Even Kids Can’t Poop on a Tour Bus

On the road with the families this week, it’s nice because the kids get a taste of what life is like on a tour bus, and because we enjoy waking up at 5:30am when we’re on tour anyway.  Guster always gets up to watch the sun rise together when we’re on the road.

But for the 7 year olds, there are hard lessons.  It isn’t all cozy bunk parties and grilled cheeses hot off the Foreman Grill when you’re on a bus.  It’s the cold hard reality of waking up in a poop-free zone, bowels a-knockin’, wishing you were wearing Huggies like your little brother.  Here’s what the interaction went like with my daughter while parked on a tour bus on Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis this morning:
SHE:  Daddy I have to go to the bathroom
ME:  Sure honey, it’s open, go ahead.
SHE:  No, daddy I have to make a poopie…
 
ME:  Oh.  Okay.  We can do this.  Don’t panic honey.  I know what to do.  Take off your footsie pajamas and get dressed, make sure you put on a rain coat and rain boots, it’s pouring rain outside.
SHE  But daddy I have to go now!
 
ME:  DO AS I SAY!
We exit the bus and are almost knocked over by the swirling winds and pouring rains of Minnesota.  In the distance I see the shining oasis of a “Residence Inn” on the corner.  Everything is going to be alright.  I wish I’d brought an umbrella.
ME:  Honey, trust me here — we just walk into this hotel and avoid eye contact with the people behind the desk, and we’ll find a bathroom.  Everything is fine, daddy is going to find you a bathroom.
SHE:  Okay daddy, but I’m really soaked and I have to go real bad.
ME:  DO AS I SAY!
We enter the Residence Inn and I whisk my daughter through the lobby to where my uncanny radar for lobby bathrooms points me.  We find the men’s room and the women’s room and all is right in the world.  My daughter will not have to live with a quivering sphincter at age 7.
But the door won’t open and the sign says “USE YOUR GUEST KEY TO ACCESS BATHROOM”…
I consider asking the front desk for a special pass for my first grader, but that might embarrass her and in the distance I spy a Panera Bread Company, a sweet reliable Panera Bread Company accessible through a nice dry Minneapolis skyway thing.  I grab my daughter’s hand and promise her that a Panera Potty awaits us.
ME:  Come on, I know where we can go.
SHE:  Daddy, is this really what life is like on the road?
ME:  DO AS I SAY!
We enter Panera and I somehow follow the restroom signs into an elevator that’s only for wheelchairs.  In my haste to avoid being busted by a Panera employee “HEY!  THEY’RE USING THE BATHROOM AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN ORDER A BAGEL!”  — In that haste I didn’t notice the staircase and now people are watching me struggle to operate a handicapped elevator.  I wonder what lessons I am teaching my daughter.  We bail and run up the steps where there’s a Men’s and Women’s Restroom.
And a sign that says “PLEASE ENTER THE FOUR DIGIT CODE FROM YOUR RECEIPT TO ACCESS RESTROOM”
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Apparently Minneapolis has a big problem with homeless people and first graders using bathrooms.  I should buy a coffee and get a four digit code but instead I see a bookstore attached to the mall-hallway behind Panera and surely they will have somewhere for her to poop.  My exasperated daughter tags along like the wilted flower that she is.  We go up the escalator.
And a single, open, unisex bathroom awaits us.  A cop is perusing the books nearby and I think for a brief moment that he is going to arrest me for letting my daughter poop.  But then my daughter speaks up.
SHE:  Daddy I don’t have to go anymore.
ME:  But… okay, are you sure?
SHE:  Yes.
ME:  Actually honey I have to go real bad now.  And I can’t leave you here by yourself.  Because someone might take you.
SHE:  Uh oh.
ME:  You know the drill.
And my daughter joins me in the stall, puts her nose in her shirt, and watches me take a crap from 6 inches away.  Welcome to the road, honey.

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Continental Drift Divide

The show in Munich was in this little arts compound on the outskirts of the city.  There was a “female only flea market” that we had to walk through to get to our dressing room.  Like just about every other European show, it gave way to Disco Night in the basement when it was over, which we avoided.  But there were lots of German people hanging around and drinking outside the venue afterwards, and I met quite a few of them.

Among them was a 20 year old girl named Eileen, who was not drinking (though the legal age is 16 for beer), but was insisting that I unlock our trailer full of gear to get out the “oook-lai” … it took me about ten minutes and a few translators to figure out she wanted to play our ukulele.  It was worth hunting down a key to the trailer and digging through the road cases to unearth the instrument to hear her play a few songs in the dark.

