Gullible Zine No. 26 was a split with Snake Pit No. 34. It came out in 2005 and Ben Snakepit did the cover art.
My side had three stories, some comics and some recipes. I'm posting the stories as I dig them off of my old computer, and am hoping to scan the comics and post them too.
These were some of the first zine stories that I had written in years. I spent most of the early oughts writing fiction for school, and touring a lot with my bands, living the stories that I'm still writing about. I started working on zine stories again in late '04, at a boring office job.
The Snake Pit side was a departure from Ben's usual daily comics. Instead, it was a series of stories and rants about love, friendship and punk. Due to the personal nature of some of the zine, Ben wanted his side to fall out of print. Instead of wondering at the dirt on all of his ex's, I suggest checking out some of his excellent comics
Thursday, August 16, 2007
This recipe is good will collard greens, too, but I prefer kale because it’s slightly thicker and has an almost nuttier taste.
Serves two or three.
12 leaves of kale, with stems
1 red apple
3 tbsps. Honey
½ cup apple juice
Handful of raisins
Tbsp. apple vinegar (optional)
Chop apple into cubes, like for fruit salad.
Rinse kale and chop.
Heat wet kale over low heat in a covered pot.
Stir and add apple juice, vinegar and raisins.
Once apple juice is heated, add raisins than honey. Stir.
Dish is done when kale turns a vivid green and apples become softer.
½ bunch of spinach, well-rinsed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
Salt and black pepper, to taste.
Melt butter over high heat in non-stick pan.
Add ½ of garlic and sautee for a few seconds.
Add spinach and stir in with spatula.
As spinach begins to wilt, stir in remaining garlic.
Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Dish is done when spinach is wellwilted, but not cooked to mush. The idea is for the stems to still have a little snap.
1 lb. tofu, cut into 8-10 rectangular “fingers”
3 cups milk or unsweetened, unflavored soymilk
¾ cup white flour
3 tbsps. bread crumbs
10 shakes of black pepper
Paprika and salt to taste
Soak tofu fingers in milk for five to ten minutes.
Heat ¾ of an inch of vegetable oil in a pan, preferably cast iron.
Combine flower, bread crumbs and seasonings in a bowl, mix with fork.
Roll pieces of tofu in breading until evenly coated.
When the oil is really hot, keep range at medium heat and add tofu.
The breading will crisp on the tofu. Turn tofu with spatula until all sides are well browned. The tofu should be in the pan for eight to ten minutes.
When tofu is done, drain it on paper towels, then serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
Ten years ago in Richmond, Virginia, I was new in town, in high school and just getting into punk. I started doing this zine, singing in a band and going to five dollar, all ages shows at the club down the street from my parent’s apartment. Ben was one of the cool, older kids. I’d go to shows in his attic, see his bands and buy his zines at Soundhole. I was all of sixteen and he must have been about twenty. In Richmond, where the scene is centered on the college, people in their early twenties are the scene’s elder statesmen.
I left Richmond at the beginning of my mid-twenties. By then, I’d done twenty-five of these zines, had twenty-seven roommates between five punk house addresses, toured ten countries in two different bands or with just my guitar, and never had a job that paid made more than seven dollars an hour.
Most of the stories are from my last couple of years in Richmond. A lot of fun was had, some knowledge was gained and a few things, like some friendships, my liver, and this zine, suffered. While still in Richmond, I couldn’t get a perspective on what was going on, so I was doing zines of drunken emails and fictional short stories. I wasn’t as proud of them as I am of this one.
It feels great to be doing a split zine with Ben. I’ve always liked his music and his zines, so I guess I look up to him. This difference is, now, I’ve caught up, and we’re both older punk guys. I live in Brooklyn, sometimes I tuck in my shirt at work, and when I read too much Snake Pit, I find myself “Snake Pitting” my day, or mentally reducing it to three panels worth of action. I lie in bed and, to the sound of my neighbor’s car alarm, decide whether I’d draw something inane that happened at work, or what I cooked for dinner. Dinner usually wins.
