Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Western Hootenanny Revue! Part II

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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.


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