Friday, March 03, 2006

Saloonatics Gone Wild (Part I)

Horrorscope, January 24.
You need some time to be by yourself today. There are some things you need to sort out. You're trying to get a better handle on your finances. It's been said that the price we pay for money is liberty. (It's hard to have both time and money)

MOON ALERT! Avoid shopping or making important decisions until 1:45 today. After that the moon is in Sagittarius.

Jeeze there's nothing like a lack of time, an imminent border crossing, and lunar activity to make us ladies start acting like spooked horses. I longed forHumphrey Bogart to walk in wearing that tan trenchcoat and slap us all saying, "Shut up will ya? I'm trying to think."

Me, Amy Honey, and Lily Fawn. The Three Faces of Evil Tour. Corsets and crinolines. Two guitars, drums, and trumpet. Saloon girls lost in America was the angle this time. Halfway through the tour we will change our name to The Saloonatics. But let's start back in Victoria.

Amy Honey was freaking out because her mother had checked out our web site and saw us all dressed like saloon girls on the poster with the words "evil", "sinners", and "whore-ific" under our faces. She was worried that her daughter was going straight to Hell, or worse, to drive around America dressed like a whore, which to a mother is probably the same thing.

Bogie failed to materialize during our one and only band practice so I attempted to play both his and my roles, which was, of course, a disaster. Oh, and as if to symbolically manifest our collective doubts, a giant rat ran across the basement floor roused no doubt by one of Ms. Fawn's high notes. This did nothing for our already waning morale.

Ladies again. What was I thinking? I should know better. I am one. The worst part is having to admit it. We should have hired a band.

Day 1

All together now: "This is the first day of our holiday! Ya-a-a-y day one!"

Well after the moon passed into Sagittarius and we all started bleeding and made it over the border and the sun came out, things were looking up. I had my dear sweet Mother run my guitar and me stateside in the blue Camry of Stealth. ("How do we know each other? Mother and Daughter!") Apparently I teach at the conservatory.

Filled with tales of horror from all they encountered, (Loony birds, don't you know that TALKING about it only JINXES everything?!), the ladies decided to rent gear on the Other Side so they could cross with clean hearts. I didn't know this then so when the bartender leaned over and said, "Canada? Oh you're friends aren't gonna make it. They've closed the border!" My heart sank. Then I thought about my poor Mother heading back across.

It turns out that two guys murdered someone in California and made a run for the border. The Americans started shooting and the Canadians squealed like girls and hid in the bushes until it was all over. The best part is that the runaway vehicle actually SMASHED INTO the Peace Arch!

Found out later that the girls had taken a different crossing and my mother made it home safely, albeit four hours late. I've never been so relieved to see a minivan pull up in my life. We had an excited reunion and met up with our Bellingham show-host Robert Blake- not the actor that killed his wife, the Washington singer/songwriter- who petted our hair and told us everything was gonna be all right.

He made us dinner and we got all whored up and had a great show at the Green Frog Acoustic Tavern. Despite the name and its strip mall location (just next door to the Wing Dome!), it's a pretty cool bar. Guitars on the wall, good wine, and they let us bring the dog in. Oh yeah, Lily brought her dog Korma. He was the star of the show and looked fabulous in his stage outfit. It's so great to play with ladies again!

Day 2

Breakfast at the Old Town Cafe in Bellingham where you can sing for your breakfast. Since we were pretty hungry and they insist that you sing for an hour, we just ate and paid like civilians and then a vintage shopping frenzy broke out with our new best friend Anna. (Uh, traveling with ladies? Finding ceramic vegetables with faces on them for 25 cents? Holy crap what YEAR is this?)

Then on to Seattle for more shopping and then over to The Tractor Tavern in Ballard for our show with Donna the Buffalo. (Awesome band from New York State, been together seventeen years, well oiled machine, pure class.) Ballard always has the kindest audiences. A man bought us a bottle of wine and luckily my old pal Dre showed up and took us home with her to Capitol Hill.