That REM song is an All Timer, and it sounds better with an adorable German street musician performing it for you in what sounds like an Irish accent.  After a Bon Iver tune and a few originals, Eileen and her sister a few other locals formed a posse that roamed the streets looking for a place named Cu.Bar that ultimately wouldn’t let us in.  We ended up at Bar Kilombo down the street, closing it down with another ukulele set and foregoing the late night Doner Kebab for the first time on the entire European tour. I believe questionable promises were made to Eileen that she would be the support act on our entire next German tour. Anyway, Eileen please learn “What You Call Love” on the uke and we can play it together next time we’re in Germany. Ciao!

eileen

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I think I smell a rat…

This is Ilja.  He is our bus driver in Europe.  He is German.  

ilja

Like most Germans he speaks English pretty well, enabling us to wander the streets of Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, and Frankfurt armed with nothing more than “Danke-Shane” and “Doner-Kebab, Bitte” as far as the local language is concerned.  And like most Germans, he’s a straight shooter with an adorable accent.  When we asked him what Frankfurt was like, he said “Frankfurt iz nozzing more dan junkiez, crime, bankahz, and hookahz”

Ilja is from Berlin.

My Frankfurt experience wasn’t like his, I happened upon a delightful bowl of Minced Meat & Leek Soup, window shopped at a store that sold only Steins and Gnomes, and played to an enthusiastic German crowd that sang along to every word of “Lightning Rod” (!?) while bringing us back for three encores.  German crowds are a revelation so far.

The other day we found Ilja on the bus, but instead of watching “Two and a Half Men” dubbed in German like he usually was  he was just sitting there, frozen with his head in his hands.  We asked what was wrong, and he said “Leaven zee door opan, there iz a rat.”

Meaning, he saw a rat scramble across the floor of the bus, and he didn’t know where it went.  And that night we got on the bus and asked if the rat escaped and he said “No.”  So we are living with a rat, and while Ilja thinks it makes its home underneath the bus in the bay area, I am pretty sure it likes to sleep in the warm spot between my “pillow” and pillow case, and pillow is in quotes because it really just feels like I rest my head on a bag of socks every night.  Or a bag of rats.

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Anyway, we found a bunch of rat shits in one of the kitchen drawers, so Ilja put a trap in there, the kind that’s more likely to crush every tendon in your finger than it is to catch a rat, but I’ll just let you watch for yourselves and see what happened when Luke opened the drawer….

I know, anticlimactic.  Rat still on bus.

 

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Trying to pee in France

I probably walked for like 4 or 5 hours in Paris.  Yes, we were in town to mercilessly rock a sex dungeon, but first and foremost we were eager tourists, and that involves struggling through 7th grade French, walking until your feet have blisters, and holding your pee.

Around 6pm, after ducking into a French McDonald’s to use the free wi-fi and wake up my Google Maps App, I REALLY had to go.  I figured, if I’m already just poaching the wi-fi here I may as well use the Mickey D’s bathroom too — but it was a coin-operated deal and I didn’t have a 20 cent Euro coin, so I just left.

I probably walked another mile or two before it began to feel like an emergency.  I had peeked into a couple of the more bustling bars and cafes to see if I could sneak in and use a toilet, maybe without some French employee rolling their eyes at me for being an American with a bladder.  But nothing was just right.  Now I had to GO.  And then I saw it.  In the distance.  The free public toilet.

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I have a hostile relationship with port-o-potties and it is well documented.  If you have a few hours free, I encourage you to read about:

The time the plumbing went down at a John Mayer show in New Mexico.

The time in Montana that I discovered the virgin port-o-potty.

The time at Vegoose when a stagehand attacked me inside a port-o-potty.

The time, on the way to Ryan Miller’s wedding, when someone tried to topple my port-o-potty with me inside.

The time I read two chapters of Lonesome Dove in a double-sized Blue port-o-potty.

The time the port-o-potty industry never recovered from me calling them out on their vanity mirrors.

The time Joe Pisapia coined the term “soft serve Jenga” and everything changed.

So needless to say, I was apprehensive about the Paris Public Toilet, but it was still a holy grail.  An oasis in my time of need.  Un salvateur.

The guy walking down the street in front of me, literally two paces ahead of me, walked into the public toilet first.  Terrible luck.  Of course he was in there for an eternity doing things that are between him and his God.  But when he emerged, minutes later, I ran right in.  Big mistake.

I would later learn that one needs to let the door close, and then re-open, before using the public toilet.  The Paris public toilets are “self-sanitizing” or “auto-cleaning” or whatever else you want to call it.  But I didn’t know this.  Let’s get back to our story.

It smells like death in this particular horrible box.  I immediately put my nose in my shirt so I can smell my own chest blended with death, and not pure death.  I am “peeing like a race horse” as they say.  I am halfway through and going STRONG when I heard a buzzing noise, like a motor.  And I swear to God I don’t make this stuff up — I simply could not make this stuff up — the entire toilet folded itself up into the wall.  The whole bowl retracted itself into the wall.  The bowl folded up, dumping pee out of itself, disappeared into the wall, and some sort of spraying noise began.  Then the lights went out.

I feel some sort of spray hitting me, and I am reaching for the button that opens the door, but I realize I haven’t completely cut off my stream yet.  It’s hard to do at that point in the game.

I zip up after peeing a bit on the floor where a toilet used to be, and walk out into the Paris night.  There is a French man standing there, waiting to use the toilet.  I nod at him, as if I am a regular human being, and not a traumatized American who just urinated all over the floor of a bathroom, and carry on down the road.

