On the way to Austin, we get the band rooms in a Day’s Inn on the highway and park the bus in the empty lot behind it. That night we are all too tired to notice much about the place other than the fact that they have two empty rooms and they’ll give them to us for less than $50. In the morning, though, I look out the bus window and see that the swimming pool is full of mud, the parking lot is full of garbage and our bus is surrounded by the rotting carcasses of former vehicles. Pieces of dead cars, trucks and buses are stacked all around us; the effect is creepy. “What’s the matter?” Billy calls from the back bedroom, seeing me peering out the window suspiciously.
“This place looks stab-stab.” A stab-stab motel is one you’ll probably die in. We’ve stayed in lots of them, but we like to think we’ve outgrown them.
“Is there a body floating in the pool?” he asks.
“Then it’s just shitty.”
“There could be a body in the pool; I just don’t think anything would float in there.”
Billy sighs. “Why don’t you go out and look for snakes?”
I do this because it does look like good snake hunting and, it being the south, I have high hopes for pretty ones, but all I see are some robins poking around in the dirt and my dogs scare those away. I wander back to the bus to make coffee and see Martin and Kim walking out of the hotel carrying pillows. They are both walking crooked, their heads tilted to one side.
“We have stiff necks,” Martin declares, stepping onto the bus and tossing a pillow on the couch. “We didn’t sleep. Good night.” He lies down and folds his arms across his chest. Kim does the same on the opposite couch.
“You want some coffee?” I ask, but neither one answers. Then Bernie and Rob appear, armed with cell phone pictures of their room. “Evidence,” Rob calls it. There is a shot of crumbling plaster, half a bathtub (“Where’s the other half?” “We don’t know!”) and best of all — the bloodstained carpet. “Ew!” I squeal appreciatively.
“Yeah!” says Rob, “That was cool.”
Bernie looks angry. “I couldn’t sleep, there were so many bugs walking around.”
“You can’t hear bugs walking.”
Billy takes the evidence to Roy and Dale at the front desk and tells them he was “disappointed” because, as a business traveler, half a bathtub isn’t what he’s come to expect from Day’s Inn. This approach never fails. Roy and Dale begin writhing in professional hara-kiri. They will do anything to make good on this deal, but all Billy asks is that they not disappoint him again. Oh and also comp him the rooms. His will is done (as usual) and he somehow makes friends in the process (as usual). Martin and Kim wake up just long enough to cheer as we pull out of the parking lot.
We meet up with Dolorean again in Austin where a beautiful, beautiful rain is dumping. Hippie chicks dance in the fountain outside the Cactus Café, but the rest of us just stand under the eaves and watch. Then the club bartendress makes me my first Texas margarita in a year. I decide I never want to leave Austin.
The stage is picturesque: small and well-lit. The Dolorean guys look great, like they’re shooting a video. Of course, my band barely fits on the stage. Bernie isn’t even technically on the stage. Before the first song, I lean over to ask Martin how he’s doing. The McCarricks are squished into the corner, Martin’s cello shoved up under his chin. “I feel like a peanut,” says Martin.
“What the hell does that mean?” I ask Kim. She shrugs and smiles, her violin crushed against her chest, her tiny feet jammed under my amp.
Best signage on the way to Albuquerque: “Jesus Is Gay”.
Neil, the Albuquerque promoter, just bought a house and inherited an apiary with it. This interests me — I’ve wanted to be a Bee Guy ever since our New Orleans Bee Guy showed up to deliver honey and bee pollen in the full suit (the mask was under his arm, but he modeled it for me), so I pummel poor Neil with questions about bee care. He is somewhat taken aback though, and doesn’t seem to really know anything about bees. “The guy I bought my house from just left them behind the garage and they won’t leave. I was scared to go back there, ‘cause, well, it’s full of bees.”
“You’re not a Bee Guy?” I ask, disappointed.
“Well, I am now…I’ve got bees.”
“But you got honey from ‘em, right? Did you buy a bee suit?”
“No, I just wore long sleeves. They got really mad and stung me. I’m gonna have to get a hockey mask or something.”
“Wow. They stung your face?”
“Oh yeah. They’re not pet bees, they’re just regular bees.”
Then he thrusts 3 honey bears into my hands to take back to the kids. Bernie walks up as he’s doing this. “Look at this!” I say, showing Bernie the bears. “Neil’s a Bee Guy!” Bernie spins on his heels and leaves the room. He had a bad experience with bee pollen once in New Orleans. In fact, I almost killed him by giving him a few grains as he was heading out for a run. I was living on the stuff and loving it, but it made Bernie’s head blow up. So he keeps his distance from Neil for the rest of the night, waving politely from across the room, and retreating when approached. Nothing scares Bernie more than bee pollen.
There is a dusting of snow on the way to Phoenix. This whole tour’s been hot, so we all get out of the bus and run around with the dogs and kids by the side of the highway, taking pictures of snow on cactus. I used to love waking up to snow in Pioneertown — silver rock piles and frozen cactus flowers. This is similar, but flatter. Scrub desert. The dogs run and run, we run and run. We play for so long that we’re all frozen by the time we get back on the bus.
The show tonight is at Modified, an art space rather than a club. It feels clean and civilized. The promoter is a woman named Kimber who teaches a music business class to young adults. In this class, she plays hit songs from the 60’s and 70’s and shows the students pictures of the artists who performed them. She then plays music from this year’s Billboard Top 40 charts and shows the class pictures of the people who made that music. Apparently, it’s obvious to even the most brain washed junior high schooler that what is being marketed today in the music business is bimbo bodies, not music.
I tend to think this has always been true, but the music they sell these days *is* decidedly awful, the bimbo bodies awfully offensive. It’s about time somebody thought to point this out to the people who are being marketed to. By the time we leave Phoenix, Kimber is our new hero.
Tucson! I love Tucson. Our beloved Howe Gelb is away on tour, but his family takes us in. We park our fat-ass bus outside their house and play and eat and drink amazing coffee for 2 days. It feels like the old Kingsway studio in New Orleans, only here it cools off at night. Sophie Gelb even supplies my children and me with hand-me-downs. She knows it’s been a tough year for our family, but there’s no pity in the offering, only kindness.
It’s hard to leave for San Diego after all this coffee and love. We promise to come back again when Howe’s around, then we check out the Tucson night sky one last time and take off. Bodhi waves goodbye to his friend Tallulah out the bus window, then turns to me and asks, “Why do we live on a bus that always drives away?“