We didn't stay in Salt Lake City because there was no reason to stay in Salt Lake City. Being neither great nor a lake, the Great Salt Lake had been a sham. It turned out to be a pit full of triple-briny water pockmarked by floating dead birds with excess corpses marooned on the surrounding rocks, like stray noodles on the side of a day-old soup bowl. As we approached in the van, we were wondering what the smell was (yes, this was coming from six guys who had been traveling in a van for three weeks), and hoping that it would subside by the time we reached where we were going to be swimming. Joke was on us - the place where we thought we'd be swimming was the source of the smell. The Salt Lake expanded, stinking, into the horizon, laying in the dead heat and touching the dome of tangible blue sky. Like the lake, the roads in SLC are wide too, and after the show, we hit them like the crack of a goddamned bat. With only two bands and no one to talk to, the show had flown by. The only people at the show were the other band. They sounded like John Cougar Mellancamp, and sat down while we played, then slowly filed out. It was June, approaching the longest day of the year, and barely even dusk when we left Salt Lake City.
We stopped the van in southern Wyoming and woke up in a cowboy motel. Dusty ground, huge fucking sky and awesome old Native American patterns painted on the outside of the motel. We slept until fifteen minutes before checkout, the last guests to leave, stealing to the van in groups of two, passing impatient cleaning ladies, missing last call for fast-food breakfast and settling for those awful veggie burgers at Burger King.
On blacktop, in a metal box, under the sun, the heat will consume you. Get used to it; there is nothing else to do. Complaining will only further agitate those around you, so just ditch the t-shirt, get down to your boxers or your Daisy Dude cut-off Dickies, and put your feet up on the dash. Let that breeze get up there.
As we got through Colorado, the songs on the radio got better. The airwaves were blessed with consistently good classic rock that everyone could agree on; we heard plenty of CCR, while Free and America were but a distant memory. The people of Colorado are probably sick of "Lodi," but that's not the one that they play on the radio where I'm from, and you'll probably never have to hear that .38 Special song where even the guitar solo has a Southern accent.
We got to Denver in the middle of rush hour. The show was at the High Life House in Colorado Springs, about an hour away, and we hoped for it to be a bit of a taste of home. In Richmond, a forty of High Life is $1.59, and the punks save their pennies accordingly. I remember taking my skateboard on a beer run for a bunch of guys and wheeling nine forties of The Champagne of Beers up to the gas station counter saying “I suuure am thirsty!” to a cheering crowd of ghetto dwellers, scratch-off lovers and rent-a-cops, then wheeling the hooch around the corner to a porch full of psyched-up underage house-show goers. And so things often went in Richmond, on the weekend or on either of the days in between. The most you would be getting done was seeing how loud your voice echoed when you screamed into your own void of alcohol and apathy, but damn if it wasn't fun.
Colorado is distinct, a beautiful state, and moods were high, despite the heat. The stop and go traffic was going to lead us somewhere good, as long as that crazy-looking burly trucker with the flatbed full of barrels didn't kill us.
Why was he inching forward in the next lane, grinning at us behind those shades? Could he see into the van? Was he making eye contact?
"What are you guys doing?"
Mike was riding shottie.
"We're on tour. We're from Virginia."
"No kiddin'. How many guys you got in there?"
Traffic began to move a little. The flatbed fell back as our lane sped up. Soon the truck was back next to us. You could see industrial Denver through the cab’s windows and the slatted walls on the bed of the truck.
"Six. We got six guys."
"You guys must be some hot cookies!"
Eww! I knew he had some sort of a look on his face. But Mike was nodding and craning his neck while his jaw hung a little loose, looking like a baby bird about to be fed.
Pot cookies. The trucker was offering us pot cookies.
"Well, pull closer!"
The flatbed lurched left at our red van, a sunburned bear's paw full of cookies hanging out of the window. Traffic began to move again and Mike yelled "Quick! Hold me out the window!" to everyone in the back seat. Kirby and Neil pointed Mike the baby bird at the approaching truck while the van rocked. Evan was holding the wheel, watching the road and trying to calculate the distance to the truck.
The van flew forward, and cookies were distributed among our group. The taste of ginger, brown sugar and finely ground marijuana glowed in my mouth and the cookie was down the hatch before the trucker caught up again. We all waved and grinned at this guy that looked like Santa Claus after one too many journeys down ZZ Top road.
