Sunday, September 28, 2008

Porchless: One Month

It's been a month and it seems like much of this time was spent in
Ohio. We know all about the Buckeyes or at least that they are peanut butter and chocolate and maybe something about sports. Apparently, after a quick Google search to show my worldliness, they are many other things like a type of Chicken, aircraft, and butterfly.

This past year as many of you know, we helped organized a Durham showcase for the annual WE Festival in Wilmington, NC. After the show, a highly energetic young Buckeye named Matt (he was swinging from the rafters during our set) said we should play his town and subsequently hooked us up in Lakewood, Ohio at a DIY place called Studio Uno. The space was dark and velvety with the feeling of an old New Orleans bar and a bit Ringsidey without the fire hazard but with the average age of attendee about 17-20. The show was booked by the kind Starvation Army Zine (who also referred us to the last-minute Kent, Ohio show we played last Wednesday...see below). The Lakewood show was one of those nights where the lineup completely changes from poster to show, and everything is loose like silken tofu. Matt's new project Hector Vega, a melody-changing/switch fun instrumental duo, opened up the show lottery:

Following this, no one knew who was going to play, but the kind Green Escalators stepped in their instrumental set, featuring a lot of droning that encouraged hearing of things not there like singing and horn sections. It could have been the pink wine, but I don't think so.

These guys were also kind enough to let us shower and park at their place. Omar, touring all the way from Israel, then played an acoustic set. I liked the song he wrote in Hebrew the best.

It's not that I think that musicians should only use their native language when songwriting. Heck, I throw Greek in the song soup sometimes, and I didn't start learning Greek until age 11, my first trip, when I needed to know where the ice cream was. As stated in my profile, Greece is where my heart is, somehow. When I use Greek in songs it is because it must be said that way. But it seems that many songwriters, at least some I've heard in Greece and elsewhere, use English as a mechanism to make their music more appealing to a wider audience, more marketable. Songs are like teenagers, they're their own rebellious beings that you can set some ground rules for but ultimately leave them the heck alone because you've already raised them and it's too late.

Sometimes folks ask whether or not it is difficult to be vegan on the road. Though we have not made it to the middle-belly of these united states yet, I would answer a very big and capital NO to that. We spend about $2 per meal each day by cooking stuff in Weston. Pictured below are items from just one of many coop grocery trips where I live up to my name and get a bunch of food (yogurt, roasted red pepper baba ganoush, creamer, field roast, etc) including a vegan cupcake and cookie.
I included Syba's canned vegetarian dog food in this display for you too, to show we're feeding her as well. Here is more evidence that her needs are being met by showing you a dog park she attended after the shopping trip in West Cleveland.

We had some time off while in Cleveland, and Rob wanted to see the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. I've got a nice little picture of it here.

Rob heard that if you are a band, and give them your album, you do not have to pay admission. Good thing because the price was about $22.00. We gave them Blender Theory and, it's true, folks. They keep an inventory of all albums received. Which either means they have a really big room or a large wastebasket.

I was assuming the museum would be sort of hokey, and was fully prepared to keep the complaining in my head between me and I, to thereby avoid ruining Rob's experience. I was surprised, then, to find that after our visit I had this purpley-cloud feeling I can only describe as "inspired." Some of the shorter video presentations were kind of useless, but there were some interesting items in the museum, like Ian Curtis' lyrics to "Love Will Tear Us Apart." I was less interested in the various costumes of performers but it was kinda cool to see the various instruments used on songs you've heard a million times.

The purple feeling was less about objects created by people we idolize and objectify into a fame-box than the overall effect of celebration of something you have chosen to do despite the many zeros associated with the business (0 paycheck, 0 audience members, etc). Here this museum is, giving our profession some credit. Of course, as the name suggests, these musicians are successful and famous - it is not really celebrating the indie band touring in a falling apart van (see below). But many of the bands did start out that way. And I must say their acceptance of music as payment was kinda nice. I think I'll try that at other stores, like Target. Paying in CD currency everywhere. Blender Theory is stronger than the dollar.

