Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jon returns to an evil place...

It's been about four years since I even stepped into one of those vile places, those epicenters of suffering and agony, of sweat and tears. They are temples of self-inflicted torture where man, king of the earth and master of all beasts, becomes hamster. A place where we humans, capable in our infinite knowledge of the sciences have traveled through the air and space, crafted the arts, and masterminded technology like telephones, computers, gameboys, automobiles, and pizza, willingly subject ourselves to the rigors of slavery. Labor without purpose. We even pay for it. $33.99 a month, for 24/7 unlimited access to agony.

Yes, after over four years of desk jobs, playing videogames, watching movies, going to movies, eating, sleeping and engaging in other activities that will ultimately bring me one step closer to a fern on the evolutionary ladder, Maria and I joined a gym. The 24 Hour Fitness on Denny way. If you go to their front door you can probably still see the scratch marks on the wall where I desperately tried to cling to liberty as Maria dragged me in by my feet. Actually, that's a lie. I used to be a huge fan of "das gym" and would go regularly while in college. I remember Maria seeing an old picture of me in my fitter days, chirping in exclamation, and then looking up at me with a look of "what happened?" Beer, Maria. Beer happened. Beer and the acknowledgement that I hate physical activity that doesn't involve a loud instrument or an orgasm.

But we all know that the gym has its merits... Hot bod, washboard abs, gay friends, and cable! It just takes time and discipline, but with enough of that stuff I could eventually get back in shape, and maybe one day become a hulking neck with legs. Maria and I are already trying to master-mind ways to transform our slovenly nature into motivation to get into the gym. My first opus came as our host, Steve, was showing us the cardio machines, various devices that one places themselves upon which then simulates some kind of horribly embarrassing physical activity that most are loathe to actually do in public, hence the need for a gym. Why they place those things right in front of the windows for all of commuting Seattle to gawk at your jiggling sides and tomato red face is completely beyond me. If it was my choice the treadmills and the stair masters would all be housed in some kind of sensory deprivation cave with zero light, and all the users would be forced to wear virtual reality goggles displaying the CGI scenes from The Lawnmower Man. Instead they are lined up like socks in Mark Summers' underwear drawer, facing the corner of Denny and Yesler in full view via the floor to ceiling windows. Maybe it's reverse psychology. These sweaty, red faced, lumps of flesh in spandex are beautiful. You are a hag. Maybe it's the same idea as public execution, that people have an inert need to see others punished, a macabre fascination with seeing something horrible happen to another living thing. Regardless of the twisted logic that inspired this sadistic placement of exercise equipment, it was in this atrium of pain that I had my first "eureka!" about how to get myself motivated to actually do something for my health.

A while back, Maria and I cancelled cable, a decision that definitely made us more financially sound, but also made us painfully aware of our own boredom. I've never been a TV junkie by any means, but there were a few shows I got pretty fond of during our short sprint with more channels than I could ever hope to truly appreciate. Well, they have TV in front of all the cardio machines. I now have a sprawling gateway back into the land of prime time, and while Best of the 80's won't be quite the same whilst perched atop a motionless bike, straining to hear Gilbert Godfried's nasal banter over my own deep panting, Amazing Race truly will be amazing as I run in pace with the contestants. Only instead of a million dollars, I will be getting a side ache. However, I can now rest in the comfort of knowing that after Shark Week is over I will be fit enough to run a marathon. Twice.

Another lure is getting back into weight lifting, which I was actually pretty fond of back in the day. When I started to fall off the wagon years ago, I would still try and get back into the rhythm of working out a feeble few times. These are bad memories. Memories of trying to move the weight I had been at a month previous, being surprised to find out that it wasn't too bad, and then waking up the next day unable to move. It's a humbling pain. It hurts to scratch your ass, to click your mouse, to rub the tears from your eyes. You learn to both appreciate and despise the intricate mechanism that is the human muscular system. I'm glad that this time I will have these memories of discomfort as hindsight, hopefully allowing me to pace myself and take it easy the first few visits. However, remembering the pain of not lifting weights for a month and then diving back into the deep end, I am fully afraid of what it may be like after four years of inactivity. My guess would be crippling.

