Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Western Hootenanny Revue! Part I

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The Introductions:

Ladies, let me introduce you to the handsome man beside me. A former member of the Australian Truckers Union, he's with us tonight courtesy of the boys from cell block H over there at William Head Prison who are tuned in tonight courtesy of X-CON Radio. The man with the hardest working colon in country music today-Twin Butte this is Milky-T and he's about to put the hammer down-Mr. TOLAN McNEIL on the guitar!

This freak of nature was discovered rubbing his scent sacs inside the wall of Miss Lily's cottage and oh the terrible smell! But, she taught it how to dance and noticed its nice fingers when she caught it stealing her bass guitar. He wears the blinders to keep his prying eyes away from your eggs, Ladies. Here's CECIL THE WEASEL. Look but don't touch!

The son of a can spanker and a former general, he's half man half fowl and made almost entirely of teflon. A day late and a dollar short but hey, love isn't always on time! The Man that Lost Himself-GREGORY "THE GOOSE" MacDONALD on the drums!

Raised by carnies, stolen by gypsies, schooled by bikers and born with a tail, the girl with sorrow in her strings and a razor in her bow, ladies treat your eyes to pretty miss DIONA DAVIES on the violin!

A foundling discovered by George Jones in an Ontario bog who came in a box with a mandolin, six kittens, a nine iron and a four-pack of Guinness, raised by the bluegrass mafia when the government intervened. Ladies, behold The Man With Nothing to Lose. Music manifesting in human form-The Pride of Madoc, here's DAN WHITELEY on the mandolin and whatever else he feels like.

Playing the role of Dan Whiteley tonight, ladies, my Husband-and-Manager, Mr. JOEY WRIGHT on the mandolin!

Say hello to a former child star and jingle singer who ran away with the circus the day she completed rehab. Watch her juggle a baby and two juno awards and other feats of superhuman strength. Behold The Incredible Fortress, Our Inspiration, Representing Elphin, Miss JENNY WHITELEY!

Ladies! Sheild your eyes as when observing welding lest ye be permanently dazzled. This heartbreaker comes to us tonight from a town as famous for its universities as its prisons. A recent graduate from the school of hard knocks, a bachelor of criminal intelligence with a minor in women's studies. Allow yourself to fall in love but remember, all good things must come to an end, the man behind the curtain- hell he even sewed them-The Pride of Kingston, Mr LUTHER WRIGHT!

Ladies, please give him a big hand. He's travelled a long way to be Here. He's an amateur detective and bilingual in five languages! Don't ask about the mask. It protects his ravaged lungs from harmful elements found here on your planet. I mean town. In your town! Yes, put your working class hands together for Mr HANK PINE!

Gentlemen, see in the flesh, the living legacy of Nature's Indiscretion! She's right on, she's LILY FAWN-Half Deer and All Woman!

We stole this man from an outdoor production of Shakespeare's Henry IV in Saskatoon. Since he is thirst's tireless custodian and speaks in poetry, he need never know! Ladies, Mr. SHUYLER JANSEN. I pray you enjoy him!

In a previous life, he was the chief engineer with the Cirque de Soleil until a terrifying behind-the-board explosion at Les Foufounes Electriques left him horribly disfigured. Now he rides with us. Touch but don't look! Ladies, twisting the knobs for your aural pleasure, doing our sound tonight, Mr. CRAIG BOUGIE!

We kidnapped this little filly out of a Lethbridge hair salon in the middle of a spiral perm. Working it tonight out in the vending area, selling our merchandise, the only one of us who looks good up close. (And gentlemen, she's double jointed!). No Appointment Necessary. Walk Ins Welcome. Miss SHAWNA HUDSON!

It was all and not a bit less. It's like the experience was so DENSE it's hard to even talk about. I don't really know how to start writing about it. Traveling with so many people all the time made me feel like an animal. Like any desires I had weren't even my own.

Well, I may feel that way on account of cracking open this hateful book I found in one of the vans called The History of Love which made me so mad I had to keep going back to it when I was taking breaks from reading The Motley Crue autobiography. The quotes were all right but the author's main premise was that all our current behaviour stems from back in the cave man days. Like women flirt because they are actually trying to find a good provider for their young and all this shit. Reading this while traveling in a pack was really creepy because it seemed like every action had an exponential effect when multiplied. Like if you do something in a big city where nobody knows you, it wouldn't have much of an effect but when you are one fourteenth of a traveling COMMUNITY everything you do becomes amplified.

Some dealt with this better than others.

I guess it's sort of like the feedback scene in the Being John Malkovitch movie.
I feel like I was in the trenches getting dirty with my fellow soldiers and survived.
These are probably not everyone's facts but they are mine.

Day 1 - On the road to Twin Butte, AB

It took longer to drive to the practice ranch from Nelson than I thought so we ended up arriving in the dark and we had to trial and error our way down all these unmarked farm roads.