The show I mentioned above, hooked up by Starvation Army Zine, was next to Turnup Records in Kent, Ohio, in a basement apartment. Scott of Camp Loops founded this record store, which famously hosted many punk bands under another name BITD (back in the day).

Speaking of, we played with Camp Loops and they were an interesting mix of sampled four track, screaming harmonies, and bass drum playin' while standin.' They have played the Nightlight before and I can see why. We had a great time, I bought some pink wine to punctuate the event, and I met a fellow Greek there.

He actally attended the school right next to Pinewood in Thessaloniki, the highschool I attended when I was 15. Of course, at that time, he was either a tiny embryo engaged in stem cell research, or in diapers. But it's still cool.

Before we move onto our next topic, I thought I would show a peaceful picture taken at the auto repair shop we were lucky enough to break down near and roll right into from the off-ramp when leaving the Kent show and heading back to Cleveland the next am.

Weston's front toe (wheel?) was smoking! And it wasn't American Spirits. So we stopped and did the logical thing, which was to pour water from our water bottles on it. We phoned AAA but they hung up on us so we decided to head / roll off the ramp and there was the shop right there. Here is Weston's toe without a hubcap (it rolled off and was crushed on the freeway):

And here is Weston's toe without the toe:

The good news is, the long stay at the auto repair shop allowed us to focus on finally screen printing our "I don't like people...but I'm tryin'" t-shirts that we bought at a nearby Goodwill. Rob also got to sport his hat.

By the looks we got from patrons of the auto shop, as well as auto shop employees, I'm guessing that customers don't typically screen print their band t-shirts while waiting. My guess is reading magazines about autos in the waiting room might be more common. But whether they realize it or not, this auto shop was set up perfectly for screen printing. We were able to dry them out and fold them with little hassle.

I think they came out pretty good, mostly. On a couple that we messed up, Rob suggested we just screen print over the messup to create a "psychadelic" look (hippy).

To cheer ourselves up after spending a lot of money on this toe thing, we went and got vegan milkshakes at this place in Cleveland called "Tommy's" (thanks Michele!). It was a lot of shake, but we committed to it fully. We were off then to find the next rest stop. Unfortunately, there was only a "service station," which isn't as peaceful, but we were fortunate in other ways.

Westina (Weston's girlfriend)
You might assume the picture above is Weston with a new fancy stripe. When finished with dish-washing in the "family" bathroom at the service station, we returned to the parking lot to see Weston's soulmate a few spaces away. As you might imagine, when the owners of Westina arrived, we engaged in Westfalia talk. They were self-described empty-nesters who were on a three week trip from Chicago. Their Westina was imported from Germany direct. Their speedometer still works unlike Weston who stopped counting after the toe incident.

Finally out of Ohio, we arrived in Michigan the next day. We played with a band you might get to see soon in either Chapel Hill or Durham, a dance-pop-Prince-duo Charlie Slick. We, and the other 100 or so people who attended, loved 'em. Keep a look-see on their tour schedule to see when they will be in the Triangle.

There were bubbles involved. Who would not like that?

Charlie created an awesome light show of his own here, manipulated by his other bandmate Shelley, who plays the lights on a keytar looking thing.

The show took place at the Vail Coop. There are about 23 student-aged people that call this old home home. I must say that they were some of the nicest people, thanking us for playing, offering up showers & meals the next day. We're kind of shy though and don't like to bother people so we left to go sleep in the Mejier parking lot.

The next day we headed to Livonia, where I screened my film for VegMichigan, ran by a kind man named Jerry. We parked at his house, and he even had a back yard for Syba. Unfortunately, as some of you know, she isn't into yards or any sort of us-imposed boundary. We were in Jerry's house for about 15 minutes when we remembered this. She had "left" the fenced in yard and placed herself in Weston's front seat. I didn't think she could still jump over fences like in her youth, but we all know she can open gates/doors etc. For all the hassle she gives us about going into Weston every day (tail between legs, cowering, walking as slow as doggedly possible up to the van, etc -- people who witness this can only assume its due to the vegans' abuse) it's a bit odd to say the least.

