept. of Mental Health - my day gig, for those that didn't know. This old laptop was sitting lonely in a filing cabinet. Now it's on the road with a rock band! And we can continue to post a littany of famously boring details of road life on our web page. (Of course, Dennis, I'm doing very important research for the Department's web page while we're on the road.;-)

We just had lunch in Needles, CA. Gas there was $1.79 a gallon. So we skipped gas. Had Carls, Jr. burgers. Yummy! And so healthy!

It's 105 degrees, easy. We get A/C on downhills. On uphills, we slow down and keep the windows open. That way we can let all that hot air in. It feels a little backwards.

Tupie's radiator just ain't doing the trick. She runs fine at 55. But get her up to 70 in 100 degree weather, and she starts overheating. To top it off, she's infected with ants, too. Albie is the biggest ant victim. He hollers and slaps himself every few minutes, then mumbles something about buying Raid before the gig tonight. Me, I just flick the ants toward Albie and let him do the dirty work.

Doug and girlfriend Janine seem to be ant-free in the back seat. They're currently labeling and stamping postcards for our shows next week in San Luis Obispo and Davis. We'll mail them from Flagstaff. It sort of a game for us to mail our flyers from different places. I wonder if anybody on the mailing list even notices.

Last weekend was a very good one. On the way up the 5 from LA (which was our first trip up the 5 in a month), we played a couple of our favorite games: the "did we ever stop at this exit" and the "which trip was that" games. "We stopped at that exit that time it was just you and me and we were meeting so-so in Fresno...." or "I don't think we've ever done this exit before." Then, "no, no. That's the Burger King we stopped at on the way back from Eugene when we shotgunned it."

Tupie is curently running nice and cool on a downhill stretch, and we all being bathed in her beautifully chilled, freon-tainted breath.

The others are arguing over whether Albie brought the ants with him this morning in his hair, or whether Tupie is simply infected.

Everybody met this morning at my house in the Hollywood Hills at 9:30 a.m. I had just finished my cowardly removal of a half-dead squirrel that my wife's loving cat Syd had half-killed last night. We had hoped he'd die (the squirrel that is) overnight. But he was still squirming around outside our front door this morning. Rather than be manly and put him out of his misery, I grabbed the shovel, scooped him up, and tossed him down the hill into the ivy. Maybe he'll recover! They'll rebuild him and he'll be stronger and faster than before.... Damn cat.

Oh man, going uphill now. HOT! Hot! And we've got the Partridge Family blaring, too. HOT!

Tonight we're playing a new venue in a new city. The Monte Vista Lounge in Flagstaff, AZ. It's in a hotel, which means the perk of 2 hotel rooms. Friday and Saturday we return for the first time in almost 2 years to Red Rockin' Blues in Sedona, AZ. Why I picked late July to return to Arizona is an excellent question. But it sure is beautiful when the air conditioning is working.

More Road Stories - Early 1997

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