It’s been three weeks since I finished my To The Other Side Tour, 25 homes from New York to Oakland, in a month, across 5,000 miles of Amerka in a Subaru. I was moving rather expediently and didn’t quite feel up for maintaining my Internet presence during the trip. Sometimes I look at this machine and just want to vomit, I want to vomit all over it so I won’t be able to use it anymore and I’ll be forced to communicate by messenger paper airplane (as the post office is on its way out) or telepathy, which I think it’s clear we are evolving towards. Of course other times I look at this machine and love it deeply like it’s family or a limb or a lover or a favorite sandwich.
Drives ranged from half an hour to nine hours. I loved my time in the car. I had my snacks, my radio, my notepad and recorder to keep me busy and I had my self-celebration, ego, doubt, fear, excitement, confusion, sadness and gratitude to keep me company. I found my mind much more active during long periods in the car than on the bike. The body is so still in the car. On the bike I’m panting and pedaling and balancing, I feel more vulnerable and often think about when this uphill will end or how long the downhill will last. I tried to find a stillness, but it was a real challenge. The car was this shell of stillness, lightning through the wilderness and the sprawl. The car came to feel like some empty brain that I would fill with my thoughts each drive. I spent 81 hours driving from January 5th to Feburary 2nd, but I tell ya I could have happily spent…. 85 hours!
I met some solid youngins on this trip, some delectable newborns (is that creepy? delectable? I don’t care), and some precocious toddlers. Some folks even let me hold their tiny new children. I didn’t drop even one! Look at the amazing physicality displayed by this little angel. I believe this routine came from little Micah’s hip-hop class.
My favorite comment and compliment I have received so far came from a little boy named Tyler. He was four and sat at perfect attention on his mom’s lap for my whole show. She told me afterwards that at one moment, in between songs, her son looked up at her and said, “How does he do it?” He paused and then asked, “Can I do it?” She said, “Yes, you can.” That put a smile on my face that was too big for my face. The smile did not fit and was sliding off the sides! That would have been enough, but his dad said he asked Tyler if he liked the show when it was done. Tyler took a moment to think about it and said, “I kind of loved it.” I carry that “kind of” with me.
In Windsor, Canada, I got to visit my host Tom’s freight yard where he loads trains with peanuts and safflower seeds and sometimes massive beams of steel. I exhausted him with an endless stream of questions. I knew about freight loading and transportation as much as I knew about potato storage and horse surgery. When I was visiting the yard they were loading several cars with steel. Tom’s business is moving towards more steel transportation as it is the perpetually reliable commodity. They loaded gigantic beams onto cars with an indoor crane system which had buttons, gizmos and hydrolics galore. Once the beams were loaded, the team of nine guys working went to town shrink-wrapping the load with giant flame throwers (I suppose they were supersized blow torches, but I think flame thrower sounds more dramatic). They hosed down the plastic with fire and it shrunk to the load like saran wrap to a bratwurst. I got to do some flame hosing myself for a bit. Shit was crazy!
On this tour I began the design for my next album cover. The design should be complete within 2 years! Maybe earlier. Some of you already know about this project and many of you are already participating. It’s called the 1,OOO PEOPLE CD COVER PROJECT and it will be complete once I have 1,000 participant-collaborator-designers. I’ll be explaining it in detail in my next blog for those of you out there who would like to be a part of it. If you’d like to know more right now or find how to participate click this. Check out the first returned CD cover from Madison WI.
In Alamosa I played at Mike and Barbara’s place. In the morning Mike invited me to his potato sorting facility. I think he expected me to politely decline, but I couldn’t have been more excited. I know as much about potato sorting as I do about horse surgery. We wrote down some directions and I met him out there. The directions to get “there” were something like: take your first left at the light then go a long ways through the nothing till you get to an almost nothing and then hang a right just till you pass nowhere and we are the third building in with the blue door. Barbara told me Mike was happy to have me as he often offers folks a tour of his potato world and people seldom take him up on it. What is wrong with people?! I don’t understand. I think he was phrasing his offer wrong. He should have been asking people “Would you like me to BLOW YOUR FRICKEN MIND?”
