I awoke in the Western Inn in South Tucson. Sam, of course, was gone, and I had a text message from him that he was at some café nearby. Probably talking to his missus and shooting up black tar heroin. Max eventually awoke and got a call from the auto shop. Sam may have been back by this point.
The nice folks at the auto shop said that the transmission was fucked and they’d get a used one from a junkyard and replace it. The cost was going to be $1600, which (being sensitive about sharing too many details of Wizard Rifle’s finances…) obliterated everything they’d ever made. Max gave them the go-ahead. Then we checked out and walked forlornly to the center of town, catching a bus once we’d walked halfway. On this walk, we (Sam, I believe it was) hitched a new fangled plan. We would play the Tucson show that evening, then drive all night to L.A. Somehow, despite the forlorn, it was agreed upon.
It was going to be a shitty day. We were all stranded, we had been just in reach of our wish-fulfillment, and the coffers were being emptied with one fell swoop. The town was hot, but not unpleasantly. South Tucson was a bit oppressive, but the downtown area had some shade from things like buildings, that stood tall and had insides.
We spent noontime in the Shot In The Dark Café, a café named after our fate that day. Max talked to Nate and a few others and everyone advised him not to pay to have a new transmission in the van. The advice was just to get a new van. Our lunch hours were frittered away in calm, agonizing desperation.
Really though, it was mostly Max’s, and I say this as a credit to him and a discredit to Sam and I. Sam wandered off, probably to talk to his missus and shoot up black tar heroin, and returned with a dress – nice of him to think of resourceful spending. I walked downtown Tucson a little and ordered a macaroni salad and an orange from the Shot In The Dark, both of which were delicious. Max was on the phone with countless craigslisters selling vans of varying quality, along with Nate, other folks in Portland, and his sister in L.A. to tell her we were going to drive all night.
Although there were a lot of calls made, the van buying didn’t occur – it never did. It might have been the better option as far as reliablity, but the timing was wrong. The auto shop had already started the repairs, and we were worried they felt like they were being jerked around. The idea we pitched to them was that they buy our van off us, possibly for free. It was all logistically too much for one afternoon; or too much for us, at least. There were no guarantees in any van we ended up with. So we bowed our heads and submitted.
With a few hours to kill, we walked around downtown. Sam was leading us somewhere, and I gave a shit until I found out it was an antique shop. He’d been rummaging through antique shops in the towns we’d been to since the beginning. I thought it curious at first; I hadn’t known him to be into antiques. I’d since learned that it wasn’t even for him, and that little else that he did was either.
We didn’t find the antique shop, bad directions and bad Sam-orientation led us northwards, and, after trying an orange hanging from a tree (it was super sour), we settled on 4th Ave. We’d heard it was a good part of town to hang out. I was entertained. Max decided to sit around in Epic Cafe on 4th & University. He said he’d seen enough of Tucson. Sam went wandering for the antique shop. I went wandering just to see things.
The area was covered with murals, many psychadelic, and yet there weren’t a lot of bonafied hippies or “artsy” types. Just folks. I began listening to In The Aeroplane Over The Sea again hoping for that clarity that’d washed over me before Las Cruces. It was soothing but not altogether clearing. I found a man playing classical guitar outside of a bookshop. I gave him some money and asked if I could sit by and listen, which he nodded to. He was good, except he kept playing a few jazzy, poppier numbers, which I’m not inherently opposed to; just that the classical ones were really doing it for me. It made me wish I had classical music on my iPod instead of the fucking bullshit that I don’t know why I have.
Eventually I parted ways with the guitarist. I asked him if there was anything cool to do around the area since I was basically stranded, and all he said, in a very soothing voice, was, “They got good soup there at Bison,” and pointed to a building. He also listed some bars; he said no much happens in Tucson and he just liked playing some pool and drinking cheap beer (and yet he was oddly dignified as he said this). I went into the bookstore. Only two minutes later, I came back out and founds the guitarist gone. Then I saw him a few minutes later on the street, and I was pretty sure he tried to avoid my nod.
