Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
After that late concert on Wednesday, we got up early and left Charleston, bleary-eyed, for Charlottesville, VA, to kill a few days before Kat's flight out of DC. We drove out towards the freeway onramp with Nat under darkening skies, then sprinkles, then a downpour. We were all uneasy: it was a creepy sight that portended a lot of potential misery. Nat offered to buy 20 of our cds if we used the proceeds to buy bus tickets. We turned around and started heading back towards downtown Charleston to consider our options. But we decided that we'd be ok, got Nat to turn it around again, and said our goodbyes on the other side of the storm on a freeway onramp, under a still-dark sky.
We got a ride inside of 10 minutes. Some rides pick you up for idle chat to pass the time, some because they feel sorry for you, and some have got some shit to get off their chest. This woman was definitely the latter. She told us about her husband that beat her, and how she got away before one of them killed the other -- she wasn't sure who would kill who, but she was sure it would end one way or the other shortly. She told us about her time in prison, and how she ended up there: a boyfriend (also a violent man) had made her arrange to buy him drugs, and she wanted no part of it. She called the police and told them the situation, and was told to carry out the transaction, and that the dealer would be arrested, and she would be given immunity. She did so, and the police promptly arrested her. She told us about the first time she hit her father: she had seen her mother slap her daughter in the face, and told her daughter to go in her room and turn up the music. She told her mother that it was a degrading thing to be hit in the face, and that it was part of why she dated so many abusers, and that if her mother ever hit her daughter again, she would cut her throat. Her father came home later and hit her for scaring her wife. She hit her father for the first time and screamed violent things at him. He never hit her again.
She told us stories like this for 4 hours, then dropped us off at a Greyhound station in Rocky Mount, NC, and bought us tickets for the remainder of our trip. We had a two-hour wait, a 9:30 pm bus to Richmond, VA, arriving at 11:30, then a 5:30 am bus to Charlottesville.
We napped fitfully until 9:30, then napped fitfully until the bus actually came two hours later, then napped fitfully until we arrived in Richmond, where we napped fitfully on the floor of the station. Finally, I gave up, and I was in an odd state when I ordered biscuits and congealed dayold gravy from the diner at 3:30 am. That's when I met the guy that pops up in every Greyhound story, the fresh-out-of-prison convict.
This guy, 36, had been in prison since the age of 24, and had been out for 10 hours when I met him. He was in for drugs: he bought a half-kilo each of heroin and coke at a time from New York italians, and drove down to Rocky Mount, NC, 55 the whole way. He drove down in a new black Chevy Suburban, which he bought with cash. He sold to everyone, kids of 14 and grandmas of 70, and never did any himself, but got sloppy and sold to someone that told someone something.
The police hit in his door with a battering ram, knocking him across the room, and took him in with no fuss. They offered him a deal if he gave up the italians, but he knew they would kill him, and chose 12 years of prison instead. He showed me his shank scars, and when I asked how he got them, he told me about the guys that would knock your soap out of your hand in the shower, and how they said "shit on my dick or blood on my shank". He said "they take your manhood from you man, they take your manhood from you" and started crying. He said he lost his mom and his wife years ago while he was away, and his daughter and grandma three weeks ago in a car crash. He was going to Providence to see his two grandchildren, with no cash and no plan but to get a job and follow Jesus. I bought him an egg and hash browns. I mean, what the fuck else can you do? We eventually got to Charlottesville and collapsed into hotel beds without further ado.
(Note: apologies to anyone that saw the earlier, neutered version of the post. It was pretty lame, I was just tired at the time.)
After our two shows in Savannah, GA -- the last booked shows of the tour -- we were invited to come back to play the barn jam in Charleston a second time. (Remember Eddie? That place.) We rolled back into town and killed a few days smoking hookah and going to the beach with Brent and Nat, our Charleston buddies, before the day of the show.
We played our set and things went well -- 40-50 people, good response, but low cd sales -- and then settled in to listen to the other bands. The one after us was a great bluegrass/zydeco crew that had been playing together for 20 years, and everyone got up and danced like crazy fools.
So we all thought the high point of the night had come and gone when the next band came up. It was just a duo -- this heavy chick wearing black and lots of eyeliner and carrying a blues guitar, and this long-haired music-nerd-looking guy with an upright bass -- and it's hard to follow an energetic set like that with just two people.
They proceeded to kick everyone's ass in the whole crowd. The woman had an intense voice, alternatingly growling and operatic. She laid down this piece of plywood and mic'ed it, and when she stomped on it, it was like a bass hit and a snare at the same time, and you couldn't not feel the rhythm. But mostly, you felt the music because she felt it: her face got screwed up, her eyeliner was blotting like she was crying, she'd clench her teeth and spit words out.
I would have doubted it was possible to play to the same level with nothing but a bass in your hands, but the guy onstage did. He did everything I can think of to bring noise out of a bass: bowed harmonics, jazz-style plucking, skreetchy noise from the bottom of the instrument, playing percussively with the wood of the bow... it was obvious before I talked to him later that this guy had studied this instrument alone in a room for years and years.
