Three planes, a few trains, I don’t know how many busses, and a whole lotta trail mix. Get ready to taste the magic.
Kicked this bastard off by speaking to students/staff of Full Sail University. Since Full Sail is a media production school, instead of reading from my book I threw together a little spiel about punk rock recording techniques (i.e. why the Misfits sound like the Misfits and not Reeves Nevo and the Cinch). The attendees seemed really into it and appreciative. The only weird part was realizing the median age in the room was about nineteen; my references to ’70s game show hosts crashed out like SCUD missiles. Guess my next book should be about Bob Eubanks.
One of my joker friends snuck his way in to the auditorium during the Q&A portion of the presentation and kept referring to Glenn Danzig as my “white whale.” Bitch PLEASE. Anyone who knows me knows Charles Biscuits is my white whale, and that clown nearly swallowed me whole in ’09. Thankfully I grew up in Connecticut where maritime law forces all children to watch “Voyage of The Mimi,” so I know how to survive a shipwreck.
All my rowdy friends came over for Thursday Night Misfits.
The private launch party. For some reason I committed to a wine/cheese thing even though my knowledge of/familiarity with those foodstuffs is entry level. Yes, I had to refer to a chart to make sure I was pairing up the right stuff. No one puked, so I think I did alright. I’m just happy I got to kill a few hours with so many of the special people I’ve come to know via NYC living (even the one friend who attempted to purchase a copy of my book with a thirty dollar Marshalls gift card).
The after-party was even more off the chain, and by “after-party” I mean “bacon cheeseburger and fries I ate at the diner across the street from where the party was at.” If you want to see the writer at his most relaxed and comfortable take him to a Brooklyn diner.
I take that back: the soothe was greater the next morning when I visited my hometown, which is just over the New York border in the aforementioned Nutmeg State. There’s something to be said for New England train stations ensconced in autumnal colors, not to mention the exact Main Street where I spent so much of my adolescence kicking piles of leaves, pawing Batman comics, and guzzling Kiwi Strawberry Snapple (which is about as exotic as my Connecticut got in 1991). The batteries were fully recharged after that.
No event here, just decided to visit some recently engaged friends and soak up as much Mid-Atlantic warmth as I could before hitting the frozen tundra of the Midwest. I also enjoyed the experience of attempting to eat at Pho Bar, which is one of D.C.’s hotter ramen noodle spots: walked up their flight of stairs, was received by a host in a Bathory shirt who informed our party the wait was two hours and forty-five minutes, laughed, walked the fudge out. I instantly wanted to frame this experience. We ended up down the street at a British pub called the Queen Vic where I ate chicken curry poutine…as a meal. My cholesterol is putting up Jeter-like numbers.
The Megabus took the Liberty Tunnel into downtown Pittsburgh, which is not unlike the transition from “real world” into Toon Town in Roger Rabbit. Everything on Pittsburgh’s non-dt side is a bit chain restauranty and spread out and nondescript…then you whiz through the tunnel and at the other end you’re hit with this beautiful twinkling chunk of pure uncut city couched between three rivers. I’ll admit I was stunned. Even more stunning: the Hampton Inn I checked into had a hot tub that was still open at 10:30 p.m. Dunked myself into that at the first opportunity. No bathing suit, just my underwear, ’cause I’m a wild man who can’t be tamed by society’s rules.
Perusing my favorite section at Mind Cure Records.
Thanks to a combination of me knowing exactly one person in Pittsburgh (who was busy that night) and the Lili Cafe snoozing a bit on promotion, zero humans turned up for my reading in Steel City. I wish I could tell you I was utterly livid about this, that I threw some kind of hissy fit and/or was at least minimally depressed. The truth, however, is that I didn’t and still don’t really care. This was the last date scheduled for the tour and I had a feeling when I set it all up that I could be facing an empty house situation. Like I said, the amount of people I know in the area couldn’t fill a tandem bike. Ain’t no thang. I had a perfectly fine time chatting with the barista on duty and no tears were shed later as I sat alone in Primanti’s and wolfed down one of those famous sandwiches with the french fries in the middle.