I have done research on what happened to me that day.  Check out this woman’s tragic YouTube story:

Did you make it to the part about the girl who died in the Paris Public Toilet?  That would have been me if I’d had a #2 in the works.  Promise you.  One day I will fall in The Hole in a port-o-potty and die, and that will be the end of Guster, and someone at my funeral will say “He died doing what he loved” and people will nod their heads, except a few of you, a few of you will say “Wait…. did he die doing what he loved?”

P.S.  Internet advice that would have been helpful:

Pay attention if you never used this automatic toilets! Don’t enter the toilet immediately after another person, as after each use the door is closing and a washing cycle of up to one minute begins. So wait for the wash to finish then push the button to open the door for you.

and….

My teenage son thought he could save a few coins by ducking in whilst someone was exiting. No doubt he had forgotten my warnings of earlier and was promptly sanitised — the toilet received no payment so thought it was empty and retracted the toilet bowl into the wall (with him still on it), then sprayed him with sterilizer.

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Dirty-Oh-So-Dirty

We knew the Paris show was going to be weird — there were no promoters out here who’d heard of us and the only gig we could get was in a strange basement as part of a “Club Nite L’International” where we were allowed a 40 minute set in a filthy dungeon that is strewn with dead bodies and American Apparel advertising location scouts.

Here’s a 360 of the room we’re playing.  It holds maybe 100 people and it’s free, so I am hoping we can fill it French people who are curious about Guster Le Gustere, or at least people who will tolerate us while they wait for the DJ to start.

There was a guy named Mario who was helping us sort out the audio situation during soundcheck, and some other guy wearing a scarf who just sat in the corner.  A couple of times I asked the scarf-guy what the internet password was, and he just smiled at me and wore his scarf.  Typical presumptuous American, I operate as if all French people will just speak English.  My bad.

But right before soundcheck, the scarf-guy comes up to me and introduces himself in a thick accent.  His name is Luciano.  He is from Argentina.  He is studying in the south of France and took a bus for 6 hours to Paris to catch our set tonight.  He has been waiting his entire life to see a Guster show.  It is kind of amazing.

A bit self conscious that he’s only getting a 40 minute Guster show in an anti-climactic sex dungeon tonight, I tell Ryan to ask him for a request as we begin sound checking.  Ryan gives me the what if he requests a song we don’t want to play like Demons look.  But I stay strong.  Luciano is psyched.  He requests Satellite, but pronounces is “La Satellita” or something.  We assure him that one’s in the set list, and so he goes — “Track 11… Long Way?” — and we realize he’s reached deep into the archives for a Golden Oldie off Keep It Together that we’re just too happy to indulge.  The keyboards haven’t been set up yet, and I don’t have my percussion kit for it, but we strap on and it feels magical.  We go the distance and Luciano is beside himself.  We decide it will be one of the 9 songs in the set list tonight.

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Here’s Luciano on stage with us during soundcheck.  There aren’t a lot of people in Europe who know our band, but the show means a lot to those who are there, and so we’re playing with a lot of heart/balls so far.

After soundcheck Adam and Luciano went to check out the Eiffel Tower together.

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Mardi Gras and a fan named “Tucker”

While watching a parade barrel down St Charles Avenue in New Orleans during Mardi Gras the other day, a fan approached Ryan and myself and informed us that their friend Tucker was marching in the parade as a part of a group called the Bomb Squad, and she’d love to have us surprise him with a high five along the way.

So we obliged.  The moment was photographed and I just figured out how to create little speech bubbles in Photoshop.  You just use the elliptical marquee tool and the polygonal lasso.  Duh.  So here’s your first ever comic strip road journal.

meetyou

bandana

armpit

shakeitoff

toilet

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HOUSTON (we have a problem)

Okay I know we’ve had some problems in the past, Houston TX but now all is forgiven.  A fan who works at NASA’s Johnson Space Center offered us a VIP tour of the facility this morning, and we took full advantage.  Here are the top 5 things I learned about NASA today:

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1.  Being in space is a lot like being on a tour bus.  You sleep in these little coffin-sized spaces, you Instagram pics of yourself and then everyone thinks your life is awesome, there’s nowhere for your pee and poo to go when you flush, and if you get sick of someone else traveling with you TOO BAD they’re about a foot and a half away from you, and they know what you’re thinking.

2.  NASA wants you to know they are still there, and it is the job of rock n roll bands like ours to spread the word.  Ever since the Space Shuttle was k’bosh’d in 2011 people think they fell off the map when really they go to Mars ‘n shit.  We go to Dallas on Friday.

3.  Luke asks the hard-hitting questions:

4.  Beginning in 1998, they’ve assembled their International Space Station piece by piece WHILE IN SPACE, Gravity style.   Think about that.  It’s hard to do that.  You gotta dock your Russian Soyuz rocketship first.

5.  The “water reclamation” system used in space means you kind of drink your pee.  They didn’t outright say it, but I was picking up what they were putting down.

Here are some bonus pics.  The first one is of the crazy ‘bots that roam on the planets.  The second one is Luke, standing in the actual control center where they landed a guy on the moon in 1969.  It looks like a room from the 60’s because it is one.  I had a sip from the water fountain and the tour guide lady said DON’T DRINK THAT WATER!

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