I'd only been there once before a couple of years ago and I was stoned and it was raining but I figured I could remember.... "Hmm.... Well I remember there was a field and a fence..." It was kind of like thinking you can just find The Old Brick Building By The Tavern when you're in Chicago!

Anyway we were a convoy with the other van following behind and boy were my ears warm every time I had to turn around to try another road. When the brake lights came on for like the eleventh time, my ears were practically on fire. I guess Diona could see I was getting a little tense and seriously questioning my leadership abilities as we'd been driving all day and it was way past wine o'clock. She touched my shoulder and said, "You're the fairest captain I've ever served under."

"Yeah, but we're never gonna win the war"

"Oh I know."

Finally we found Spread Eagle Road.

There's no sign if you're heading South.

It's gone.

The ranch house was all lit up with Jenny and Dan already there with silos of wine on the counter and noodles on the stove. Of course The Ontarians who have never been there before found it no problem but they did have our Albertan spiritual advisor Matt Masters on hand to guide them.

A very subserviant dog came over to visit the second we got there which was just what the doctor ordered.

Everyone started cooking and drinking and rolling joints and catching up and I was all for it but I was also really hoping that we could still practice even though it was so late and it actually happened! We stayed up until two and got the order of the first act hammered out and everyone was actually willing to learn the spectacularly gay theme song with the zillion key changes and the boy and girl parts that I had found for us.

I was so happy.

Day 2 - Twin Butte General Store and Bar, Twin Butte, AB

I got up early and snuck out for a walk but was intercepted by Burnsie our ranch host.

"If you're going for a walk you should go get Lucy", he commanded. (Lucy is his wife.)

"Aw, Lucy can't walk. She's on a cane." I whined. (She broke her leg dancing.)

"Go get Lucy!"

This transaction took up valuable time and Luther and Jenny and Dan were all of a sudden standing beside me in their toques and scarves and then Lucy came through the gate with her walking stick and six or seven dogs and we set off through the bog with its gnarly groves of wind toughened aspens.

Lucy showed us an alarmingly fresh bear track and I figured out why Burns was being such a bossy boots. Well he's bossy in general and I think we kind of freak each other out. ("Why do these women have to DYE THEIR HAIR?!") But I guess out here where survival is the main goal it's clarity over manners.

We got back and everyone else had woken up but it took until about about 2:30 before everyone got themselves pointed in the same direction and we could practice. It's no one's fault. It just takes incrimentally longer to do anything the more people are involved.

I spent the morning pacing and emitting tiny passive aggressive whimpers every time I heard a door open which, of course, proved most ineffectual.

Eventually we sang and pinned glitter musical note appliques onto the costumes and made song books and worked out the in between act musical segues feeling like professional geniuses. Then it was time to pile into the vans and debut this muthereffin' thang!

Our Poet, Miss Ali Riley of Vulcan pulled up in her new car, resplendent in black velvet fall fashions, and we spun each other around the parking lot.

We got through the show but I think we freaked out the locals a little bit. I heard one farmer say "Well I get the deer girl but what's with the bug?" in the break after Hank and Lily's set. Hank and Lily wear costumes based on comic book characters of their own invention and well, out of context, the mask Hank sings through and the goggles could make him seem a little 'buggy' in certain lights.

We have added a "Motley Moment" in the second act where Tolan reads a pre-selected passage from the Motley Crue autobiography. I think it's my favourite part.

One really great thing about traveling with this many people is that the joint seemed full even before the audience got there. Sometimes it's advantageous to outnumber 'em in the smaller communities.

Day 3 - The Ironwood, Calgary, AB

I got up really early determined not to be intercepted, bears be damned, by any bossy ranchers or anybody to have a much needed solo mission. I left a note for everyone telling them to pick me up at the General Store whenever they were ready, put my suitcase in the van and headed down the road in a beautiful sunrise. I made my escape companionless except for one of the dogs. And oh man the wind! I had to walk sideways sometimes just to breathe. I looked to my right just in time to see a white tailed deer sproing over a fence against the backdrop of a giant full rainbow. At the end of the driveway me and the dog had to part ways. It felt like we were breaking up. I knew I couldn't look back after I told him to stay. Maybe he's still there waiting for me.

Forty minutes later a farmer in a pick-up truck slowed down to ask was getting my excercise or in need of help. Three other farmers stopped to ask me the same thing. The fourth time I heard a car coming I lay in a ditch so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone and wreck the moment. Can't a lady get some alone time at dawn in the country? I told this story to my friend J. when she joined the tour and she said "Oh my God. You're the only person I know that's a fugitive from their own life!"
I got to the General Store just in time to see Burns and Lucy pulling up in their truck which was kind of funny. "Oh we could have given you a ride!" Ah well. Maybe next time.

Meanwhile back at the ranch... I guess a pair of mating turkeys in the driveway held up the rest of the gang's departure.

It's funny because at some point the day before I had seen the male turkey standing on the female turkey's back outside my window when I was reaching into my suitcase for a sweater but it just looked so unreal I must have put it out of my mind thinking "Jeeze I gotta lay off the pot!"