If there’s anything to gripe about regarding Pittsburgh it’s that not a single person busted balls about my Mets hat. Yes, I’m complaining that people were too polite. Yes, I have a sickness.
This was my second sojourn to Cleveland in the past decade and I can now confirm to you that Drew Carey is not incorrect: Cleveland rocks. in fact, Cleveland rocks so hard I’m willing to bet it’ll be annexed by Brooklyn in the next few years.
Speaking of New York and all its endearing obnoxiousness, the pizza at Crust (which is on the outskirts of Cleveland’s Bergen Village) is on par with the pie in my adopted home borough. Even if you don’t agree, fellow jaded and grumpy New Yorker, you cannot front on Crust’s portion sizes. A single slice is roughly the length and width of a catamaran. I thought I was being punk’d when the girl brought it out. She literally served it to me on a hunk of wood! I could barely finish the thing; I got to the crust (ahem) and thought, Well, I’ll just use this as a walking stick now.
‘Twas a modest turnout for my reading across the street from Crust at Visible Voice Books, but those who came were totally amped for my being there, which felt great. Also great: Visible Voice didn’t just absent-mindedly put the Misfits on their house music, they let me choose my own pre-show tunes. I went with Rocket From The Crypt, because occasionally I go hard and like to pretend I have lots of sick tattoos.
Hotel in Cleveland. Remember that week we thought Andy was still alive?
The Book Loft (a store one could only describe as “labyrinthine”; it feels like you’re just crawling through a cave of books) offered the first experience I had where someone bought multiple copies of the book and had me sign them to different people. Very trippy but cool. Somehow I managed to do it without misspelling anyone’s name.
Columbus got the short end of the stick in that I was outta there in under a day. Thus, I cannot tell you the best place to get artisanal cheese or eco-friendly pet supplies in that area. What I can tell you is if you’re picking up the Megabus at the corner of High and Nationwide there is no signage and you just gotta trust that it’s gonna show up there. My inner Costanza was a little peeved by this but in the end I got on the bus just fine, cheddar cheese Pringles and iced tea in hand, ready for the journey to Chicago.
“That’s why they call him Joker. He just stands on street corners all day.”
“Bad juju” isn’t a term you’ll hear me throw around often but I definitely have it with Chicago. My first visit in 2007 was beyond crummy—it wasn’t one big thing, either, just a lot of little things. Same deal this time around. Couldn’t book a damn thing but had to pass through anyway. It rained/sleeted the whole time, one of those famous Chicago wind gusts knocked my camera off what I thought was a secure piece of fence and broke the lens, the crosswalks appeared to be coated with some kind of quick slip that made me slide around like an ice skater, every person who said they’d go nuts and party with me suddenly had a million things to do, and my head was pounding with dull pain the entire time.
On the plus side, the Silversmith Hotel where I stayed was/is an awesome blend of old timey and modern, and I had some killer pad thai from nearby Hot Woks Cool Sushi. Also, I remember being comforted by the echoes of wailing police sirens. Like NYC, Chicago is dense enough with concrete to let sounds of that nature reverberate for miles. Made me feel at home.
I guess you haven’t completely broken my heart (yet), Chicago…but you are certainly not “my kind” of town.
Finally, my favorite graphic novel and breakfast combined! This gem spotted at Source Comics.
Here was the first reading where the crowd was packed to a standing room only situation (well, the people in the back were resting a bit on the window sill, so perhaps leaning room only). Boneshaker Books even set up a snack table for attendees with motherfucking carrot sticks and hummus! That is, as their FB page told me upon initial contact, radical and progressive.
I had a five day break between events here, engineered partially so I could take a breather, hang out with my Twin Cities Get Fresh Crew, and catch up on freelance work. It was oppressively cold in Minnesota at this point but I didn’t let that stop me from going to record shops like Extreme Noise and Electric Fetus and buying stuff like Poison Idea’s Fatal Erection (purchased at the former) and the Last Action Hero OST (purchased at the latter). Also went to that bar/diner in St. Paul where they have all the old school video games set up but none of the consoles we tried were functioning…so eff that place right in their Yelp review.
