On the Road Again, Again
That old rambling feeling is creeping around again, poking its pokey nose into our business, telling us to take it on the road, to go show people in other lands exactly what we are up to. Our local gigs have been getting pretty hot and heavy, the crowd jammed against the stage every night, the new CD selling like hotcakes, and us not even a year old yet. So Let's Go! It sounds so simple: pack up our minimal gear and our Maximus Circus, coerce Tiggr into dropping everything he's doing so he can come with, check out of our own real-world obligations (rent and relationship upkeep), throw a few basics into a bag, and go. Ok — where? We did the South, and we did the West with our other band, and North is cold and far away (later we’ll discover Winnipeg, and then look out), so as far as we can tell the only direction left is East. Time to bring New York City under our power.
Skipper/Kenn gets on the phone and works that old magic, and hey-ho here we go, NDI has got a show — Thursday night at fucking CBGB’s. Is this really how it works? Maybe, maybe not, but the NDI don’t ask questions. Score a few gigs out and back, Cleveland-Youngstown-Buffalo-Albany-Toledo-Dayton. Load the van, stock up on Aquavelva and MD 20/20 (the same stuff, basically), and boogie on out of town. Our future just keeps getting brighter.
But there’s a small problem — our van. It's a shambly little Ford with blue and white side panels and round googly headlights and although it has always gotten us where we needed to be, lately there is something in its eyes, a rattle in its breath, something that whispers, "I am dying." Like some people know horses, we have come to know vans, and this one is about to go down. It will be awhile before other people can tell, though. It is still possible to sell it, for maybe another month or two. We have another few hundred miles before the fatal grinding begins to seize the transmission. What can we get, maybe $500? Skipper reckons twice that, and he's pretty much always right about this kind of thing, and sure enough we collect $950 from a couple of tough-looking south side dudes, their check clears, and now we need a new vehicle for the East Coast Trip.
There's a string of used car lots down Irving Park Road, not far from GT's apartment, and driving past them one day he notices a zebra sitting in a lot among the cars. It's a beautiful black and white striped Dodge Ram van, and it still has the name of the pet store painted on the side: Bernie Hoffman's Animal Kingdom. This van was the official limo of the legendary Garfield Goose, the WGN superstar from the Ray Raynor show! We need this un-ignorable van.
But unfortunately this van is good. It was built in the past ten years, and has fewer than 100,000 miles on it, so it's going to cost us. The foam is still in the seat cushions. But we arrived sold on it, and we stay that way even when the sketchy salesman tells us the price: $3,500, waaaaay more than we have. It's time to talk financing. It's time for Skipper to turn into Kenn.
After an hour of serious negotiations, we walk out of the place with a little booklet of payment slips -- $135 a month for years to come -- and the keys to The Zebra. The NDI now has a vehicle worthy of its growing legend.
Pack and shave and withdraw funds and buy strings and picks and lock the door and get in the zebra van and head down 90/94, past the projects, past Comisky, to where the highway splits, right goes to Memphis, we've been down that road before, stay left this time, onto the Bishop Ford cruising due east, and then we're in another state, and after a long fucking drive we are in Toledo. Toledo, Ohio. No-one knows us. The opening band is called Pornflakes, a crazed punk rock outfit fronted by twin Native American brothers, big dudes with wild hair, they don't draw and neither do we, a dim empty bar, but we rock and do all the bits anyway, just as if there were people clawing at our feet. We collect $200 from the grumpy owner, $200 for passing Go, and little else; make it to the hotel, crash, and wake up the next day in the harsh cold December sunlight. This is the grind that took the old band apart piece by piece, but now it's just background noise, a dull moment in an otherwise wild ride, a pause at the top of the roller coaster. We're going to NY to play CBGB's!