Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Yesterday's Wine

So our mini-tour with the Bonny Billy/Sweenoid Super-Wolofing Band was great. It really was like a Wolof supershow, what with ninety-three guitarists up on the stage by the end of the night, jamming out into some especially African vibes. The Wolfs were: Will, Paul, Sweenoid, Fike Mellows and Pete Townshend, with much help and love from 5th member Jessie. We were Ned, Willy, Aram and me, what with Human and Walker off with the 'Retum cats, with moral and filmic support from Justin of the Long Live Death krew. The glowing Jodie Jean Marston and PonieHeart began the night with their lilting hypno-byes.

There is oft a gravitational energy to one of these tours, the openers and the headliners two sympathetic bodies floating in a shared space. At worst, there is an utter lack of energy and the bodies are blackholing in on themselves. At best, the bodies are fully locked into a centripetal dance, where one would go flying off into the outer rim of the universe without the other, and where a certain type of sustainable but precarious balance is achieved by the hyper-aware bodies. This, I feel, is what happened between the Ano and the Billies (though in Charlottesviile, as per usual, the time/space continuum was rippling in an unpleasant way).

New York less mad than the usual; for the first time in forever I did not see the sun rise as I strode down dawn streets but instead it rose while I was asleep in Justin's parents' guest room in Wyckoff. I awoke to glowing yellow drapes backlit by a viciously bright sunrise. Any physical or mental pain was duly sidestepped, with help: Justin's Mom esp'd my movements behind the closed door and there was coffee awaiting, followed in short order by bagels, delicious lox, coffee cake, strawberries, quiche, more coffee, upon my emergence. She'd reserved a corner of the table for Justin's vegan products, clustered as they were tightly in appearance as to not even come close to the dirty, dirty meat and bacteria-encrusted non vegan products that Ned, Willy and I (Aram spent the night with wife in NYC) so wolfishly pushed into our mouths. It's always fun going into someone else's house and seeing the pictures of them when they are young and braced, standing atop middle school ski-runs with the world below them.

Bowery Ballroom smaller than I remembered last from so many yrs ago, when Al Licht came out onstage dribbling a basketball. We all Sharpied it after; he claims he still has it and will not sell it on eBay. Thence to Philly, quite fun this go 'round. No disrespect to my barely more northerly brothers and sisters, but The Phil has never treated me real well, the Ano neither, and I recall that one night we played at Nick's the very same night the FLyers lost in the Stan Cup finals. Some angry vibes out on those streets that night, electrical and not electric! We thought we were going to get our anos kicked. But this time, much love. And after some of those spanish fries the show; the Theater of the Living Arts seemed absurdly big; I walked to the back during the BPB/Sweeney gig and was disappointed; they looked so shrimpy up there and the sound was boomy and arena-like. It seemed a passage of sorts; Will could play big dates like that constantly, but I don't suppose he will.

We ate larb at a Thai restaurant thereby introducing into the tour vernacular our word of the week: larb. Found one of the old bootleg cds of HARVESTER'S Hemat at the Philly Record Exchange , wondering now if I should trade up.

Thence to the leafy bower of Swarthmore, where it seemed paradoxically that there was less swarth than in Philly, for example, but not, I suppose, compared to the rest of Pennsylvania which, on balance, seems to contain more pink honkies than any other state in the eastern US. An art major had built a gigantic modernist teeter-totter out of plywood and painted it in 70s Germanic primary red. Two solid wooden seats sat opposing one another on each edge of a large semi-circle; that formed the rounded shape on which the teeter would totter. The thing had heft. Maybe Paul and I jumped up on it first, sitting in the seats, knees pointing at knees, finding it very teetery. And thence to the fun, whence the hyperactive Matt Sweeney and the oft-mellow tour hustler Jessie started going at it NY-stylee, trying to bounce one another ass over teeter. It reminded me of the time I watched MS trying to jump off a diving board at some hilltop aerie in Los Angeles, a producer's house, where poolside a recognizable actor--who didnt speak to any of us the whole two hours we were there--was lounged out on a recliner reading an antique hardbound book as if to develop it, a book that got splashed when Ed Oldham hit him sideways with an old skool cannonball, not even a can opener. Matt had a unique way of running off the end of the board without benefit of a bounce. But he knew how to handle this teeter totter, he really did. Those New York guys, they got style. We all played a fairly small on-campus joint but really rocked it hard. A high point of the mini-tour, to be sure.

In all the excitement Will had a yogurt explode in the pocket of his fleece.

Charlottesville's a town that is important in the grand scheme of Ano. It's where Ned and Aram first met in the 80s (they were in the same class at UVa with the Malklerolian and Nastoid from...what the hell was that band called? Helmet?...) and where Ned, WIlly and I first got it together in the early 90s. Growing up in RIchmond as I did I heard far too many references to Charlottesville as being a sort of Virginian's Valhalla: it's where all the hale fellows well met would go when they die, out to Jefferson's glorious mountains to ride winged horses and to sip bourbon from pewter tumblers and to talk about the sanctity of land. Maybe the chilly vibes about the place are just family ghosts; we have a photograph of my grandfather and his brothers outside Mountain View, an old family farm in Greene County just north of Charlottesville, a house that no longer exists, plowed under by the thousands and thousands of acres of overpriced tract housing one has to muddle through into town on rte 29. The supposedly fancy restaurant we ate at before the show had a typically confused list of appetizers that summed up perfectly a general blandness and indecision typical of Central Virginia (spoken as a proud native): bruschetta, an egg roll of the day (I swear), satay, hummus, calamari. Bonnie Band drummer Pete ordered a "kalamata salad". My gorge rose when the salad arrived tableside and we all espied a handformed baseball-sized clod of rubbery black olives from a can resting on about three big spinach leaves. The damn salad cost 10 dollars.