"Have a nice trip! Har har har har!"
The truck passed and the lane next to us was clear.
"What the fuck did he just say? Have a nice TRIP?"
"Well, it just tastes like weed."
"I don't know about this."
Jeff's half-chewed cookie was in his palm. Me and Neil picked it in two and gobbled the softened food, like baby birds would do.
When you eat weed, it takes about an hour to kick in. When it does, you're fucked for the rest of the day. At least. It takes an hour to drive from Denver to Colorado Springs. We parked the van by a large house on an orderly tree-lined suburban street. I opened the side door and went to put my foot down on the curb, but, as I watched, the curb kept getting farther and farther away.
"Heh. Hey guys, I think those cookies are working."
These were still the beginning stages, and we couldn't tell if we were just loopy from spending the afternoon in a hot van. Two minutes later found us sitting in the front reading room of an enormous, well-kept house. I was trying to focus my eyes on a collection of Daniel Pinkwater novels. Chris, the guy who did the show, was at the end of an Alice in Wonderland-style hall that twisted a little as the walls and floor bucked and swayed. He was standing in the kitchen and his voice sounded funny, kinda like the boombox in my old kitchen that played tapes at whatever speed it pleased.
"You guys want some spaghetti?" modulated down the hallway.
Six heads nodded in unison to a guy who seemed to be intent on making us dinner before his batteries ran out.
"So, you guys are on Level-Plane?"
Still slow. Another minute to register.
A couple of months beforehand, we had agreed to do a record with a buzzworthy label. We had nothing to show for it except the adoration of smarmy, messy-haired punk rock hipsters. It was awesome to have more people at our shows, but I couldn't shake the feeling that these were a new generation of the same kids who had made me feel so alienated a couple of years earlier when I didn't have a band.
I was in the sort of spirit where I was able to read people's auras, and I didn't get that kind of feeling from Chris at the High Life House. I liked him from the start, plus he was making us spaghetti. I still couldn't read the Daniel Pinkwater book.
The food did a disappearing trick, and we could hardly wait for round two to boil. Pasta rocks firmly planted in stomach, we filed into the wide, humped street and began hitting a wiffle ball around as cars full of punk rockers arrived and parked, cutting into our playing field and covering second base. Soon there were enough people for a Virginia versus Colorado game, which was a good match even though we couldn't throw the ball straight and Neil ran clear into the curb, landing in the patch of grass by the sidewalk.
In due time, everyone was thirsty, and a beer run was in order. Following my "see as much of each city as possible" policy, I tagged along, hopping in the hatchback of one of the local kids. I had about fifty dollars in my hand from bandmates, show-goers and someone's Dad who had asked for a sixer of something called "Fat Tire."
The liquor store was in the middle of a stretch of low buildings and was staffed by two women. One woman was in her forties, the other well into her sixties, and they were both drunk on the job. When we walked in, the younger woman was screeching something at a guy who was on his way out, with a bulky brown bag tucked under his arm. The older woman stood beyond her, behind the counter and quiet. The store had a low ceiling, musty lights and wood paneling. It was like stepping out of the clear day and into a teenage stoner's basement rec-room. Both clerks wielded brownish, creamy cocktails, complete with ice cubes.
I've been in my fair share of liquor stores across the forty-eight contiguous, but I can't say that I've ever dealt with a visibly drunk liquor store clerk. You'd think that the job would lend itself to this kind of behavior, but maybe I'm projecting. One of the regulars at my old job worked in the ABC store up the street. She quit after a few months, saying that it was just too depressing seeing the same people in there every day. Maybe the job would act as a deterrent, kind of like how the food from my old bakery job turns my stomach. I dunno, but I'm pretty sure that if I also had worked at a liquor store and you put a cinnamon roll and a pint of bourbon in front of me and said I'd have to do without one or the other for the rest of my life, I'd tell the pastry to take a hike.
I perused the aisles of the store, checking forties off of my list of requests from the folks at the show, and checking out the local cheap beer options. Every city has a cheap forty, and it's the touring band's responsibility to seek out and sample these beers each and every night. Colorado Springs had no Genesee Cream Ale, no Ballantine's. I had six packs, twelve packs and forties under my arm and hitched on my hip like a baby, and I nudged it all onto the counter. I was only halfway through the list.