Day 3

Drove the boring old I-V to Portland into the awaiting arms of Melissa Dyne and her Flashdance warehouse in the vegetable packing district. Since Portland has become the new L.A., we were unable to bag a show and were faced with a night off.

Lily made us snacks and we tackled all the major topics at the ensuing square table discussion. Melissa told us about collapsing at the airport and then waking up in the hospital in Hong Kong surrounded by beautiful lady attendants all in white thinking, "Am I in Heaven? Oh. They kept pain. Interesting." The Po'Girls came by for a while after their show before driving off into the night which seemed like a bad idea to me, but a guy can't say nothing when a lady has set her mind to do something.

Day 4

San Francisco is between 9 and 14 hours from Portland. Ask anybody.

Here is a typical van conversation:

Lily: Last night I had this horrible dream. One of my chickens dove head first into a sandbox but the sand was really hard so my chicken got brain freeze and then the paramedics came and put him under the covers and took him to the hospital and he was in a coma and they said that for my chicken to come out of the coma, he would have to decide if life was worth living and then he turned rainbow coloured and never came back.

Amy: Why didn't I bring my slippers?! I always have my slippers. If you see a place to buy sheep skin slippers, you pull over!"

Carolyn: One time on tour, blah blah blah blah...

Three ladies. Three running monologues that only interweave occasionally. Three people talking, just not to each other.

Horrorscope, January 30.
At the banquet of life, the food is terrific and the portions are ample. So when someone tries to fight you for crumbs on the floor, it's best to be big about it and let him win.

Day 5 and 6

San Francisco. Ah the much needed sanctuary of the Wig and Ad Pad. Wig and Ad are my friends and host family Cynthia and Adam. They live in The Mission and we always end uphaving many heart-to-hearts on their patio.

My friend Camille who plays in Pickin' Trix and The Widows with Wig, organized two shows for us and made me realize that I had totally lost the plot when she confessed that it was more important to her to be funny than a "good musician". Shit, how could I have forgotten my main man the Comedy God! I had just come from The Calgarian experience of getting to play grand piano in a theatre with the orchestra and I think the temporary opulence deluded me into thinking I was a 'real musician' for a second there. On the outside, it had made me a smug uptight pain in the ass. Here's the thing: You learn something from each trip; it just never applies to the next one. O life! Thank God Camille set me straight. I had totally forgotten about the Pure Joy.

We played with two other lady bands at The Stork Club, which is in a formerly shitty part of Oakland that is now starting to become 'happening'. It was interesting to talk to Amy about her views on gentrification. I always dread the idea of change in my neighbourhood because I have no money and view the hipster art gallery as a death knell, and the organic breakfast place as a nail in my coffin, never seeing myself as part of it. I have, in my time, been accused of decreasing property value and felt red-eared pride.

But Amy thinks big and seems to embrace all of it. She's like, "Well you just keep moving!" She's also five years younger than me. I guess that's the conundrum. If you're older you remember how things USED TO BE and resent the change. If you're young you ARE THE CHANGE and wonder why everyone resents you. I thought about maybe standing still in the shittiest spot I could find with open gunfire and boarded up windows and babies in the gutter and just waiting it out for the day it would become worth something. Hmm... New Orleans perhaps? I still wanna BE the change but the energy depletes, which is how they get you.

I took the day off and was conscious for only a moment. Pyjamas until 7pm working on the Calgary story, and then Amy rolled me a special and poured me some wine. In my stoner brain, every conversation I had that night tied in nicely with the theory we had come up with the day before in the van: If you are driving too slow in the fast lane, pullover! Somewhere in there Wig told us a calming mantra: "There are no emergencies." I haven't got to try it out yet while in The Throes but it seems solid and inoffensive. I'll let you know how it goes. All that and we wrote a song too. The chorus goes, "Get it up, get it in, get it out, don't mess my hairdo!" Amy's mother's gonna love it!

Day 7

Packed up the gowns and the dog and the ladies into the van and waved good-bye to Host family who were spectacularly gracious as ever. How can people be so sweet?

