Tag Archives: The Dodos

5. Road Trip 2008, Day 3-4: The Obnoxious Drunk and the Zen Master

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Paul and I sat behind the VFW for another hour talking over the muffled sounds of some blues band with a Fiona Apple sounding singer (it wasn’t as good as you’d think). I asked him why the hell he had been talking to the old lady at the bar for so long, and he tried explaining that she gave him the inside scoop on the Bozeman area. For example, since we had been planning to climb Lone Mountain in a few days, she suggested we climb it from the backside. She claimed it would be a much more scenic climb.

“I don’t trust a word that annoying woman said,” I told him.

“Dude, you don’t trust a Montana woman? She’s lived her for 25 years!” We both burst into laughter.

When we heard Fiona and her blues band finish up, we moseyed inside to finally see our fellow patriotic crooners, The Dodos. After grabbing a couple of Olympia’s, I made my way into the crowd, while Paul stood in the back, leaning against a pillar. He had been vacant most of the night; I didn’t know if the drinking caught up with him or if he was just tired.

I decided not to worry about him and began scanning the people around me. Maybe my beer binge altered my vision, but I seemed to be surrounded by beautiful women: a tall brunette with rosy cheeks sipping a PBR to my left, a cute little hippie red head to my right, and in front of me a slender woman with shiny black hair and a dark complexion. Could my night get any better?

The Dodos took the stage and began their set with some older material. Although unfamiliar with the songs, I was fascinated by Meric Long’s guitar playing. I’ve been obsessing over the guitar riffs on “Visiter” for months, and now I could finally see him at work, his fingers pitter-patting across the fret board as Logan Kroeber drummed away like a lunatic. Long switched guitars almost every song (I think he had five), which led me to believe he did a lot of open tuning. I used to think he layered the guitar tracks on “Visiter”, but there he was, playing all the string parts on one guitar.

If only he'd had his trombone during our singing of The National Anthem.

He also relied heavily on a looper pedal, infusing back-up vocals and even pulling out the trombone, which he looped into a haunting back-drop to a song. I turned to look for Paul when they kicked into “Fools”, not only the best song on the album, but probably the best song of 2008. I didn’t see him anywhere, but I didn’t get too concerned, returning my attention to the pandemonium on the stage. The audience joined in the singing with the chorus, “Whoa-Oh! Whoa-Oh! Whoa-oh-oh-oh!” I know, pretty primitive lyrics, but sometimes the simplest choruses are the catchiest.

A clip of The Dodos performing “Fools”, although not from the show in Bozeman:

Being so caught up in the music, I had forgotten about the hotties around me. That is until the girl in front of me decided to take out her ponytail, and commence flipping her long black hair into my face repeatedly. The first few times it annoyed me, especially when her flowing locks hit me in the eye. But when she turned around and smiled at me between songs, I got the feeling the hair toss was an intentional move. I wasn’t sure though. Her girlfriends and her seemed to be with a group of hippie frat guys.

"After we shotgun these beers, are you guys up for some extreme tree hugging!?"

The hair tossing and coy smiling would go on the rest of the show, but I couldn’t give her all of my attention – it was The Dodos for after all. As the band broke into “Joe’s Waltz” for the encore, she kicked the flirting up a notch and began dancing, moving her hips back toward me. I’m horrible at reading woman, but I had no doubt that her bouncing into me was not an accident. One of the frat boys in a flannel shirt seemed to notice, and didn’t seem too happy. I turned around thinking, “If only I could find Paul!” but I couldn’t locate him. I took a step back from the girl as a sign of peace, but she continued moving her butt back, blindly searching out my torso. I stood my ground, but didn’t reciprocate her hip shake. I didn’t need to get jumped by a bunch of college guys.

When the band finished up, the frat boys clear out to try and buy a final drink, leaving the hair-tosser and her girlfriends huddled by the stage. I knew I should say something to her, but I wasn’t going to walk into the estrogen slaughter alone. I needed a wingman; I needed Paul. I scanned the bar one last time. With the crowd thinned out, he should be easy to spot. No Paul. That’s when it hit me.

“That fucker went to the car.”

I would have to do this on my own. I stood back for a while, trying to figure out what to say. “I’m visiting Bozeman. Do you know anywhere I can stay?” Nah, too forward. “Hello, I’m the guy you kept hitting in the face with your hair.” Too rude. The longer I stood there trying to compose myself, the creepier I felt staring at the group of girls. I had nothing. Defeated, drunk, and embarrassed, I walked outside, prepared to take my disappointment out on Paul. I looked into the car window, and there he laid, lost in dreamland with a smile on his face. Asshole.

“What the fuck dude? Where’d you go? You’re such a fag!” the drunken insults and accusations came flowing out like the waterfall we had seen in Spearfish.