Apparently Hank tried to move the co-joined turkeys by bumping them with the van until Lily, who speaks all the animal languages, just moved them out of the way by picking them up with her hands. I had just ordered a coffee and unfolded the local paper when the armada of vehicles pulled up.

We all had breakfast together and afterwards Jeni, the owner, gave me a cup with the show money in it. This is how we have always done it. She and I have never once talked about money and it's always worked out. You don't need a contract with people you trust.

I rode in the ladies car to Calgary with Ali, Lily and Diona so we could all be back in love come sound check and the talk was pure porn. That Motley Crue book ain't got nothin' on us. ("Double anal is the new black!")

Calgary was kind of a bust.

The Ironwood had done no advertising and the posters "got lost" so nobody knew we were coming and the promoter was awol so everyone was trying to phone their agents and managers and stamping their feet and patting their wigs a little bit but there was spinach salad and we all still wanted to play the show anyway thank god. And the deal at the end of the day is what it always was and what it always will be after all the expenses- a nice relaxing zero. I got to sneak away with Jenny for a quick hotel room glass of wine whore-up session before the show.

Day 4 - The Tongue and Groove, Lethbridge, AB

We all met for breakfast at Diner Deluxe which happens to be just a few blocks up from the vintage store. I love it when a plan comes together.

Jenny and Dan were leaving us for the night to go and play some showcase so we put our velvet vampire handcuffs around Matt Masters' wrists not ready to let him get away just yet and really, how could he say no? What a dude. He drove everybody home from the bar after the show and everything.

We stopped in Nanton for thrift shopping and onion rings to keep the ladies' tour boners up. After five minutes the men were pacing. It was time and money well spent though because Lily's new black and silver swimsuit was the star of that night's show.

As payback, the next day the men pulled over into a field and made us watch them set off a rocket.

My friends Wallis and Jay had volunteered to make us all dinner. They are long married teachers who drink bourbon and bicker and live in Lethbridge. Everyone needs a dose of the feeling of parents no matter how rock'n'roll you think you have become. As usual Wallis had drunk all the bourbon while she was waiting for us and then didn't eat any of the dinner she'd spent all day making.

After the show, the others went to the hotel but Tolan, Diona and I went back to our host family's place and hung out on the porch.

Out of the blue Wallis said, "We're so old we should just die. I'm too tired to even feel despair about it" which was a real party starter. Everyone I know, myself included, stays up too late talking about how tired they are. I think it's the booze.
I told them about my friend David P. Smith who just gave up the radio show he had been hosting for the last ten years.

He said, "When I decided to give it up I started enjoying it".

Then we all went to bed and I got to sleep in the Teddy Bear Room.

Day 5 - The Powerplant, Edmonton, AB

I spent the day wound up like a guitar string in full blue heeler mode snapping at everyone's heels from the second I woke up. I just really wanted Edmonton to go well because I had booked the show and changed venues and everything.

I got to the hotel parking lot at eleven on the dot only to discover that everyone was still asleep despite late night heartfelt promises to the contrary. Also, Shawna, our merch girl, swollen with power from being on home town turf and momentarily deluded about her status in our heirarchy, made off with one of the vans to do some personal errands. While I was busy urging her to return stat, everyone started dispursing down the street to the Tim Horton's.

Not me. Oh no.

I just stood there making a huge point of Not Eating and getting weirder until the group amassed. Eventually I succumbed and once again the seemingly simple order of 'one toasted multigrain bagel with swiss and tomato' proved to be too much for the New Girl to handle. A manager was brought in to close the deal as our tears mingled on the keypad.

Finally at 1pm our fleet hit the road and of course we made it. The Powerplant stage was big enough for us all and it had stairs on either side for all our dramatic entrances and I think everyone finally knew the order of the show and who plays on what song.

The only thing was that they had put out tables and chairs so the audience was sitting down in full dinner theatre mode so it was really hard to whip them into any sort of lather. In Lethbridge, the people were wild so we got wild. Here it kind of felt too straight like we were putting on A Mighty Wind or something.

We had a green room filled with booze so everyone naturally gravitated back there which kind of stole focus from the show. In Lethbridge we could all smoke and drink and sing and be together which is important.

When it was over, Lily learned a valuable lesson: When all the freaks you know come back stage with their spiralling eyes and ask where you are staying, you say "Oh I'm taken care of, thanks."

Instead she said, "I'm in room 305 at the Days Inn downtown on 106th St" and they all materialized at her door later when she was brushing her teeth.

I stayed up with Diona drinking wine vowing to let someone else play the role of Uptight Guy for the rest of the tour.

Day 6 - The Arts Centre, Golden, BC

No time for nothing in Edmonton. No breakfast. No shopping. No nothing. Ah well I'll be back. Stopped at a 7-11 for breakfast just in time to see a woman puke a lime green stream the colour of a slurpee onto the floor. The man behind the counter just mopped it up while she was crying holding her medicine saying "I've been like this all week".