Long drive to San Diego. We were gonna meet the Po'Girls in Los Angeles but they fled South due to stifling disinterest and found beach cabins for all and sent word for us to find them when we were losing it at the Lost Hills Love's.

Funny to be back in the van after three stationary days. Much comedy and many head exploding moments. Lily had promised the folks back home that she'd practice the trumpet every day we were away but of course time sped up so now, racked with guilt, she brought the mouthpiece up front and was letting out almighty blasts every few seconds in an attempt to improve her embouchure. Korma had found himself a new squeaky toy and was going to town on it right by my head. Amy was talking about how glad she was to have found sheepskin slippers in San Francisco. And we were playing this game where you rename the flavours of stale jellybeans ("Oh I know. Movie popcorn mixed with ass!" "No Wait. Wait. I've got it! LINT!")

The sugar was making us even more crazy than usual. At one point, Lily asked Amy if she could have a tissue and Amy, revealing her true Oldest Sister colours, said, "Well normally I'd lend you one but I only have four", which made us laugh til we cried. And then there was The Pistachio Incident: Lily asked Amy if she had any left and Amy passed up the bag and was silent for a while but then, when she could no longer ignore the guilt, confessed that the nuts left in the bag were the ones that wouldn't open and that she MAY have had some of them in her mouth which was so fucking funny we almost had to pull over.

Ten hours later lost in the dark with the sugar wearing off, the whole thing didn't seem so funny anymore, especially when I almost ran over Diona who had stepped out to look for us. But oh, the beach cabins and the pounding surf, the ladies had made us soup, and there was wine. Long drives are always worth it when the destination exceeds expectation.

Met a speed-freak on the boardwalk named Ben-o who recorded us on his laptop so now we have our new album- The Saloonatics-Live on Pacific Beach- complete with crashing waves and interjections from freaky passersby. Ended the night with a spectacular tumble from Ben-o's long skateboard and came home with the bruises to prove it.

Day 8

I think California is where all the people with broken brains go. Or maybe it just appears that way if you're just passing through. So many California Moments. I was playing guitar outside and this old man stops and says, "Do you appreciate yourself?" And then at the wrap and smoothie place, just I was putting the key in the public bathroom, a man came out. I apologized and he said, "Why are you sorry? It's as much your bathroom as it is mine." Maybe it's just that particular area. Pacific Beach it's called, just north of downtown San Diego.

That night we went to go play our show and as Lily was putting the van in reverse these dudes tried to hop in with us. Luckily Korma started barking like crazy and showing his fangs so they went away. Later when I called Home, The Maintenance Man said, "Well you're driving around America dressed like whores, what did you expect?" I really hadn't given much thought to what we looked like from the outside. But you know, what other people think of me is none of my business.

The show was great despite a serious lack of crowd. Best one yet. We just played for each other and the opening act was this guy named Tom Heinl from Eugene, Oregon who totally rules! So funny and great on stage. Sherrilynn from The Meat Purveyors was there too as a sweet surprise. And Po'girl sounded great from the smoking patio. I tried to chat up Tom Heinl but he kept asking where Lily was.

After the show we headed back to our beach chalet and mingled with some more boardwalk crazies. Met a mumbling shopping cart man and tried to help him with his diction, and a Frisbee man who was big into the spinning theory: "Things just wanna spin and when there's resistance that's when weird shit happens. Like a Frisbee or a hula hoop and that's why there shouldn't be skyscrapers on the earth because it impedes the momentum man!" I was into it but when he told us that he'd invented a "designer drug in his mind" and that cops came into his house and beat him up for no reason, we decided to call it a night.

The True Adventures of Shaggy the Love Van (Part II)

Parting with Amy and Lily was such sweet sorrow as the surf crashed onto the sand in the morning sun. I love them so much and I'm so glad we got to do this tour so we could all remember that glamour and pure joy rule over everything else.

