TRUE SENTENCES ABOUT SUMMER TOUR by T. Easton
Writer's of books on the craft of writing have made much about Ernest Hemingway's famous advice that "all you have to do is write one true sentence." As one who has recently jumped from song writing to the more time consuming tasks of story writing, I find this to be useful. Apparently, the truth will not only set you free, it can even make you laugh-providing there's not a lot of irreversible tragedy involved.
A few years ago, I spent a summer on the road during a phase of my "career" that I would like to remember from the safety of my own home. Here are one hundred and twenty-five or so true sentences about my experiences during the summer of 2005.
1. I live in the village of Joshua Tree, which is in the Hi-desert region of southern California, where the temperature often goes over 100 degrees during the summer months.
2. I went on a three month road trip disguised as a “tour” in order to get out of town for the summer
3. My booking agent set up nearly 50 shows in 35 states over June, July, and August.
4. My tour manager and I were accompanied by a 90 pound pure bred, charcoal Akita named Mia who had her head out the window for more than half the trip.
5. Four days before we left, my tour manager had three wisdom teeth taken out.
6. My “tour manager” is really my girlfriend; her name is Katie.
7. Attached to the back of the Jeep was a vintage 1972, medium sized mobile home trailer with a propane stove, fridge, bed, and dining area.
8. We scored the trailer on ebay and I spent hours painting orange racing stripes on it-even painting the words “Lil’ Rambler” up in the right hand corner on each side.
9. The plan was to save money on hotels by staying in the Lil’ Rambler.
10. On day one, we had to call AAA at 7a.m. because our brand new used Jeep Grand Cherokee wouldn’t start.
11. The AAA man came and pointed out that we were out of gas.
12. In the Arizona desert, still day one, instead of completely running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, I had to pull over and called AAA to bring us some fuel, which made this the second time we ran out of gas in one day-the FIRST DAY OF THE JOURNEY.
13. The “check engine” light came on before day one came to a close, and in Tucson we discovered that we had an oxygen sensor malfunction that was helping consume too much gas- on top of the fact that we were towing a small house behind us.
14. There was also a problem with the engine mount and our brand new used Jeep Grand Cherokee cost us $600 in repairs on day two.
15. The second half of day two was spent in beautiful Sedona, where we discovered that the promoter had double-booked the venue with a wedding reception.
16. He offered to let me play acoustically on a makeshift stage in between two enormous beer tanks for half the pay.
17. I am an alcoholic.
18. In Albuquerque, I was paid $36 for my set.
19. In Colorado, on day four, the door of the trailer nearly blew off it’s hinges while driving down the highway.
20. On day five, we left the trailer in Pueblo, Colorado-storing it for $20 a month.
21. Because we both over packed like amateurs, we resorted to purchasing a “roof bag” in order to store merchandise and several pairs of shoes.
22. This “roof bag” was not waterproof and soon everything in it was soaked.
23. After leaving the trailer behind, we were able to travel at a more satisfactory pace, and the stress levels went way down.
24. In Oklahoma City, we had a damn good time!
25. In St. Louis, I lost my “man purse” full of song lyrics, poetry, and $200 in petty cash.
26. In Columbus, Ohio, we had the Mia the dog spayed, which means that not only did we bring a huge dog with us on the road, which is a combination rookie and hippy move if there ever was one, but we had a major medical procedure performed on the dog as well.
27. Outside Xenia, Ohio, I was pulled over for speeding while trying to race back from Dayton to Columbus where Katie and our friends were at the Community Festival in Columbus, OH.
28. My driver’s license was suspended for circumstances beyond my knowledge(it turned out that I had not shown proof of insurance from a long ago citation) so I was arrested and thrown into the Greene County Jail.