Back at Epic Café, Max was killing time. I joined him and we read a really great interview with Jeff Mangum that I found on Pitchfork, which I love in all ways but one – Jeff Mangum is a worrier; it comes out in his songs, it comes out in his person (at least in the interview). I was breathing okay though, the van was going to be done at 5:00 that evening.
Sam met up with us, and Max took off for the auto shop. I loaned him my iPod for the trip since he was going solo. I had a talk with Sam about the dour future, and it went alright, I guess. I don’t think that anybody can win, but I was thinking about the middle ground when it comes to the future – the pass between two hellish mountains.
Speaking of: I talked to Sarah on the phone and that cheered me up. I told her we were planning on driving all night to L.A. and we’d be there in the late morning probably. Something was amiss though. I was in such a pit of anxiety – and not even feeling bad at that very moment – that I knew rolling into L.A. feeling like post-dumping Soren Kierkegaard was probably going to be a dour future in itself.
Sam took a call from Max outside. He was gone long enough that I knew we were in Fucktown – still; again. Sam returned, and with every philange crossed, I gave him a bodily gesture to lay it on me. He gave me two big thumbs down. Said the van wouldn’t be fixed until noon the next day. And now, if we were still playing the show that night – and we were – we didn’t have much time to figure out how to get our fucking shit from the fucking van to the fucking place.
Sam and I walked to the venue with the intent to call the venue proprietor – “an honorable man” according to Nate. Call him I did, and he said, with a voice that seemed old and drugfried, that he was still in Sedona doing whatever people do in Sedona, that he wasn’t going to make the show, that he sort of knew a guy in the first band who might have a van (who worked at a pizza shop; I could google the pizza shop and call them to try and get his contact info). He asked what the trouble with the van was, but, despite sounding nice, he didn’t really care, and gave me a “huh! Too bad! Good luck!”
The man at the venue was the proprietor’s brother. He was the one that had seemed so aloof yesterday. I came to find that it was just his way – a little slow and distant, but welcoming in a way that was his own. It was annoying making calls trying to get our gear with him standing around watching, but whatever. I called the pizza joint – Rocco’s – and eventually got a hold of Rocco of the opening band – Stinkfinger (yup) – who said he could do it (or was it maybe he could do it?) and that he’d be bringing a pizza. But Max then called and said he got it figured in time for me to tell Rocco we didn’t need a ride.
Max showed up with folks from the auto shop driving a truck with the gear in the flatbed. We unloaded it and the auto shop folks took off. Rocco showed up and I shamelessly dived into his Chicago style “kitchen sink” deep dish, and it was. Fucking. Amazing. The man at the venue also supplied some ratatouille type dish, which was good, but not filling. Some salad was also present. And some dame dropped off cookies.
For full disclosure on what a turncoat piece of shit I actually am, all too willing to prove my critics right – I tried to escape. It was indecent. And I failed. That is all that’s worth mentioning on the subject on an open forum. I sat at the merch table eating cookies like a fatty while news fell over the room that Stinkfist’s bassist hadn’t arrived yet, wasn’t answering his phone, that this was very out of character for him, that cocaine’s a hell of a drug, and that women are distracting. So Wizard Rifle only played.
It was a cool venue, the people were nice, they supported the cause of beginning to rebuild the band savings, etc etc. But the alternate universe where we skipped Tucson and spent a day enjoying that warm California sun was undoubtedly the better universe. Unquestioningly. This one’s made of curve balls, dramatic irony always working against the beholder, and weird shit in the food, like this weird calcium addative, pale and mysterious atop my orange juice, jiggling disconcertingly in the friction of the cabin of this airplane carrying me back to New York City.
The finest part of the evening was Miki and Dave. They were a married couple that Nate knew and had gotten a hold of. Dave had told Max way too late that he could have fixed the transmission for a couple hundred bucks – a real heartbreaker. And while that kindness couldn’t be taken up, they did offer their place for the night.
It was a beautiful house in northeast Tucson. This was the first married couple we’d stayed with who weren’t family, and the first house we’d stayed at that wasn’t a shithole in some weeks. I think. They had space and hospitality in spades, and I won’t soon forget how neighborly and selfless they were. We were comfortable and set for the night.
-for part of Thursday May 10th, 2012