"Hold on, there's more coming."
"That's what all you men say!"
That would be the younger clerk. Liquor breath confirmed.
"Well then, I'll call you tomorrow, baby."
I turned around and refilled my arms with beer. Wound up spending $43 at that liquor store.
Funny how numbers wind up sticking with you. I remember not being sure of how well we had played and asking Jeff how we had done. He said that it had sounded fine, and that we had sold eight LPs, a solid number for a basement show where at least half of the audience was young enough to not have a record player at home.
Why do I remember $43 and eight LPs and not remember the time leading up to when we played, or even really playing for that matter? I suppose that the only things I could count before we played were the number of beers that I drank, or the number of trips we took to the van to smoke weed. And, if you ask me, if you say you got wrecked and you know exactly how many drinks you had, then you weren't really wrecked.
All that I remember of playing was the little nook to the right of the drum set where the house's boiler was. Chris from the house stood over there along with one or two other kids. Out of the corner of my eye, I could always see the light hitting the tentacles of the boiler that went into the walls and across the ceiling.
It's not unusual to not remember playing, booze or none. Unless something really drastic happens, or, like the Salt Lake City show, the situation is really awkward, I just find myself checking out during the songs, concentrating on the music and going into my own little world.
The people in the basement were loud, and there was a festive atmosphere in the room. I hate to say it, but fun can be rare at a punk show, where, more often than not, the audience is made up of twenty glum boys with their arms crossed, looking at you like you just took away their internet privileges for a whole week. In Colorado Springs, I got the idea that the kids came to every show just for the fun of going to a show, and made a point to make it a good time for all involved. As far as I could tell, it worked.
They made us play an extra song, then started yelling at us to clear out our equipment and make room for a game of naked four-square. We loaded amps down the gravel and broken glass driveway and into the van. Back in the basement, the kids had lined up along a wall, revealing a ten foot X of dirty duct tape, made across the old carpet that covered the floor.
Every time that you lost a round of kickball, you had to take off an article of clothing and get right back in line. The funniest part was being in line, surrounded by a bunch of half-clothed punks, laughing it up, but trying not to bump into each other as the line jostled forward.
Once we were down to our underwear, Neil and I decided to make a trip to the van and enhance the situation with a little grass. It gets cool in the night during a Colorado summer, and I was very aware of this while I was walking across the driveway, dodging broken bottles and shivering when the wind hit my sides while my arms were out for balance. When we got back inside, the game quickly got to the point where everyone that stuck around was naked, and that signified a kind of a stopping point.
"Naked dance party!"
The party charged up the stairs and into the tranquil first floor of the house. Some latecomers sat on the couches by the bathroom, and Kirby was on a chair by the cellar door, face really close to an acoustic guitar, red eyes squinched up and a perplexed look on the rest of his face. Imagine his surprise when the rest of his band charged up the stairs, buck-ass naked and tailed by the rest of the show, buck-ass naked. He set down the guitar and stayed in his chair as a popular dance-punk CD was put on, and thirty-odd naked bodies began gyrating around him.
In the new setting, folks became a little more conscious of their vulnerable, bare skin, and when I got back downstairs from a bout with the grass pipe in someone's bedroom, the party had started to break up. This was for the better, because I was so high that my vision was blurred, lights blotting into the air like when seen through tears. It must have been two in the morning, not too late for a tour sleep schedule, but it had been a long day.
The foyer of the house had a seven-foot-wide bay window on a landing three steps up the staircase, and that's where I spread out my sleeping bag. Kirby and Jeff were on a fold out sofa in the library room and the other guys were upstairs. I took out my contact lenses and began to drift right off. On tour, nothing is as bipolar as your own sleeping bag. Some nights, it's bottomless, and turns the floor into a mattress of its own. Other nights, it scratches, then tells the breeze to chill the sweat on your back when you lay on top.
