"the cord that spun its own top" tour 2003 diary - week 9

shot of paul, jer + watt in 2003

mike watt + the (sort of) secondmen

paul roessler - organ, singing
jerry trebotic - drums
watt - thud staff, spiel

(left to right - shot by paul)

steve kaul - the man outside the van

tuesday, may 27 - albuquerque, nm

from watt:

   pop and hose off in the hugest of showers - like a whole room almost, europe style. I go out to the boat to stow my sack and find a misty morning, kind of like back home in pedro. it doesn't look like rain but it does look like there's enough clouds to keep a sweltering sun at bay. I make coff and ryan gets up and offers to cook chow. he makes us eggs w/tortillas, good stuff. thanks much, ryan. we load up into the boat and I wheel us west on the I-40. we pass the cadillac ranch just outside of amarillo, around eight or nine old cadillacs buried in a line, one behind the other, halfway into the earth, frontend down w/the rear wheels in the air and at an angle of about thirty degrees (maybe thirtythree?). it was created by the same artist who puts up signs in people's yards around town here. trippy. you can't believe the flatness and lack of trees out here, surreal. it has its own startling beauty - what other place in the land is like this? only about seventy miles and we're out of texas and into new mexico. at tucumcari, we get gas and I switch w/jer. soon we're in the mountain time zone, one hour ahead of home. me and jer relate to paul that crazy billboard we saw at the beginning of tour around here when we were travelling east that had a bunch of prison guards in riot gear w/the advertisement, "join the team" and damn if there isn't one for cars going this way too! surreal. the landscape in new mexico is much different than the texas panhandle w/lots of mesas and shrubs all about. it's a trip how things can change w/the state line like that. we notice it happening a lot on tour. we get into albuquerque at about two.

   we're playing at the launchpad, in the old down town on central and it's been my regular gig here in town for the last few years. it's a good pad. jer and paul go wandering for chow while I hoof a couple of blocks to the place I always get my kachina dolls when I roll through town. I get a wolf hunter, an ogre and one called "left hand." they're really neat. I must have around forty of these now. I put them on the top of my bookshelves at my pad. I like to discuss things w/them, both when I'm happy or I'm troubled - they help me w/insights. they also like to dance when there's an earthquake. they're very special to me and I dig them much. they have a connection w/tour too, a reminder of the miles I've travelled to work the towns. there's something about the native people connection too, it's inspired me to read about the hopis and their ways - very interesting. perry farrell once told me a legend he heard about the hopis. it seems there was going to be a great flood so the ants (or some subterranean creatures) brought all the indian tribes down under the earth so they could be safe. when all the heavy torrents cleared up, all the tribes bumrushed and fought w/each other to get back up topside. the hopis were patient and waited calmly and cuz of that, were last to come up. the ants were so impressed that when the gave corn to all the tribes so they could have chow to start again, they gave the most sacred corn, the blue corn, to the hopis. perry had a great way of telling me things not just words but also w/his eyes - it was always important to watch his eyes and not just hear the words. my time w/him made a big impression on me - I don't know if I would've ever done the opera ("...engine room") w/out the time I got to serve w/him. he learned me much and opened my mind further.

   the venue is open so I chimp diary there, get all caught up. I meet delano, this young man who does poster art. we have a big talk about the times and his mission to wake people up through art. I met delano years ago when he did a poster for a gig of mine here in town. he was just starting then and did a poster of janet leigh in the shower scene of hitchcock's "psycho" - her hollering as a representation of me, I guess. I thought it fit good. he's telling me he's been very influenced by shepard fairey, the cat behind the "giant obey" art - he digs the way that cat does "tours" and gets his work out everywhere. I dig shepard myself, very inspiring. he's being reading up on buddha and seeing how that relates to things, how people will settle for a "bliss" (like television) and not get it together, even when heavy shit is imminent. very inspiring to see a young artist man so fired up. like what john coltrane said when he was asked what he was trying to do w/his music, "I'm trying to uplift people." right fucking on.