I am now in the Po'Girl Love Van (Blue 1985 2 couch Starcraft- answers to "Shaggy") with my new bestfriends Allie, Awna, Trish, John and Diona. I was a little wary of traveling with two couples thinking it might feel like driving around with a time bomb but everyone is so in love, the vibe is catching. Diona and I have started to hold hands and share meals. We are Fleetwood Mac. We are Abba. Ibuprofen and Starbucks never felt so good.

Phoenix on a Wednesday. The Rhythm Room. Eighty bands sharing the bill. Had the hilarious moment of getting to play my guitar for Don Wyndham, the guy who built it, and not only breaking two strings but also getting the peg stuck and having to summon him for help. It was like lightening when he looked at me. Loser meets luthier. Rescued by Shane and Jackie whom we met in the parking lot at the end of the night. House with a 78 record player and snacks and a fireplace. Left us a map to breakfast and the key even though we let the deaf white cat escape. Orange and lemon trees in the yard.

Tucson. Club Congress. Played my set early and unannounced, resplendent in corset, beaver hat, and shoulder crow. I think I freaked them out but then made some of them love me. Had a total C.M. moment: Paying no mind to my boozy-chanteuse-from-The-Yukon outfit, the doorman tried to charge me to get in to my own show at the same moment the bartender came over to say a fan had bought me a glass of wine. This is why I never know how to act. What it is and what it looks like. Gave a private patio concert to my friend the Paleontologist and his friend Destiny since they'd got stuck in traffic missed the show.

Ate dinner with my friend Larry who had just turned fifty and changed his name to Cyril (which, in America, is apparently pronounced"Sigh-rul"). Asked him about turning fifty. Asked him if it gets better than the current hilarity of "you're-totally-gonna-die-and-you're-not-even-special" that is thirty-six. He said it gets way worse. Got to sleep with Lloyd the Greyhound of Love and walk him in the southwestern morning sun. Sigh.

2-3 hours late near Demming en route to Albuquerque. Best line of the day: "O.K. This is Demming," she said pointing at map, "and we're not there!" she said pointing outside. Hilarious day in the love van. Missed a turnoff and came up with a tourism slogan: "Nothing for miles and no place to turn around. Welcome to New Mexico!" There is so much love in the van that I suspect the shit just may be catching.

Albuquerque. Sold-out folkie show in a punk rock bar. Grey hairs in folk chairs all ready to listen. Felt so good, I started with some of my newer boring material. I'm gonna call it The Albuquerque Lesson: If you start boring and then gradually become more entertaining, people will be so grateful because most of them are already expecting boring and hell some people might even dig the boring stuff! And I suspect that my 'boring' is still some folks' 'wild'. So do not begin with The Whore Song while dressed as a whore with a giant fur hat, knee boots, and shoulder crow because out of context I guess it's just a bit too much, which is the Tucson Lesson.

Santa Fe. Went on an awesome radio show (Radio Free Santa Fe98.1 KBAC) hosted by this guy Luther Watts and then for dinner at The Cowgirl which seemed up and running. I say this only because when I tried to get a show there for myself, they told me that the place had flooded and that the owner's mother had just died. Usually it's one or the other when the club is not into having you play, but to play both cards must have meant that they were REALLY not into having me! And then the irony of ending up there anyway on someone else's tour to see first hand that everything's fine! Ah well if they only knew me.

We played two back-to-back sold-out shows, an early one and a late one, in an art space next door to a brewery. Sun-kissed lesbians and tie-dyed folkies. Po'Girls were amazing. Their forte is quiet. The strength of gentle. Feminine strength. People were loving it. There was a grand piano on stage but not enough room to play it, which was kind of a bummer. They had a beer tasting in between shows and the brewer gave a talk about different hops and what not. I introduced myself because I'm going to be playing at this very brewery on my way back in a month. Nice guy. Found me some wine after the show. Actually, Luther-from-the-radio-show turned to me as the Po'Girls were starting the second show making the universal "glug-glug" gesture and rescued me from my post between farting baby and lovelorn lesbian.