“…wha?…is the show over?” he grumbled, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“You know it’s over you dick! You left me hanging! How could you miss The Dodos?! They were the reason we drove up here! What the fuck!” He chose not to respond, closing his eyes, and lying his head back. That didn’t stop me. “I needed a wingman, and where were you? Sleeping, you shit dick! Little baby Paul is tired! Boo Hoo! I drove all day you dick; I’m the one who should be tired! “I screamed.

Maybe it was the dozen beers I drank, maybe it was the two hours of sleep I got in South Dakota, or maybe it was anger at myself for being such a coward, but I let it all out on Paul. Poor guy. He laid there half asleep, as I ranted into the night at him. I brought up issues that didn’t even relate to the road trip. “This shouldn’t surprise me. You always ditched me at shows in Omaha.” My complaints were endless, and he just sat there, bleary eyed and confused, taking all my drunken frustrations like a Zen master. When I finally ran out of wind, all I could hear was his heavy breathing. This annoyed me to no end.

“Well?! What do you have to say for yourself sleepy boy?!” I yelled.

“…………you’re a dick,” he mumbled and then rolled over to return to sleep. My anger fell on deaf ears. I sat back in the drivers seat, thinking I wouldn’t get any sleep with all my pent up frustration. Of course, I passed out within minutes. The long day of drinking had finally caught up with me.

The next morning I woke up with a pounding headache, confused with my surroundings. Why am I sleeping in my car, parked at a VFW? I looked to the passenger side to see Paul missing, once again. Did he camp at the bartender’s? Did he hook up with the old lady? I had no idea where he had gone. Alone with my thoughts, bits and pieces from the night began settling into my memory. “God I’m an asshole,” I thought. The guilt settled in and I knew I needed to go looking for Paul. I pondered if my temper tantrum had imploded our entire road trip. And it had been going so great…

Just then I noticed movement behind the bar’s dumpster. I glanced over to see Paul coming up from the squatting position and pulling up his pants. Now I felt worse. He could have easily waken my drunk ass up and told me we needed to find a public bathroom, but no, he decided let me sleep in, opting to drop a deuce behind the dumpster. I had a lot of explaining to do.

As he walked back to the car, I searched for the words to apologize for my outburst the night before. When he opened the door, I hesitated, and then finally let it out, “I’m sorry about last night.”

“Don’t worry about it…..hey, are there any napkins left in here? I wiped my butt with a leaf and it ripped my asshole all up.”

He had already moved past my tirade onto a more pressing dilemma. I decided I’m pretty lucky to have such a forgiving friend, more bothered by jagged edged tree leaves than his friend with a propensity to be a jerk when he’s drunk.

More annoying than a drunken asshole.

Leave a comment

Filed under Road Trip Blogs

4. Road Trip 2008, Day 3: Home of the Brave

Somewhere in between this ocean and mountainside
I have this dream I think of it still sometimes
I know it’s just the season
I sense no time or reason
The sky falls down; it’s evening
The feeling goes; it’s leaving

The Dodos “The Season”

We returned to downtown Spearfish around 8 a.m. and headed to Alpine Coffee. As I was ordering up a grande Mocha, the girl behind the counter commented, “I love your shirt. Two Gallants are awesome.” The cute little red head in horn-rimmed glasses smiled and went off to make my drink. While waiting, I decided Spearfish would be a great place to live: a great micro-brew, the limitless possibilities the canyon offered, and beautiful women who appreciate quality beer and good music. My July 4th was off to a great start, and I knew it would only get better with The Dodos playing at the end of our day’s journey.

Once I had my coffee and Paul his bagel, we returned to the road, heading north toward Montana. We thought about backtracking for a couple hours to see Mount Rushmore, but we knew Bozeman sat 500 miles away. With Paul at the wheel, I began perusing our collection of Black Hills brochures. While reading a short article about Mount Rushmore’s construction, it mentioned that many questioned the addition of Theodore Roosevelt. It made sense; Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington are legendary presidents while Roosevelt was just some dude who had a moustache. Teddy is like the Ringo Starr of Rushmore – the untalented guy lucky to be standing awkwardly behind the rest of the other three geniuses.

Mount Fab-Four

With Paul being a history major, I decided to bring this point up to him. He of course disagreed with me. “Roosevelt is probably my favorite president.”

Figuring he had the wrong Roosevelt, I responded, “You mean FDR right?” (My favorite president).

“No! Teddy was the man. He used to have boxing matches in the White House. When McKinley died, a lot of people hated him because he was this uncivilized cowboy. He didn’t give a shit what anybody said.”