   the launchpad folks for chow give you a coupon for a pad called pearl's dive and I get a big spinach, gorganzola and apples (what?) salad - I want to help scrape some of that carne of the insides of my intestines. then I go back and joe at the club gives me this big banner budweiser beer printed up for them that says "mike watt - tonight," next to a guitar and a bottle of their beer. too weird. I go to the boat to konk. I get huge head full of tripped-out thoughts. they're panic attacks, 'pert-near... huge insecurities and I find myself in tears. doubts slash and rip into me and I feel myself drowning in them, choking up my lungs and pressing hard on my heart. my kachinas have been packed safe in a box w/those styrofoam peanut things for the ride to pedro and I can't talk w/them though I long much too. I reach my arms to grab for someone but here I am, in the boat - in her womb, alone. it is a safe place and I love it - thank god she's w/me. it was so hard that way to play for perry or j and not have my boat. I had to use books in a way to substitute mentally for what's also a physical safeness for me. however, inside the head, there's nowhere for watt to hid and I get confronted at times w/these horrors, these total feelings of lameness and even worse, self-loathing. I have mantras to keep me out of despair but wrenching myself in and out of the knots that confound me... I understand things happen, things are the way they are, I'm in such a state, so on and so on... all these things are menat for me to learn from and get my fucked-up self further down the road and maybe a tiny bit more together but at this point... my friend miss kelley had these things she called "panic attacks" and maybe that's what's plaguing me now. I call her up on the walkie-talkie, I haven't spoken to her in a long, long time. she tells me about ghosts and how certain situations are just littered w/them and it makes it hard to come to grips - being haunted by ghosts is quite a handful! I've given the ghost theory a lot of thought before but usually it's tied to places besides moments in time. if you think of a ghost, can it also think of you, do you even implore it to by such behavior? I am hard-pressed to think of any ghosts out here except for the native ones - one reason I love the kachina dolls I get out here. kira told me about these little dolls she had, tiny little ones. they were called "worry dolls" and were from caribbean culture (and from there, probably back to africa). I've heard of them in central america also. the idea is that before you konk, you tell the worry dolls all your problems and then that'll relieve you of the burden - the little ones take it on for you during the night so you can konk w/some peace. I wish my kachinas weren't all boxed up right now cuz I'd tell them plenty. I decide that I'd probably be all clumsy w/my words and confuse things so maybe it'd be better to write a letter, one I could go back and fix up and if it read all retarded. it might be a proper act of contrition even, something to help me clean the slate. that's something I'd dig very much.

