Journal entry 6
In the early morning hours before the sun starts to rise, when everything is tinted a dark blue, and the sky is host to ominous black clouds, there is an eerie silence that settles like no other. While the world continues to rotate on its axis, and the sky to shifts above me, everything slowly fades into silence as the open roads ahead turns into an endless stretch of nothingness, swallowing psyche whole as my eyes flutter from tiredness. The hypnotic state is only broken by the ramblings of my assistant driver, Brandon. He points to the pendulant black clouds outside, completely swelled with water; ready to pour down on us at any second. Inside the van, our mouths expressed tiny breaths of steam as we spoke in low, hushed voices so we didn’t wake the others in the rear of the vehicle. It was 0400 when the van pulled over for gas, and I was tasked as the next driver with Brandon as my road dog. Dee and James, haggard and beat from the trek from Washington, gladly gave up their roles, and made their way quietly to the backseat for some much-needed rest.
“How’d you sleep?” Brandon asked me. By the chipperness in his voice, I knew he was able to catch some shut eye.
“Pretty good,” I lied while taking the wheel. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”
We were somewhere between Portland and Eugene, Oregon, cruising down the five freeway with little to no traffic. In the driver seat, I squirmed and flexed my fingers around the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white. The tightness in my stomach told me I was hungry, but nothing tasted good in my tired mouth, so I relied on the blackest of coffee from the grimiest of gas stations. I hadn’t slept well during Dee and James’ first shift; my mind was racing, anticipating this moment with a sick satisfaction. One could assume I was excited that we were on our way home, back to Los Angeles, but I was no longer concerned with making it home...Our direction didn’t matter on this journey. The only thing that mattered was making it to the next destination in one piece so we could play the show, and I was going to make that happen.
Outside the front window, running alongside both sides of the 5 freeway, were long stretches of pine trees, cloaked the darkness. We were moving so fast, I could only make out their collected, furry shapes. In the daylight they were covered with snow from top to bottom, but in the darkness, they were ominous black voids, like sleeping giants. Under the cover of night, they stood tall, arms outstretched in every direction, some of them even reaching out to us as we passed. I pinched my leg several times during my shift. Partly to ensure I wasn’t dreaming, and partly to keep myself awake.
Brandon, my road dog, did a fine job as my assistant driver, providing the most appropriate music for the twilight drive. If it wasn’t for him, I surely wouldn’t have made it.
When we finally stopped to switch roles, it was 6000. The sky had turned a lighter shade of blue, but the cloud cover still managed to block the rising sun. It was raining when I took the passenger seat, and Brandon took over as driver, and after a few short moments back on the road, the rain turned to sleet. The flatness of the 5 freeway was behind as we entered the infamous Grant’s Pass. The change in grade took us upward in elevation. Brandon gripped the steering wheel in the same way I had, his knuckles white as paper, but for different reasons. The sleet/slush mixed with the dirt on the road, so all the vehicles in front of us were spraying mud onto our windshield. Brandon leaned forward, his face nearly against the driver window, for better viewing. His eyes squinted so tightly I could have sworn they were closed. Meanwhile, I leaned out of the passenger window, screaming commands at Brandon while he continued to drive. This process continued for another hour…
When James and Dee took over driving positions again, fresh with four hours of sleep, I was ready to pass out. Eyes burning, I retreated to the backseat again, but this time I knocked out as soon as I closed my eyes.
“Does this have four-wheel-drive?” Someone asked outside the vehicle.
The voice came from the front of the vehicle. My eyes were still closed, but I could feel that we had stopped. The voice came again, but now he was asking if we had chains. Then he asked again if the van had four-wheel-drive. Quickly, Dee answered: “Yeah…it’s a rental!”
There was a short whistle, likely some sort of hand waving, and we were off again. The grade of the slope had increased of the vehicle, and I knew that we were reaching the highest point of Grant’s Pass. My cheek, which was pressed firmly against the windshield, could feel the coldness from outside, and the rush of wind that breezed past my face. My limbs were all outstretched, so I slowly brought them back in and tucked to myself into a tiny ball on the seat. If we were going to crash, I figured I’d be best suited in a tight ball so I wouldn’t be crushed underneath the pyramid of gear.
The first time we slid on ice, David remained calm and simply mentioned it to James, his assistant driver. Everyone in the van could feel what was happening, but we could do nothing. Still sleeping I gripped my tights and tucked my head further between my knees. After a few seconds, the sliding ceased, and we continued our journey, but only 15 minutes later we were sliding again, this time much further and faster. The traction came back again after the sliding ceased, and Dee vowed to take it extremely slow from then onward. Damn all the Subarus who raced around us and raised their middle fingers in defiance. We made it out alive, and you could suck our dicks.
The van pulled into Albany in the afternoon on a Wednesday. The drive took nearly 15 hours, and we were exhausted, but there was only time for a 45-minute nap. So, the band retreated to their respective rooms, washing up, meditating, sleeping… Everyone was still on edge, remembering the horridness of the ride, and our near death experience on the ice. I was sure that I slept through the entire time I was driving, but I would never admit that to the band… I am sure that some of them slept through their driving-time as well.
Wednesday’s show in Albany was at the Ivy Room, a small venue that was a mainstay for locals in the bay area. We were greeted by other band members of the set as soon as we entered. It was a refreshing experience after being on the road so long. Tired and possibly delirious, we spoke in quick-fire sentences. Our laughs filled the establishment all night as we shared drinks and stories with new friends (shoutout to all the members in KIM [the band]), and old ones (shoutout to Will Brotherson). We even had a Bay Area local, known as Ryder, who had seen us at the Knockout the week before, come to see us again.
Truthfully, we played with a lot of angst that night. All of us were tired, smelly, and pissed off, so we let our performance speak on those terms. And after it was all over, everyone loved each other again. The longest drive of our journey was finished, and our set at the Ivy room was good enough to motivate us again.
The next day we traveled down to Bakersfield, California. For the entire tour Hurt Hawks had been explaining that he was the King of Bakersfield. He told us that his first show there blew the roof off, and they had been demanding him back ever since.
“I’ll show you!” He told us. “When I tell them you’re with me, you’ll be treated like kings!”
The man was not lying. When we arrived at the basement of Jerry’s Pizza, we did so walking beside the large American. It was a seedy underground venue, with little head room and an elongated space for standing, drinking, and fighting. The place was near capacity, and it was a rough crowd in the audience. Their faces observed us, scanning us from head to toe to make sure we were hard enough. But when they realized it was Hurt Hawks standing next to us, giving us the wave of approval, their expressions changed. From then on, they brought us drinks, food, and even helped set up onstage. The crew at Jerry’s Pizza (underground) is stellar and the audience was welcoming. It was a Fremch Mouth’s who opened up for Hurt Hawks that night, and rightfully so, because he truly is the King of Bakserfield. For nearly every song, the audience was fighting over the mic and singing along with the man known as Hurt Hawks. And behind all of the guttural shouts, the tiny woman, known as the wife, danced and sang backup vocals onstage. The contrast between the two proved to layer the music even more complexly than I heard all tour.
The Bakersfield show ended as soon as it started. That night we consumed too much beer, and an exceptional amount of pizza. Our high tolerance remained intact, but we were feeling it. We were retired to our rooms and slept as best we could. The next day we’d be heading home and resting for an extra day before the final show at the Goldfish in Highland Park.