Keeping the Bitches Between the Ditches: 7 Dames, 7 Days, 7 Towns (1)
Forgive me Father. It's been six weeks since my last confession.
Holy crap. So much happened in so many places. Memories melted together like gummy worms left on the dashboard. There were vans and minivans and planes and bars and halls and all night drives and carnage and joy and pain and exhaustion and love. All of it. All I know is that I'm here now in my room. Alone, which is what I wanted. It's pretty good. I'm not hurting anyone or myself. Well maybe my eyes and spine from riding this rig too long. I think that computers make their light by sucking out yours so I plan to take small shifts.
I bet the spleens, lungs, and liver might be grateful for the crop rotation. If I can just ignore my inner wino, who comes out every night at dusk to charm me out of my day time vows: "Come on! Just have one glass. What's the big deal?" he says putting his hand on my knee and kissing my neck and looking so good.
Back off mister! I'm saving myself for Italy!
It would be thick irony if I sprained my wine bone right before I finally got to go there. I'm just starting to see that anything you do has its residual effects. Maybe you only get a certain amount of drink tickets in one lifetime and you can either use them all up at once or space them out over time. I hope they gave me a lot.
I guess this adventure started in Texas. Well Seattle actually. Well, if you wanted to get technical, Cumberland but it's sort of like skipping at this point. The rope's always going. You just gotta jump in somewhere.
So Texas. It's as big as they say. It takes up four pages of the Rand McNally atlas. In the midst of all the driving, I was thinking we could have just ripped out the middle two pages and saved ourselves a bunch of time!
Seven ladies. Seven days. Seven towns.
Originally, the plan was that Christine Fellows (canary yellow blonde, piano player, writes the most beautiful songs, hilarious, lives in Winnipeg) and I would do a Thelma and Louise style solo double bill tour in a convertible wearing headscarves. We had talked about how every gas station bathroom seat we had ever encountered was piss covered and we wondered how these seat pissers could be so casual. I once snapped and chased a woman out of a rest stop in a natural park screaming "I am not your janitor!"
Since Christine and I were kindred spirits on this matter, we planned to call the tour "Christine Fellows and Carolyn Mark are the Janitors of North America and They're Coming to a Toilet Near You!" Well that was the plan but then, while I was out touring, my magnetic Velcro powers had become super human and somehow our ranks had swollen to, well, five. Five ladies. Actually now that I think about it, maybe there were a just a lot of Canadians around killing time between gigs. I used to be so convinced that it was all My Movie. I tell ya, this getting older business is murder on the confidence!
When I broke the news to Christine from a gas station pay phone that everything we planned had changed, she sounded excited and suggested we bring her cellist(!) Leanne along too to make it an even six. Leanne lives in Austin and studies at the university, plays in the symphony and had just run her first marathon. Thank god she smokes otherwise we'd have to kill her.
Diona and I flew in to Austin from Eugene after a delightful weekend of opening burlesque clubs in the Pacific Northwest. Things must be looking up. They used to call me to close 'em!
Allie and Awna (of Po'girl) picked us up at the airport in Shaggy the Love Van looking all tanned from Mexico. We are the most penniless jet setters that ever lived. Allie and Awna made some money busking in Peurto Vallarta but then they got robbed. Right after that they almost died in a rip tide but then got rescued. They'd had to scrape the change off the van floor to get it out of the airport parking lot to come and get us and the tank was pretty close to E but they were being pretty zen about the whole thing.
Diona suggested the only thing to do upon arriving in Austin no matter what time you get in - fish tacos and margaritas at The Marisco Grill! I'm sure the locals would cringe to hear us say that, but some places aren't for the locals.
When the inevitable fade occurred after the first taco and half way through the second margarita, the ladies took us back to Laura Freeman's house where they had been crashing. Laura Freeman has a great house with a gorgeous turquoise kitchen and a huge back yard. Laura Freeman is a great songwriter with a huge range and she's gorgeous and crazy. Luther Wright had been talking us up to each other for years but you know a name doesn't mean anything until you meet your destiny face to face. And sometimes you gotta have a nap first.
When we met again that evening, within ten minutes we were wearing each other like scarves and planning an evil prank. We were both gonna call Luther and say "Why didn't you TELL me about her?!" just to make him crazy. Tee hee.