Our drummer Gregory (aka The Goose) was meant to be joining us at the Golden show but he phoned me in the afternoon in a state saying that they'd somehow directed him to the wrong bus and that he was stuck in Kamloops until the next one left which would get him into Golden at 3am.

"Well you're a goddamn good looking man. Get out there on the highway and stick your thumb out!"

I could tell he wanted some sympathy but I was already feeling a bit diversified on that front from riding in the wake of everyone else's ups and downs. Gregory is sort of famous from our past tours for losing things and freaking out. Wallets, CDs, Shaving kits, hotel keys, belt buckles you name it.

When I told Tolan that Gregory was going to be late he said "You mean he lost himself?" which was pretty funny. The others had yet to meet him so I'm sure they were thinking the worst.

Well, to get on the Hootenanny Express it's up to you to climb aboard...

The show went well despite his absence and Ali, Our Poet joined us again. The audience was super all ages with grannies and children and everything. Jenny, fresh from seeing her daughter in Edmonton, was in full Mama Bear mode.

She suggested to me and Lily that we tone down the racier elements of the act. I knew she was probably referring to the Motley Moment and perhaps Hank and Lily's song "I Like Having Sex With Old People!" would have been kind of inappropriate. Ali can be quite filthy but I don't think she can help it.

Lily and I talked Jenny down while we put on our fake beauty marks and fishnets and held fast to our western show business values.

I said, "Well there's people here that aren't children or don't have any and I'm gonna sing to them."

Plus, since I come from a small town it always bugs me when people assume that people in smaller communities are too simple minded to enjoy the finer nuances of risquee business. Just because you live in Golden doesn't mean that you are a stupid redneck. The bottom line is that you can get away with anything if you do it with love.

Jenny is so great because at the end of the night she said, "Oh you guys were totally right and I take it all back".

Mysteriously, the Motley Crue book couldn't be found before Tolan's big moment so Golden was spared from a blast of undiluted filth.

I told Gregory to come and find us at The Trans Canada Hotel when he got in but I must have just made that name up because there isn't one. When I was standing at the front desk of whatever our hotel was called trying to figure out how to leave a message at the bus station, I saw him get off a bus accross the street at the Husky.

I waited in the lobby for him with the intent of greeting him heartily from his travels with a beer but he took so damn long I went back to the room and realized that I could see the Husky from the window.

As he crossed the divided highway I yelled to him and he came running over and jumped through the window which was quite an entrance. He'd grown a giant beard since I'd last seen him too. I think the others were impressed. He looked very civil war.


The Western Hootenanny Revue! Part II

Click here for pictures!

Day 7- The Arts Station, Fernie, BC

Aw man, Fernie was the one! The little black theatre, rustling crinolines, beauty marks and fishnets and dressing rooms with light bulbs around the mirrors and curtain calls and I got my blue light for the final number and everyone waltzed. We ended by forming a conga line and singing throughout the entire building which is so gay I can't believe we did it.

We almost lost Dan in the second act to the bar up the street where he and Tolan had spent the afternoon drinking paralyzers. Well, they'd renamed them 'Daddy's Yell Smells' by the time they were discovered.

I worried that the audience might feel a little left out since we were having such a great time with ourselves but they keep them in the dark there so it's hard to guage if this feeling was real or only in my own head.

Our accomodations that night were at a hotel out on Highway 3. As we were all coming into the lobby Tolan asked "Where do I sleep?"

I said, "Do you have a key?"

"No!", he said kind of kicking a stone with his shoe.

"Well then find a buddy!"

"Maybe I'll go look for one!" he said sullenly. Uh oh.

"No wait...." But he was gone.

Now, earlier Craig had doled out seven keys to seven rooms. In my mind, not realizing that Tolan had missed out on the whole key transaction because he'd been at the bar, I meant it like if you don't gotta key you gotta find a buddy with a key. To his credit, Tolan had arrived in Fernie a lot earlier that I had and would have probably loved some hotel room solitude before the show and I guess he'd seen Jenny come in to the theatre with wet hair and clean clothes and was feeling seriously ripped off. I don't think that the sugar in all the Daddy's Yell Smells did anything to improve his mood either. But when I said "If you don't have a key you gotta find a buddy!" he got all owly and scowly. He could have stayed with me but I already had three girls in my room and jesus there were seven rooms!

The rooms were really nice and when I opened the door onto the patio I discovered that two kidney shaped hot tubs awaited us.

Hmmm what to wear? Ali was naked immediately and Hank was already in one of the tubs. I knew sordid scenes from the Motley Crue book hugged the gymnasium walls of the highschool dances in all our heads.

"Uh.. what are you wearing?" I yelled out to Hank.


Okay... deep breath. Too late to start working out now. I tried it at first in just panties but not wanting to give a full titty show to fourteen people I ran back in for my bra which made me feel more comfortable.

Shawna was wearing these slutty black lace panties.

Jenny was in a yellow bikini.

The men were mostly in their underpants but some were naked.

Did I mention it was raining? Well it was.