29. The Cherokee was impounded since nobody was with me to drive it elsewhere.
30. They had to do an entire inventory on my car by the side of the highway which took over one hour.
31. It was a very expensive night in a not very comfortable "hotel."
32. Being arrested sober is a real bitch; those handcuffs hurt when you are not anesthetized a little bit.
33. On "the inside," I was able to eavesdrop on some fascinating discussions on where one could purchase crack cocaine in Dayton, Ohio
34. I was forced to cancel a show in Pittsburgh because I was still incarcerated during the hour that was supposed to be my sound check.
35. The food in the county lockup was too disgusting to eat, but I was able to trade it for some precious phone card minutes that one of my fellow inmates had.
36. Because the electronic/video system by which inmates go in front of the judge was malfunctioning that day, I was forced to walk down Main Street, USA as part of an orange suited, ankle and wrist bound CHAIN GANG, while the townsfolk went about their lunch business.
37. The next day, after finishing up our tasks at the Xenia courthouse, my tour manager and I were pulled over for speeding as we were attempting to leave town.
38. Luckily, she was driving.
39. If someone refers to Xenia, Ohio as a "speed trap," they are not bullshitting you.
40. In New Haven, CT, on the first date of a continuous 14 day/14 shows run, we split a dozen oysters before I went on stage.
41. In Vienna, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C, our dog was allowed to hang out backstage while I waited to go on after a Christian rap act.
42. We went north to New York City, played the show, and drove back south that same night for a Motel 6 just north of Baltimore.
41. We stayed at a few dozen Motel 6’s over the summer because they accept pets.
42. We spent the 4th of July holiday in the beautiful state of North Carolina.
43. In Atlanta, I was basically the warm up act for a corn dog eating contest.
44. To add insult to injury, later on that day I saw a news report about another corn dog eating contest in town-which means I played the lesser of the two corn dog eating contests, or the one with the inferior publicist.
45. Outside of Atlanta, Georgia, we stayed at my sister’s house and mailed home almost $100 worth of boxes containing soggy shoes and things we just didn’t need.
46. My “tour manager” had to visit the dentist again because her wisdom teeth were still hurting and also to ask if a constant state of dissentary had anything to do with the several Advil she was taking everyday for pain.
47. And my first show ever in Jackson, Mississippi, I ran into some friends of mine from Amsterdam who were playing in the bar down the block.
48. While driving south on the Natchez Trace, we visited some Indian burial mounds that mentioned cult like activity practiced in the region long ago.
49. After the show in New Orleans, my friend September took us to the Bywater district to see the great trumpet player Kermit Ruffins.
49. In the French Quarter, we bought the Akita some “doggles” which are protective sunglasses for dogs who like to hang their heads out the windows of cars.
50. We had a dream cajun night in Lafayette with some great seafood and a band called The Lost Bayou Ramblers at the Blue Moon Hostel.
51. While driving through Louisiana, I always think about the songs of Lucinda Williams.
52. Every time I visit Austin, I think that I want to live there.
53. Denton, Texas has the distinction of being the lowest attended show of the tour-there were two people there(both members of local band The Drams) but we still had a great time.
54. The hot springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas aren’t so “hot,” if you ask me.
55. In Memphis, we got some fried chicken at Gus’s
and visited the Stax Museum.
56. Fried chicken is not the best thing for a tour manager with “a stomach situation.”
57. At a record store in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of midtown Memphis, I picked up a biography of Muddy Waters only to discover that it was signed by the author, Robert Gordon, who lived nearby.
58. I never get excited about visiting Indianapolis, except for the fact that my sister Jane and her family live in nearby Zionsville.
59. We had accumulated plenty more junk from thrift stores and garage sales, so we had to have my sister Jane mail home a second box of clutter.
60. We flew from Indianapolis to Alaska for a weeks worth of shows.
61. The dog stayed in a kennel outside of Zionsville.
62. This was my third summer in a row touring Alaska; It’s my favorite place in North America.
63. In Anchorage, I discovered that not only had my friend Evan Phillips not been getting severely drunk with me on previous visits to Alaska like I had imagined, but that he was a drug and alcohol councilor.