On Monday Rob leafleted at Eastern Michigan U, where the President of the AR group spotted him and helped him leaflet for a few hours. We got in the car to leave, and headed out of the university parking lot. The light turned green, but Weston stalled as he's been doing lately due to fuel injection issues he's seeing the auto shop for today. Someone behind us honked. Rob started him back up, and with no warning, Weston began randomly honking his horn without pause and at different rhythms, as if to sound human. This created quite the scene, so we pulled over for lack of any other solution. He finally ceased after a few minutes and has not acted up, horn-wise, since. But we live in fear, folks!

Yesterday, however, another car honked at us, this time seemingly random. When we arrived to our destination, we saw why.

But luckily, in true Weston-style, he broke down very conveniently:

He was fixed right up at the above auto shop for another handy fee.

Here is what Syba thinks of this additional repair, and traveling by Weston, in general.

Actually, I had her sit next to this to show how huge it was, but it was really from a horse. We stayed one night at a campground in Michigan, which ended up being worse than rest stops but better than Walmart parking lots.

We have most of this week off from shows and screenings, but this is good because we will be playing or screening most of October, which I'm really looking forward to...our updated schedule (combined) is still on our Myspace Blog here. I spend most of my days in libraries working on show/screening promotion or booking.

The cold has set in so I think we need to stock up on thermal undies or underoos. Thanks everyone for reading the blog. I think it has a new layout now. Hope its easy on the eyeballs. Speaking of eyeballs, after a month, Rob finally got his glasses repaired. The frame broke our first day out and he was wearing them lopsided this whole time. He says he feels like a person again, which can only be good, I think.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

If a Tree Falls in the Woods, Would the Hippies Hear It?

As noted, traveling by Weston encourages lots of staring. Some might consider the stares colored with judgment, maybe a dark green for envy. Do these people just want to travel and see our tiny camper van as a representative of childhood vacations? Or do we just look homeless after 2 + weeks on the road and the same number of showers?

In effect, we are homeless for the year, and maybe we're starting to give off that 'vibe.' It could be Rob's tie that I'm using to hold up my pants that are too loose due to not enough vegan cake (though we solved that today). Or maybe it's just the lack of caring that they see, when we pull into a rest stop or a WalMart parking lot to cook & camp for the night in cities. Being tied to one home or workplace can start as comfortable or secure. Forgoing certainty awakens a natural ability to navigate changes without paralysis. Like where to wash your dishes. (The Walmart bathroom, of course. No purchase necessary, don't worry.)

We're pretty darned comfortable in Weston. The only variables in our life are income, Weston's health, and where we're going to sleep at night. Of course there are variables we share with everyone: our own health, happiness, and the probability that I'll finally beat Rob at Gin Rummy and whether or not he'll cry like a baby when this occurs.

The other thing I'm not certain about, but would tell/yell at you a defensive "No freagin' way!" in response, is, "Are we hippies?" I mean, we have the van, and I guess there are some similarities. I have devised a hippy-o-meter to see where we fall.

Yes, Rob and Eleni are Hippies
  • Weston
  • Love (general)
  • Lack of showerage
  • Attendant at gas station in Kentucky said "oh yes, you're hippies."
  • Kleenex box color could be interpreted as 'tie dye'
  • College kids in Chapel Hill yelled "hippy!" at Ms. Binge while driving down the road in Tercel. Ms. Binge reasoned it was one of her bumper stickers.
  • Bumper stickers
  • Rob now flashes the 'peace' sign to fellow VW busses. (He says it is a "V" for "VW." Binge says it is a "V" for "Vegan.")
No, Rob and Eleni are Punk Rock!
  • Avoided purchase of patchouli candle. Scowled upon reading scent.
  • Don't like people (trying)
  • Wear Autumn Breeze deodorant (all seasons)
  • Rob's hair is too thin and short to dread
  • The Grateful Dead evokes a really bad dental visit sustained by Ms. Binge
  • Wash clothes (in machine)
  • Only "baking" in van is of vegan cake
  • They're vegan!
  • Turning on and tuning in, but not dropping out
  • Anything that reeks of 'new age' upsets their auras
I should explain that my bias/perception of "hippy" is of a space cadet; someone who sits around and half-heartedly complains rather than taking meaningful action. Things like drumming for peace, which seem more of a tool for many people to alleviate grief they are feeling at not being able to take direct action. An individual can feel good that they have taken steps to irradicate war through the plesant experience of drumming, rather than doing more difficult work of striking at the root of violence. I'm not saying that this type of activity or meditation isn't effective - the beginning of many societal changes can be at the hand of a well-grounded activist who is "connected" due to the time they have committed to reflection.

