Getting Warmer, Driving South-er.

January 29, 2008

These pix, of the gig at the 8×10 in Baltimore on 1/24/08, by listener Sam Friedman.
I’m driving South on this tour–my first all-alone, fully-solo tour in a few years–listening to the grandiose sounds of modern black gospel music on the radio, a burned copy of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony (daydreaming of a trip on the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Beijing, maybe next Winter?), and the Monks’ Black Monk Time.
I’m in Jacksonville today, for the first of four Florida shows. People up North snob on Florida, but I dig it. I like the wetness of the air, and the way it smells. I like feeling like I’ve accidentally wandered into an episode of COPS.
I’m at a motel off 95; walking distance from both a Waffle House and a Chick-Fil-A. Those redoubts of Southern cuisine.
I was stopped for speeding on a local highway in Georgia. The cop was missing half his teeth, which conjured up some spooky prejudices about Southerners. But he was cool–I was cheerful, so he let me off with a written “courtesy warning”. He searched my trunk and guitar case, and went through my pills, having to call each of them in to the station house (“How many anti-depressants do they have you on? Have you thought about just changing your diet?”).
I hung out behind my car–Dollar rented me a Mustang! No wonder I was doing 73 on a country road–talking to his partner, a guy a few years older than me, with a grey mustache. He said he used to be a bouncer, twenty years ago, and doesn’t drink now. “I had two libations the day before I put on this badge,” he said.
“When they legalize marijuana, I’ll start smoking it,” he said. When, not if? “They’ll legalize it as soon as they figure out how to tax it.”
He said it’s not addictive, and I said I disagreed. I know lots of people completely crippled by it, they wake and bake, can’t get their lives together, suffer creative death. “Marijuana is not addictive,” he said, definitively.
He told me he had a ’68 Fender Stratocaster once owned by Minnie Pearl.
I got lost on the country highway, and had to stop in at a gas station called Friendly Gus to get directions. It was in a tiny town called Dublin, GA. The guy behind the counter was a black man with baby-blue contact lenses on, and long nails done in a French manicure. He got back on his cell after he finished telling me how to get to I-16. “You’re a good man, aren’t you?” He cooed. “You’re still on the phone.”
In Athens, GA, I opened the door to my motel room and discovered they had given me the honeymoon treatment–there were rose petals strewn in a path leading to a bottle of Champagne in a bucket and chocolate-covered strawberries. Which I ate immediately. I figured the honeymooning couple had cancelled, or that I got the wrong room.
After the show, though, I looked at the Champagne and discovered it was “de-alcoholized sparkling wine.” Did that mean somebody knew I didn’t drink? They gave me the honeymoon treatment because that’s all they had at their disposal to be welcoming? Or would they really gyp a pair of newlyweds with fake booze?