I wondered how long we would be allowed to linger and what the hotel policies on drinking, smoking and nudity were but figured, as always, that it's easier to apologize than ask permission. After a while a hotel worker lady came out and we were all poised to vacate but all she said was "The pools close at five," while she bent down to take a water sample, saying nothing about the smoking and drinking.

"What time is it now?"


Hot dog. No rules. My favourite.

Every so often someone would have to get out to hit the button to activate the whirlpool jets. We kept getting Shawna to do it, mostly because she was so willing.

She was our 'Punch-Me Doll' as my friend Tom used to call it. We were all pretty merciless but it was like she could take it. Hell, it seemed like she even liked it. I remember being in the pool taking a drag off a huge joint when someone turned to me and said "Did you hear? Shawna got fired."

"Oh yeah? Who fired her?" I said surprised only by the fact that someone other than me had done the deed.

"No. Not from this. From her work back home."


This dialogue would be repeated by each combination of lips in the ensuing days.. As I had never intended to bring her over the Alberta border, by Golden I had given up any responsibility for her.

The thing is she was actually a terrible merch girl. Turns out she can't add and was never at her post in the all-important intermissions but I do think that her presence was invaluable. If she wasn't there we would have turned on each other.

Jenny got out to get us smokes and did the cutest little flat footed walk squinting and hunching in the rain despite the fact that she was already soaking wet which made her look just like a little kid.

At the end of the night, Tolan, against a sumptious backdrop of snow covered mountains, sitting in his underpants in the hot tub holding a beer and smoking a cigarette, emboldened by the afternoon paralyzers, told me that he feels like I am always withholding information from him and that he never knows what's going on. Essentially that nobody is taking care of him. It was a little bit brutal. He kind of went to town on me and I absorbed it for a little while with my head down nodding but then I looked around and was like "I'm sorry but you are not allowed to be mad in a hot tub. I mean look where you are!"

You can't make it your life's mission to be out of it and then complain that you never know what's going on. I decided that I am just going to write everything down for him because I think that he's getting deafer and I talk too fast.

Mostly I think he hated sharing me. From our years of living together and playing together we may have slipped into some pretty serious co-dependent habits which I guess you can't just turn on and off like a tap.

Day 8 - Little Slocan Valley Lodge, Slocan Valley, BC

So Luther fucks off in the rental with his new best friend Shuyler and tells us that we really have to make it on time which is easy to say if you are travelling in trio formation in an escape pod built after the year 2000 and you're the only one who's been there before. But we had the double van convoy posse with me, Hank, Lily, Weasel, Goose, Diona, Tolan, Craig and Shawna and well MAYBE we stopped for gas and snacks. The woman behind the til surveyed the curious scene of nine unattended adults laughing their heads off buying tea and fireworks and asked "What are you up to?". And MAYBE we just had to stop at the crazy antique shack with the cabins and the plastic flowers and the dog to pet to pick up some necessities (a bugle for Gregory, a bullwhip for Diona and rollerskates for Shawna) which MAY have caused us to miss the ferry by five minutes and well normally they run every hour except for on Tuesdays when they're every three hours for some reason.

So knowing that we're going to be stuck for a while, Tolan starts shoving fireworks up the ass of this plastic pitchfork he bought and blew it up real good! I don't know why it's so funny when inanimate objects suddenly leap into the air but it is. We are all monkeys.

I offered Shawna a hundred dollars to roller skate down the hill off the end of the boat ramp to amuse us but she didn't take me up on it. And then of course the bugle and the pilsners and the cigarettes and mini keyboard and the hula hoops came out.

I noticed that all the other people in the ferry line-up were staying in their cars with the windows rolled up like they were scared of us or something. ("What are you up to?")

If we were superheros our magic power would be the ability to turn anywhere into a bar. It's a talent.

Oh yeah and the washrooms were "closed for the season"(!) so I climbed up through the wet cedars making damn sure I was alone, lifted my petticoats and took a shit in the woods which made me feel even more like an animal than the group travel and the love book already were.
Eventually we were loaded onto the boat just as it was getting dark and arrived on the other side with hundreds of miles still to go. I had really wanted to get there in the daylight because I knew a forty minute mountain drive up a logging road awaited us. Diona suddenly remembered that she'd been there before which proved helpful. Up up up we climbed in the dark greenery and the road was rough and full of gravel but we journeyed on and on until we pulled into a parking lot in a clearing lit up by the biggest moon I'd ever seen.

I was expecting the worst.

I thought the place would be squatlike with dirt floors and an outhouse. But the Little Slocan Valley Lodge is a beautifully designed place with heated floors and bunks for all upstairs. A beautiful woman served us root vegetable soup and salad.

This place is famous for being Off The Grid which I think is funny. Our Poet Ali had lived here in a previous life so this show was her glorious return. She read her poems with Hank and Lily backing her up and everyone loved it. One dude was so high that when our friend Lukas was doing his puppet show he said "You're.., blowing... my... mind!" really loudly. He was heard moments later saying "I can't open my eyes."