Of course there are worse things/people. Those that take negative action. But as a somewhat-organized activist, the label of "hippy" is still offensive.

What might be more offensive, however, is this stereotype. Just do a little thing, here, for me. Google "hippies" and check out the resulting images that display on top of the page.


(If you look real close, you'll see me in the far-right picture, hands up.)

If these photos aren't proof of my own bias, they are simply proof of our larger need to compact movements into neat, square storage bins (the kind Americans use to store their extra stuff...stuff that is meaningless, I think, to hippies?). At work, as well, is the age-old comfort in overthrowing past ideals in favor of new, (presumably) improved philosophies.

After all, hippies stood for dissent from mainstream assumptions, encouraged community, and promoted peace, all awesome things I embrace (though do not think they are entirely possible). Maybe it is the commercialization and superficial symbolism of hippies that I'm adverse to: clothes and peace signs have been marketed to the masses ad nauseum and the people who embrace the "look" as if this alone is a statement that will change the world. If we're talking dissent, why do we all have to look the same?

So are we hippies? Yes and no.

Did we hear the tree that fell in the woods, due to Hurricane Ike, at an Ohio Rest Stop while playing Gin Rummy? Yes. Did Rob win, again? Yes. Is he cheating? Maybe.

So Ike has rendered us jobless for the past week. My last engagement was on Monday when I spoke to a group of Philosophy students at Ursuline. Our show at the Gypsy Hut, my screening with a veg group at the First Unitarian Church, and our show last night at the Rumba Room were all cancelled due to lack of power.

Other than that, here is a little recap-aroo of our past week or so.

We played at Ray's Monkeyhouse following my screening there. Also on the bill was an Old Tyme/Bluegrass band called Say Darlin' Say. I really enjoyed them as a nice break from the typical rock'n'roll.

As a kid, we used to go to California every summer in a VW bus with my mom, brother, and grandparents (all classical musicians, not hippies). We were very predictable and only stopped at the same Motel 6 in Eureka, the same restaurant for breakfast (the Oak Tree), the same restaurants in between (Denny's) and even the same reststops. Heck, even my treats were consistent (breakfast bars, V-8 juice, Treetop apple juice). I always ordered the French Dip at Denny's. Ordering the French Dip would not be very vegan of me now, so luckily there is a delicious alternative. I got the idea directly from Cafe Flora, a great veg restaurant in Seattle.

Pictured here are cast-iron-pan sauteed portobellos & red onions, with a sauce of sweet/savory (Bragg's & black strap molasses) as well as a dipping "au jous" of Bragg's diluted with water. It was delicious and didn't need the dip. For even more protein and bulk, I would suggest adding thin strips of seitan.

We also played a house show at the kind Oldham house. They will be ending house shows in October, but have hosted many bands in the past year. It takes a special kinda person to host these continual shows, opening up your house and cooking meals for the bands. They made us some vegan Indianish dish that filled us all up good. And we got our 2nd shower. We played with the band from Indiana, You're a Liar (pictured below).

Due to cancelled shows, Rob and I have had a lot of time to crave soy ice cream. I decided to go all out and get the cones too. We found Soy Delicious in full supply at Whole Foods. We tried a new flavor, Snickerdoodle, which I don't think is as good as Cookie Dough.