Tossed salad and scrambled eggs! Frasier Crane is a little more uptight than the Seattle I know, but he still seems like an alright mascot to me. Witty, urbane, masking some kind of terminal weirdness. You could do worse, Seattle. Imagine being Kansas City and having bland wieners like Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis rep your town.
Once upon a time there was a spooky donut place that was never open.
Cafe Racer was the only place where other people were on the bill to speak. That took some edge off until I actually heard the guys (Chris Estey and Bill Cerise-Bullock) and realized how legit/clever they are. They could write their own Misfits books worth their weight in devilocks. Still, I think my bit went alright. My barometer is no one threw anything at me or tried to punch me after the show. And yet I split early anyway. I was tired but I also didn’t want to tempt fate.
Had breakfast the next morning with my friend Kris at Roxy’s, the restaurant where you can order a shot that includes a slap from your server. I don’t drink but I considered ordering one of these shots anyway because the girl taking care of us looked totally over it and I’m sure she would have rattled something loose with her love tap. That’s what you’re paying for, right? You don’t want some sissy slap. Hit me like I owe you money, sister.
Top of the world, Ma. Photo by Michael Poley.
Did my thing at Powell’s, one of America’s last great books stores. Definitely battled some nerves here. Again though, I have to praise the friendly and receptive attitude of those in attendance. A couple folks even asked to get pictures with me afterward. I tried to look not crazy but that’s hard when you don’t comb your hair ever and you think giving a double thumbs up is always endearing.
Spent the days surrounding my event exploring Portland. What a charming and beautiful city. Epic nature framing adorable urban/suburban enclaves. Coffee strong enough to stun a yak. Amazing record stores both big and small (Green Noise and Music Millennium were/are my faves). A fast food chain called Burgerville that’s more prevalent/delectable than McDonald’s. Air clean enough to wear to bed. My only complaint is the city needs a prep course for its recycling situation. The couple I stayed with had five bins for their waste and I still couldn’t be sure what went into where. I just tried not to consume at all. That’s sort of beating the system, right?
Oh, and I guess in retrospect the sky tram in Portland is kind of weak. I mean, it has very little practical application unless you work at the hospital where the ride terminates, and the views of the city…I feel you get views just as breathtaking on Portland’s various bridges. Still, at four bucks it’s cheaper than the Roosevelt Island tram in Manhattan (I think).
There’s my next book: TRAM WARZ. Which metropolitan area’s sky bucket will reign supreme? YOU’RE GOING DOWN, EL PASO.
FINAL BOOK TOUR GRADE: A-
Huge thanks again to all who hosted me, all who came out, and all who helped me get from Point A to Points B through Z. Love youse all.
To Whom It May Concern,
Recently I visited your restaurant for a late lunch and I must tell you, the flavors in my bacon ranch quesadilla were greatly enhanced when I heard the Galactic Force Band’s version of the 2001 theme come over your in-house music system.
I don’t know what prompted you to break into your otherwise concrete solid country music programming with this ancient cocaine-riddled artifact, but I thank you. Variety is the spice of life. Clearly your knob-twiddlers in the back room know that.
Have a bitchin’ day,
There we were, three fleshy lumps on the couch, the bare minimum of our energies directed toward the television. What else were we to do as we awaited Tom Turkey and all his trimmings? Discuss local affairs? I’m afraid there was just nothing left to say about the bowl of pumpkin-flavored M&Ms that sat on the coffee table before us. Still, we couldn’t suppress every stray thought as BBC America pelted us with reruns of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“Is it just me or are all these episodes really Gates McFadden-heavy?”
“It’s just this one, really.”
“Feel like I’m watching Gatesgiving, not Treksgiving.”
“Did you know she was a Muppet movement choreographer for Muppets Take Manhattan?”
“How could I have possibly known that?”
“Why are we watching with the sound off?”
“You think the visuals are bad, imagine the dialogue.”
“God, I wish she’d stop making out with that Kevin Sorbo-looking motherfucker.”
The Satellite of Love this was not, but we were amusing ourselves, doing our best to prevent Roddenberry-induced comas. The steamed bird did not arrive before the episode where our intrepid late eighties space nuts work out some Robin Hood fantasy to save the Captain’s sexy twenty-something personal assistant from the clutches of that nefarious Q, which of course means I had to watch LeVar Burton play a lute in leggings.