But back to the moon... Now having inherited the English Mother gene I can usually ingore most things going on below the neck but I have never bled so much in my life. In fact all the girls in our troup were looking a bit pale. Especially Diona. I thought we were all gonna need a transfusion by the end of the night.

There was a sign outside that read "Keep off the moss" in case anybody got any ideas. Before the show I stepped out onto the balcony and heard wolves howling and saw three dogs leashed to the rail. I untied them and ushered them inside and everyone loved it. I thought we could put all the children outside but nobody went for that.

I think this place is where the expression "coming out of the woodwork" comes from. If that road was a forty minute drive up a mountain and there's only five cars outside and the room is full, WHERE DID THE PEOPLE COME FROM? Is this place like the bar in The Shining? Are they really here? Are we really here?

The best moment was during Hank and Lily's "Long Black Snake Moan" number where we all chant and dance around holding rubber snakes. I think that's probably when the mushrooms (the "medicinal flecks") that Ali had given me kicked in. I was facing Lily's drum kit and started hitting the cymbal with my rubber snakes and we got this great rhythm going together and Jenny was doing this sexy dance and Luther was looking like a vampire and we all freaked ourselves out but in a good way. When in Rome...

When it was over, the people still wanted more but we danced them outside where Tolan lit off these fireworks called "The Powder Keg". ("Shoots flaming balls!"). At first the hippies weren't keen on the idea but when one of the balls hit an expensive car they were all for it.

I stayed up until I noticed that I was actually trying to have a serious conversation with a clown. And Tolan kept us all up laughing in our bunks for hours after that. Shuyler has started a tinfoil ball.

Day 9 -The Opera House, Ashcroft, BC

The nice man in Slocan made us all breakfast and gave us a garbage bag full of formula for the road. Apparently our show coincided with the end of Harvest Season. This addition, of course, did nothing to improve our driving times and at one gas stop Tolan came up to me laughing his head off saying "For Hallowe'en I'm going to make a giant pirate hat out of omelettes!" Right. No more riding in the green van for you Mister. And for God's sake get yourself some breakfast!

None of us had ever been to Ashcroft before but it seemed to be the jewel in the crown of The Agent's tiny realm. In retrospect I think I had confused it with Aldergrove which I've also never been to before but when you're expecting nothing you can really be pleasantly surprised.
We blew in the stage door, late of course, carrying stage gear out of the darkness and rain and discovered that the backstage area also doubled as a storage room for an extensive costume collection.When Lily and I saw all the clothes we started jumping up and down but had already resigned ourselves to the fact that we would probably be forbidden from using them so we weren't allowing ourselves to get too excited. But since we are both blessed with the ability to shop anywhere we started rifling through the clothes lured by the gingham and feathers. "Help yourself to anything" said a voice behind us belonging to Martin the owner.


It was time to start so we did the opening number in our usual outfits but then as the night unfolded the stage took on the feeling of a Flaming Lips concert as it became filled with such incongruous groupings as Xena the Warrior Princess fronting a band featuring Spiderman, a flapper, a carrot and a giant foam headed Burt of Ernie-and-Burt on the drums.

If Tolan wore the carrot suit all the time I don't think I could ever be mad at him. So cute with his little green stems coming out of his bathing cap. It was kind of like being on mushrooms in the way it felt like you could see what was on the inside of people by the costumes they chose.

I have no idea what the audience thought of us. I mean they live there so they've probably seen all those costumes in other productions and must have thought our maniacal interest in them bizarre. It felt like we were aliens discovering one of earth's conventions and getting it slightly wrong.

The best part was that Dan Whiteley started it by coming out for his solo mandolin number dressed in an ape suit and got a serious case of the giggles. I love it when people turn out to be wilder than you think they are.

Before the tour started Hank and I had had big plans for costumes but I didn't want to force The Ontarians into anything that would make them feel uncomfortable. I believe I even used the phrase "I don't think that they'd be into wearing monkey suits." So when Dan came out wearing an actual monkey suit I could hardly believe it.

I ended the night playing a really loud pipe organ with Diona and using the bull whip to encourage Craig who was wearing a tiger suit to jump through a hula hoop. I was trying to get him attack me Sigfreid and Roy style but he mostly just cowered under the organ.
I think we may have kept some people up but hey, we all get our turn.

Day 10- The Central Bar-Victoria, BC

Craig woke everyone up still dressed as a tiger which was pretty fucking cute. Some people were too grumpy about the early call to acknowledge his awesome outfit which they will go to hell for.

This was a weird day. Victoria is never in the middle of a tour. You either begin or end there. But in the middle? That's just fucked up. Me and Diona were kind of freaking out about going 'home' so I suggested that we pretend that it was Just Another Town. It's a pretty cool perspective but I bet it would be impossible to keep up if you weren't leaving the next day.

After soundcheck, Lily screamed up in her van, leaned out the driver's side window and yelled "They found my mom!" before pealing off which was kind of a surreal moment. She had put her papers in before the tour started.