Here you can see Weston in action being a cupboard.

He has many roles: kitchen, bedroom, gambling room, etc. We've been feeling kinda bad because Syba isn't necessarily appreciating all of Weston's contributions. Rob said that her last crap was the Chinese character for "Get me outta here!" (I'm not sure how he knows this, but I'm certain it ties in to his cheating at Gin Rummy).

So we went and bought her this fluffy stuffed 'bear' toy. She is in love with it. She even will go into Weston, willingly, to fetch it and bring it out for play. She throws it around and plays keep away with interested passerby. And of course she just rolls around with it, as you see here.

In addition to the shows & screenings, Rob has been engaged in grassroots activism...leafleting at universities. Here he is at Xavier, a nice campus in Cincinnati. He's leafleting as part of the Adopt a College program. Sweet stuff. The brochures given to students describe the conditions food animals endure, and suggest alternatives. Just the facts, with no fluff required. The facts speak for themselves.

Due to Ike, gas in this same area of town was almost non-existent while we were there. For a moment or three, we were wondering if we'd be able to leave as the fuel needle dipped into the red. We waited about 20 minutes to fill up at the one station in town that still had fuel and power.

Alll of these troubles were washed away with vegan cupcakes, when we came across Pattycakes Vegan Bakery in Columbus. Rob noted that my sweater matched the sign.

Huge thanks to Kim Gray for treating us to this for my birthday.

We soon headed to the Rumba Room, but found this unfortunate message on the door:

We ended up talking to this nice man Adam, who could have applied and been hired for the Dog Whisperer job. Syba would have been happy to stay with him. I thnk she loved Adam more than her anonymous bear toy.

So these are the types of blog posts where I post them, leave, and then sometime around 3:00 a.m. wonder if I offended anyone. Yeah, I care like that. I don't mean to be rude or insensitive to any one person's lifestyle, but I do think discussion of differing viewpoints is important. So feel free to comment. And if you're rude, I'll delete you! (No, I won't).

We're off to Lakewood tonight to play a DIY space. We haven't eaten a Go Back to Durham cookie yet but I'm thinking the can will be opened soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Porch'n - Week 1; Tires & Reststops

So it has officially been a week, calendar-style, and we just made it over the North Carolina state line last night around 11:00 PM. Here is Weston in the parking lot next to the Garage, where we played with the Jew(s) and Catholic(s) and the Winter Sounds.

This was our first show (our first actual stop was the screening at Guildford) and I kinda felt like we were heading off to our first day of school when two of the Midtown Dickens and two-thirds of the soon to debut Pinhook bar showed up to send us off proper Durham-style. It was comforting to have them out there, and we shared some of Shirle's “nice people” cookies with them after the show.

The cookie tin opened its lid again for the Jew(s) and Catholic(s) later.

No offense to future people we met who did not get offered nice people cookies. I think we ate them all. In fact the cookies are so good that we might even have to dip into our “go back to durham” cookies even though we don't need to go back yet. But so far we've controlled ourselves.

Weston's First Boo-Boo

We were hoping it was the truck driving past us, but it was in fact Weston's rear foot we heard, which got slashed on the road. Here is Rob changing the tire. Lucky we had a spare but it was not in great shape, so we found a tire shop. The tire shop (Goodyear, for gawd sake, the very God of Tires) told us they haven't made that kind of tire in over 20 years (the tire is designed to carry heavy loads). They called the VW dealership, who didn't have them either. We began to worry that we'd have to hitchhike the rest of the tour, when we found TIRE KING (the King of Tires). These folks were able to special order a tire so we had one by the next morning. We drove on the spare over to Snug Harbor where we played with the Future Kings and Charlotte's LA Tool & Die. Here is LA Tool & Die during my favorite song.

And here is one of the Kings, our new shirt model.

Before picking up our tire the next morning, we went to this lake, where Syba begged, swam a bit, and ate tree branches.