24 Hour Fitness actually has a pool, and pretty nice equipment. The last gym I frequented on a regular basis was the Bellevue YMCA, which pretty much attracted the dregs of the suburbs and the elderly. The smell of this building was unreal. It was like all the old people were constantly peeing in their sweat pants while exercising and the staff was pumping bubble gum through the vents to cover it up. It wasn't the Hollywood vision of an exercise club: fit people staying fit, naked babes in the shower room (remember Repossessed?!?!), smoothie bars and energetic sexually charged personal trainers spotting your bench. No. It was elderly men with testicles down to their knees in the locker rooms. It was non-English speaking locals calling you out at the basketball court. It was immensely obese women in stretch shorts holding back the tears while doing crunches. It was the only gym in Bellevue with a $25 monthly membership fee. I very specifically remember an inhumanly large Russian man who was an exotic beast in the weight room. He was older with gray hair, a bristling moustache, fingerless gloves, and a massive leather support belt for his back. He would dress in matching colored sweat pants and sweat shirts, which would soak through as he worked out, bellowing in his native Russian tongue and startling the timid gym members as he hefted enormous amounts of weight like atlas heaving the earth. Truly a sight to behold, and ultimately emasculating as you took your turn on the tricep machine changing the weight from 180 to 70.

Apparently I've graduated, or I guess gyms are cheaper these days. 24 Hour Fitness seems to be much nicer than the YMCA of my youth. It definitely has a gym smell, but it's nowhere near the salty-sweet pungency of a sick bay that I was expecting. Instead of manic foreigners and old bed wetters in the weight room, there's the typical smattering of what one should expect from a centrally located facility smack in the middle of urban Seattle. 20 somethings, 30 somethings, office workers, gays, tattooed hipsters, and worst of all the typical run of the mill fitness geeks. The dudes with tribal tattoos, head bands, tank tops, fanny packs, and muscles, talking loudly over the noise of the gym about sports and boisterously asking if you need a spot for your military press. However, I must extend a gracious and venerable thank you to Steve Jobs, because every single one of those fuckers has an ipod now, making awkward weight room talk near obsolete. I'll be sure to crank the ABBA in my head phones so it is audible within my proximity, a warning to over friendly muscle heads who want to shoot the shit about stretches and deltoids that I'm not a talker. I prefer to endure my pain in the silence of loud headphones. That way I won't drop the weights on my laughing face when I accidentally poot mid bench press.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tour Blog #5 (7/28 - 8/10)

Dude Fest was one of the best shows so far. The turnout wasn't as ample as we had hoped, but there was enough people for a good audience and they seemed pretty happy to be there. We came in right as Young Widows was setting up and I watched their set with glee, only taking a short break to skateboard in Sweet Cobra's van. Yes. Skateboard in Sweet Cobra's van. Sweet Cobra played next and were punishing as usual. We did our thing and had a blast in the process, rocked some faces and blew some minds. I watched a few songs of The Dream Is Dead, and then was pried from their majesty by Mat, Grumpy and Aaron who were heading over to the bar down the street which prominently displayed a sign in the entrance claiming NO WEAPONS were allowed, a rule we scofflawed, because the might of our deadly riffs is enough for national alarm. After waging war on a few Millers, we went back to the show in time to see Coliseum claim their headlining spot at the show with all the force of an alpha male gorilla. I hadn't seen them with their new drummer yet. It was a sweet treat. The best drummers are the ones that make you yell out loud in awe. I yelled and yelled. We drove back to Louisville after the show with Young Widows and Coliseum, met up with Chris Owens and hit a bar before retiring.

Next day we got up and talked Europe logistics with Evan over a massive breakfast. We'll be touring Europe for 4 weeks with Young Widows in September/October. After gorging, it was over to Chris's recording studio (which was just as messy as a tour van) across the street from our show that night, and where we're currently planning on doing some recording next year. Unbeknownst to us, the show started a bit early and right when I was planning on heading back over to see the opening band, a mildly irked Evan came in and half politely, half sarcastically asked us if we were going to be performing that night. We ran over, set up, and rocked the shit. Stan and Chris definitely poured beer on me, and I definitely spit water in Stan's face. Young Widows and Coliseum played again, and I snatched a video of Coliseum playing a song. Note the beyond ridiculous drumming. After the show we drank beers in the studio and played around a bit with some recording. The results were an embarrassing sloppy mess that was recorded forever, and will probably be considered by many as the best material we've ever carved out in a studio. Hours later, after realizing that the only thing that could come of more recording was endless embarrassment and the possibility of black mail, we went out again to the bar where Tony works and gawked at a short, drunk woman playing pool who had some of the most ridiculously enormous fake breasts I have ever witnessed. They weren't the biggest I've seen per se, but in proportion to the rest of her stature one had to wonder what the fuck she was thinking. It was like she had to keep walking or else fall flat on her face with the weight of such monstrous boobies. Aaron made the astute observation that she must live like a shark, constantly moving, in fear of being dragged to the ground under the hulking weight of her obtrusive mammaries.