We had a great show and even though they say you can never really go home, I got to go home.

Day 11-Creekside Theatre - Lake Country,BC (outside Kelowna)

I think I only got to sleep for five minutes before the phones started ringing and the vans pulled up. I felt so rough I went to sleep in the back of the van and missed the whole ferry ride and didn't get out until Hope.

We drove all day and got to the theatre at around 5:30. It was pretty nice but I wondered who would come. The promoter was wondering the same thing. He told Luther that he would have offered us a thousand dollars NOT to come. Jeeze at 8 o'clock this morning we would have taken him up on it. But no rest for the wiggy...

We were all pretty burnt out but we found some fake trees to decorate the stage with and some choir risers for the gospel number. There was even a podium for the Motley Moment.

I escaped and went for a walk through some orchards. Then we went to check out our hotel for the night. I looked through our window and spied a hot tub. Oh nothing as deluxe as the ones in Fernie but a hot tub none the less. I assumed that the gate would be locked so I ripped off the window screen, climbed out and got in which of course activated the hotel lady who said "It's just not a good idea to go through windows!" Depends whose idea it is lady.

We got dressed and were back at the theatre in time for our 8:30 start. Only thing was that the promoter was expecting us at eight and the house was in and waiting. I phoned Luther on the bat phone and we split the difference and started at 8:15 on the dot.

Around the time of the sixth or seventh number I remember thinking "Well we seem to be pulling it together" and then seconds later seeing Craig knock over one of the trees while reaching to adjust a cable and Luther stage left laying flat on his back. Oh yeah and when the sparklers from The Werewolf Number set off the fire alarm, we panicked and put them out on the carpet which I'm sure endeared us to the guy even more.

The average age of the people in the audience was like a hundred. I offered Hank and Lily a hundred bucks to do "I Like Having Sex With Old People!" but they declined.

Strangely, The Motely Crue book went missing again.

Day 1 2 - The Ukranian Hall-Vancouver, BC

"Your shows have started to feel like wedding receptions!" said my hard-as-nails friend Sue in the intermission as we passed each other in the hallway. I'll take that as a compliment.

The Vancouver show coincided with the West Coast Music Awards. When we were still in the planning stages of this tour, some people around the campfire had suggested that it would be a bad night to put on a show. I said that since The Industry had never paid me any attention I wasn't going to start worrying about them. It was a bit of a gamble but it paid off.

The show sold out and Jenn Barker, our tireless Bosley, convinced most of those types to come anyway. The Agent even showed up wanting to get in for free but I told him he was only hurting himself.

The place was crammed and all the freaks behaved themselves with the exception of The Vampire who got a bit watery at the end from all the excitement and started shoving his hands up all the ladies dresses and trying to get behind the drum kit which turned all the men into growling lions. I heard The Goose in his white civil war bowler hat and waxed mustache very firmly say "You keep your hands off my woman!" I almost expected a duel to break out.

My friend Nancy put on the show and did an amazing job. It's so much easier when you just trust each other. No contracts. No agents. No bar managers. Faith instead of fear. It was a beautiful show with red velvet curtains and a forest scene back drop. The musical guests were amazing, the liquor didn't run out and the act had really come together from having all the other shows under our belts.

Backstage I heard Jenny say to her husband "I feel like I've found my people," and I was all like "Oh no. Unlike us misfits, you had a chance!"

Everyone looked and sounded great and we all felt that we were in the midst of Something Powerful. I've always wanted to be part of a show where we all wear matching outfits and everybody sings and it finally happened.

To 'prepare' for this tour, I watched a shitload of Muppet Shows and everytime I found myself saying stuff like "Okay. Standing by for The Werewolf Number!" I got to feel like Kermit.

I also realized that the stage is the safest place for us to be. The time is occupied by the thing that we were meant to be doing. The roles are predetermined and eveyone has a function. It's very hard to get into trouble when you are busy. The trouble starts when the music stops.

Day 13-The Abbey-Cumberland, BC

Just... one...more...

One more ferry, one more show, one more day. Coming into the short strokes now boys!
I'm pretty amazed that we all roused ourselves from our various crash pads around the city and managed to all meet up on the same ferry. Someone must have figured out how to fold time.

I rode with The Honeys-Amy Honey and Hubby Honey- and the island is so beautiful. We smoked a little pot and had a couple swigs of illicit Daytime Beer to take the edge off ("What is this EDGE you're always talking about?"). Nancy was with us too and I got to watch her lose and find and then lose and find six hundred dollars of extra show money from the night before which made me love her even more.

We got to The Abbey and it's amazing. It used to be a church but these people bought it and over the sink behind the bar is a gorgeous painting of a hula hooping nun surrounded by golden snakes which was like the defining image of this whole tour!

Matt Masters flew in and walked with his luggage from the Comox airport to join us and our relentless friend Jimmy Twilight had found us an amazing hostel we could have all to ourselves just a block away which was the perfect setting for our final night shenanigans.

My friend J. played and made everyone fall in love with her songs and lovely Marissa from The Seams was there too sounding just like a young Maria McKee.