I loved the window in which I was laying and was half-asleep when I heard the angry squeal of the bedsprings on the pull-out sofa, followed by the syncopated thump of unsteady feet landing on the floor. Yakking noises followed footsteps barreling across the foyer, stopping when the mystery rager tripped on the bottom step and lay on the landing, head on forearms, quietly puking down the stairs.
It was dark in the house, and my vision without contact lenses is pathetic. I couldn't tell who it was laying there four feet away, puking into the early morning, but my last, relaxing thoughts before leaving the night in a haze of marijuana were "Wow, the puking sounds like a burbling brook."
The next morning, there was a pink film of vomit on the hardwood floor. It had scraps of spaghetti in it, looking like cells in a seventh-grade biology slide. Mike came downstairs. I pointed.
"Watch where you step, man."
"Damn CT, was that you?"
"Naw, I heard someone come off the couch in there, but I couldn't see who."
Enter Jeff. I'm sure I wasn't looking all that dapper, but dude was a sight to be seen. He had red eyes behind crooked glasses and even his stubble had bedhead.
"Jeff, did you puke last night?"
You have to ask these questions quietly. No one should be stuck with the blame for such a thing, then maybe have to clean it up off of a relative stranger's floor.
"No. I just passed out."
I could have sworn that the perpetrator had Jeff's dark hair. We gathered our things and were back on the road in a few minutes. We were officially heading back east. No matter how long a tour is, as soon as you pass the halfway mark and start heading home, you begin counting the days until your first day back. No matter how sick of your job you are, no matter how much you hate your ex-girlfriend, you still wanna get home, even if it is just to be sure that your six roommates haven't gotten you evicted.
Last night's debauchery made me conscious of my road worn body, and with the direction set towards home, we took off to the next show with a certain longing. We'd slept clear through fast-food breakfast time again, and were heading towards another Burger King. My body needed the food, but I was none too happy about it. Jeff was sitting in the middle, getting late-morning sun from all directions except up, and I'm pretty sure that he wasn't awake yet. I went to give him a good tourmate pat on the back, and stopped when I saw the pink stains dried to his navy-blue shirt.
"Jeff, you DID throw up!"
"No I didn't!"
I pointed at his shirt and he looked genuinely surprised. God bless him. Hell, God bless all of us for living through this and enjoying every horrible second of it.
At the end of one February, we did a weekend tour through the northeast. We tried to do one weekend a month; a nearby show on Friday, a longer drive Saturday, then an early show on the way home Sunday, arriving in Richmond after midnight, road-stiff and constipated.
This Sunday, the show was an hour west of Philly, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The first show at a new punk house, with a vegan potluck to boot. After two days of sitting in a van, filling myself with beer, Subway and Chinese takeout, the potluck was a welcome sight. This was over a year before my famous appetite earned me the tour nickname The Food Lion (named for a grocery store chain in the South), but the attitude was intact, even if my behavior was formative. I tended to eat like a dog, especially during the eleven years that I spent as a vegetarian. If you put food in front of me, I'd eat until it was gone. My vegetarian years were all before the metabolic shift that begins in the mid-twenties, so, I was having a harder time getting full, at a time when my body already needed more food.
To make matters worse, I love to cook. Food rarely tastes right to me when it comes from a restaurant. I spend most of the meal deciding just what I would have done differently in my own kitchen, and mentally cataloging tastes and spices to crib for my own recipes. More and more, cooking has become a creative process for me. Making food is something that I have control over, that I use to please my friends, that I can perfect to my own taste, or fuck up and evaluate my mistakes. More often than not on tour, we bust out of our sleeping bags and into the van, then roll up to the show without time to eat, never mind cook. It’s nice to be playing music on tour, but it’s a strange limbo, because you don’t get to create on tour, you just retread what you already have done. Eating is not too different - rest stop food is rest stop food no matter where you are.
Place me, the young Food Lion, after a couple of days without home cooked food, in front of a vegan potluck. Now, step back while carnage ensues.