Next day was off to Cincinnati, the beginning of a four day stretch through Ohio that we would come to call "morale exploder", or "fun stabber". The show was at an arts warehouse, and more people came from Dayton with the opening band than actually came from Cincinnati itself. There were some power issues, we blew two fuses in succession and almost called it quits 3 songs into the set. It got sorted out after an awkward break and we finished up. A girl at the show had a thrift store shirt with a great white shark on it, mouth agape. It looked big enough to fit me and I offered to pay her $50 for it. She must have realized the majesty of such a garment, and did not budge. It occurred to me that perhaps she thought I was being a creepy, hairy, molester and was trying to get her to take her shirt off (not the case!), and so I then offered to pay her up front and then pick up the shirt the next day when she had ample time to change into anything else besides that damn shirt. Alas, I was denied again. We concluded Cincinnati with a visit to White Castle, spurred mostly by Aaron's curiosity about "flavor explosions" described in Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. I sincerely hope it's the last time he takes advice from "stoned" actors in big budget advertisements dressed up as Hollywood comedies, because the only type of "explosions" we experienced were well after the meal was over. We left the show and went with our new buddies in the first band back to Dayton to play monopoly in an apartment hotter than hot. It was a second floor apartment, and I liken climbing the stairs up from the heat of the summer night and into the baffling incindiary haze of that room to riding the Mr. Toad ride on a hot day at Disney Land, only the ride stops in the "hell" room, roasting you in your little cart. Nevertheless, we persevered and kept ourselves cool with cold beers and a frantic game of monopoly that lasted until 6:15 am. Monopoly can be a dangerous thing. I have never witnessed a "game" that so quickly turns it's participants into raging assholes and conniving weasels. I am no exception to that observation, exhausting great measures attempting to intercept property trades and slyly offering trades of my own in the heat of rent exchanges. Nat was able to secure some serious property via trades that involved talked-up sums of cash and cigarrettes from one of the players, a smoker who had nothing to smoke. His nicotine addiction was too fierce to heed my warnings about never trusting jews, and Nat scored the first monopoly. Luckily I managed to land on some property that posed as a good trade for another player, which we traded and soon the flurry of houses and hotels began, a veritable shit storm of investments and curses as less fortunate players landed on our bloated stretches of red and green plastic. After hours and hours, I tied the game with one of our hosts. We both had enough property that each turn resulted in the exchange of massive wads of little colored bills, neither of us gaining any financial ground on our opponent. We threw in the towel and I slept in a sea of my own sweat, half naked on a messy floor.

We had an air conditioned breakfast at Waffle House the next day and continued on our way, the taste of victory still fresh on my pallet. We were going to meet up with our buddies Genghis Tron for a short stretch of shows that night, an exciting prospect for me as the last time we were touring together I was extremely ill and didn't get much of a chance to hang out with them while shivering and coughing in the back seat of the van. Again, the show had spotty attendance but it was awesome seeing the Tron dudes again and we raged afterwards, showing them the exciting times to be had with punch game. Michael and I even exchanged slaps across the face. He was a bit sauced, the only reason I think he agreed to so quickly get involved at such a high level of punch game. He asked if I was going to hit him hard, and I responded affirmative. A drunken cheer went up as I slapped, open handed, right on the meat of his face. He spun around and almost went down. It was my turn next. I didn't see him wind up, choosing to close my eyes and let the hit come. I was told in the aftermath that he wound up like a side arm pitcher and slapped the living shit out of me. My defeat wasn't nearly as dramatic as his, I held my ground and muttered a humble groan of escaping pride, but his slap was low and hit my jaw. The ache of my jaw being rammed to the side still sits with me as I write this over a week later, a reminder of drunken comeradery, of dudes being dudes in the company of dudes, of tour. Punch game continued into the night. Nat and I tagged out after trading hits to the stomach, which hurt our wrists much more than our guts.