“Like Bush…”

Paul went on to explain how Teddy was nothing “like Bush.” He talked about how Teddy was a huge conservationist, setting aside 16 million acres of land for national parks, which also pissed people off. He was in charge of the Panama Canal, was the first president to ride in a submarine, and often took expeditions to Africa to hunt elephant. Paul continued rambling off strange tidbits about Roosevelt, and after 10 minutes, I was questioning whether FDR was even my favorite Roosevelt.

I decided I wasn’t going to give up on my argument just yet. “Okay, okay, Roosevelt sounds like a rebel, but he still doesn’t deserve to be on Rushmore. The other three are legends.” Paul then spent another 10 minutes discrediting the American mythology of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. I tried to defend Lincoln, but my lack of knowledge left me with little to shield the bearded fellow. I had to give it to Paul; I hated history in school, but his unique perspective on these presidents’ legacies had my full attention. I could tell he was fascinated by the subject matter, and for the first time I got a glimpse of the great teacher Paul would be in the classroom.

This oldey time cartoon forgot to include "Bad Ass".

As we rolled into Belle Fourche, South Dakota, we noticed people in lawn chairs lining the sidewalks. We deducted that we had just beat the start of the Belle Fourche 4th of July Parade. Paul slowed the vehicle, rolled the windows down, and commenced waving to the perplexed Belle Fourch-ians. I grabbed our plastic American hats (bought during our shopping spree) and threw them on our heads, giving our float a patriotic flair. The looks we received were a combination of annoyance, disgust, and confusion. They must have been wondering, “Who are these Texans riding in a strange orange box car?” I would have felt like more of an ass if it weren’t for the little kids waving back; they thought we were the start of the parade – the grand marshals.

"Look kids! They let the special kids drive the short bus this year!"

After getting us through Wyoming and into Montana, Paul seceded his driving duty so he could take a nap. Despite my 5 a.m. cow wake up call, I was full of energy from either the excitement of seeing The Dodos or the mocha I slurped down in 15 minutes. With Mission of Burma’s “Vs.” blaring, I flew through the endless green hills of Eastern Montana, crossing multiple Indian reservations. I actually had the opportunity to see Mission of Burma in Denver with Paul – it was one of his many failed attempts at getting me to head west. I don’t regret missing the elderly band, who are pushing 60. They are still releasing great albums 25 years after “Vs.”, but I’ve already had bad experiences with seeing great artists in the twilight of their career. (Paul and I saw Bob Dylan mumble through an hour set at the 2001 Iowa State Fair. The night would have been a complete wash if it weren’t for us spending the majority of the show trying to sneak past the security guards.)

Seeing Mission of  Burma back in 83′ is a different story:

When “Vs.” finally finished, we pulled over for a quick roadside lunch of cold ham sandwiches and Doritos. It was a nice relaxing meal, out in the middle of Montana without a house in sight, just miles and miles of hills and mountains. We cut our lunch short when a swarm of bees decided to join us. Paul took over driving. My two hours of rest in the land of screaming monkeys had finally caught up with me. I instantly fell into a deep sleep, but it lasted about 10 minutes. This was due to Paul’s music choice, Albert Ayler, a guy he claims is jazz music. The honking saxophone over the endless drum roll sounded nothing like the smooth jazz of Charlie Parker that I grew up on. The album contained two 20 minutes songs, both lacking any semblance of a melody. I have no doubt that my four year old niece could sit down with a saxophone and sound better than this garbage. I tried blocking out the music, but the racket continued jolting me from the brink of slumber.

"Hello Mr. Ayler. I challenge you to a saxophone duel!"

Here’s one of Albert’s “short” songs:

Being both grumpy and exhausted, I finally spoke up. “This has to be the worst excuse for jazz I’ve ever heard.” Paul ignored my comment, although he seemed irritated, and continued listening to what resembled a 5th grade marching band. Paul has always preferred noise over harmony. He likes early Animal Collective – I like their newer, more melodic stuff. When he heard the new Deerhoof, which I adore, he commented, “Why’d they have to start writing songs?”

Here’s the era of Animal Collective that I enjoy most:

…and here’s the era of Animal Collective Paul enjoys most:

With Ayler blaring away, I remained sleepless all the way to Billings. We pulled into downtown to check out our first brewery of the day, Billings Brewing Company. The city streets resembled a ghost town, with only an occasional homeless person stumbling down the street. By the time we found the brewery, we already knew it would be closed. We were right. Disappointed by our first failure of the day, and with both of us thirsty for a 4th of July beer, we decided to take a southern detour to Red Lodge so we could visit Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company. The scenic drive lightened my spirits. The curving, hilly path led us along the edge of The Big Slide Mountain. What I thought were mountains earlier in the drive didn’t compare to the peaks surrounding Red Lodge. The contrast of the gray mountains and the bright green hills encapsulated us with the kind of vivid colors that would give a kid epileptic seizures.

