Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Call Me Pigtail 5/20

And now it's time to take our show on the road...


Kenn/Skipper books us a gig at Uncle Pleasant's, a cool little bar run by Uncle Mark, a twisted and friendly southern gentleman who agrees to pay us $100 for an actual headlining gig on a Wednesday night. Pretty much guarantees zero crowd, although the old band did have a good show or two at this place, so why not?
We still have our terminally ill van, so transportation isn't a problem. The problem is more vague than that. How will this trip not feel like just another old-band journey to a familiar town? How do we keep this strange and freaked-out feeling alive? Soon enough we have our answer, found in a crumpled brochure on the floor of our van: we'll go spelunking. Cave exploring! It makes so little sense that it makes perfect sense. The Mammoth Cave "Wild Tour" will take us for six hours through the deepest darkest heart of the earth under central Kentucky, crawling through muck and slime, dangling from ledges. GT is claustrophobic, Skip and I are out-of-shape smokers, we've never done anything remotely like this, ever. We'll have to drive down the night before, spend extra money on a motel, get up, when? Six o-fucking-clock in the morning? Seriously? Yes. Get up and get to the cave and spelunk our brains out, and then afterward drive straight to the club, set up, and play. It's pointless, it's stupid, it's dangerous. It's NDI.

In the cave, half a mile underground, crawling on my belly for two hundred yards through an 18-inch-high crack, getting kicked in the face by GT's big muddy boots, I feel this wave of unreality, an existential loss of control. The fake is overcoming the real. Has the bit gone too far? Down here in the cave for no other reason than "why not?," I wonder if someone shouldn't be watching us, keeping an eye on our stranger impulses. Protecting us from our new selves, our alter egos who are, after all, 100% id. We climb and crawl and slither and finally emerge into reality through a crack in the ground, like demons from hell, the old ladies creeping along the nice paved easy-cave-tour path watching us with slack jaws. A smack on the ass, a big first breath of fresh air and soon we are blinking in the bright sun, covered with mud and muck. We're exhausted but happy, and there's an added bonus: they let you keep the helmet! And guess what, we're wearing our new helmets for the rest of the night. We have already established a group policy of hats-on-stage. Our tacky/classy sport coats and old man shoes will go beautifully with our new matching protective headgear. We climb into the van and set off for Louisville and our first-ever road show.

Drive to the club? Sounds pretty straightforward. The old band has been there before. But NDI, we are learning, never does things the easy way, and so instead of the fast highway we are compelled to follow the twisty blue one that runs through oddly named towns, across rivers. We're trying to find something, not sure what, but it has to do with all the little lives and small worlds that we bypassed for so many years with the other band. Back then we zipped from club to hotel to gas station to club. Now we pull over at the slightest provocation. An American Legion weenie roast in the parking lot of the Bardstown Tru-Value? Sure! A sparsely attended back-country carnival? Ok! A go-cart track, at any place, at any time? Absolutely! A permanent-looking yard sale in front of an abandoned-looking farmhouse that will surely make us late to the gig? YES!

So we pull over and climb out and hike up the steep little embankment to this yard full of -- what. Crap. Beauty. An American history lesson. An archaeological dig. The fossil record of a family, of child-rearing, school projects, momentary passions, spent appliances. Bowling nights, bad novels, outgrown shoes. Twister. Too much to swallow. First, there is a lesson here: pull over, and good things happen. The old band never pulled over. NDI, from this point on, will ALWAYS pull over.

So with our van ticking by the side of this blue highway, we stroll among the offerings in our nice sport coats and matching spelunking helmets, picking out the precious plunder from this road-side museum with a new and wonderful shared sense of what is priceless. And then, wonder of wonders! Skipper/Kenn does the unthinkable: he pulls out the band wad. Skipper/Kenn, the keeper of the cash, the retainer of resources, the doler-outer of per diems! Skipper/Kenn, of all people! Holy fuck but yes, he's taking out the band wad, the motel money, the gas money, and it's like a dream, an underwater dream -- he is actually paying the fat old lady in the print dress, I see a ten dollar bill, and then a five, and then at least two singles, maybe three.... Am I going to faint? Faint and roll down the embankment and into the road?

When I come to, we are in the van again, GT behind the wheel, and next to me on the back seat is not one but two big-ass garbage bags just stuffed with stuff. What's in there? I don't know. It's like Christmas, literally like Christmas. We can't wait.

At the club: Load in...

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