It was to be a fun show. Everyone at the house was enthusiastic and positive and we were playing with a couple of bands from Philly, who promised to bring a caravan of our friends with them. Beard jokes aside, a unifying trait among our friends from Philly was a good sense of humor, so we were all looking forward to being the out of town band who shows up at the show and sits in a corner with their friends, laughing at inside jokes. Weird how I began to enjoy the punk scene a little more when the way I conducted myself began to mirror the actions of those that I found alienating a few years beforehand. This was at the same time that I was realizing that if the older punks who seemed aloof back when I was in high school are anything like my friends now who are in their mid-twenties, then those seeming elitists were really just shy goobers with poor social skills. Let's face it, Saves the Day mall-schlock aside, punk is for the socially inept. Some eighteen year olds outgrow their awkwardness and get out of punk, others turn into twenty-five year old spazzoids who feel a little displaced every morning that they wake up in their own bed, instead of on tour. Take it from an insider.
Vegan potlucks tend to be heavy on the pastas and desserts. I was finishing off a plate of dry cookies and dense cake as people began to sift into the basement, where a band was tuning up. Louder than electric guitars, nature called. The crowd on the house's ground floor had thinned, leaving me plenty of privacy in the can.
Aside from dumpstered bagels and a never-ending stream of people to swim with, the best thing about a punk house is the supply of reading material in the bathroom. On the back of any given toilet, you tend to find a couple of local zines - emo kids have personal zines, politicos tend to stick with heavy-handed pro-vegan pamphlets - along with yellowed copies of standbys like HeartAttaCk and Maximum Rock 'n' Roll. The inevitability of finding these zines in punk house bathrooms is such that if you begin reading a Mykel Board column in Columbus, you can finish it in a bathroom is Des Moines less than a week later.
I shut the door and went about my business. It was a quaint, freestanding house in a small northern town, and something about the tile, layout and even the residual scent of previous, less punk tenants, reminded me of the bathrooms of my relatives up in the Boston area. I hate to admit to getting a sentimental while taking a dump and reading a copy of MRR, but that's what happened. My mood lightened a little, and I felt less road worn. As is my compulsion, I splashed water in my face after washing my hands, dried off with a grubby bath towel and headed through the kitchen and into the basement.
At the top of the steep basement stairs, I was greeted by a group of dismayed punks, charging three abreast up the wood steps.
"Ahh, don't go down there!" said a bearded guy in a Carhartt jacket.
"A pipe burst and there's SHIT spraying everywhere!" said a girl in plastic glasses, corduroys and a thrift store t-shirt.
Kids who lived in the house barreled down the stairs, upstream against the thirty-odd show goers who were beating a rapid retreat upstairs.
I turned tail and followed the show out onto the soggy, February lawn. Within a minute, everyone that was inside was outside, and grossed out. Bringing up the end of the parade was an unfortunate bunch of musical equipment that had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A shit-slick black bass drum, an amp covered in fuzzy gray fabric, now splotched with wet, brown stains.
Those who needed to get cleaned up, got cleaned up. Word spread through the lawn that the septic tank had backed up from all of that afternoon's use, and a pipe in the basement had clogged and burst. The rest was history. The kids from the house braved the basement and attacked the mess with ammonia and mops. I was divided - I had been the last one in the bathroom, so it was kind of my fault. But, mine was the crap that broke the camel's back. Today alone, many others had used that toilet, and none of them were sloshing around, ankle-deep in punk rock dookie, they were going across the street and stealing things from WaWa. I try to be a stand-up guy, but there's a certain somewhere that you need to draw the line. I lived five hours away, and the clothes on my back were all that I had. I couldn't hop back to my house and change, then get back for the rest of the show, and I'm not G.G. Allin, so I wasn't going to play covered in shit.
It would have spoken really nicely for the punk rock community if we had formed a human assembly line, bailing out the basement by passing buckets of septic water up the stairs and dumping them out in the lawn, but that didn't happen. I didn't feel up to initiating a relief effort, so, feeling like an arrogant deadbeat, I followed the crowd over to WaWa and stuffed my jacket pockets with convenience store food.
For those of you living in less-industrialized parts of the country, and in the dark, allow me to fill you in, because you tend to laugh when you hear someone get excited about a store called WaWa. WaWa is a gas station/convenience store chain, popular in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that was among the first convenience stores to offer alternatives to standard chemical-food fare. Their sandwich bars and kiosks full of “fresh” fruit and salad are a welcome sight when you don't want lunch at Taco Bell again. What truly makes WaWa remarkable is that, especially in suburban settings, the counter is at the front of the store, flanked by two exits, and, get this; the cash registers are positioned so that they face the parking lot! In other words, the employees have their backs to the store for most of the time that you're in there.