   putting my mind to composing such a letter relieves me of enough anxiety to where konk can take me and I'm out for a few hours. I pop to hear the last of the band before us, local cats called the blue bottle flies that have the boss on drums. they sound good from here in the boat. I completely missed the first band, another local one called the friendly. paul comes and gets me and I grab my stuff and get in through the back door. I see my old friend leonard, the cat who hasn't shaved since the late 60s and kind of has a karl marx look. he's very happening and I usually talk much w/him - he rides motorcycles and has been on all kinds of adventures all over. he's wearing a fIREHOSE "engaging the milker" tour shirt from like twelve years ago - the last time I used red for a t-shirt, like this year. we start the gig and there's some feedback problems but soundman chris is right on them. they prove to be a little tough though. whatever, you're on the second-to-the-last gig and in my book, almost nothing can go wrong (well, they can but it doesn't make for nightmare trauma). taking in the whole scope of the tour and how much has and couldv'e been so much more fucked-up, I tend to be more apt to feeling gratitude for just coming this far. I think the better strategy is to laugh and I do that much. the crowd are good folks, there's some loud ones but they got great spirit and it's an honor to play for them. at the end, I break a 'd' string but don't stop to change it - even when going into a new song (we do "fun house" for the first time w/paul - I have to holler the notes to the riff he needs to play even though we've gone over it in the boat. see, there's the concept and then there's the reality... he does good though once I make myself clear to him) cuz I don't want to fuck up the flow. it makes it tough - the 'd' is between the 'a'' and the 'g' so you're dealing w/a big hole in your note armada (remember, this little bass has just four strings) but it's kind of neat having to face up to some challenge, as long as I've got a good laugh in me. man, it's so different up now than in the boat w/a head full of whup-ass. john coltrane was certainly right, music can be uplifting. there's these cats who've been up at the front of the stage and all loud all night. when we get done, one of them tells me he's a smoke jumper and shows me a big scar he has on his forehead. he says he gets one day off for every twentyone he has on and today was his latest off day. what an intense life, much respect. I give leonard the biggest of hugs. there's many kind words from folks, it's all much appreciated and it touches me much. I get this note from some one who says richard "fuckin'" bonney's cousin tony gave it to them. it's written by tony and he said he had to leave early cuz of work. also, richard's pop died the night before. this is a heavy blow. though I didn't know his pop much, never really had a conversation - richard used to talk about him all the time. he was into his forties when richard was born, I used to see him all the time on the porch - he always had a head full of hair but never really talked w/him. now I wish I had. those thoughts always seemed to creep in when you think about someone who's just died... regrets. I feel so bad for richard. he said his pop had a stroke a few months ago but no one knew for a couple of days! his pop was a silent type.

   I settle w/the boss and this indian cat from tucson asks me to please play that town again. it has been quite a while and I for sure should do that. he's a nice man and his request is quite heartfelt. I do wish I could play double the amount of towns I do now on tour, that would be something. just gotta get stronger. we load up and follow nicole to her pad in her new truck. laura and anthony come be in a little while. I try to be in conversations, nicole hasa such very interesting things to discuss but fatigue has me whupped-up good. the talk changes, I start getting the questions from anthony. I'm starting to feel kind of really sore - I'm wondering if something isn't coming on cuz this is one of the tell-tale signs, huge aches in my joints, causing me feebleness. anthony runs out of gas or maybe I do cuz the mask comes down. he has to bail. damn, do my joints hurt, laura tries to help w/trying to make my hands feel better. very kind. sometimes I really do think my skeleton is at war w/me or at least it sure does feel so.

wednesday, may 28 - mesa, az

from watt:

   pop and hear the coff machine going - it must've been on a timer or something. funny how I can pop even earlier if I need to and this morning I'm gonna need to - we're all gonna need to cuz it's 485 miles to mesa, az. six bells now. I hose off and then gulp coff. my guys get gentle kicks to the head in hopes of them being awakened and after several blows, they eventually come around. well, you can compress the time involved w/that. we're out the door at quarter of seven - thanks and byes to nicole and laura. clear sunny skies as I wheel us to the freeway (first a funky stop at mailbox where I can actually deposit right in the box w/out leaving the boat!). there was a hot air balloon up this morning in the northeast sky when I first ventured outdoors but I lost track of it while prompting my men on getting the ass in gear. sometimes I've seen whole flocks take off in the morning in these parts this time of year but this morning it was only one. one's good enough to get my mind going anyway. westward on the I-40, over the rio grande and we're off to the last gig of the tour!