Nature's version of the NES game "Monster in My Pocket"

Red Lodge reminded me of any small town you see in Iowa, only that it was surrounded by mountains instead of corn fields. We drove down one of the few paved roads in town, leading us directly to a faded yellow machine shed with a sign reading “Red Lodge Ales”. It didn’t look like much, but we decided to check it out. Inside, we found a bar packed with people of all ages, ranchers in cowboy hats, elderly in their 4th of July best, and young hippies in hemp gear. I couldn’t believe how many people were in this little brewery. Red Lodge is only a town of 2,500. In Billings, population 90,000, not a creature was stirring, but in this little village everyone came out to enjoy a locally brewed beer for the holiday. After waiting in line to get our first brews of the day, we sat on the back patio and enjoyed the view of hazy mountains in the distance, Yellowstone stood right before us.

Machine shed or brewery?

I came to the conclusion that the quality of their beers hadn’t drawn all the business. Not that they tasted horrible, but they also didn’t have anything spectacular on tap (their best beer had to be the 10 year aged bock with a surprisingly sweet finish). I began to think about whether my hometown could support a brewery. Currently, if you want a tap beer in Estherville your choices are Bud Light and Bud Light. Would these Midwesterners break away from their light beer disillusionment and enjoy a lager packed with flavor (and alcohol content)? I doubted it. Regardless, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate to be here with these small town folk celebrating the 4th of July in their local brewery.

Walking back to the car, Paul was already feeling a bit tipsy, so I took up the driving once again. When I noticed him trying to sleep, I decided it was time for a little revenge. No, I wasn’t going to find noise to play – he’d enjoy it too much. I scoured my i-POD for an album jam-packed with infectious melodies. And there it was, the perfect poison to piss off Paul: Vampire Weekend.

Paul’s poison:

30 seconds into “Mansford Roof” Paul’s eyes popped open. “What the hell is this?”

I ignored him, singing along to “I see a Mansford roof through the trees, I see a salty message written in the eaves.”

“Damn it, what the hell is this?”

“The ground beneath my feet, The hot garbage and concrete, and now the tops of buildings, I can see them too!” I sang at the top of my lungs.

“This is Vampire Weekend isn’t it?…Isn’t it!?” He grabbed the i-POD and looked in disgust.

I slyly smiled at him and continued singing along to the upbeat music. He laid back down for a bit, but by album’s end, he was sitting up at full attention. I wasn’t sure if he enjoyed the music or not. As “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” came to an end, he gave his final diagnosis. “Tracks two and three were amazing…the rest of the album sounds too much like Paul Simon’s African crap.” I agreed with him, although I’ve never found fault in Simon’s “African crap”.

Next we stopped in Livingston to check out Neptune’s Brewery. When we pulled up, it looked nothing like a brewery but more like a townie bar. The same vibe continued as we walked through the door. Maybe we were at the wrong place?

“Uh, is this the brewery?” I asked the girl behind the bar.

“Well, it’s just a bar first, but we do serve Neptune Beers.” I was confused. Is it a brewery or not? She went on to explain that a brew master rents out the back room to brew his beers. The bar serves his creations on tap, although not exclusively. We ordered a couple burgers and began sampling the drinks they had to offer. We were disappointed to say the least: the Bavarian was unusually dark and strange tasting, the Belgian resembled cheap rum, and the IPA was a mix of Pine Sol and gin. We had one beer left to sample: Toad’s Back Boch.

“This is Neptune’s most popular beer,” she said handing me my pint. I lifted the brown concoction to my nose and quickly pulled away due to the pond water stank wafting from the glass. I held my breath and took a swig. The name was fitting. It tasted exactly like a toad’s back, or at least what I would suspect. The syrupy texture hit my palette like a nuke, overpowering my taste buds with its mixture of rotted corpse and old people’s homes, finishing off with a bitter, dusty dry aftertaste. I couldn’t help but squint my eyes and wrinkle my brow at what, to this day, is the worst beer I’ve ever tasted.

When the bartender saw my sour look, she giggled and said,” I never said it was my favorite beer. I don’t like any of the beers he makes.”

Like licking a toad's back, minus the hallucinations.

We put the horrible Neptune experience behind us and drove the final leg of our day’s drive. Once in Bozeman, we zig-zagged through the streets for 20 minutes searching for both the VFW and a possible camping spot. We didn’t find any place to set up the tent, but we did finally come upon the VFW – a tin red garage, set back 20 feet from the road.