That night Trish found The El Rey Motel which was beautiful and adobe with a fireplace and beds for all. Diona charmed some wine out of the brewery man. We got stoned and used some bible pages to start the fire, and then started reading random passages aloud.

Proverbs 9 verse 17: "Stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant."

I've actually never read the bible before and commented that I felt like it was like horrorscopes or porn or The Muppets, how there's a limited variety of archetypes and everyone just casts themselves in the main roles in order to confirm the things they were already thinking anyway. Then Allie called me a hierarchical utilitarian and I don't know what that means.

Been thinking about The Pain Theory: It's all equally dispersed but not at the same time; like some people get it all at once and then never again. Some get it slowly allotted over time and some, and I suspect this might be the worst, never get any and then get it all at once at the end. Nobody gets it at the same time so nobody can relate to each other. The End.

Dreamt about an elephant. It wanted to get close to me but I was kind of scared that it would crush me. The feeling of how you want all animals to like you but not too much. Over to you Herr Freud...

Approaching Hot Springs Ranch, near Silver City, New Mexico. The swirling lost highway two lane blacktop mountain pass. Cocktail hour with wine and hors d'oevres brokeout in the back of the van. Ghost stories and past hells revealed. Then Allie, who is prone to motion sickness, had to puke which was fine with me and D. because we could smoke! There's a Chris and Kate song called "I Will Drive While You Sleep" but we started singing "I will smoke while you puke" instead because we are such nice people.

Okay so the part I haven't told you yet is where we were heading. I wasn't even telling myself. We were on our way to a COMMUNE to spend four days off. The word commune was conjuring up the word "colony" as in "nudist colony" which was conjuring up images of matching robes and assigned sleeping areas on mats. Nikes and Kool-Aid mixed in with The Simpsons' Johnny Cash coyote on peyote hiding in a cave and losing his mind, U.F.O.s, nuclear testing, outhouse cleaning, and, well, all of it was kind of freaky. John the drummer suggested we just refer to it as The Party Ranch instead of The Commune in our minds. Trish had the connection and was sensing our fears and pointed out that two songwriters we knew had grown up there and they turned out okay and we'll all be together and what can happen?

We arrived in the dark and met our hostess Sally who rules. A total rancher lady with amazing violet eyes and really funny, thank god. We sat with her for a while and then she said, "Well I'll show you your rooms and your robes(!) and we'll get in the pools!"Apparently the ranch was on a natural hot springs and there were warm pools everywhere. Me and Diona found The Mudpit, which turned out to be surrounded by wildmint. After I got over my tantrum, I fell over a log on the way there and cut open my leg (when I get home from this tour I'm gonna be all black and blue with just a couple of white spots), I got in and it was amazing and the water was warm and the moonlight forgiving.

There were pamphlets in our rooms with some rules:
Please understand that nudity at hot pools and ponds is the norm.
Sexual or voyeuristic behaviour at the hot pools is taboo.
Comments about people's bodies are not appropriate.
Do not mock the birds -their movements or their mating calls.

I couldn't help but think about the dude behind the rules The next day when I asked the locals, all of them said something to the effect of, "Oh yeah. That'd be Dave." Too funny. Spent the next few days climbing mountains, playing the grand piano in the common room with sunlight streaming in the windows, trying to track the elusive javelinas (wild boar's with tusks apparently closely related to the hippo), and petting the lonely horse.

We put on an acoustic concert for our hosts, some of whom did yoga and "body work" while we played. While we were outside during the break, Awna had a revelation: "Oh my God. We're coming here to get away from it all while these people are coming here to socialize!" We were the fresh meat. There were these two blonde kids that apparently live up a trap line somewhere and hadn't seen people in over a month. They were as adjusted as you would imagine.