Go give them a listen -- http://www.myspace.com/meganjeanband
Monday, May 11, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
During the car ride, things started getting strange: we couldn't get a word out of her or her bf, really. The mexican joint was crowded and we skipped the margaritas. They offered to drop us off at our show, but we wanted to hang out with them, as our show wasn't for a few hours and we had just met them and wanted to make friends. They seemed to disregard that and dropped us off at the show.
The show went great! We played well, got lots of compliments, and made decent money. The act after us, the Train Wrecks, was a sweet honkytonk / rock band.
The rest of this post consists of a description of our meal in all possible gory detail, written for my future self to read and enjoy. If you don't love food (*love*) you will probably find it boring.
Sweet tea to begin, while we waited for the restaurant to open
Mint Julep -- aka minty bourbon
A bottle of house pinot noir -- Vinas 3, 2007 -- California
Amuse-bouche -- smoked tuna, salmon with wasabi, mussel in spicy tomato aioli
Oysters -- baked with herbs, butter, and garlic, and raw with vinegar and horseradish
Cheese platter -- baked goat cheese, fontinello, roasted hard italian cheese (squeaky!), with two kinds of local honey, roasted pecans, and spoon bread
Salad -- herbs and flowers from the backyard garden, topped with a little cantaloupe and mild feta, in a thick vinagrette. also, ground pepper. mmm
Scallops -- pan-seared, served with mashed potatoes, and tangy grilled diced vegetables, which almost felt like a salad
Steak -- pepper-crusted tenderloin, in a sweet butter mustard sauce, served with broccolini and potatoes au gratin
Then a pause
Goat-cheese cheesecake, with berry sauce
Dark, sweet espresso
This meal was positively sexual.
Monday, May 4, 2009
0) Try to hitchhike without a schedule, and say yes to stuff that happens. If you're cool, people will invite you to do fun things along the way. This is some of the best stuff about hitchhiking. On different occasions, I've been picked up by people and subsequently gone camping, eaten dinner with their parents, stayed at their house, and started dating.
1) Figure out what roads to take to get where you're going. You can google it and write it down, or print/buy a map.
2) If you're in a city, catch a bus/ride to the place where the first road from 1) leaves town.
3) If you're not at a good hitching spot, try to find one. They have a place for cars to pull over. They give people plenty of time to see you and think about picking you up. (Try to be after a straightaway or traffic light.) Don't hitch on the side of an interstate if you can avoid it, but onramps are good. If it's dark, you probably won't get a ride, but if you want to try, try under a streetlight.
4) Stand up, stick your thumb out, and smile. Cars will rush past. Some people might wave, or make other odd hand motions. A pinching gesture means "I'm just going a little way", as in "or else I'd pick you up". Sometimes people will give you a thumbs-up. I like the people that gesture, but also hate them. Why not just pull over if you like me so much, jackass?
5) You'll wait for a long time, and it'll feel like even longer. This is the part where you feel like it'll never work, and furthermore, that it was ridiculous of you to ever think it might. Things vary by state, but if you've got a female in your party and you're at a good spot, you'll wait about an hour on average. Lone guys, double that. Triple for two guys. Don't hitch with three guys. It varies a lot, though, so just remember: someone, someday, will pick you up.
5a) Hitching is illegal in lots of places, so sometimes a cop might pull over and warn you. If so, politely apologize, gather your things and don't hitch anymore until they're out of sight. I've never heard of someone being ticketed or arrested, but I guess you might be. In that case, sucks to be you!
5b) If it gets dark, you're probably stuck till morning. To prepare for this, pack some food and water and a sleeping bag. If it rains and you didn't pack a tent, you're going to be miserable and any electronics you're carrying will become unusual paperweights.
6) When someone pulls over, look wholesome. Say "Thanks for stopping!" and ask where they're going. You probably won't know where that is, so tell them your route and they'll probably tell you where yours and theirs diverge. This short conversation is important: if they act creepy, skip the ride. Otherwise, unless they're going the wrong way, get in the car. Five miles is good enough.
6a) If you're female and alone, keep your bags in your lap so you can bail easily if you need to. If you're a guy and a girl hitching together, remember these two things: the guy should get in first, and if anyone asks if you're dating, say yes, even if you're not. That's always a leading question, and the things it leads to are bad.
7) Be friendly and talk to your driver. If you're not willing to talk to drivers, don't hitch. Silent strangers make people nervous, and hitching makes you an emissary of hitchhikers everywhere.
8) Start thinking about where you're going to get dropped off. You want a good place, and if it's less than 2 hours before dark, try to get dropped off somewhere you could sleep if you needed to.
8a) If you need help, ask for it. If you need to look at a map, ask if they have one, or if they'd mind stopping at a gas station to check one out. If you need to get dropped off somewhere, say so. If you're not sure about something, ask if they know. If you have a problem with people helping you, get over it. People like helping you, you're like a lost puppy to them.
9) When you get dropped off, go to 3) unless you're at your final destination. Don't worry, you'll get there, eventually. Probably :D