The place was sold out and all our friends came. I escaped in the break with a tattooed rock-a-billy girl named Donna and was seen speeding away in a pick-up truck. We just went to get wine but I think the others may have thought the worst because when we got back I noticed that they had started the second set without me. Oops.

Tolan got high first and was doing these amazing rock jumps and lots of face dancing to the delight of the audience who also seemed high. The soundman had these huge tribal needles in his ears and Diona told me that he has a dungeon in his house but he kept his sadistic tendancies in check and didn't torture us with bad sound which was big of him.

After the show, some looming locals attempted to horn in on our awesome digs but Jenny chased them off no sweat which was impressive considering we were in a town famous for it's consumption of Lucky lager and its "I'm from Cumberland. Fuck off!" bumber stickers.

I stayed and packed up the vans not wanting to give up the feeling of having a purpose, greatful for something to focus on while the drugs swirled around. Back at the hostel, Shuyler hosted a seven hour open stage at the dining table.

"Sit with me."

I couldn't go inside for a while because the walls were breathing and the men were yelling but eventually everyone started smoking inside and I played a song with him and it felt so dirty! He played guitar like he knew what I was going to do before I even did it. Luckily he had set it up that you could only play one song at a time with him before it was someone else's turn so my head didn't explode.

That night three of our men became card carrying members of the Cumberland Diving Team as each took a turn falling out of the top bunks. Thrice throughout the night we hearkened to the sound of a dull thud immediately followed by a "Fuck!" Bless them. Jenny took to her bed for a rest and became imobilized with The Fears when a hanging black coat metamorphosized into a devil.

In the morning we all had one final Breakfast of Infamy and there were many extended summer campish good-bye scenes. I had spent every night singing beside Jenny, us in our matching gowns, and felt like I had grown a sister and was really going to miss her.

Forty minutes later in the S.O.S. Thrift Store in Duncan, I was flipping through the used records and jumped when I saw Jenny's eleven year old face smiling back at me and waving from the back of the Jr. Jug Band record which was eerily comforting. Aw and there's Dan too. I bought it and some giant platform shoes like she wears to keep her with me for just a bit longer. The Honey's came ovre and we fed vegetables to Hank while he did his laundry so we could all be each other's landing strip for the final descent. It's good to bring hostages with you the first night home so you don't implode from such a sudden change in atmosphere. The next morning I woke up so suddenly not knowing where I was, even though I was in my own room, that I pulled all the muscles in my neck because I'd gotten so used to having to be somewhere two seconds after waking up.

This tour was funny to write about because so many other people were THERE this time. Hank usually acts as My Editor but since he too was on this trip I'm afraid he'll see what an unreliable narrator I am and that it's not so much that the world is fucked but that I am. Ah he probably knew that all along. Actually he'll probably cut this part. Everyone's truth is different. Each life an experiment. Trial and error. Naturally the conclusions drawn from empirical studies will all be different.

I'd like to think that there has been a positive side effect from these recent experiments in group travel: The ability to relate to someone no matter what they are going through. Remembering or imagining what something feels like when it's not happening to you. I guess they call it empathy. Knowing when to fuck off is also a talent.

I spent a year or so mad at The Monks and The Buddhists thinking 'Oh yeah, it would be so easy to be empathetic thinking only good thoughts if you were eating healthy food living somewhere serene and not talking to anyone. Being eternally pleasant when you are cramped in a rental car with no money eating shit constantly in the throes of other people, now that's a spiritual accomplishment!'

I also used to be very angry at Leonard Cohen. I saw him on some special saying stuff like "We feel that we need to find love etc..." I used to call it 'The Creepy Leonard Cohen We' and was all like "Hey Bud, leave ME out of your We!" But you know Canadians are kind of gypped on the whole collective noun thing.

"One" is too highbrow for your everyday barrroom scenario. ("When one orders a beer one must be sure that one has enough money to do so"). "Y'all" is just far too American. ("Mind if I sit with y'all?") I don't think so. I guess we get "you guys" but that feels so high school and kind of leaves out the ladies. You can only get away with "you's" if you're from The Prairies. ("You's guys need some more coffee?"). I kind of like Neko's grandmother's approach. She says "A Guy". Like "How does A Guy get a beer around here?" Lately though, I've seriously felt almost ready to embrace my animal side and become part of "The We". I never thought it could happen until it happened to me.

But I guess it is, of course, easier for A Guy to feel like he is good at all this when she's alone and the tour's over. And though it pains me to admit this, it should be noted that at the time of this writing two of the thirteen people aboard the Hooteanny Express are not speaking to me.

Conclusion? Back to the old drawing board.

xoCarolyn Mark
Oct 2005

One Day Later

Okay, it turns out that they weren't Not Speaking To Me they just weren't speaking to me. Sometimes I think that I may have a distorted view of my powers. Perhaps it's delusional to think that you have anything to do with other peoples' moods. I could try to change but it sure helps with the getting on stage part.