There was a giant ring around the moon. I've seen little ones before but this was huge! We came running in to grab the locals but they said that it's always like that and we were like "Yeah, but how could you ever get tired of looking at it? It's amazing!" and this made me realize that this is what visitors are for. To make you remember what's amazing about your life with their fresh eyes. My fantasy version of living in the middle of nowhere includes many visitors. I could maybe get over the spooky way "The Members" refer to it as "The Land".

They put on a movie night for us and we saw "How Masturbation Saved Me from Teenage Alien Abduction" which one of the girls who grew up on The Land made and it was so good. Each life is a potential screenplay. The commune seems like a cosmos of everything- young vs. old, ladies vs. men, self vs. group- like a band or being married to 35 people. I don't know if I could handle it. "I'm a member. I grew up on the land."

That night's actual journal entry: "Tomorrow we rock the wine bar in Silver City! What a day. What a world. What a life! We visited the horse (named Valium) and gave her some love. Hope we don't drive by and see four legs in the air because of "The Potato". How am I ever going to remember this right? The advent of discovering that our lodgings are the site of a former sanatorium and here we all are in matching robes and assigned sleeping is slightly chilling. But oh the love! Trish liking my song feels pretty good. I love everyone and feel great too. What's happening to me?

Jessie, the cute blonde girl with the dead husband got us a show at the wine bar in Silver City-The Twisted Vine. Her brother's in a band so she grasps the two general principals behind concert promotion: Secure the venue and phone everyone you know. We had a fun show. The locals seemed to really dig it.

Apparently this area is famous for its "Strong Female Energy" so I felt bad about showing up with a band of hot ladies and not having any dudes, or 'fresh meat' with us for the local dames to flirt with. Oh sure we had John the drummer but he was so obviously Trish's bitch. I asked Jessie if she thought they wanted to claw our eyes out and she said, "Well just don't move here!"

The search for the elusive javelina continues. Therope swing. The ice in the river. The crystals in the sand. The fucking ring around the moon. How do you remember the light when it all goes dark? We left the next day at around noon. One of the members left us a note telling us where to go next under the wiper.

Balmorhea, Texas State Park.
Saw a big arrow sign lit up with Christmas lights that read "The Cutest Restaurant in Balmorhea". Of course we had to go in. Once we were seated the waitress asked us if we were in town with the scuba diving team! We were so excited. I mean the novelty of being recognized as a band kind of wears off faster than you might think but no one has ever asked me that before!Was it our sleek lines? Did we look especially buoyant? We had to ask.
The waitress said, "Oh groups of six always come in on Wednesdays cause we're near the pool."
"Oh. There's a pool?"
"Yeah. Some people don't like it because it's in a natural park and it's got an actual dirt bottom and fish in it. It's near the motel"
"Oh yeah? How do you get there?"

Over dinner, I sat accross from Allie and I think our tender spots converged. She seemed pretty nervous about being Black in Texas and kind of shushed me at dinner because she had the vantage of the lone old man eating at the next table appearing very uncomfortable with our appearance and unholy conversation. I know we were probably talking loudly about ass fucking or something tasteful like that, but it made me want to talk even louder about even more disgusting things because nothing makes me madder than a shushing. But then I just thought for a minute about her perspective and how lovely she is and shut my pie-hole. Things said are rarely meant to be taken personally. Most people are talking to themselves through you. If you can learn the code you are golden. Either that, or I am louder and more disgusting than I'll ever admit.

Somewhere in there my brother called to test me on myknowledge of the names of the McDonald's cartoon characters. If I didn't know better I'd think he was high. While I was outside a red Chihuahua ran into my arms. And then off to another gorgeous discount hotel. Lesbian porn on every channel. And here we are in Texas and on a nature preserve! It ain't like the movies. Weird. Too tired to smoke. Night off. The hilarity of The Golden Girls becoming a viable viewing option for a few minutes until John cracked and put his foot down. And then glorious slumber.

En route to Austin.