The next day was again, hot as balls. And again we were at Ms. Nature's mercy and without air conditioning. We spent a few sweaty hours in the house, completely miserable, then decided to head over to the mexican restaurant for AC and some fruity girl drinks. Mookie, Hamilton and I shared a pitcher of strawberry dacquerie. The show that night was 45 minutes away at The Red Parrot Cafe in Toledo. In attendance that night was a very young group of rag-tag punk kids, the kind of kids I hated having at shows when I was a young rag-tag punk. One of them, a very young man that couldn't have been older than eleven, was wearing a Misfits shirt and smoking ciggarettes like he had been at it for years. When he was reportedly confronted by one of his friends that he shouldn't be smoking at eleven, he supposedly threw his cigarrette to the ground with rage and said "Shut up you bitch!". Later in the night, I was watching an embarrassingly bad opening band and fighting off sleep from the free pizza I had enjoyed, when suddenly the group of young punks all formed into a little crowd at the table next to mine. Intrigue hit me like an avalanche. I craned my neck and peered over, utterly blown away by what I witnessed. A squat, young girl, slightly overweight with shoulder length hair and gobs of eye liner (it's all the rage these days) was quietly sitting down, a look of complete shock and horror on her face, as one of her peers pierced her lower lip with a safety pin. I watched the mock body modification artist pause just before he clasped the pin shut, beaming with pride in his own bad-assery, and his words were lost under the grunting and out of tune sonic travesty coming from the stage as he mouthed the words "I told you it would hurt". I'll never forget the look on her face as she tongued the safety pin, blood running down her chin, gazing into the faces of her friends in a desperate search for admiration and acceptance, her eyes silently screaming "Holy fuck this hurts, but I'm finally cool... Right?" The pin looked so awkward in her mouth, diagonally pierced through the lip, clasp end scraping up against her teeth. I don't know what will suck more, the raging infection that no doubt has inflamed her face into a red throbbing catcher's mit, or the hellfire that must have rained from whatever parental guardian caught the blunt of her angst. After the band played I was outside relaying the horror I had witnessed to Mookie as the piercer and a few of his cronies left the cafe, muttering about how they need to get some more safety pins. I did a fair amount of stupid shit when I was younger, but watching these young Ohians rage in their youthly fashion made me feel like goddamn Doogie Howser.

The last Ohio show in Toledo was just like all the others. Too hot, sparsely attended, and no real excitement from the audience. We did meet a few employees from Lumberjack Distribution who were kind with their praise and invited us by the office the next day. I was seriously dehydrated playing that night and felt pretty queezy the entire time on stage. It looked like my amps had shot water onto my body instead of blistering rock, my shirt was soaked. We went to our new friend Chris's apartment and watched the audio commentary from Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Milius on the Conan the Barbarian DVD, and then stayed up until day light playing Nintendo, featuring Kung-Fu, Contra, and Mike Tyson's Punch Out. Hamilton won much respect from the onlooking audience with his mastery of Punch Out.

Next morning we went to the Lumberjack office and had pizza for breakfast, which I think was my fourth straight meal consisting of pizza, which is half a complaint and half elation. Thank christ, we were leaving Ohio and heading back to the warm bosom of Chicago, morale thoroughly demolished. The show was at the Beat Kitchen, which is a sweet sounding room. Genghis Tron sounded amazing, despite their self proclaimed sloppy performance. Indian was savage and jaw droppingly loud, as usual. We kicked out the jams and laid waste to the room, a fun show. We retreated to the Flaster pad once again, where we quietly hung out and listened to Boston until all passed out.

Next day we left Genghis Tron to play in Bettendorf, Iowa at a comedy club called Penguins, which was attached to a crazy casino in the Quad Cities area. We waited to get the show started while a middle aged comedian with a Fender Squire apparently thrilled the audience with witty banter in between shoddy renditions of classic rock riffs. There's only so much "Whole Lotta Love" I can take being played through an off brand combo amp, so I went to the casino where we had caught rumors that if you showed your ID to the right people, gamblers were given a five dollar bill, no questions asked. The rumors were true. We showed ID, gave some fake addresses, and walked back to the bar with a fresh, crisp five dollar bill in our wallets. Sadly, it didn't last long. The show went super late and we played from 1:45 to 2:15. The bar shut down the show before Meth and Goats had a chance to rock our faces, and we rebelled by packing up and leaving. I was so tired that night I went to bed almost immediately after arriving at our host's apartment.