Laura Freeman is like if you put me and my best friend J. in a blender but we were from Texas and could sing really high and liked children. That's a lot going on in one person.
That night we sat in her back yard listening to the grackles and mocking birds and playing songs.
Wrangled all the ladies and practiced in Laura's living room. So cute. The moment Diona The Fiddler met Leanne The Cellist, they bonded heavily over some obscure European composer, ran into the bedroom giggling and started playing the shit out of this concerto they both knew by heart. Ah, to be Classically Trained...
A few songs in, I couldn't help but notice that a certain someone who had vowed to give up touring was looming in the door frame wearing a washboard and tiny purple evening gloves with buttons sewn onto the fingers and singing the third part harmony. In between songs I said, "Laura, you're going to have to decide which side of the door you are on. Either you're in the band and coming with us or you're not, but you can't keep lurking in the doorway 'cause it's gonna give me adult acne!" After a pause, she said, "Let me make a couple of phone calls!" and with that our band became a seven piece. Christine taught us this Townes Van Zant song that is like the I-Ching of songwriting. Every line means something to me. I had never really 'got' him before but colour me a convert. Sometimes you need someone else to sing you a song to make you notice how great it is.
After a seven hour practice, Diona and I escaped. Unbeknownst to her, I had pimped her out to The Meat Purveyors who were recording that night. They play the fastest bluegrass ever. They had her play on a cover of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" and made her do it like eight or nine times. Whenever she accompanies me I'm always dazzled by everything she plays but these guys were Picky Petes! There was a video monitor so we could see her sawing away in the other room. What I didn't know is that it was a two-way system so she could instantly see the band's reactions in the control room when she finished a take. Creepy. I would have bolted for sure.
After the sesh, we went looking for Sherrylynn at her bartending job but she had gone home so we called it a night and got caught in the most amazing Texas thunder storm. Incredible sizzling lightning, deafening thunder and sheets of rain. I'll never forget it. Everything is big in Texas.
Intended Destination: Muleshoe Texas. Birthplace of Lee Horseley: Television's Matt Houston.
Intended departure time: Noon.
Actual Destination: Lubbock Texas. Birthplace of Waylon Jennings: Outlaw Country Singer.
Actual departure time: 3:30pm
Getting seven ladies to leave anywhere is a feat and a half. Someone always has to go to the bathroom or buy something. But eventually you get where you're going and when you have to pee nobody minds and someone has usually brought snacks.
Found a hotel in the middle of the night. The desk clerk was an old man on two canes who was a real sweetheart and gave us a deal, which is a first for me. Usually my charms are invisible to hotel owners or I somehow anger them into charging us more. He had two little dogs. I asked him what kind they were and between coughs he said, "Woofenhausers" and left the perfect pause before adding, "They WOOF in the HOUSE". I was in love. He gave us the special deal reserved for people in the military. The air force I believe.
Santa Fe - The Second Street Brewery
Our first gig after two practices and many miles. Our ladyboners were way high and it's a good thing because that night they had to be. The place was a big noisy brewpub with no P.A. and a $40 dollar guarantee. Hmm. Glam-our-us.
After some gentle probing the bartender found us an old mixing board, some speakers and a couple of microphones in the back. No sound man though so Diona set everything up and put up with all our suggestions in a very Clint Eastwood way. Cap down and mouth closed. Eventually we got seven ladies a place to stand and microphones and set up the keyboard and glockenspiel and cello and fucking rocked that joint.
Through sheer tectonic force we made those fuckers pay attention to us and were grateful for the chance. Our biggest fan was a prim librarian looking lady with long blond hair and glasses in the front row who had all our CDs and some recording gear and a giant digital camera. In the break she came over to shake our hands and introduced herself as Ann. Ann had giant hands and a really low voice. Ann was a man. A man in a flounced Laura Ashley dress. You know how the way people dress in drag reveals a lot about them? You can see it on Hallowe'en. Dudes that dress as ladies either go for their mother or a total slut. It just proves once again that just because you're "gay" doesn't mean that you can't be super "straight". Actually I'm out of my league here. She may have been just a sweet transvestite and not necessarily a transsexual or transgendered person. Whatever, who cares? Ultimately what she was was really nice and well, flattery is a sure way to win us boozy chanteuses over, whatever else you get up to in a day.