The wounds, they won’t heal.
A: Getting hit by a car, not so much because it might kill me but more because it might wound me, inflicting barely detectable head trauma that will leave my friends to say, “You know, he just hasn’t been the same since ‘the accident.’” Falling off a cliff, because of similar noggin concerns but also because of gravel and gravity and perturbed scorpions/cliff snakes. Accidentally committing a major faux pas in a foreign country and never being forgiven for it. Seeing Bigfoot or a UFO and never knowing if my friends actually believe my accounts or if they’re merely humoring me in person and writing me off as a lunatic behind closed doors. Accidentally inhaling mustard gas.
You know what this means: people were throwing their letters in that thing until they put the sign up. Guess they get a lot of overflow from 1921.
Signage spotted in the lobby of the Hampton Inn, downtown Chicago, where I am not staying. I need a hotel with a working mail chute!
Well, it’s November. Time to crawl across the country and read bits out of my book, This Music Leaves Stains: The Complete Story of The Misfits. I’ll also be signing stuff (copies of the book, your CVS receipt, your cousin’s pet tarantula) and answering your questions. Here be the events:
11/12 – Pittsburgh PA @ Lili Cafe 7PM
11/14 – Cleveland OH @ Visible Voice 6PM
11/15 – Columbus OH @ Book Loft 6PM
11/18 – Minneapolis MN @ Boneshaker 7PM
11/23 – Seattle WA @ Cafe Racer 9PM
11/25 – Portland OR @ Powell’s on Hawthorne 7:30PM
If you live in a major city not listed here please know I tried my best to penetrate every big time readin’ market. Alas, I am but a first time author and I just couldn’t crack the circuits in Boston or Denver or Wichita—or even New York, where I’ve lived for the past five years! Do you know how much of my fucking money the MTA has? And they couldn’t get me into book store or coffee shop one! It’s all politics. I don’t have to tell you that.
Hope to see you all out there. Thanks to Jon C. and Rollie H. for naming the tour. Thanks in advance to every person who lets me crash/drool on their couch. No thanks to Megabus and their rigid Midwestern scheduling.
No spirits or spectres made their presence known to me this year on 10/31. Wrote for most of the day, keeping an eye on my e-mail accounts for virtual poltergeist. No dice. Does Hook Hand not have my Gmail address? Need to update my undead contacts.
Went to a party that night dressed as Richie Ramone, the third drummer from that legendary band and the Ramone I most look like in my everyday life. Driving in the leather jacket wasn’t an activity I’d describe as carefree or fun. I guess that’s why the Ramones lived in New York City. You don’t have to use your arms on the subway that much.
The party was a hoot and a couple people even got my semi-obscure costume. Somehow abstained from drinking the candy corn-flavored soda in this couple’s fridge but I did eat a white chocolate Kit Kat. Note to Nestlé: if it ain’t broke don’t pour white chocolate all over it.
Came home and ate a bunch of Reese’s cups. Surprised scientists haven’t figured out a way to mine the oil outta those bastards for our nation’s fuel needs. Breaking free from our dependence on the Middle East could just be a peanut butter cup away.
All in all, a fine Hallow’s Eve. Not as exciting as the year my minivan was egged, oranged, potato’d, cheesed, and greasepainted with inside jokes by my friends but also not as dull as that string of Halloweens in my teenage years when I was too old to trick or treat but still too young to go to parties.
Greetings from the East Coast’s capital of tackiness, South of the Border. It’s a truck stop, it’s a motel, it’s a living breathing anachronism from several decades ago nestled between North and South Carolina. I was in the area researching an unrelated story but the pull of this plasticky garish nonsense proved too strong. Don’t worry, I restrained myself from spending money on anything other than gas, though I’m sure their five dollar shirts emblazoned with the trendiest slogans of 2011 are of the finest quality.
