Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.
Longest way round is the shortest way home.
We walk into our beloved James Joyce in Santa Barbara, all cool shadows and the mildewed funk of spilled beer, first stop on our way North.
The fellas are in a quiet mood after a heated discussion that has lasted from the outskirts of Agoura Hills to Carpinteria.
The subject, as usual, is favorite Superheroes: Alfie stubbornly defending Batman’s crown against all of our poseurs in tights.
Ironman? Dark Man? Fuckin Rorschach?
Meh…..Alf shoots down all of our uninformed suggestions until Anthony chimes in with Meteor Man, and eventually, whoa! Dolemite!
Alf is beside himself, sputtering out the rules of superhero qualifications.
Ant is pretty happy with his nomination though, and off we go into a whole other tangent that finally lands on Dee vs Shirley in the battle of Sassy Sisters by the time we break for our lunch of five dollar Imperial Pints and free peanuts.
We are immediately set to work pulling tables and chairs out of the club, but it feels good to stretch the old legs after the drive.
That’s what we keep telling ourselves, anyway…
Besides, we’re early and have nothing much else to do but watch Pete command sound check and try to come up with a plan to swipe the Dude off the wall:
The food and ambience upstairs in the brewery is wonderful though, and it’s swell to kill that peaceful time between soundcheck and downbeat amongst pals.
A table of mature Brit punkers behind us and pre season baseball on the flat screens, we descend upon decent bar grub as the sun sets on the heartland.
After a burning set by mid coast locals Infirmities, we do our thing.
The crowd is young yet merciful, we do alright.
Apparently we’ve never played in this town before? Oh, they’ll learn..!
And then the Adicts go up there and kill it as usual in a flurry of beachballs and confetti.
After the gig, we load out through the ankle deep flotsam, the dance floor looking like goddamn Rip Taylor just spontaneously combusted.
We adjourn into the night and wander a few blocks of this collegiate playground, first stop the famed alley of discarded gum!
Apparently the kids like their watering holes cranking repetitive techno @ 130db and strobe lights flashing, the better to enhance the fake ecstasy they just dropped a sucker’s twenty bucks on…whatever.
We settle into a quiet corner of McCarthy’s with pals to grumble about the goddamn kids these days and bitch about prescription prices.
It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
Unfortunately, the committee was on recess: a fitful night of sleep.
You see, it has become the CH3 tradition to brush teeth, get into jammies and down a couple Tylenol PMs while the other nuts are still unloading the van.
It is a race to sleep, a desperate attempt to lose consciousness and start snoring with abandon before your roomates get the chance to beat you to it.
Last man is fucked, left wide awake and staring at the ceiling amidst the apneatic roars that shudder the walls.
Between the suspect sheets we lay upon and the syncopated snores of my rack mates, I calculate a total of 55 minutes REM sleep in the bank as we set off North once again.
The day is jolly, though, and we are soon winding our way through green valleys toward lunch in Salinas.
A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
We inevitably stop in Salinas for a late lunch, and continuing our brewpub theme are drawn to Monterey Coast Brewing and tuck into unnecessarily hearty tri tip sandwiches.
We stroll down the street, burping and picking gristle out of incisors til we come to the National Steinbeck Center, of all things!
Someone has put one of those art installation pianos out front, and I take a seat and jauntily run through a few G major scales on the ‘ol horseteeth.
A small lunchtime crowd soon gathers around, and I play my go-to piano ballad, Peaches’ Fuck Away the Pain:
We have been asked to leave.
But soon enough we’re stuck in the middle of Bay area commuter traffic, crawling along in the shadows of the Mission District, its Carne Asada and Modelos frustratingly just out of reach!
Home for the night is the funky Phoenix Hotel, located right at the intersection of the Tenderloin and tonight’s crime scene–we like!
They openly advertise themselves as a rocker-friendly hotel, which is cool, I guess.
But we find out what rocker-friendly really means at at check-in, when we have to sign waiver after waiver promising to stay out of the pool after midnight, no shitting in the bushes, no barfing in the ice machine, ….etc!
Sheesh—-raise your hand if you think they’re regular readers of this blog!
Over to Slim’s for the gig and yes, Mr Smartass, there are actual photos of us onstage to prove we brought along the instruments!
Thanks once again to our pal Alan Snodgrass for snapping the night!
And then, we are done with our chores for the night.
Tell me, is it wrong-really?- that our favorite part of the night is not those 35 minutes huffing and puffing away onstage, but rather the golden hour of hilarity by the bar, catching up with our No Ca chums?!
So sue us!
It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.
― Jack Kerouac
You know us.
We can’t get up and just…, go, after all.
And so we make our rounds of the town, tourist traps and dives, what the hell–
Southern California, where the American Dream came too true.
We are delirious, laughing the day away and asking ourselves why we don’t live in a goddamn proper city?
But this town has odd powers over us, this we know.
So before the delicious night can wrap her slinky arms around us and keep us another night, we are back in the van and hurtling South.
Soon it is dark and the hypnotic ribbon of 5 freeway carries us toward home.
I look out the window and consider the night sky, the odd cow standing on hill, the shuttered rest area oozing with the promise of sexual perversities.
How many times have we made this goddamn trip, up and down the rippled backbone of this state?
We load down our jitney and make our way North, not in the desperate hope of finding crops to pick or the Beat inspiration hidden in the deep fog of the Bay, no.
We go up, and come back down, because that’s what you do, I suppose.
We come to visit old friends.
We play the set for a crowd that has just forgotten the stale jokes and old songs, so we can roll them all out again.
We keep moving, not for the promotion of a band but as guard against the terror: lack of momentum.
Lest we fall to the ocean floor, dead, sharks that have lost the will to keep swimming.
In the dark of the van, iPods drained and radio signal lost on the grapevine, it is quiet.
We’re burnt and not looking forward to work tomorrow, it has been a weekday jaunt afterall.
The silence is finally broken when Anthony speaks up:
“But Batman, ya know–he really doesn’t have any powers, right? Does he?
I mean, he’s just a rich guy that buys a lot of stuff when you think about it…?”
And then I hear Alf sigh and sit up straight, ready to school us again, and we’ll be back home in no time.
To do a dull thing with style-now that’s what I call art.