64. Steve Earle was also touring Alaska, and there was a very small protest at the state fair in Haines because some people(maybe two?)felt that it wasn’t good to spend taxpayers money to bring a “communist” to the state fair.
65. Steve Earle is not a communist, and, as he rightly pointed out, it is not now nor has it ever been illegal to be one in this country.
66. Steve Earle is a socialist.
67. We had a three day layover in Seattle where I played a show with Richard Buckner who turned me on to the American Spirit black pack which are cigarettes with a strong, peppery taste to them.
68. All during this tour I was smoking cigarettes, and I pledged several times to quit.
69. From Seattle, we flew back to Indianapolis, picked up the car and the dog and drove back northwest across the country playing Chicago, Minneapolis, and Missoula on the way.
70. In Minneapolis, I spent some productive time in a recording studio named “Flowers.”
71. We made a slight detour to South Dakota in order to spend a night in the Badlands.
72. This was a special time for me as South Dakota was the last state in the union that I had not visited.
73. That same week the Sturgis biker rally was taking place so Deadwood and all the surrounding areas were covered in the roar and glimmer of chrome and leather.
74. The price of gas went up over three dollars a gallon on the third month of the tour.
75. In Missoula, there was an outdoor communtiy festival going on and they were cranking “Footloose” on the P.A. system which caused Katie and I to impulsively start sliding down the banisters and swinging around the street lamps in a burst of energy that caused much laughter and resulted in a local driving by us and saying “kick of your Sunday shoes.”
76. Later, some unhappy locals wrote “go home fuckin’ hippies” in the dust on the rear window of our jeep.
77. Even later, some drunk locals past us at a crosswalk and said “go back to California” when they saw our plates.
78. And finally, in Missoula, we met an Englishman who claimed to be one of the drummers for Spinal Tap- it was his birthday and he was very drunk.
79. In Idaho, we went to the Jerry Johnson natural hot springs and they were absolutely worth the hike.
80. At the top of the trail we jumped into a hot spring that was occupied by one very old and naked man who was sporting a trucker’s cap.
81. Later that same night, as we were continuing our way down the road, I was pulled over for speeding outside of Pullman, Washington.
82. As it turns out, my driver’s license was still suspended so I was arrested and taken to jail.
83. While I was inside the holding cell, pacing about and counting my steps like Steve McQueen in Papillon, I made many decisions about my life.
84. I was released almost immediately on bail, and we spent the night in Spokane (a room at Motel 6 had already been paid for) just to return the next day and appear in front of the judge.
85. The police and all officials, court clerks, etc... involved in the Washington situation treated us with respect and soon we were back on the road.
86. I fell in love with Bellingham,Washington-probably because you can catch a ferry from there to Alaska, and also because we had a sunny day there and I did not go to jail.
87. In Ellensburg, I asked the opening band to back me up and we played well together because the drummer was a professional.
88. Because it just wasn’t wise for me to drive another mile, tour manager Katie finished off the west coast like a champ.
89. In Portland, the sound man had no idea how to do his job when it came to folk singers.
90. In San Francisco, I played the first of two shows that were booked in that city for that week, but I had to go down to LA in between these two shows.
91. In Los Angeles, the promoter refused to pay me my guarantee because I announced on stage that I had another show in the Hollywood area the following week.
92. As part of trip that started at 2a.m. and finished at 11, I took two cars, two buses, and a train to get from Los Angeles back to San Francisco in order to play as private party where it seemed like hardly anybody was listening.
93. The hosts of the party, which was for the opening of a music school for children, were very accommodating and they paid me well, even covering for a flight down to San Diego so I didn’t have to take the 2 cars, two buses, and two train trip back south.
94. In San Diego, my brother Bob picked me up from the airport and dropped me off at a rented house by the beach that my “tour manager” found on the internet.