EDIT: It’s been ten hours since I posted this and not a single one of you has stepped forward to angrily correct me regarding South of the Border’s exact location. SOTB sits not upon the border that separates our Carolinas but a few yards below it (hence the site’s “clever” name). I assume this to mean we are all in agreement that SouBor (as the fans call it) is not part of the United States proper and is its own sovereign nation.
Here I am, literally speaking in public at the Litquake Festival’s tribute to Crawdaddy! founder Paul Williams. Paul’s widow Cindy Lee Berryhill took this shot but she failed to capture just how spaced out I felt in this moment. I mean the whole thing was so trippy—in a good way.
The arcade cabinet I’m standing in front of is that ghoulish classic Ghosts n’ Goblins. Unfortunately, it was out of order on this storied night. Same deal with the Joust cabinet on the other side of the doorway (can’t recall what that third cab is). Such a tease. At least I got to look at them. I estimate it’s been more than two decades since I’ve seen either of these games in their most natural and wondrous state.
Can you spot cyberpunk architect Rudy Rucker in the crowd? I can!
Nothing pounds your brain into thin gruel quite like six hours on a plane. Here’s what I can remember from my trip to San Francisco for the Paul Williams tribute at Litquake.
“I wasn’t sure if you were being serious,” remarked my friend Wes as I entered his home, his gaze cocked downward at my electric blue sneakers. Prior notice had been sent out regarding the color of my footwear so I’d be easier to spot amongst the throng waiting for rides at the airport (Wes’s wife Erica was ultimately tasked with retrieving me). I guess this could speak to Wes’s suspicious nature. More likely it speaks to my infamous inability to project authenticity. Still, who would lie about such a thing? What’s to gain from giving your contact false clothing information, especially on the eve of a transit strike? Yeah, just look for the guy in the Big Bird costume. Contrary to popular opinion I did not want to spend my nights in San Francisco sleeping under the Golden Gate Bridge.
That night I had pizza from some generic pie place that didn’t totally offend the Brooklyn pizza snob in me. In fact, it was pretty darn good. Of course I had to go Hawaiian on the toppings, because pineapple is a fruit whose nutritional value is obviously not dulled by layers of molten cheese and slices of ham.
This fanciful dog is typical of the kind you see in San Francisco. You can’t really tell from this angle but he’s wearing a Darth Vader sweater vest.
Bay Area Rapid Transit was officially on strike as of this day, so I caught a ride with Erica over to Amoeba Records, a.k.a. music obsessive mecca. I forgot how overwhelming that warehouse can be. The clearance section for rock CDs alone is the size two regular record stores. The clearance section for rock CDs is so big I actually got physically tired flipping through its racks. Didn’t find anything revelatory in that archive but elsewhere I found cheap as dirt copies of the MC 900 Ft. Jesus disc with “If I Only Had A Brain,” the Angry Samoans album with the graphic head injury on the cover, and some CD-ROM the Meatmen put out in the mid-nineties. Bought all those along with as much Rocket From The Crypt I could carry. Then I walked across the street with my unshowered self and used the facilities at Whole Foods. I looked beyond homeless but the employees remained cordial. They’ve probably seen worse.
“We’re taking you to this place where you’re gonna have the goddamn biggest sandwich of your life!” said Erica after my Amoeba excursion. The eatery in question is called Deli Board and while I’ve had bigger hoagies or grinders or whatever you wanna call ‘em the bastard I ordered (the Zeke; turkey, sprouts, and some other yaz) was mad big n’ tasty. For reasons unknown Wes and Erica both saddled me with their complimentary pickles; not one to waste food, I stuffed the green spears in my pockets and they became my go to snacks for later in the day.
Riding around San Francisco via car is like being on a roller coaster that never gets out of its moderately-paced introductory speed as you cruise up and over utterly ridiculous inclines and around unbelievably sharp curves. It’s one of the neater urban experiences you can have here in the States. Have they already based a Grand Theft Auto on San Fran? If not, they should. Talk about character. Now, this is all coming from a passenger’s perspective. I remember actually having to drive around the city in 2009 and my stress levels piloting a rented vehicle were definitely at Code Morton Downey, Jr.
There is street art all over San Francisco. This Ghostbusters/Simpsons mash-up spaketh (bespoke?) to me.