When we entered the bar it was pretty empty, except a girl sitting at the bar and a group of guys playing pool. While I made a bathroom run, Paul asked the bartender if he knew a place we could camp for free. The pony tailed metal band reject told Paul we were more than welcome to set up our tent behind his house. Upon hearing this option I felt uneasy. I didn’t like the idea of sleeping in a serial killer’s backyard. We decided to wait and see what the night would bring, keeping in mind we always had the scary looking bartender’s lawn as an option.

We sat down at the bar next to one of the only other patrons, a middle aged woman dressed like an orphan flower child. Her freckled face smiled at Paul, and she jumped straight into a conversation. She definitely wasn’t shy. I became instantly annoyed. When she found out we were from out of town, she began regaling stories of all her run-ins with the Bozeman police force, with each story ending in the statement, “You don’t mess with a Montana woman.” When I noticed the long-haired bartender glaring at her, I knew I wasn’t alone in my disdain. I couldn’t stand her yapping any longer, so I stood up, hoping Paul would catch my drift to escape from the rambling wreck. But Paul didn’t budge; he actually seemed to be enjoying her company (or he was trying to score some old lady ass).

Paul taking a moment to appreciate our freedom in front of the Bozeman VFW.

With people starting to arrive, I strolled casually around the VFW trying to entertain myself. I’d glance over at the bar occasionally to find the woman’s mouth still chattering endlessly. When th opening act started – some fat sweaty dude playing Elliot Smith covers – I made the conscious decision to get shit-faced in order to enjoy my seclusion/boredom. I chugged one Olympia beer after another, occasionally rejoining Paul and his new friend, the yammering mess. The conversation had moved on from the Bozeman police to the local tourist destinations we should check out. Her new catch-phrase was, “I should know, I’ve lived here for 25 years.” When I heard her say this for the third time, I echoed drunkenly,” How long have you lived here?” Followed by, “So would you describe yourself as a Montana woman?” She didn’t get my sarcasm, nor did she sense how much I loathed her.

I filed outside with the other patrons to check the fireworks being shot off at the local rodeo. I sat down at a picnic table behind the bar and watched the bursting colors in the Montana night sky. I began thinking about how exactly a year ago I watched fireworks in Lake Havasu, Arizona with my buddy Justin LeSieuer. I hadn’t talked to him for a couple months, but he seemed to be doing fine, still living with his girlfriend and her daughter. The year before he dreamed of getting out of the place he referred to as hell, but now it seemed like those aspirations had settled like the firework ashes falling from the sky.

Midway through the fireworks, Paul came out and sat next to me. He joked about the annoying woman as we looked on at the night sky.  When the display came to a close, the crowd began scattering back into the bar to hear another local artist do his best Tom Waits impression. All that remained outside were the three pool playing guys, now sitting in the grass, and Paul and I on the picnic table. While Paul was lighting up a cigar, the three guys stood and began screaming the National Anthem, waving their arms around maniacally at the mountains silhouetted by the moon. When they reached the line “which so proudly we hail” Paul joined in on their mini-drunken choir. Soon the five of us were howling the anthem up toward the starry sky, feeling the cool Montana breeze wash over us. After screaming, “AND THE HOOOOOME OF THAAAAAAA BRAAAAAAVE!” the three guys fell to the grass in laughter.

One of them turned back toward us and yelled,” Nice singing boys!”

It was then that I realized, who our choirmates had been: The Dodos. The same band we’d driven two days straight to see.  Instead of being a fanboy, lauding them with my love of their music, I calmly replied, “Thanks!” and then turned to Paul whispering, “That’s the Dodos.” He nodded his head and smiled as cigar smoke rolled out of his mouth and upward, congealing with the settling firework smoke. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my 4th of July: watching fireworks behind a VFW in Montana, and singing the national anthem with the Dodos. Teddy Roosevelt would be proud.

Leave a comment

Filed under Road Trip Blogs

1.Road Trip 2008, Day 1-2: WWJKD?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

I was sitting on my parent’s deck, enjoying the intermittent glow of the Iowa lightning bugs and the smell of brats on the grill when my mom came outside with the phone in her hand.

“I think it’s Paul,” she said as she handed it over. Paul is my eccentric friend I met my junior year in college at Northern Iowa. Just a goofy little freshman wrestler at the time, crazy Paul kept my roommate Tony and I entertained with his juvenile antics. Of course, our constant goading and assistance in the debauchery department didn’t help matters. Those were great times, but unfortunately he transferred the next year to some community college in Kansas.  I don’t know whether he left because he became homesick for his western Nebraska hometown or if it had something to do with failing most of his UNI classes (I take some fault in his failure, always urging him to skip class so we could play “Mario Kart” or watch “Men In Black” the cartoon).

Instead of receiving his MBA from UNI, Paul got his MIB.

