I end up in China town and call Ross. I’m meeting up with the kids in Cougar Den, who have had a handful of bad luck in the week prior. They spent a week in Utah with a busted fuel pump, a case of pneumonia, and nothing to eat but Denny’s. They left with a couple thousand dollars in debt and indigestion. All that aside they have persevered through all and have a gig in Los Angeles, admirable for a few punk rock kids from Wisconsin. Another thing is Justin, the lead guitar player and one of the few people to outdo me in the long legged, stork looking game, (honestly, think the rooster minstrel in Disney’s Robin Hood) is back in Wisconsin on account of being sick and is flying into San Diego the next day.
After I look closely through the broken glass I can effectively give directions. I stand on the corner and peer into the darkness as a blue short bus drives towards me, I knew they had a short bus but still can’t help laughing. Curving towards the side of the street with its sweet “custom” paint job the bus finally comes to a halt in front of me, the doors swing open. Bobby sits in the drivers seat, Bobby is a great name, great guy too, he has an endless supply of sarcasm, which he uses without mercy while behind the wheel. He plays bass and does vocals and razzes the audience when they deserve it. We drive downtown and find a place to park. The venue is some did up space in an ally, real cozy all age’s spot, but outside it reeks of cat food. The club is called “The Smell”. I don’t know if the two have any correlation.
Waltzing down the alley I see the far off outline of Ross and Kelsey. Kelsey is the drummer and shoulders the thankless burden of booking shows. Ross is along for the ride but on this particular evening will be stepping in to play guitar. The four of us stand around and shoot the breeze before the show starts and it’s nice to see familiar faces. The show goes well and LA treats them smashingly. Ross ends up holding it together and rocking the house. The next morning we leave my apartment where I have been staying for the past two months and I leave my roommate a note. I don’t like goodbyes, and don’t find them necessary when I think I’ll see the person again.
The afternoon sun flickers in through dirty windows as bobby flies down the carpool lane. We don’t have any way to play music so we play cards instead and have a few laughs. Bobby discovers a new trick to the bus where you have to continually pull the turn signal for it to work, one of many tender nuances that make the bus more of a kid’s fort than a tour vehicle. Rolling into San Diego we head to Old Town, the name of which makes me think endlessly of Sin City. We pull into a parking lot and Justin jumps on to the side of the bus, we tell the Waldo look alike to get off the bus and park. Everyone is happy to see Justin because of his goofy nature and the fact that he shreds. Another friend named Brittany is with Justin, so our four becomes six. We buy a twenty-dollar guitar and play songs like old timey hobos.
The show that night is garbage. Lame ass club, lame assholes at the bar, just lame but the Den does what they can. It doesn’t take long for Bobby to make fun of the people at the bar, which is enough entertainment for me. Justin’s guitar breaks and the Cougar Den banner falls. Cursing the rock and roll gods we get on the bus.
In fact we end up sleeping on the bus. You’d think there would be a good amount of sleeping room in a bus, short or not, but that myth is quickly dispelled, or slowly dispelled over a night of useless sporadic slumber. Kelsey gets on the bus and is wasted and hilarious. I wake up in the morning with my head hanging out of the window, I keep having dreams about a passing truck taking my head clean off and keep waking up to the realization that I am not the amazing headless man.
I feel old, mainly because during the day I want to do nothing but sleep, just the thought of future naps are the only things that get me up in the morning, that and my bladder. By the time I wake up everyone has already gotten breakfast and Kelsey and Bobby have somehow snaked a couple copies of the new Harry Potter book. I sit around smoking too many cigarettes, flipping through One Hundred Years Of Solitude, which I have been reading for a couple of months but can’t seem to finish. We hit up a really affordable Mexican place in San Diego and take back to the bus.
The whole time I’ve been feeling sort of paranoid, like I have to look out extra hard for the groups interest, because their my friends but also because the success of tour is a cumulative thing, you can only take so much before you crack, and when you do crack your stuck thirty hours from home with only a few dollars in your pocket. That’s a bad crack. That is a perilous road home.
We end up sleeping in the bus again but Kelsey and Brittany sleep outside. Me and Justin and Bobby end up polishing off a few bottles of wine. This evening getting drunk is pure necessity; there is no other way to sleep. Justin and I end up drinking some beers in the woods; there are a bunch of rodents in the trees. They freak us out at first but then we come to the conclusion that we are a lot louder to the rodents, than they are to us. Must be a terrifying life for little not human things. The sprinklers turn on in the park and soak Kelsey who, lucky night she’s having, has food poisoning. So I climb on the bus and instantly fall asleep.
“Someone is on top of the bus.” is the first thing I think waking up at five that morning. I sit up and realize with much confusion that I am awake and people are on top of the bus. I yell something that passes for “Hey!” and a bunch of guys scatter down the street. We climb out, half asleep, half drunk and discover that these hoodlums have stolen the car carrier on top of the bus. The carrier is filled with Cougar Den t-shirts. Now, we were not in a bad neighborhood, so the whole thing stinks to me. Just at the moment that I realize this is probably an instance of bored asshole kids, a truck comes speeding back down the street and two of said asshole kids throw the carrier out of the truck. Everything was still inside the carrier, minus hopefully a few shirts the robbers kept for themselves.
Cougar Den decides that’s enough San Diego for them and kick town at six that morning. I can’t check into my hostel until noon so I lie down on the sidewalk. As the short bus turns the corner and I feel the concrete beneath me, I instantly think,
"Man, I wish I was sleeping in there."