At the end of the night we passed a hat and thrice tripled our guarantee (I'm bluffing because I don't know the word for when you times something by ten). And we all learned firsthand how the power of positive thinking and good vibrations manifest themselves into tangible rewards.
Later I wondered why it is almost impossible to consciously keep your spirits that high when you're closer to home. Is it a survival thing? Like if you know you're close to home and have a long history with a place and the people, you just don't try as hard and you all kind of just wait til it's over because you know you can just go home? Or is it because when you're far from home and don't know anyone, you have nothing to lose? Maybe it's just a perspective issue, like the way you can never remember to pack a sweater if it's warm out. My friend Lily always keeps her ladyboner up at full mast even when we're at home and I love that about her. Except when I'm tired and paranoid. Then I think she's eating my brain. Probably because at times we work the same strip.
Because we are ladies, we blew all our money on a night at the fabulous El Rey Motel. It's all adobe and beautiful. They gave us a room that was so big we kept getting lost and there was a fireplace and many beds and some fan gave Diona this killer pot. We smoked some and it made us all want to call our friend Ford IMMEDIATELY. I can't remember the exact reason but it was something REALLY important. Forgetting that Toronto is three hours ahead and that it was like 3am our time, I pulled out my cell phone that I'm only supposed to use for "career related" calls like interviews or venue coordinates and we called him and sang one of his songs at the top of our lungs into the answering machine.
A couple of seconds later the phone rang. Now Ford lives with Yvette, who is also my friend, but works for Mint Records who PAY for the phone that I'm only supposed to use for "career related" calls and she says, "I think you may have thought you got the answering machine but I was on the line the whole time." I panic and say, "So uh, can you give him the message?" and hung up so busted.
See, Yvette had been leaving messages for me to call her back about "career related" matters, and also she is my friend, and I hadn't. Then while Christine called her husband, which I don't think went very well either, Laura channeled all the unspoken thoughts in the room in the form of an opera, which was pretty awesome.
When we woke up, we got to have our morning coffee in the adobe courtyard hot tub in bright New Mexico sunlight and got the road out of our backs and shoulders. Yessssss. This is the life.
That night it was Albuquerque
My favourite duo, The Handsome Family, aka Brett and Rennie Sparks, had offered to put on a concert for us in their house. I was so honoured I thought I might burst. I am a super fan and basically just want to hump their legs every time I see them but I love them so much I don't want to scare them off. So mostly I just stare and then laugh a little too loudly.
We arrived to find them awaiting us with open arms despite our swollen ranks. (Hey that's a good band name Laura-The Swollen Ranks!) Brett is on the computer rocking the i-tunes. The Supremes. "Some Day We'll Be Together". He looks up like he's just arrived back on earth when we walk in and actually says, "Check out the kick drum in this mix!" He'd been listening to it all day. I instantly made him play DJ. "Oooh play 'Love Child'! Do you have 'Love Child?' I love it when people that play music still like music. Rennie took us to the grocery store and marvelled at our ambitious plans for dinner. It's just nice to be able to cook when you're on tour and all of us were so into it despite the fact that it was 7:30 and the show was supposed to start at 9.
The house filled up and the people were really nice and I think they liked it and I met a new Joan Cusack best friend in the back yard. At the end of the night with some wine in me, when she let me smoke inside, I think I started to fawn heavily over Rennie and thank her for putting on the show and being so awesome and she just fixed her big brown eyes on me and said, "I too was greatly comforted to learn of your existence" before I could get too annoying. What a woman.
Next stop: Tuscon, Arizona
A bar called Plush where they made us play in the lobby. Paul Rigby was there and at the end of the night I jumped ship and ran off with him and he put on Neko's new record and gave a running colour commentary about the guitar playing. "Aw here's where I put in the A minor augmented!" So cute.
The next day we went to the Cactus Forest with the jumping jollas, which nobody believed me about until The Cellist, of course, consulted the pamphlet and said "No. She's right. They DO jump out and attach themselves to you!" My clumsitude precedes me so my word is suspect.
All day long ass drive. Stop for supplies and then back to The Hot Springs Ranch. The Commune, man! Yup. We were going back, voluntarily this time and bringing fresh meat.