He would go on to attend four different colleges in four different states. After an eight year college career that resembled that of John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky, Paul finally graduated the spring of 2008 with a degree in History and Spanish, hoping to become a teacher/wresting coach. His monumental graduation is what prompted the phone call on that calm summer night in mid-June.

“Dude, when are we going on this road trip? I finally graduated. We have to celebrate.” Since meeting Paul in 1999, he had been bothering me about taking a road trip through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. Two of those summers we weren’t able to take the trip due to Paul serving jail time for one of his many crimes: stealing cars, streaking, and of course a multitude of DUIs. These drunk driving excursions also led to several summers with no license, which would have resulted in driving the entirety of our road trip. Other summers I turned his master plan down due to prior plans or a fear of what unpredictable Paul would do. One summer I even passed up the opportunity to see Neil Young at Red Rock’s because I wanted to attend the wedding of Bobbi Bahr, a former high school classmate. To this day Paul curses, “I can’t believe you missed Neil Young for fucking Barbie’s wedding!”

Now that he had finally graduated from college, he found it absolutely necessary that this road trip come to fruition. He grabbed my interest by suggesting we visit micro-breweries along the way and go to a few concerts if possible (the key to my heart comes in a pint glass). These both enticed my nomadic side, but I still questioned whether he could actually afford the trip. I knew he owed Dana College $4000 dollars since he didn’t get financial aid his final semester, and I was privy to his mounting credit card debt, meandering just below the $10,000 dollar range. How could he ever afford a road trip with the outrageous gas prices?

I tried calming excited Paul down, saying, “Yeah, we can go, I just don’t want to make it too long. Maybe we should just hang around Colorado for a week or something, that way gas doesn’t kill us.” This was my nice way of saying, “You’re broke dude.”

“I want to go to Montana though! Montana!  Don’t worry about money, I just got paid $3000 dollars for being a lab rat.”

“What are you talking about?” I knew he wasn’t bluffing as images ran through my head of Loreal products being poured into Paul’s eyes.

“Yeah, I had to take Alzheimer pills for like two weeks and they monitored me and stuff. I’m good to go on money now. We can split the gas right down the middle; I’m not going to mooch off you or anything.”

"Now where did I put my razor..."

As we continued talking, I thought about how he should be using the lab rat money to pay off some of the money he owed. What was he thinking – a road trip amidst all this debt? Plus, being a newborn college graduate, shouldn’t he be using this time to find a job? I spent my entire first summer out of college lost in a sea of job fairs and applications.

I would have pointed these common sense ideals out to Paul if I knew I wouldn’t come across as a preachy douche. I told him I was all in for a road trip but reiterated the fact that driving to Montana may be a bit much. He asked me to keep thinking about it and we’d make a decision in a couple weeks when July arrived. I was off the hook for the moment, but I knew he wouldn’t forget about this trip; not with Montana dreams running through his head.

A few days later, he sent an email featuring a list of all the bands we could possibly see in Colorado and all the surrounding states. As I skimmed the list, I came to a sudden stop when I saw a name in the Montana section: The Dodos. Was this a ruse to get me to go with him to Montana? I had been raving to Paul about the greatness of the latest Dodos album “Visiter” for the past few months. To see if I was being had, I went to The Dodos MySpace and lo and behold, there it was:

July 4th- Bozeman, Montana at the VFW

I read it over and over again in shock. Dodos…Montana….VFW….4th of July…it was too good to be true. I looked up how many miles it would take to get to Bozeman from Omaha and the 1,000 miles didn’t settle well with me. I began to think about how we would pay for gas, which brought back thoughts of Paul’s money situation. Going to Montana and then down to Colorado would suck his lab rat money dry. What should a good friend do: look out for his pal by giving him advice on managing his money or aid his financial demise by joining him on a cross-country road trip? Is a true friend there for support or to join in on the irresponsible fun?

I mulled over this issue for another week. At one point, I wondered what my hero Jack Kerouac, the ultimate Bedouin, would do? WWJKD? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Paul is just like the character Dean Moriarty in “On the Road”, an athletic car thief who spent time in prison, has a mind jam packed with outlandish ideas, and is fascinated by raw, organic music that tests the limits (jazz in Moriarty’s time). Throughout the book, many of the characters around Moriarty find him offensive, rude, and mostly just trouble. But Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s alter-ego, loves Moriarty and his harum-scarum ways.

Sal could have told him it was time to grow up, settle down, and find a real job. But he didn’t, no matter what page of the book you are on. No, Paradise admired his childlike wonderment with the world so much that whenever Moriarty showed up on his doorstep with a big road-trip in mind, Paradise threw his writing to the wayside and joined his wild friend on another joy-ride.

Paul didn’t need me to be his mentor; he needed me to be a friend willing to hit the road without worrying about what lies ahead.

