Climbing the Eastern Seaboard
After the show, Jonas took us to an apartment complex where we could go swimming. We cracked three more of the stolen beers, flung off our clothes and enjoyed a much-needed swim. When a crew of kids- more run-off from the show- appeared we joked that we became successively more naked as each figure came lumbering up the stairs.
Jonas and Erica live on a shady lane n a tiny house that used to be part of a hippie commune in the ‘60s called “Fort Ganga.” They retained the name for their house. Jonas made us some delicious snack out of tomatoes, beans and kale and we slept well. In the morning I met up with my friend Kathy who was preparing to move back to New York. I helped her transport a carload of heavy boxes to the mailbox and we ran other assorted errands and caught up on our lives. Kathy always amazes me.
Leaving Gainesville, we began our ascent along the eastern seaboard; next stop was Charleston South Caroline where we waylaid for two days to pick up our friend josh, just back from several months in Europe and staying there with his parents. The drive was only supposed to take 5 hours but due to some small interstate highway snafu it took 9. Josh was waiting for us faithfully outside a Wendy’s on the side of the road in a pink hat, little orange shorts and ratty espadrilles. It was midnight and after some aimless wandering we decided there was only one thing to do really: get some beer and go to the beach.
In one week we had traversed the country and it confused me to be on the atlantic coast. The beach was empty and infinite. The moon, just one day shy of full, radiated brilliantly, illuminating the gentle waves and turning the silver clouds drifting through the sky to diaphanous tinsel. In the distance, a ship loomed, its windows and lanterns like yellow holes in the night. We didn’t speak of the beauty but surely everyone was affected; we took our turns wandering away from the group and staring in silent awe. We’re a family now and as such, the trope of naked swimming has solidified. We took off our clothes and ran into the Ocean, the water warm and inviting even at that desolate hour. There we were, five of us, bobbing in the black expanse, drinking our beers, we ran up and down the beach and doing yoga in the moonlight. The water and air were so warm we didn’t need towels or to put our clothes on for quite sometime. Decently inebriated and besotted with awe, we returned to josh’s parents cozy house where we cooked bocca burgers and then, despite the existence of another room, piled into the big one together sleeping long and well.
South Carolina, Charleston in particular, gave me the creeps in its gory race-steeped classism. The following night we meandered around downtown with Josh’s friend Tom. King street is the kind of place that seems like it only comes alive on Saturday afternoons when people climb into their lexuses and come out to spend money. Eerily, it’s an upscale shopping mall au plain air. Pottery Barn, Sax Fifth Avenue, shoe boutique after shoe boutique, stores specializing in garish, overpriced matching khaki clothing for women and children. I moved uncomfortably through the grotesque promenade of wealth knowing that perhaps more than any place in the country, the riches here were amassed through the sweat and toil of slaves. Today, those lines are barely erased, merely redrawn, renamed, wiggly, hazy like the very torpid southern heat.
My new $5 sandals were destroying my feet and I was torn between hobbling in agony and going barefoot through streets teeming with giant cockroaches. I hobbled. Tom led us to a secluded courtyard by the art museum so we could drink some whiskey. It was dark and shady but we soon noticed the roach situation there was truly the stuff of Indiana Jones proportions. They skittered across the stones by the thousands, their huge black carapaces glinting in shadows, putting all but the most unfazed of us on edge. Dietrich offered me a piggyback ride back to the parking lot and I proudly refused, only to renege 30 seconds later and gladly accept.
From there we went to the Marina and swung on the giant porch swings playing our inane word games, planning the new pro sport of shark punching and our spin-off psychedelic band, Chocolate Chakra, until a security guard kicked us out. The next morning, we made fried potatoes for breakfast and packed up. Josh’s mother had folded our laundry in neat piles on the coffee table, a gesture I couldn’t get over and thanked her for profusely.
We drove to Charlotte North Caroline and played a nice show at little bar in the ghetto called the Milestone. Andy, the door guy was incredibly warm and funny and wowed us with stories of his former band, Fleshhouse, who last fall, had trashed the bar so thoroughly with a show cum orgy of flour and meat scraps that it took two days of scrubbing with industrial strength degreaser to restore the place to it’s normal state of filthy dilapidation. Once again, we elected to make an all night drive , this time to Baltimore, Dietrich’s home. I was actually able to doze for a few hours up in the loft. When I came too, sweaty and dazed, it was 10 am and we were stuck in beltway traffic.
My first inclination when we arrived at Liz’s house was to nap but the day was gorgeous so I visited an old friend from Oberlin who happened to live right around the corner. She and her boyfriend work at the local independent movie house and he, the projectionist, arranged a private screening of the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall classic “To have and not to have” just for the three of us.
Later that day, as we shopped in the thift store I got a call from Ann Arbor informing me that the condition of a childhood friend of mine who had slipped into a coma two days earlier had been declared irreversible and that a funeral would be held on Sunday. Aside from a manageable IBD, this man was my age and perfectly healthy. While convalescing from a routine surgery, his heart mysteriously stopped and no one is sure how long he sat without oxygen before being found. Wary of people who use the tragic deaths of those not in their innermost familial or social spheres as some sort of stage on which to play out their own dramas, I digested the news stoically. Only later evening before our show in D.C, as I talked to my mother about whether or not I should leave tour to come back for the funeral did it begin to prey on me. Feeling heavy and quiet, I forwent dinner with the group at a famous chili joint, walking to the CVS across the street instead and buying my first pack of cigarettes in almost two months.
Once inside our venue, the velvet lounge, I hid upstairs and weeping, nursed a beer and tried to compose a letter to his family while another band conducted their sound check. I was there but not there the whole evening and decided not to return to Baltimore with the gang, opting instead to stay with my old friend David there in Columbia Heights. David and his housemate Jarrett gave me exactly what I needed: some pot to smoke, a delicious glass of pauliner at the bar down the street, a good hour of sleepy TV watching and a wonderful sofa to crash on. In the morning, Jarrett made me a delicious breakfast burrito and we lounged around the better part of the afternoon.
I took the MARC train back to Baltimore and made it to the venue in good time for an expedition to Jerome’s Liquors. Somehow we’d gotten billed with a bunch of hardcore bands and I felt badly for being so unsportsmanlike and drinking in the van during their sets but I couldn’t handle all the noise. By the time we played everyone was pretty drunk but this time we managed to finesse that gentle balance of shambling disorganization and loveable charm. We bore mistakes with grace and humor and jammed out for a good 5 or 6 minutes at the end of the set. Outside at the van I conducted a bumbling string of merch transactions, the hilarity heightened painfully when Dietrich accidentally dropped the entire crate of CD’s and shirts on my sandaled foot.
From the Charm City Art Space, we went dancing at a Lithuanian national hall, making ourselves enormously sweaty to old soul and drinking shots of a mysterious honey flavored liqueur and tall bottles of cheap, dense Lithuanian porter. It was great fun until josh, Allen and Devon, declared themselves ready for home by passing out on the sidewalk talking about heavy-duty things.
We slept in a cozy row on Liz’s floor and in the morning she made us a delicious breakfast of hash browns and blueberry pancakes. We got a late start this morning but continue our climb: detouring west just a little bit for a show tonight in my beloved once home of Pittsburgh. Adventures to be had in the hilly city of bridges...