If you are ever in rural Texas with the ambition of wanting people to look at you like you are an alien, I suggest you enter a diner wearing a sun-dress and furcoat accompanied by a pair of straight joined-at-the-hip hipster/hippies, an inter-racial lesbian couple, and your tour girlfriend who could pass for an eleven year old boy and ask for tomatoes in your grilled cheese sandwich. Good luck getting the tomatoes. Texas. The desert changes a little. Still big sky but more green scrubby rock action as far as the eye can see.

Folk Alliance Conference (Part III)

photos by Paul Norton

Folk Alliance-Hilton Hotel-Austin, TX

It was kind of jarring to pull in from the calm of The Commune and the road, thinking for a minute that we were the only band alive, up to The Hilton with eighty vans newer than ours and having to line up to check in and wait for the elevators with 10,000 tie-dyed passive aggressive folkies wearing laminates. Bit of a shocker.

Found my roommate Jenn B. and some how the Po'Girls scored the room across the hall and we all went out for fish tacos and margaritas. I tried to go to a bar first but there was nowhere to drink and smoke together, some guy was belting out "Poncho and Lefty" through a nasty P.A., and when I went to the bathroom there was a giant shit in the toilet. Welcome to Austin where all clich├ęs are represented with equal opportunity!

Found wine. Allie got I.D.'d and was probably thinking it was because she was black so I went for her and then I got I.D.'d too. I showed my passport to the clerk and apparently there is a law that you need Texas identification to buy booze in the state of Texas. The man told me, "Eeze a stupid law" but then said "but since you are old eez o.k." Youch!

After dinner I went and put on extra make-up for the show and wandered around to all the hotel rooms, which were filled with music. Spent a lot of time "back-stage" smoking in the cement stairwells much to the delight of several healthful folkies. "Some of us don't want to die of cancer...." This woman sang while she descended past us. I waited until she was out of arms reach and sang back, "Well take the elevator with the other losers then..."

My show went well. Best Band Ever! Phil and Benny from the Shiftless Rounders and Allie and Awna and Diona. They turned on a dime and not a dud note. Felt so good. I was so happy. Wore the bathing suit, crinoline, high boots, shoulder crow, and beaver hat in honour of the Sweet Beaver Suite, and representing Canada and all that. Dozens of canucks rejoiced. There is no air in the whole building.

At the end of the night Jenn B. ordered room service and we watched the history channel and passed out across the Hilton pillows, which they lay out in a way that looks a whole lot like the Plaza of Nations. The Hilton Hotel is a rich man's paradise with us Po'folks allowed in Just This Once.

Met J.T. and The Clouds from Chicago. Best Band Ever. Everybody singing and not a black heart among them.

The theory of the night being a previous one revised into something less bleak. The earlier one being that True Love is ultimately unattainable and devised by advertisement agencies to make you want to buy more stuff to feel included, which you never will no matter how much stuff you buy. But tonight the theory became revised into well, you gotta give up any power you may have thought you had to become fully part of a group, which is scary. But if you don't freak out and let it ride for a while you can feel the power of a group with the bolstered confidence of being a group. You must give up everything with the realization that you have nothing to lose. But you must come to the point of having nothing to lose to feel that you are free to give up everything. (And maybe getting older equals giving up but getting granted the words to rationalize it into something that sits well so you can still sleep. I don't know. It's still kind of new.) Jesus I'm sounding like a Dr. Bronner's shampoo label- you know the kind you find at the health food store in Nelson (the line "Thou shalt remain virtuous while addressing crowds" always jumps out at me in the shower). I swear this trip has made a believer outta me. I feel like I'm finally invited to the party. Or that the party was inside me all along or some fucking-after-school-special crapola like that.

So my roommate was the lovely Jenn B., the newest heir to the Mint Records Dynasty. She was a joy to hang out with and seems practically unphasable which, if you're me, really makes you wanna go all out. She didn't even bat an eye when she took me to the convention centre to meet The Potential American Booking Agent. Within seconds of meeting, we started talking about September 11 and Hurricane Katrina and I laid my theory on her about how perhaps, for some people, a disaster is a godsend or a step up. Like if you'd just murdered your wife, were freaking out, thinking about how to get rid of the body, and what to do with the knife and a big wave came up and washed everything away. You'd be thinking, "All right, free one!" I'm sure this wasn't exactly the way Jenn or any of the Mint people had pictured the conversation going, but she just smiled and suggested we go for a drink in the lounge.

