What I Did in Van Horn.

Sun-soaked and desolate and gorgeous place.

I took a long walk down the access road to what you might call Metropolitan Van Horn. Lots of burnt-out trailers and houses, and sun-bleached old signs for laundromats and beauty salons. There was a folk-art dude’s place; he does copies of Van Goghs and ersatz Van-Gogh-style portraits, the subjects with long warped faces.
I ate my yearly dose of McDonalds.
We had this old shitty guitar sitting on the bus; its neck had a long diagonal crack. We took it out to the access road right before midnight, when the bus was due for the overdrive to Tucson, and took turns trying to smash it on the asphalt. We each put in a buck, the guy who got the neck to split from the body got the $5 pot.
Nobody succeeded in splitting the neck off, but we beat the shit out of the thing. Somebody called the police, and a state trooper’s Crown Vic cruiser crept up on us with the lights out.
The cop looked about 19, with rosy cheeks. “What are you guys doing?”
“We’re smashing a guitar,” I said.

Howdy from Van Horn, TX.

(The foto above is another one ganked from listener Devin Grant.)

We drove out of Austin after Oasis finished their set, and now we’re halfway to Tucson. The driver has stopped at a Holiday Inn in Van Horn, and so we wait until midnight to drive the rest of the way. It’s a desolate landscape with scrubby hills in the distance. Very strange to wake up here, it makes me feel mysteriously contented.
Chuck is glued to his Packer game on the bus’ satellite TV, and I’m emailling/posting/surfing like a fiend. I woke up at 11 am today. Have I talked to you about this? I keep waking up at 11 fucking am, that’s like absurd for me, the usual scene is that if I sleep ’til 9 I feel like I’m sleeping late like some kind of decadent pasha.
Pete McNeal and Handsome Dan, on the other hand, are still asleep as I type this.
We’re about 73 miles from Marfa, where the sculptor Donald Judd converted an abandoned army base into a sculpture park, with massive, austere works by himself and Dan Flavin. I’ve always wanted to go there. I really would hire a cab to get there, but the front desk at the Holiday Inn says of Van Horn, “We don’t have cabs here.”
So. At least they have Wi-Fi. Or wiffy, as we call it on the bus. As differentiated from Scrap’s wife, whom he calls The Wif.

Oustin’ in Austin.

OK, no actual ousting, but it makes a lovely phrase, yeah?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. I did not get to the Salt Lick. I did not get to the Iron Works. There were no ribs for Mikey.
And I slept through Bloc Party, the Fiery Furnaces, and Def Cab. Reports from Chuck and Handsome Dan state unequivocally that Bloc Party is actually good.
I was sad yesterday for some reason. I don’t know why. I was lonely.
The good part = the show. I love doing these one hour, hit ‘em and quit ‘em, slam-pow gigs. It’s really our fort

The Phallus of Dallas.

(That’s what Scrap, a Dallas native, calls the Reunion Tower.)

Gypsy Tea Room, in Deep Ellum. Small crowd, but feisty; after the show I found out that like 20 of them had driven down from Tulsa. Note to self: play Oklahoma.
The last time I played there, my then-drummer Shahzad responded to drunk dudes who wanted more after the encore by playing a drum solo. He’s kind of an odd duck. I was pissed. And this seemed to baffle him; he did it totally innocently, not realizing that it was in any way out of bounds.
It was weirdly quiet in Deep Ellum; hurricane. There were families staying in their cars in public parking lots just on the other side of the interstate. Scrap’s sister was driving out of Houston along with a gigantic jammed throng of evacuees: she left at 6:30 am, and when Scrap talked to her at 8 pm she had yet to leave the Houston city limits.
We spent the day tracking the hurricane. Would it hit Austin? Would ACL be cancelled? Would we be hotfooting it moments after the Gypsy Tea Room gig to Arizona?


The fellaz call me Thode. I don’t know why. OK, I lied, I know why. It’s not dirty, I promise. Hi from Dallas.

The Boys from Bob Jones.

The guys who handled the email list in Charleston were students at Bob Jones University.

Wow, isn’t that a fundamentalist Christian school? Yep, they said.
Man. I want to be pro-Christian; outside of the morality stuff I can really identify with the spiritual consciousness (though I don’t subscribe to any kind of organized belief myself). I get lots of emails asking if I’m a Christian due to “His Truth Is Marching On”; I have hoped that some born-agains would identify with the tune.
But these guys weren’t Christians. They were there because their parents made them go there. They told me that if the school’s administrators found out they were at my show they’d be kicked out of school. They told me that kids whose parents taught at the school were obliged to go to the school, or else their parents would lose their jobs.
They told me a story about a guy who managed to get out of there because he wanted to study oceanography, and Bob Jones doesn’t have an oceanography department. Still, they said there were weeks and weeks of committee upon committee grilling the poor guy to make sure he wasn’t trying to slide out for ideological reasons. Which, of course, he actually was.
They told me about “supervised dating,” and girls not being allowed to leave campus unattended by a chaperone, and all kinds of fucked-up shit. My God.
I sure was glad to see them at my gig. The funny thing about the email list people is that they always want to talk about me, and all kinds of shit that’s really kind of run-of-the-mill for me. I’ve learned to be inquisitive, to be an interviewer, to ask people about what’s going on with their lives. In the case of these guys: man, what a payoff!
This one time I had a fascinating conversation with an economist who was moving to Japan to study real estate there. As she left she became embarrassed that the whole conversation was about her, and not me. “I should have asked you about–I don’t know–when the Evenhand DVD was coming out!”