This realization came to me on July 1st, which meant we had little time to reach Bozeman, Montana by the 4th. I called Paul and let him know I was in on the Montana trip, but that we would have to heading out Thursday in order to reach Bozeman in time for The Dodos show. He was ecstatic. I figured out I could pay for the trip with the $600 dollars I got from my tax refund (Paul insisted the entire trip that I thank George W. for each beer I drank), and another $600 dollars from Paul’s friend Mando who bought my electric guitar. I knew with Paul’s lab rat money, we were both set.

"Beers are on me boys! Just put it on my tab."

The next morning I headed to Blair, Nebraska to pick up my comrade. We had planned to use the day for preparations, buying the necessary food and supplies. Once we arrived in Omaha, I took Paul to his friend Lindsey’s apartment where he planned to load my I-Pod with some of his choice cuts (Judas Priest and ACDC?!). After dropping him off I weaved through Omaha traffic to the Honda dealership to get an oil change. Then I had to go return to South O to pick Paul back up.  By the time we were at the grocery store searching for the granola aisle, I was fed up with all the driving and aimless wandering; I was ready to hit the road.

“This sucks dude. Let’s just leave now. We can get supplies as we go. I’m sick of all this traffic,” I complained.

“All of the camping food is going to cost more as we get closer to Montana. I’m ready to head out now too, but we have to get everything prepared.” These were wise words from a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type of guy, but I couldn’t take it any longer.

“I know…I just hate the anticipation,” I conceded.

“Dude, it’s like ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, you know, when there is like a hundred pages on the meeting in Rivendell.”

“Yeah, I hate that fucking part! I’ve never actually read past that part,” I scowled.

“Ahh!  You’re KIDDING! You’ve never even actually read the rest of Tolkien’s masterpiece?! YOU suck. Wow. That’s embarrassing. The entire Rivendell scene is there to set up the rest of the book. Right now, we are in Rivendell. We must prepare before heading out on our quest,” Paul answered annoyed. I didn’t respond. I guess I prefer The Hobbit with its simple premise of a treasure in a mountain. The dwarves arrive, sing a little song about a dragon, and they’re off. Simple, quick, painless.

By the time we did all of our shopping at various stores, we got back to Blair around 10 p.m. It was then that I realized I had forgotten my phone at Lindsey’s. Damn it! Paul called her up and she said she’d bring it over in the morning.

Completely exhausted from the day, I laid down on the couch, ready to pass out. Just as I was slipping into dream-land, the door to Paul’s apartment flew open, and a sweaty, stout little man with long greasy blond hair and a creepy moustache came bounding through the entry way like a Kramer stand-in, holding a giant can of Old Milwaukee.

In a crackly bark he shouted, “Where’s Paul?”

I sat up like a bolt. The room suddenly reeked like alcohol and cheap cigarettes. Why was there a strange homeless man in Paul’s apartment? Before I could answer, Paul walked out from his bedroom.

“Hey Gale! What’s up man!” Paul knew this guy? Before I could comprehend what was going on, the two had a conversation, none of which I understood, and then the homeless dude was gone.

“What the hell? You let that guy just walk through your door?! He could steal all your crap.”

“Nah, Gale’s a good guy. He lives upstairs and likes to stop by to hang out and drink a few beers,” Paul said as if it was commonplace.  I didn’t feel like arguing, but I did make it a point to lock the door after Paul went to bed. I knew better than to try understanding what had just occurred; Paul has always befriended a strange cast of characters (me included). I quickly fell asleep, cranky and drained from the long day of preparation. I still think Rivendell sucks.

The next morning Lindsey arrived with my phone bright and early, a sign that our day would be much better than the one prior. I started packing up the car while Paul cooked breakfast, when the door crashed open once again. Gale came stumbling in, now holding a giant can of Natural Light. “Wherez Pul?” he howled. He was still drunk or drunk again, not sure which. Without hesitation, Paul welcomed him in and sat talking to the belligerent fool for a while, even offering him a blueberry smoothie.

Gale took a seat next to Lindsey on the couch and began touching her hair. He whispered to her in a gravelly voice, “I like your hair…don’t ever cut your hair…I like loooong hair…it’s bootiful.” She smiled politely and scooted away from him. Like a four year old, his attention quickly shifted to our luggage. “Whar are ya goin Pul?”

Lindsey smiled wryly and said, “Him and Andy are going to Brokeback Mountain.”

“HA HA HA HA (cough cough) HA HA HA! BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN! HA HA HA!” I could hear the phlegm curdling in the back of his throat. Gale then stumbled toward the kitchen to kid Paul about Brokeback Mountain when he caught sight of me looking at him with both horror and disgust.