Dinner (all anyone cares about is food, right?): I met my former Crawdaddy! editor Angie Z in the Mission District for Thai at Thai House 530. Amazing chicken pad thai at that joint, and we managed to get a window seat so we could pretend to be zoo animals for all looking in. It sounds like I’m dissing that table but I’m not; we sat there long after the bill was settled because it was cozy and chill. Topics of conversation included NBA superstar Larry Bird, deceased humorist Michael O’Donoghue, and the Carrie remake (Angie endorses it).
While waiting for Angie to arrive before our meal I was standing around the corner of 18th and Valencia, just minding my own business and probably looking like an out of towner via my trusty Mets cap. A couple rounded the corner; the male, a trim slightly graying gentleman, was deep in explanation with accompanying hand gestures until my sneakers caught his gaze.
“Ooooh,” he said quietly. “Look at those shoes.” His face snapped up to look at me. “I like your shoes!”
“Oh, thanks.” What about the rest of me, big boy?
A subplot I have neglected to mention until now is the fact Wes and Erica were in the midst of preparing to move to Oregon during my stay at their humble abode. Saturday morning they left; luckily three other people live in that house, so it wasn’t just me and the carpet for the rest of the weekend. Two of these residents, Josh and Scott, are guys I know from those years in college I had myself convinced I was the next Mr. T Experience waiting to happen. We all spent a good chunk of this morning waxing nostalgic about the Central Florida punk scene of the Y2K era. We each have our little victories to still brag on (Scott and Josh’s band got on a Sex Pistols tribute album; my band opened for the Nobodys…sure, I had already quit/been canned, but I’m counting it). Josh’s girlfriend Tav cooked a fine brunch of eggs and hash browns and thirty-five pounds of bacon which was all delicious and insured I’d be nice and logy for the rest of the day.
I tried to take a nap before the Paul Williams tribute at Aquarius Records but I was too nervous about having to speak there. Solved this problem by walking to Walgreens and purchasing a couple Mountain Dews. Old habits die hard.
If I were smart I would have gone to Aquarius an hour early so I could thoroughly dig through their stacks. Alas, I am not in Mensa, and I only gave myself fifteen or twenty minutes before the Paul Williams thing to peruse. Aquarius isn’t a terribly big space but they do have tons of totally oddball stuff you gotta take your time to consider. With more time allotted I could have come to better conclusions about the Chinese and Finnish rock sections I flipped through. I also found a copy of Move Back Home by the Queers in the used section but immediate memory failed as to which edition of this album I already own (the original or the deluxe bonus track edition).
Came pretty close to buying the vinyl reissue of the Last House On The Left soundtrack until I remembered I had to transport the thing clear across the country. Potential breakage via clumsy packing and/or airport mishandling scared me off.
My friends have excellent taste in decor. I have near excellent taste in haircuts and Army jackets.
The tribute itself, “Paul Williams’ Greatest Hits,” went pretty well. I felt a little weird speaking because I think I was the only orator who hadn’t known Paul personally, but it seems like I did okay. No one threw rotten garbage at me. I just briefly talked about why Paul Williams is important to me personally and also our culture as a whole. There’s a slight chance I wasn’t speaking anywhere near the microphone for most of what I was saying but I think Aquarius was small/quiet enough to hear anyway. Thanks again to Denise Sullivan for inviting me out to participate in this event. Still honored and humbled to have been included.
We (the speakers) all got V.I.P. passes to Litquake’s after party, so we went to check it out. Open bar at a funky night club is cool, but not as cool as the cheap Mexi-Vietnamese tacos Powered By Pork were selling on the street outside. I was in fusion heaven. Aside from that, the highlight of this after party had to be hearing a few Clem Burke stories. Apparently the drummer from Blondie gets it done, by which I mean he doesn’t ever take no for an answer. So if you think you’re gonna be able to keep Clem Burke out of your son’s bar mitzvah, well, think again.
Super early flight home. Watery orange juice is $4 and change at San Fran’s JetBlue terminal. Worst part of the trip by far.
Thanks again to my hosts in San Francisco and all who came out/met up to party. Be back soon.