I promise not to print my 3rd grade Thanksgiving poem again this year. Home in Connecticut for the holiday I realized that my mother, God bless her Guster pride, is still using the nappy frayed Guster oven mitt that I gave her in like 1998. Nevermind the cotton poking out of the holes she’s already burned into it — these things weren’t fit for use when they were new. You can put your hand inside one and your hand might feel snugly covered in cloth, but when you’re talking about a single layer between your flesh and the racks inside a 500 degree inferno, things that say “Guster” on them should be immediately discounted as options.
Those mitts are created with certain ends in mind — Profit margins — Meeting year-end merch estimates as stated to investors– Not having to relocate the Guster Sweatshop to a country where child labor abuses are likely to be exposed to the press.
It’s like Completely Disregarding The Well-Being Of Your Hands is a genetic Rosenworcel trait. Like my kid’s bound to grow up and feed chunks of meat to alligators, or — row crew — or something. I half expected mom to remove the mitt and start carving the bird with blistered third-degree-burnt fingers. I half expected to be holding a tube of krazy glue up to her oozing stigmata after the meal.
But her hands were fine, and the turkey was delicious, and my mom would sooner wrap the entire Guster oven mitt in duct tape than use the floral one in the drawer. At least while I’m home.
So with the Embassy Suites Grand Ballroom Gig in Des Moines Iowa, our run of 7 shows in 8 days is over and now we get a short break for Thanksgiving. I don’t know why I always feel the need to show everyone pictures of my bloody mitts. I guess I kind of feel like a bad ass about it. Or maybe I feel less guilty about playing with sticks for a few songs, even though the above carnage came courtesy of the hi-hat.
The pig-in-a-blanket finger up there is my left index finger, which stung all night even through 800mg of ibuprofen, a thick layer of Dermabond (prescription medical krazy glue), two layers of hydrocolloidal foam dressing, and my usual hockey tape, wrapped around the package about 9 times. It was weird to hit my conga with that finger tonight. The bandage made contact well before my finger normally would, and I had to compensate for the latency in my playing style. No I didn’t.
So, even though we desperately need a little time off, and even though tonight’s show was in a hotel, Iowa kicked butt. I don’t know why we avoided it for so long. Here is a picture of Joe and his late-night snack: Hot Pocket and a side of Cheez-Its.
The one-two punch of Walla Walla and Boise was definitely not what the doctor ordered at this point in the tour. Florida (the previous low point) was thin but we played well and the shows had a spirit. The last couple of nights have seen the wheels coming off the wagon. Joe’s guitar was cutting out all night tonight (but we should hold on to that cable, in case it works tomorrow!). Ryan’s voice has gone from sultry/sexy to “please for the love of god let me give you a tissue.” And I had a finger go down during Happier tonight. It should be back in the morning.
Not to mention that I took a crap in the student center at Whitman College yesterday only to discover that my stall was out of toilet paper (rule #1, Brian, check for paper first, have we learned nothing on the road in eight years?)… I ended up wiping my ass with one of those big disposable paper toilet seat covers.
Joe set a new band record in Walla Walla too, wearing the same t-shirt on stage for a third consecutive night without removing it once inbetween. And he pulled the triple-shot with the worst shirt in his collection… the one he got in Gatlinburg Tennessee with Gatlinburg written haphazardly in a bunch of horrible fonts all over the front of the shirt. The shirt does the town no justice. I’ve spent some of the best days off of my life in the Greater Pigeon Forge Tennesee area.
And to top it all off I’m watching my bus driver play Grand Theft Auto right now… he’s driving his car into pedestrians, off bridges, etc… and laughing maniacally the whole time. Sarge likes to beat up the hookers.
For the last week The Trachtenberg Family have been warming up the crowd by playing along to a slide show on a screen in front of my percussion kit. The slides are random ones they “found” and the songs are usually performed by Mr. Trachtenberg with his ten-year old daugther Rachel on drums. Mom runs the slide projector and plays a little tambourine.
Anyway, the Trachtenbergs have dropped off the tour, though not because Guster fans weren’t nice to them. The road ain’t no place to start a family, or be a family, or to drive your family over the Rocky Mountains in a beat-up Suburban stuffed with merchandise. We will miss them. My favorite interaction was when Ryan brought up yoga during dinner backstage in Seattle and Rachel said “I *used to be* into yoga.”
In the bus on the way to Walla Walla, Sean and I dealt with life on the road without the Trachtenbergs the only way we knew how to. We played the DVD screen-saver game on the TV in the back lounge. In order to play CDs in the lounge, you have to use the DVD player, and the TV has to be on so you can hear it. Which means that to listen to Sean’s “Ella & Louis” disc, we had no choice but to stare at the DVD logo bouncing around the screen, landing squarely in the corner of the TV only once every half hour or so. You can imagine what an amazing moment it is to witness this rare event, like a meteor shower or something.
This weekend they’re unveiling a statue of Ken Kesey on a corner in Eugene Oregon. We were standing outside the MacDonald Theater reading a poster about the event when I decided that Ken Kesey was a good name for the “Alive or Dead” game and so I blurted “Ken Kesey — alive or dead!?” to the nearest passerby. The woman chose “dead.” She then went on to explain that she was certain of this because he was her uncle and he died two years ago. I then went on to feel like a jackass.
Eugene is the kind of place where everyone is related to Ken Kesey. Eugene is the kind of place where Joe will walk around in a fleece beret and claim that he’s “pulling it off.”
Cast your vote:
a) Joe is totally pulling off that hat
b) Joe is definitely not pulling off that hat
At about 11 this morning Pasty extended his arm through my bunk curtain, feeling around blindly for my eyelids, but I rolled over and managed to position myself against the wall of the bus where I was barely out of his reach. If Pasty doesn’t make contact with you in these situations, you don’t officially have to wake up. He tried a few more times but I think I just incorporated it into a dream where me and Pasty were boxing and I was doing the Cassius Clay thing where you don’t swing, you just tire the other guy out by avoiding his punches.
He eventually gave up, but about a half hour later when I got up to pee I noticed a Fox TV news truck parked outside the bus and suddenly remembered that we had some local Tucson news interview this morning. I guess a free show in a little courtyard next to a Starbucks is newsworthy down here.
I threw on some pants and stumbled out of the bus barefoot to where the interview was happening. Mind you, I could give a shit about being a part of the Tucson Arizona Fox News interview, but I needed to get to Ryan and Adam early to make sure they treated the situation with proper irreverence. For instance, this summer in Detroit I was interviewed by a local TV reporter right before going on stage at Tastefest…. I made him a little uncomfortable, pretending I was an athlete, delivering a self-consciously distracted “we’re gonna go out there and execute the gameplan, give 110%, and if God’s on our side we’ll come away with the victory” while looking around as if someone were about to dump a bucket of Gatorade on my head.
When I got there it was too late, the interview was happening, and Ryan and Adam were standing awkwardly next to a reporter while he used his “reporter voice.” I caught only one question… “So, what’s the name of a song we can expect to hear from you today?” Ryan was holding a cup of yogurt in his hand. He looked at Adam and said “we’re definitely gonna play ‘Gettin Down In The House’ tonight.” The situation was under control. I went back to sleep.