“What happ’nd to yer head? Where is yer hair? HA HA HA! (cough cough)” Paul began cracking up at Gale’s observation, which just egged the old drunkard on. “HA HA HA! Why don’t you grow sum fuckin hair man? Ha, ha, (cough, cough) Ha, HA! Shouldn’t he grow some hair Paul?” I put on a fake smile and went outside to continue packing the car.  I didn’t have time for this crazy kook.

I may not have as much hair as Gale (right), but at least mine is clean.

Paul later attempted to make me feel bad saying he thought Gale was a Vietnam vet. He of course had no proof to back up this claim; I think he just based it off the fact that Gale is always wearing 70s era clothing and seems to always be drunk.  If that’s all it took, Andy Dick would fit into the vet category.

After slurping up his smoothie, which dripped all over his already stained white shirt, Gale shouted, “I got something for ya Paul!” Two minutes later he returned with a carton of eggs and a handful of firecrackers. “Enjoy! These are for your trip to Brokeback Mount-tin, hehehe.” Paul tried explaining that we couldn’t take the eggs with us, but the lush didn’t understand and left feeling proud of his random act of kindness.

When he finally left it was almost 10 a.m. “Let’s get going!” I said in frustration.

“Okay, okay, okay!” Paul responded, setting the dishes into the sink. After filling the cooler with ice, we threw it in the back of my car and finally took to the highway. Our trip had begun. We had already hit a few bumps in the road, but I knew the perfect remedy for getting our trip rolling on the right foot: The Magnetic Field’s classic album “The Charm of the Highway”.

Soon the smooth baritone voice of Stephin Merritt filled the car as smiles crept onto our faces. With lyrics like “The world is a Motor Inn in the Iowa highway slum” and “Lonely highway, only friend, You’ve got me to keep you warm again”, I knew I had made the perfect musical choice. When “Sunset City” began thumping out the speakers, Merrit was singing for fools like us, throwing caution to the wind and hitting the road just for the hell of it:

Well I don’t care what people say
Life is too short to hang around
So I stay so long in a place
And then move on to the next town

And in the morning I’ll be gone
For other towns and other lives
I’ll catch the first train, bag in hand
And I won’t miss you, and you won’t cry

Oh Sunset City
I’ve got to see the world
Don’t hold me too tightly
Don’t whisper my name

Leave a comment

Filed under Road Trip Blogs

The Dodos “Time To Die”

The Dodos
“Time To Die”
Frenchkiss Records

 Rating: 7

Death is a major theme in The Dodos latest release, “Time To Die”, and it is fitting, although not in the way that they intended.  Like a funeral, the album pays tribute to their past at times, but overall, the experience is one of mourning. The songs still resemble the same melodic band with Meric Long’s signature guitar strums and Logan Kroeber’s African drums keeping pace.  But upon further review, the album lacks the life that made “Visiter” and “Beware of Maniacs” so irresistible. 

 I would hate to go as far as to say the band’s sound is dead, far from.  The album features some of their most mature material to date, and is even a tighter package than their past offerings that seemed to ramble on at times.  Yet, I don’t remember anyone wanting The Dodos to grow up.  That youthful exuberance is what made “Visiter” such a gem in 2008; while the songs were instantly hummable, they were hidden within Meric’s playful banging upon his guitar and Krober’s unpredictable beats.  You could tell they were having fun, and you joined in the fun just by listening.

“Visiter” often drew comparisons to Animal Collective due to its tribal meanderings, but those experimental dabblings are all but dead, although “Two Medicines” is a failed attempt at rekindling this sound. The album just sounds too pretty. Where’s the vibration of Meric’s guitar strings? The crack of Groeber’s stick upon the edge of a drum head? All but gone. Instead, Meric’s voice is put on center stage, caked in reverb and smoothed like a once jagged stone. 

 They were once like puppies,  charming and mischievous, yet impulsive and often straying where they shouldn’t.  Now they are in that awkward stage between puppy-hood and becoming a full fledged dog.  They’ve been trained to do what an up-and-coming band should do (hire a big name producer, sell the rights to their hit song for a Miller Light Chill commercial, etc). You still gotta love them, but they just aren’t as spunky.

 While they once wrote fun little dittys like “Horny Hippies” and “Elves”, they are now trying to convey messages like “The image on the board, selling things we can’t afford” or “Don’t think we need you, but you need us, this is a business!” Unfortunately, they come across about as insightful as a high school student’s term paper on global warming. 

 After the genius that was “Visiter”, I’d like to believe this is a bump in the road.  The majority of the songs on “Time to Die” show promise, and by the time the final two tracks arrive, glimpses of where the band is going creates hope for a better day. Maybe the band is just experiencing musical puberty, that uncertain stage of trying to figure out what it is to be an indie rock powerhouse.  Until then, I guess this awkward puppy will suffice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Album Review