Most convenience stores insurance policies dictate that they have a no-chase rule regarding shoplifting, but you can still be stuck with the occasional vigilante who will chase you out into the streets of downtown Richmond. This is a non-issue if the folks at the register literally turn their back to you while you order a sandwich from the sub counter, then walk past the line and out the door, with your lunch in your hand.
In a recent issue of "America?," Travis Fristoe was talking about aging within the punk scene, and mentions reaching a point where you start to consider that Clif Bar in your pocket, and wonder if the two dollars you'd have to shell out for it at the counter are reasonable not-going-to-jail insurance. This little slice of zine came to mind a few weeks ago when I was on a car trip and paid for lunch at a Wawa in Delaware. Getting caught for a four dollar sandwich wouldn't have been worth the hassle, or the heat endured from my traveling partners, if I had been caught. But, boy did I feel like a chump, taking my time walking back to the car with my food in a plastic shopping bag instead of a coat pocket. I hadn't been on tour in over a year and I began to wonder if I was losing my touch, or if it would come back if I ever got to go on tour again. Most people stop stealing because of warrants or because they had some horrid experience with shoplifting that makes them swear it off, but supermarket security didn't drag me past the employee lounge and into an interrogation room, I just petered out.
After an hour or so, the show continued, and despite the overpowering smell of ammonia, people crowded into the basement. I didn't even tell my band mates about who was the last one in the bathroom before what was beginning to be called The Shitpipe Incident. I felt bad for being the last one in, and even worse for not helping clean, kind of like how lying to your Mom made you not enjoy that one R-rated movie that you saw when you were seven.
The rest of the show went off without a hitch and we pulled out of Allentown, with our friends pelting out van with dirty snowballs from gray snow banks.
We were all tired, and the van had a sleepy Sunday feeling, coupled with a small case of the going home blues. Once we were on the highway, I spilled the beans and the guys had a good laugh at my exploits.
"You're lucky that the guy with shit all over his amp didn't find out!"
That's true. I'm just glad that the statute of limitations on that story was only a couple of hours. No matter what the penalty may be, a good story is an urgent thing, and the wait to tell it can be the longest in the world.
Before our band was together, a couple of guys were in another band that used the same van. The band that only did a one week tour with that line-up. The band that kept a diary of all of their inside jokes on the white painted ceiling above the loft. The band whose singer spent the night in the van and whacked off in that same loft, then announced it the next morning, while everyone was sitting in that same van, imagining him, not six feet away, at eye level in the loft, blowing his load into a fast food napkin. Ugh.
He should have waited to tell that story. That would have been great ammo for when the guy who owned the van left the band.
"Oh yeah? Well, go ahead and quit! And take your van with you! Shit, I used the fucking loft as a cumrag! Howyalikemenow, motherfucker?!"
Instead, he dropped the bomb mere hours after doing the deed, grossing out his tour mates and setting a strange tone for the rest of the trip.
On the way home from a tour, when we were feeling accomplished, and the van hadn't broken down for a couple of months, we'd recap all of our adventures. How many shows we'd played, what town had the best crazy people, what town had the worst crazy people, the dumbest thing that was said in the van, the time we stole a bunch of liquor and broke off the backdoor of a random college party in Cleveland...?
Whenever we were reminiscing, the story of the singer for that other band jerking off in the loft would come up.
"Man, I can't believe he did that."
And, every time it came up, I'd be holding back on a story that I had that sent that one running home like a sore loser from a wiffle ball game.
It had happened in Michigan, in the middle of our second tour. We were playing a few shows in the Midwest and were on the last leg of the trip, discussing a possible drive through Canada to save time on the trip home.