   jer's konked in the back and paul sits up front w/me and shares spiel. he liked reading nick tosches' "in the hand of dante" and I can't wait 'till I get a chance. he's never been through the "commedia" so when he tells about what's in the tosches book, I can help relate to both dante's life (what I know about it) and his work (again, what I know about it or rather, my take on it). he tried reading the bacon book and it bummed him out. he's on the ferlinghetti one now. this tour's been intense on him as far as energy leves he tells me. I told him it's probably natural to feel kind of that way being the situation he's come out of. it's been pretty intense for him at home - I love his wife helen and their two boys, adam and alex. it's admirable and inspiring how they've kept their lives together for twentythree years, even w/all the hells they've had to weather. paul probably thinks me insane and driven but at the same time, weak. I admit I've been pretty beat up by these tour (maybe more accurate to say "beat down") and it's been a struggle in lots of ways, especially physical. I am blessed to have such good folks around me - jer, the whole time plus pete and paul in their respective shifts. I really don't know if I could've made this tour w/out them. this is how things are turning out for me as the time train moves my boxcars along. it's good to write about it in some ways and not just harbor it inside and let it corrode on me from the inside. as a result, a lot of it is one-way, me expressing myself - not really a lot of dialog w/people unless it's finding about them. even when it's my time for that, it mainly means a turn at monologue mode for me. it's been hard to have heart to heart dialog - I just don't feel that close w/anyone yet I will spiel (spill?) some in the diaries, my writing in the barbie purse. I am trying to be a better listener but it's hard to break old habits. I listen much to paul on this drive though cuz I want to conserve energy for the drive. this is my first big one since that six hour plus last week. it's beautiful sights outside the windows as we ride through the desert. paul gets lots of shots 'til right before the arizona border, when the little sony digicamera starts acting up. damn, second camera this tour! seems like the shutter button is failing. oh well, yet another machine to get repaired. tour is heavy on machines as well as humans! into arizona and past those man-made dinosaurs on the side of the freeway. some are totally comical (people's legs hanging out) and some try to look more real - those ones are near petrified pieces of logs that look pretty neat. one day we're gonna have to get time to check out this meteor creator I always pass. the ride between albuquerque and the phoenix area is always so many miles and I never get the opportunity. I drive the whole 385 miles to flagstaff and let jer take over. it's downhill from here - big time and we need fresh ponies to stay attentive. I go into the back seat (sorry, paul - looks like he's doing the whole ride in the passenger seat) and konk. the weather was pretty calm for us - clear skies but never above ninety. now that we're descending, it gets hot fast. my konk has dreams all cooked and steamed up by the weather and they're disoriented and troubled. I'm just so tired though so I keep myself from waking to get strength up for the gig. it is a pounding on my mind though.

   mesa is just south of tempe and east of phoenix, sort of like an l.a. thing where the towns don't really have any open distance between them. the club is called hollywood alley and it's the first time I've been here. charlie is doing the show and he did all my nita's hideaway gigs. I heard there's a new nita's but it's much bigger, holds like fifteen hundred. it's 108 degrees fahrenheit when we pull up to load in at three. same time zone as cali now cuz arizona doesn't use daylight's savings time. the bartender bobby is really nice and gives me a glass of soda water that must be like a half-gallon in size. damn, one of the biggest tumblers ever! this pad has all kinds of tucked leather booths - trippy for a gig. bobby tells me they got the air conditioner working yesterday and it's quite cool in here. I chimp diary while like four or five televisions play this version of icabod crane's story that has johnny depp as him. much different than the version I learned as a kid - especially the ending cuz there's no flaming pumpkin kocking icabod's head off! I didn't pay attention to it much cuz the chimping had most of my attention. I think it's the only whole thing on tv I watched all tour and that was only peripherally. after a quick soundcheck w/soundman steve, I'm feeling tired and there's no backroom so I go out to the boat - even w/all the heat, at least it's quiet. I get naked and become very still, trying to keep as cool as I can. not too many days of this situation this tour, that's for sure. usually I'm not in these parts in late may but this strange routing was a result of my wanting pete to be able to play the northwest so we did that first instead of last, that would be normally on a spring tour for me. oh well, I can hang w/it. all the clouds over albuquerque yesterday kept things so much cooler but here in mesa today it's sure a roaster. I do have a good feeling about today that's w/me every last gig of a tour. it's like, "man, we made it - yes! all the fucking things that could go wrong and we made it!" in a way, nothing can go wrong on the last gig of a tour, that's how grateful I feel.

thursday, may 28 - san pedro, ca


read week 8 of the tour diary

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this page created 6 june 03