The opening show of Old Ideas’ North American leg begins on All Hallows’ Eve in Austin Texas. It is fitting that we should begin on such a date, in a town which proudly displays, for sale, t-shirts which read ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ Fellow Winning Teammate Chris will tell you that Austin does not easily fit within the stereotypical bounds of the Texas image. Austin is the home of various forms of music and various forms of people. J.R. Ewing does not live in Austin, but his gay artist cousin does.
In 2006, my wife, son and I lived in the Church and Wellesley area of Toronto, known to some as Boystown. The festivities of Hallowe’en in ‘the gay area’ were on a par with those of Pride; to be precise, we loved it there. Austin’s Sixth street on Hallowe’en reminds me fondly of a chilly Boystown October: the colourful costumes, the drunken revelry, and best of all, ladies traipsing about in little more than bras and knickers. Underwear is hardly the most inventive of costumes and it has been said by many that Hallowe’en is a good excuse for ladies to ‘dress all slutty.’ However, you will be unsurprised to read that I do not complain about this particular void of tailorly creativity.
In truth however, the reality of my life sits on my shoulders — I’m nearly forty, married, a father of two, and far too sexy for any of these people. It is they, in fact, who are cramping my style, so I retreat to my hotel room. Peeking out the window. Occasionally. At those poor slutty girls starved of my attention.
After lights-out time, I lay in bed trying to block out the omnidirectional thump-thump of musical assault. Outside, it is kerb-to-kerb people, and the hotel itself is joining in the merriment with whatever function is going on downstairs. What soon follows is the inevitable alcohol-fueled disagreement between people and it’s happening in the hallway outside my door. The drama consists of two female lead actors and a tertiary, token male voice. In Act I, I am treated to the girls’ crying and shouting. Act II sees the thumping and bumping of a physical altercation with the clinching phrase, ‘You let go of my hair, and I’ll let go of yours.’ The male character offers peaceful nuggets of wisdom which go ignored by the fighters, who, when parted in Act III, sob uncontrollably.
It is difficult to know from where this deep sadness derives. Could it be the emotional pain of a friendship under stress? Might it be the abatement of shock accompanying a physical altercation, prickled skin and vanished fear? Or is it the abrupt ending of the night’s celebration, due to the ruining of hair? The mind wonders and wanders at 1.30am.
The following day, I sit in the well-known coffee establishment again, but do not see my shabbily-dressed muse. Perhaps he is enjoying the sun elsewhere today. For reasons unknown to me at the time of this publication, I was thinking, over tea, of what I’d call the writer’s ego. The difficult aspect of a writer’s ego (or indeed any ego) is the image it portrays, followed by the exhausting intent to keep up with appearances. On the European leg of the tour, I beat myself senseless on a near-daily basis trying to ‘write’ in an impressive fashion. I do find writing easy, as it’s only really twenty-six characters and some dots and dashes, but arranging them in such a way as to forever enthrall the reader into a state of dreamy mind-lust is, sometimes, kinda hard. Hard things are not necessarily enjoyable. (My kingdom for an emoticon!)
Jones is my pseudo-poet’s voice, the one I use to sound flowery and intelligent. Jones has big ideas of LB’s capabilities; and he lusts for attention by instructing LB to tap on the keys with the chaotic order of a porta-loo filled with sharpie-armed cats, whose scribblings are later to be rearranged by the master in order to garner praise and attention. Jones ponders, in triplicate, the reasons for violence between people. It can be a task, keeping up with Jones’ desires — the constant search for literary truth through the distortion of reality, seeing the ugly in the beautiful and in reverse. When Jones is asleep at the controls, LB’s shimmering brevity unfolds: two bitches be fightin’ out ma’ do’ last night!
All Souls’ Day is the last of our two-show residence in Austin. With the equipment already loaded in, it should be an easy day, but for various reasons, it’s never as simple for The Winning Team as we dare fancy. Every day is a busy one — things need to be reset, cleaned, changed, and replaced. My notes tell me I enjoyed today’s soundcheck because I got to sit down for a spell. It is with the brunt of honesty I admit the show itself bored me, despite it being one of those nights where we are told to ‘be ready for anything.’ Whatever anything was, it must not have warranted a note in my book.
Having completed the load-out, we set out from Austin around 2.30am, following the showering and tidying up of the UHTC army. In a pair of buses, we head for Colorado. Around 5am I came up with the idea of post-wodka sleep, and around 9am, with the bus rolling, my body said, ‘wake up, i’m going to punish you.’ Out there, through narrow eyes connected to a hazy mind, the world passes by in yellow-green blurs under a clear blue. Out there is featureless save for scrub and the odd tree. Out there is a plethora of not much.
Childress is an interesting town, seeming to function as a stop-gap from somewhere to elsewhere, with our conveniently laid road as its spine. Low buildings with no cry for space are spread in a grid, and some places have so few windows, one wonders if every tenth establishment is a titty-bar dressed as a restaurant. Although I get the feeling titties are not the chef’s special in this part of the world. Later down the road, a sign’s proclamation of Jesus as Lord is backed up by a colourful drawing of a hamburger. Further on, Top of Texas Christian Superstore is open for business. Hands to the gods, my grandmother once told me of an American shop going by the name of ‘Christ-o-Rama.’
At 4.45pm mountain time, our driver Wayne informs me we have a slow puncture, and may need to stop to replace the tyre. With the news, we wonder if we’ll make it to Westminster Colorado in time to do anything other than sleep in the hotel before getting up for work. But with fortune, the slow leak is slower than feared, and we arrive at our hotel at 7.30, eighteen hours after leaving Austin.
I reckon in the next installment of The Adventures of Disease-Free Men Roaming the Earth, I’ll mention The Westminster show, travelling to Los Angeles, our brief time there, and maybe getting to San Jose. Yes, Wayne knew the way.