Inside this large warehouse was a matrix of conveyor belts, tubes and water flumes. They were still putting the new system together and were dealing with a flood when I came in. Flooding is a regular occurrence while figuring out how all the pieces fit together. Mike took me through these catacomb-like hallways of corrugated steel into the storage rooms. There in the cool dark were piles of potatoes as big as buildings! They had 50 million pounds of potatoes, enough to satisfy the potato needs of 300,000 Americans for a year. That’s right – we eat about 165 lbs of potatoes a year. We eat a six-foot tall person worth of potatoes a year. Imagine a six-foot tall man in your pantry made of potatoes and then imagine taking a bite out of him for 365 days until he’s gone and then you get another potato person for your pantry. You don’t have to imagine this, just if you want to. If you are uncomfortable imagining slowly eating a potato person in your pantry just imagine eating a lot of potatoes over a year…..which is something you do. You eat a lot of potatoes is what I’m trying to say.
There was a man shoveling potatoes from the pile into this flume that floated the taters through the hallways, under the this and thats and onto the sorting belts and size bobbers and doo dads and swirly loopers. They sell the good lookin ones to Walmart for 5 bucks per 100lbs and Walmart sells those 100lbs for 50 bucks. Walmart buys so many potatoes that they pretty much control the market. Potatoes that are funny lookin go to the starcher where they dehydrate em and then they end up as mashed taters in cafeterias and the like. When they go to the starcher it’s something like $1.80 per 100lbs! A lot of those potatoes are totally fine but they got a funny shape so the retailers don’t want them. Turns out we have a very specific and particular well-rounded shape in mind for our potatoes. I learned about the 4 different sizes of potatoes, the gas they run through the piles to keep em from going green and the cool air they run through the bottom of the pile to counter the heat the potatoes are still producing, being organic matter and all. I think about my potato morning often and think of Mike every time I take a bite from my potato man.
Towards the end of the tour I was lucky enough to witness a horse surgery on a yearling mare named Sweety. My host ran a horse surgery joint. Sweety had broken a small bone in her ankle and new bone had grown around the break creating a cluster of unwanted bone mess. The night before the surgery my host was filling up syringes with horse tranquilizer on the couch in the living room, ya know just your basic nightly pre-work duties. With a tiny broken bone in the ankle you might think you could just fish it out while the horse is looking the other way or slap a cast on that baby and call it a day. They took Sweety into a padded room, tranquilized her, hoisted her on a crane into the surgery room, hooked her up to an IV and a breathing machine, opened up her ankle and started chiseling away. Yes chiseling with a hammer and chisel! It was awesome. Sweety was out cold. There were about 6 people in the room to do the job and monitor her. They gave me booties and a hair net. It was just like those medical dramas, but with a horse and a horse crane and not much romance.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I joined my host to “collect” a stallion. Collecting a stallion is a fancy name for wanking a horse’s gigantashlong into an AV (artificial vagina). This AV can be adjusted for tightness and warmth by adding water into the outer pouch. The hotter the water, the warmer – the more water, the tighter. They study what the stallions prefer and are able to cater the AV to each stallion’s wank…. sorry, collection. I missed getting a shot of the AV and the BIG moment cause I was trying to pick my jaw up from the ground. After getting the horse all randy by letting him smell a jar of mare’s urine, they led him over to this large object (they called it a fake horse but it’s just a big padded oval on legs) and the horse mounts it. As he mounted it my host and her assistant grabbed the shlong and put it in the AV. In about 5 seconds it was over with the flip of a tail. That’s how you know he came, his tail does a little flip. We took the goods to, ya know, the splooge lab and analyzed it and mixed it with nutrient rich solution that keeps it healthy till it finds its way to the inside of a lady horse. This horse had some good, healthy sperm so everyone was happy. It’s like my pappy always said: “A healthy collection of horse sperm is like a lemonade stand on a hot August weekend. The price is right if ya know who to call.”
Lastly I have new tea towels available! I have second editions from the New Zealand Way Over There Tour and brand new NYC Staying Put Tour towels. These custom dish towels are maps of my tours with all my hosts. If you would like one or many send at least $12 and at most $50 per towel to firstname.lastname@example.org through paypal.com. It’s super easy and super safe. International orders please add an extra $6. Mark the payment as “gift” and include a note in the payment with your address and how many of which towel you fancy. Towels with all the shows from this pasr To The Other Side Tour will be available in the coming months. If you would like to pre-order those please send some dollars and let me know how many cross-country towels you would like and you will receive them shortlyish. Here are the two towels I have available now. If PayPal doesn’t suit you for any reason, you can send a check with a note to Gideon Irving at 464 Hudson St. Oakland, CA, 94618. I’m in Oakland for a while working on a few new projects.
A reminder to anyone with ideas I am always accepting possible house show host contacts. I’ve been collecting them on my maps at shows.
OK. Take care and don’t forget to be safe!