I'd slept like shit the night before and was in the loft, dozing. We'd been on the road for a couple of weeks, my girlfriend at the time was about a thousand miles away, and I hadn't jerked off in four or five days. The hum of the American-made engine vibrated the loft, and my sleepy mind kept returning to sex, fantasies growing more detailed and lengthy as I lay on my stomach, getting harder and harder. I remember thinking of a girl that I had a crush on in high school that I hadn't seen since. I remember pressing my sex against the plywood loft while fever roared in my ears. I remember my underwear getting really sticky all of a sudden, and feeling kind of relieved.
When you come, you think everyone for a mile around you is in on it. The sensation within your own body is so universal that you forget that, aside from a small spurt at waist height, the experience was pretty self-contained. I squinted my eyes open, now feigning sleep instead of wishing for it. I saw the backs of four guys heads; smoking, driving and reading. They hadn't heard the commotion going on in the loft, in my pants. I stayed on my stomach, feeling my seed spread across my boxers and cling them to the red shock of hair above my privates. The van was nearly twenty years old, and it would need fuel sooner or later. When it did, these boxers were finding a new home in a gas station trashcan, and I was freeballing it at least until we got to the show.
I was dying to tell that story, but I couldn't do it while we still had that van. I didn't wanna hear about it every time someone considered sleeping in the loft.
"Oh, I would, but I don't wanna sleep in CT's cumstains."
It wasn't until about a year later when that van finally bit the dust. It was the tail end of yet another tour, and our second to last show had been in Columbus, with a friend's band. They had the next day off, and decided to follow us to Cleveland to see if they could jump on our show.
They got on the highway ahead of us and got in the center lane. A few minutes later, we were passing them, and Mike and I decided to moon their van out the side of our van. Mike hung his ass out the shotgun-side window while I pressed my clammy rear against the window that spanned the back seats. We could see Steve in his van in the next lane over laughing and shaking his head, then doing a double take as his jaw dropped and a look of horror took him over. My ass isn't that bad looking! Then I heard the bang and saw the black smoke boiling out of the hood of the van and into the Ohio afternoon. A metal object that sounded baseball sized ricocheted around under the hood and the van immediately lost steam. Mike and I pulled our pants up and both bands pulled over.
A quick look under the hood proved us to be totally and absolutely out of luck, but we had to get to the show. We'd flaked out on Cleveland twice before and those kids were gonna hate us. Now here we were a hundred miles away, looking at flaking out again. The show must go on!
My gun-nut aunt whom married an engineer buys the whole family Triple A cards every year, and that'll save a touring punk's ass three times over. We called a tow truck and most of the guys in my band hopped in the other van, sitting in laps and curled up in the loft. We pulled up at the show with a tow truck and a surprise band that the kids in Cleveland loved. We were really pleased with ourselves until it came time to go home.
It wasn't easy to find a U-Haul truck on a Sunday evening in Cleveland, and all that they wound up having was a bigger one than we needed. So, the band fund was thrown to the wind. Neil and I lay on amps that were laid out on the floor of a big U-Haul, Jeff lay out in Mom's Attic over the cab, and the other guys sat up front, smoking cigarettes and watching the miles recede as we headed home at the end of a month long tour, our first to the west coast.
At a gas station near Cleveland, Mike opened the back of the truck just long enough to give us one tall can of beer. It was gone after a forty-five second punk rock feeding frenzy, and then the three of us sat on musical equipment and passed the time finishing off the band's supply of grass, freestyle rapping in the pitch black back of a moving truck.
Mike and I traded spots, so I got to see the tail-end of West Virginia as we passed through the mountains at dawn. The fresh air was wonderful, and I swear that southern air smells different. It's narcotic; thicker and sweeter than the industrial carcinogens of the northern Midwest, where we had been.
We got a new van, and I sat on my loft story until the right time. It was months later, and we were in the middle of nowhere in Kentucky when the mood caught me.
"Hey guys, I got a story that I've been waiting to tell you for over a year now…"
After I told my band mates that I was the culprit at the shitpipe show, word got around. One of my band mates, who shall remain nameless, was in touch with the guys from the house, and told them. We played a show in Philly almost a year later, and when I went to check the microphone before we played, there was a crude note taped to it. There was a drawing of a dagger and, written in red marker it said "We know you did it!" I looked up and there was a huddle of kids from that house in Allentown, pointing and laughing.