When we got there our friend Dan Kershaw, who works for SOCAN and also writes beautiful songs, came over and said, "Ladies, I'm just another asshole with a credit card and it's behind the bar so whatever you're having is on me!" We had to hear the story: earlier that day Dan went to rent some sound equipment at a music store and they basically told him that he'd have to buy the gear and then return it. Until the store owner found out that he was a musician, then they gave him a super deal no problem. The store owner apologized saying, "I'm sorry. I thought you were just another asshole with a credit card." Only in Austin would they take a musician's word over a credit card!

I played seven times in three days in various hotel rooms and converted boardrooms and formed a supergroup of Po'Girls (Allie and Awna and Diona) and Shiftless Rounders (Benny and Phil) and fuck we were good on Friday night! I know you're not supposed to say that about your own show but flames were shooting out of our wrists and it was electric and not one practice and not one wrong note! Best Show Ever and it's in a fucking hotel room. Who knew? There were even a couple of festival types in the audience I think, and a man offered to bring me a raccoon penis for my hat but I declined. The Fabulous Late Night Hootenanny Finale in the Brown Tie Room with many stars- tinfoil and real- was amazing too.

So now I'm home, exiled by my own happiness, which is fading fast, about to do battle with the mice and dust dobermen that have moved in in my absence. Fuckin' place looks like shit. I wonder if I would notice if I had never left. Nothing like the fresh eye of tourism to see what's there. What it is and what it looks like. It's good to keep moving for the perspective although it's hard to find kindred spirits to share your new perspective with because it kind of makes you sound like an alien or a liar. Like what's his name, the Satanist there, Anton Levee. He said the trick is not to lie but to live such a fantastic life that it sounds like you're lying. I'm superstitious about even mentioning how great this trip was lest the Evil Forces return from their apparent coffee break and turn the mean-o-meter back up to it's usual setting.

And then I went and got drunk with Tolan last night who seriously thinks that I have Lost the Plot. I think the phrase "commune in New Mexico" mortally offends him. I was pretty afraid before we got there too but we had a great time. He's probably just mad that he didn't get to come. You know how things seem way less dirty when you're the one doing them. You know the way that no one can relate to you if you are having an extremely bad time? It turns out it's the same if you are having an extremely good time. I came home all tanned going, "Oh my God! I just had the best time!" and everyone's all like, "Yeah so?"

It's sort of like the opposite of The Pain Theory because now there is the added bonus of jealousy. The suspicion that Joy is a finite resource and that someone else's good time is depleting the supply. Maybe this is why people are so drawn to hard luck stories. So they can feel relief instead of envy.

Just so you know though, that night in the mint pool, with the beautiful ring lighting up the sky, thinking for the first time in my life that perhaps you are allowed to have it all, I shook my pruny finger at the moon and said, "I still get to be funny right?"

Coda Realization: It's easier to document the details of discomfort than the feeling of happiness. And with the details, I'm sort of coasting on the assumption that, "Well, you know me!", or enough of a version of me by now, if you're in this far. I guess I believe that if measured by a graph or gauge, happiness would be at zero which is the desired setting. Stories about things running smoothly aren't as funny as those involving misery. But perhaps it's this assumption that makes old people seem crazy- the shorthand is too far removed when there are so many more experiences to repeat. And it's true what they say, "Sustained criticism comes more naturally than sustained praise."

But if you started thinking about Everybody you'd go crazy. The perspective has to be attenuated to 'functional'. I like the moments when it's just you and one other person and you're in the moment. Actually, ask anybody, I avoid those, surrounding myself with dozens, avoiding that moment because it's much too terrifying. The moment someone says, "If only we could be alone. Could we go somewhere?" is always so much better than actually going there.