But any night I get to hang out with SB and SM, not to mention Ned, WIll and Paul's Mom and Dad, is a good night. I felt clumsy and slow behind the kit and wasn't hearing things right...this happens often after a high, and the previous night at Less-Swarth was most certainly that.

Baltimore was great, as per usual.

Re-entry back into the day-to-day is always difficult; from staying up all night sampling distilled products and sleeping 'til noon to being yerked from sleep at 6 a.m. and hitting the ground running, pouring Luit Froops into bowls-- M. demands two bowls, one with Kix, the other with Froops, and two spoons--getting Elder to school by 8ish, then Two Bowls to school by 8:30. If it's nice we walk. A magnificent Spring here in Baltimore so far, cherry buds lasting, azaleas coming out. And getting back to work, such as it is, with very little seeming real, or fake, but neither...

* * *

Yesterday there was a great interview on TGross's Fresh Air with RCrumb. He said something about Timothy Leary claiming that after a serious psychedelic experience one begins to realize that the world exists on numerous metaphorical levels. This gives rise to the more simplistic hippy ideal that "all is connected" but nevertheless there is, to me, some truth to both claims. Tours with the Anomoanon have come to represent a metaphorical world, a complete one, that still hides much of itself from me, but which is mos def formed and informs my mostly domestic life.

It's got to do with being on the road.

Before I had kids and before I had a wife, and before I had to go to work to pay for living, and long before I had a house to pay for, and when my primary concern of the day was what spreadable product would go on my bagel, cream cheese or hummus, and when it was perfectly alright to take an afternoon nap in the hammock under two gigantic white oaks, my favorite thing to do was to get on my bike and ride for long distances. I still have the bike, a Bridgestone RB-1, a great bike, but it sits pretty much unused in the basement. This would've been really when I lived in Charlottesville, near the mountains, and then again in Tallahassee, right before Eldest was borned in 1998.

The thing I liked most was this feeling that, as you left your well-defined nexus of comfort--your neighborhood, then extended walking space, then your greater city--you really understood the essence of freedom in a way that you just can't reckon in a car: you are so connected to the physical world on your bike, and it's easy to overstand how, as you leave your house, this unlinking from your home base comes at a physical cost (excuse the tense confusion). You move through air thick with pollen; you feel the heat coming from car engines as they roar past; you smell the swollen road kill, maggot-laden and crumpled in the ditches you roll past.

It wasn't uncommon for me to go fifty miles on a good day in Charlottesville, and more often than not I'd end up on some lost road winding up through woods and past dilapidated farmhouses, asbestos shingles falling away from burnt frames, rusted carcasses tumbled into ravines, bone-white enamel of appliances shining through the redbuds. If the sky grew dark you were stuck to ride through rain, maybe thunder, for hours. Once I was totally lost but I knew that miles behind me somewhere lay the road back into town. All I had to do was to turn around. But I couldn't. There was a road in front of me and I was first mentally then physically unable to turn my bike against the force pulling me towards it. There was an element of humiliation in having to turn around...or was that it?...something ahead of me kept calling, even as thunderheads billowed black above the mountains and thin white men half-hidden behind screen doors watched me from beneath baseball caps...rolling through lost crossroad towns.

Then a brown figure boiled out from under a porch and before I heard its bark I heard the clacking of its giant nails on the tarmac. A German shepherd with teeth ablaze was on my wheel, close. I could feel its breath on my calf. It was fast but I was faster. It gave up but sat in the road behind me. I looked over my shoulder; the dog watched me, Cerberus' mutant descendant standing sentinel on the very path I knew would take me home. I knew I couldn't turn around and try my luck with the shepherd again. I'd have to keep on following this road, wherever it might lead. A good rule of thumb: all roads lead somewhere. The skies fell, I was surrounded by horrendous lightning and thunder and wind howling down from the mountains (one of the deadliest tornadoes ever in Virginia occurred in Ivy, a town just wnw of Charlottesville). I truly considered that I'd never make it home. It didn't matter, I knew, at the heart of it. No one waited for me. My life really didn't effect anyone in any measurable way, no one relied on me for much of anything, and those people touched by my loss would get over it in time. I was out there, man!

An hour later I came up on a crossroads that I recognized. My relief went beyond mere relief. The next day I went out and did the same thing. Rode out into the mountains and near got lost, but found my way.

Freedom was dependent on that very real idea that no one relied on me. That was true! It is no longer ...This gives any leaving of home a slightly sinister, melodramatic cast, and given that these tours are to all who don't go on them nothing but the purest of escapist fun, well, they aint that for me, dog. It's easy to feel even more out there in the unknown, knowing that you've stomped on the world a bit more, cast things about, made a shape onto it that isn't you...

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