I also made a tofu scramble so we could have a picnic.

Here we are ensuring no scramble appears post-picnic.

At this same park we stumbled upon another dog park, where Syba did dog-park things like run, smell, and socially interact with her peers as well as those she considers inferior.

There was a loud cell-phone talker dog-guardian, and, of course, this person's dog was also barky, and if the dog had a cell phone, I'm sure he'd be using up his minutes at the park, too.

I think my next documenary will be about rest stops. I realized somewhere in the past week that I love them. It might have been my insistance that we pop the top and sleep at a rest stop any chance possible, or it might have been this creme-de-la-creme of rest stops that we stopped at on the way to Asheville.

It has recycling.

Biodegradable bags for your dogs.

Even a freagin' fire hydrant in case the dog isn't inspired enough by the trees!

And this here is a picture of the area surrounding the rest stop.

Shangri La, or what?

Then of course there is the fabricated comfort inserted by Rest Stop Authorities. Picnic benches, BBQs for veggie burgers.

Actually, I'd be curious to know whether these rusty BBQs had ever experienced the sizzle of a veggie burger or veggie dog.

Really, what else do you need during your rest? Today's stop even had WiFi.

Well, reststop people, if you are reading my blog, I guess showers would be nice. And vegan cake.

Our first night in Asheville we played at the Rocket Club. Here is a picture of it, blurred and freshly painted in the rocketship color (silver, of course!).

We played with Charlotte's The Houstons and Asheville's Sophisticated Chimps.

One of the owners of the club had a dog who hung out with Syba most of the time. The Rocket Club is huge and the stage is made for a 30 piece orchestra. The lights were bright and unwavering, and we couldn't see a thing. The sound was pretty good though.

We found a local park by the French Broad River and popped the top there. We were not disburbed at all, and even made breakfast (pancakes and hash browns) & washed our dishes the next morning.

I must admit that Weston gets a lot of stares. Many people stop to talk of us simply because of him. If I might borrow/paraphrase a line from Katherine Dunn's book Geek Love, Weston is like a confession.

Driving around in him is an open invite for people to relate to us through their own history with a similar van, their own past travels, or their natural curiosity about what the heck we might be up to.

Especially with that container of literature bungy-corded down on top (BTW – don't try to park in a garage with 7'2” limit with such a container attached. A big bumpy noise will happen and you might break your container).

We spent some time driving around trying to find a spot to park. Weston is very handy for naps, as evidenced here on the sidewalk.

Check out our compadre behind us...this person had a dog as well. Seems to go along with the whole thing.

Post-nap we went on the air on WPVM...big thanks to Kym of Midtown & Pinhook for recommending the Siren's Muse show. You can hear the broadcast here (for a little while).

The next day we were gig- and screening-free. Rob leafleted, and also found another dog park for Syba. I spent about 10 hours in the public library booking & promo-ing. If this were really a job, this touring thing, I'd be accummulating a wealth of overtime dollarage. I'd have to sue myself for making me work without pay/recognition.

There was a storm that night, but Weston stayed pretty dry. I'm still not sure how he'll be in the snow blizzards. I do know I'll make snow soup.

Last night we played for Warren-Wilson in Swannanoa, NC. Amazing place where it seems like you have entered an alternate reality. The emphasis of the school is on service, and students are required to work 15 hours a week. This includes farming, gardening, cooking, and helping BB set up and making the documentary happen. The students were very kind and thanked us for coming out to play there. I was told the school was founded long ago as a way to empower the surrounding empoverished community through local farming. After we played, I screened my film.

Then we set off toward Kentucky. After about four hours of driving, we finally made it to our temporary destination, a rest stop! Yeah! Here is Weston the next morning. As a tip, if your refridgerator is on the kabootz, tempeh and Silk Soy Creamer keeps for days.

As another tip, don't look yonder while Syba is one foot away on her new extendo-leash. She might chew it in two. After you knot it back together, she might bite it in 1/2 two more times until you realize that maybe she isn't through with this thing yet.