I took a trip out to the West Coast to play with my friends Jason and Lucas in Jason's band, the Paper Cuts. We traveled from San Francisco, going as far south as San Diego, and as far north as Olympia, WA. Unlike what you've seen on VH-1's behind the music, the liquor and drugs did not flow all that freely, and the groupies didn't throw themselves at us as much as we might have liked. But we had a good time. I kept a journal along the way, and what follows are some highlights:

I got to Jason's and we jumped right into practicing. Considering we hadn't played together much for a couple of years and that our first show was only three days away, we took it seriously enough. I found the drum parts relatively easy to learn, even on the songs I've never played before. Jason had given me a tape of the songs, so at least I knew how they went. I also broke down my age-old resistance to taking notes, and wrote reminders like, "on cymbal" "don't forget the 'Leader of the Pack' part in the middle," and eventually, "boom tap... boom-boom tap." We got through a bunch of songs, giving us all a sense of relief. We wouldn't look nearly as ridiculous as we imagined in our least positive states of mind.

During a practice break, Lucas brought out "Thundercrack," a movie he had found in Jason's roommate's collection. At last we would find out what makes a movie "classic hardcore." A cross between "Psycho," Andy Warhol's self-serving art films, and your average 70's stag flick, it was a creepy vision. We came in during a scene involving a manly-woman being bathed by her handmaid, with special attention paid to her nether-regions. Soon after, a terrible storm drove five strangers to the home of this nymphomaniac. They each changed into dry clothes in a bedroom littered with all manner of erotic paraphernalia. Of course, none of the wet stragglers could resist trying out the goodies.

Jason kept away, proud of his prudishness, but Lucas and I were riveted. Like a gruesome car crash, we knew we should look elsewhere but somehow couldn't.

After practicing all day, we got a call from Neil, who was supposed to be setting up shows for us. He said that the Tuscon show had fallen through, as had everything in the Pacific Northwest. This left us with only five shows, ending up in Phoenix on the 5th - ten days earlier than we anticipated. I was plenty pissed about having to trick Randy into letting me go on this trip, and then to have half of it fall through. We bought a bottle of wine and set about drinking it.

Our first show took place at a place called PCH, on a street called PCH, in the small industrial town of Wilmington, just south of Los Angeles. The club was in a mighty desolate neighborhood, flanked by an oil refinery and a do-it-yourself truck wash.

We played for about ten people and a hundred cockroaches. My feeling that I had made a mistake in coming loomed large. On the bright side, we sounded good together, and I found my notes very helpful.

Packing up our stuff to head out for San Diego, Jason asked if we had seen his guitar. We looked in the trunk, in our host Dave's living room, under the car, behind the tree, and everywhere else we could think of. No guitar. Nobody was around at the PCH, so we figured one of the other bands must have made off with it, probably on accident, but you never know with these punk rock kids.

Jason was forced to borrow a guitar from our other host, Chris, and at the show in San Diego, he tried out his first joke onstage. He commented that he felt a little funny playing a guitar that had a Nashville Pussy (the name of a band) sticker on it. He didn't get many laughs, probably because he mumbled delivering the line, and according to Lucas, it sounded something like, "blah blah blah blah PUSSY blah blah blah." The young, politically correct audience must have assumed he was some kind of pervert.

We flirted with the idea of going to Las Vegas for an evening of debauchery, since our next show wasn't for a few days, but Jason and Lucas both felt under the weather, so we nipped our senses of adventure in the bud and headed back to Costa Mesa, where Dave played us a CD of celebrities acting badly. The highlight was a drunken James Brown defending allegations of his wife-beating by going on the radio and singing bits of his famous hits. He responded to the interviewers' question about whether or not he was broken up by his impending divorce by quipping, "I'm single and ready to mingle!" I was inspired by his ability to put the best spin on a bad situation.


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