We have made all of our cross-country tours crammed into a gold Ford Explorer with tinted windows, American flag stickers on the front, wooden skulls hanging from the mirror, stuffed animal mascots on the dash, a St. Christopher medallion, and occasional porn collages on the ceiling. Driving three (or sometimes four) people in an SUV for 6,000 miles can make for some pretty cramped quarters. Over the years, we’ve found creative ways to amuse ourselves with various mobile craft projects. We’ve also developed the ability to quickly--especially in thunderstorms--stack amps and keyboards like Tetris blocks in the back while strapping various ‘pods’ to the roof for boxes of merchandise and sleeping bags. One time, the pod on the roof flew open in the desert, and we went chasing down sleeping bags in the sand for half an hour.
The funniest thing about our truck (nicknamed Bonky 3) is its owner, Matty, bass player and wizard extraordinaire. In approximately 400 hours of driving (or 30,000 miles), he has relinquished the wheel only once or twice--possibly three times, if you count the night the less-drunk of us (me) swerved a mile or 2 down the road to the Motel 8.
Matt is an excellent driver. He’s possibly the best driver I have ever seen. He’s cut from the same solid rock as Neal Cassady – the kind of man who is able to stare at a highway for 4, 6, 10 hours at a time, all the while lighting cigarettes, changing CDs, and listening to my endless spiel of Map Quest directions and potential song lyric ideas. He looks like a rock, too, with his hard head and his broad shoulders, his bone-carved necklaces, his sweaty forehead (like tiny beads of rain on Mount Rushmore), and his slightly glazed-over, cold blue Nordic eyes.
Matt’s most famous border-crossing line came down outside of El Paso. While we were waiting in line for the window, I couldn’t help but notice two bland-looking white girls in a Ford Focus on the roadside getting sniffed over by the K9 unit. (I say “white girls” only because their skin looked so pale and reflective to me in my high noon sun.) They looked like they just graduated from The University of Minnesota and were on their way to visit their Grandmother in San Diego.
Our Fearless Driver
I may mention here that it was our morning custom to smoke a joint after breakfast and upon hitting the open road. In fact, we smoked weed all day on tour, every day. I think a lot of bands do this on tour in order to alleviate the endless drone of pavement and to add touches of color to the edges of the general American homogeny.
When we got to the window, the patrolman said bluntly, “Do you have any drugs in the car? If you give us the drugs willingly, we won’t arrest you. But if we search your car and find drugs, we’ll take you and your car down to the station.”
To this, Matt simply replied in his best Obi-Wan impersonation, “Sir, if there are drugs in my car, you can take my car…”
I imagined his hand waving in the air. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
I heard the gravel crunching to my right… the sound of boots and dog chain. I had learned to deal with canceling out my own paranoia concerning cops and jails and all of that, but the idea of actually GOING to jail on tour sucks… in the moment when you actually confront the idea head-on, your stomach feels like it’s creeping up your throat. You go from the anticipation of thinking about the next show and imagining the venue, imagining who you might meet and what it will feel like, to seeing yourself in a cramped, dirty room with a single light bulb, eating a piece of stale bread, and waiting to use some black telephone to call your booking agent to tell him you are in jail in El Paso and your car with all your gear was seized because of a bag of weed.
This time we were lucky. Although we seem to have infinite luck on the road, sometimes I fear our luck is going to one day run out... Until then, we’ll keep driving around in a gold SUV with American flag decals and a St. Christopher medallion. We’ll keep being two bearded weirdos (plus a pretty Asian girl in the back seat) while all around us innocent Sorority girls get searched. The edges blend. The colors intensify. America bleeds out into a vast pavement grid eating itself from the outside in.
-Rob Corradetti, Mixel Pixel