Next day was Milwaukee, and our last show with Genghis Tron. The turn out was great and the support bands were all pretty good, most notably Father Phoenix. We had some technical issues during the set, Aaron's amp was making an unhappy buzz and my cables kept coming unplugged which caused an ear scorching scream to come from the speakers. It was a good time though, and after the show we went to party with the locals. Someone had the ludicrous idea that a bon fire in August would be nice, so we corralled in the yard around a fire pit on a hot summer night. The usual hap hazard drunken antics occurred when fire and drunk people mix: reckless jumping over the flames, long walks to find more shit to burn, somebody throwing a huge cardboard box on the fire to see how big it could get. On one of the walks to find wood, someone happ'd upon a box of porn in a dumpster.

Porn boxes are an interesting phenomenon. Porn is usually accrued while a male is single and/or living alone or in the company of other single dudes. The collection grows as the content of each film becomes memorized with repetitive viewing and new porn is acquired for a fresh look at the same thing, also allowing the last film to be forgotten, therefore more exciting when put in for a nostalgic screening. Then, something happens where the male feels the need to purge the porn. This is usually caused by moving, either into a place where private porn screenings are not possible, or into an environment shared by an intimate partner, therefore rendering the necessity for porn obsolete and/or risky. The result then, is the accrued collection of porn being discarded along with common trash, and every so often being found by the next single male giving him a jump start on his collection, or in our case, a party of drunk people rooting through dumpsters looking for shit to throw on a bon fire.

Needless to say, there was a screening of the porn that night. I am usually violently against the viewing of pornography in any form while on tour. The male sex drive is a thirsty, rampaging beast, and when denied its periodic supplication can become a veritable behemoth, a 'Taz' mid-spin if you will. The images that course through a healthy young man's head after four weeks in a van with stinky dudes need no explanation here, nay, they would render this author at risk of federal persecution. Introducing the uncommonly graphic and bestial imagery of pornography to a young male in this state is similar to waving a raw steak in front of a starving bear, enticing a toddler with an ice cream cone, or calling Marty McFly a chicken. It's something I'd rather avoid, because a month without sex needs no external tantalizing. I like my balls. I'd rather they didn't explode. However, despite the testicular risk at hand it's hard to avoid the urge to see what treasures lie in a film called "Big Booby Boat Butt Adventure", so the party moved to the apartment and we started watching porn. It didn't last long. Nobody was really surprised that even though the name hinted at some golden and hidden comedic treasure chest waiting to be discovered, it was just regular old porn, made that much more awkward by the presence of females. We quickly changed it to Family Guy, and went to sleep shortly after.

The next day was a hasty and groggy good bye to Genghis Tron, made easy with the comfort that we'd be seeing them in a few weeks when their tour brought them to Seattle. We were off to Minneapolis for an early show at the Triple Rock, one of my favorite clubs to play in America. The Triple Rock is owned and run by the dudes in Dillinger Four, tour veterans who show they know what a touring band wants out of a club by treating their visiting bands extremely well. Free meal, free drinks, and friendly staff. The show was an early all ages deal, not our choice but the only spot available for the show. Enough people came to make a decent effort at bringing the rock, a good time was had, and after the show I spent over $5 on Simpsons pin ball while Nat was tutored in disarming knife wielding assailants by Triple Rock security.

Next day was off to Fargo. Not much to report other than low attendance and a late set. I couldn't stop thinking about how Godheadsilo used to be from Fargo, and I kept asking people if they saw them 'back in the day'. Only one guy said he did, and it turns out he saw them after they had moved, so it didn't count. I also kept an eye out for the car dealership that William H. Macey's character worked at in Fargo the movie, but didn't see anything too familiar.

Next was a day off. We drove to Missoula and rolled in around 4am, crashing with our friend Josh who runs the fabulous label Wantage USA (quality bro!). Crashed in his office aka basement, and got up the next day to enjoy a smattering of sitting around and watching crazy asian movies. The crown jewel was called Naked Killer. If you like lesbian assassins who make out, kill dudes, and cut off their wieners, then I highly recommend it. The show was at the Raven Cafe. It was a good time. Some dudes rocked out, but most of the audience did the folded arms dance that people usually do at our shows. We retired back to Josh's and watched Red Dawn, an Akimbo tradition when staying at the Wantage house. The movie is fantastic, worth it just for the scene where Patrick Swayze is crying and accidentally blows a snot bubble. That was the last show of tour. Next day was a relaxing drive home to Seattle, mission accomplished, where I now reside, work, and contemplate topics for the next rant.