95. I hadn’t shaved on this whole tour so I was one hairy, pale and pasty folksinger on the beach that day.
96. One of the last shows was a house concert at my brother’s house where we celebrated his birthday and had a family blues jam.
97. We had a few days off before moving back into our house in Joshua Tree, which we had subleased for the summer, and my brother Dave invited us to hang at his campsite near the beach where we enjoyed some sea kayaking and various other road decompression activities.
98. While we were relaxing on the beach, Hurricane Katrina made land fall in New Orleans.
99. The second show in Los Angeles was a damn good time because I reunited with my old traveling band on a few tunes and Peter Case was also on the bill.
100. My "tour manager" left for New Orleans to volunteer with one of the many disaster relief teams working there.
101. I only discovered later that she was at a mental crossroads in our relationship and went on the journey to help others and do some serious soul searching.
102. On her way, Katie picked up the Lil' Rambler in Colorado and towed it all the way to New Orleans and eventually Alabama where she and several young volunteers used it for a home base.
103. At one point, a family of four used the Lil' Rambler for a home while it was stationed in a New Orleans Burger King parking lot.
104. Eventually, the Lil' Rambler made it's way to the shores of Bayou Liberty, just outside Slidell, LA, where at first lived a volunteer, and later several families of wasps.
105. After a few days back in the Hi-Desert, I took red-eye to Denver and then cought a ride to Breckenridge in order to play the Southpark Music Festival.
106. I met many songwriters there, including Matt Hopper, Cameron McGill, Otis Gibbs, and we all experienced different reactions to performing at that altitude.
107. For example, I nearly fainted after singing a song.
108. On one night of the festival, a music journalist and I were pulled over by the local police who administered a sobriety check and then sent us on our way.
109. The name of the town we were pulled over in was Alma, Colorado, which was famous for it's sobriety checks, which prompted us to make up the joke "Knock, knock? Who's There? Alma. Alma who? Alma gonna pull you over and make you walk the line, son."
110. I boarded a plane in Denver on September 11th and just happened to be carrying the New York Times magazine which had on it’s cover a very flattering oil painting of Osama Bin Laden.
111. I had to check my guitar at the door of the plane, and at my connecting flight it Phoenix I witnessed a baggage attendant drop my guitar full 20 feet from the cargo hold of the plane onto the tarmac.
112. I was nearly arrested as I kicked open the door and ran out onto the tarmac to strangle the fuck head who dropped my guitar.
113. I tried to sneak my guitar onto the connecting flight, but they were having none of it.
114. When I finally took my seat, after several minutes of pleading with them to be careful, I witnessed a commercial on the plane’s video system which showed employees of the airline in question singing “Respect.”
115. The $600 flight case I purchased for my $100 guitar turned out to be a wise investment and other than this gut wrenching experience I had a pretty smooth flight on that day.
116. When I returned from Colorado, I procrastinated on the accounting side of my job for as long as I could.
117. My “career” wasn't as lucrative as some people may have believed.
118. In the end, I spent $2435.11 on gas, $2030.11 on hotels, a whole bunch more on airplane tickets and everything else.
119. I took in $13,766.00 from the gigs and with 50 shows that averages out to be around $275.00 per show.
120. After commissions, I had less than $2000.00 when I walked through my front door and that money was soon eaten up by outstanding bills, more car repairs, rent, and health insurance.
121. In the end, I guess you could call the entire experience a paid vacation in America, which is actually quite nice when you think about it.
122. A few days after absorbing the numbers, I wrote these sentences, and then went on the internet-and for the first time since graduating from Ohio State University over 16 years ago, I checked out various educational institution’s web sites to see what they had to offer regarding a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
123. I figure that Tim Easton the professional academic or "writer" isn’t really going to help pay the bills any more than Tim Easton the professional musician does, but it might be wise to supplement Tim Easton the singer/songwriter’s income a little by perhaps taking on a teaching gig or two.
124. I should probably think bigger, perhaps employ some ambition.
125. Either way I love my life.