Tour Diary (Excerpts)
by Sean Ennis
Show's off and I'm trying to sleep under the Rattlesnakes' dining room table. Their singer fingers through the Kama Sutra with his girlfriend. Their bass player left his kid's car seat in the parking lot to make room for more beer.
Southern California has been all cold rain and pigeons. No beach, no bikinis, no flamingos, though I'm told that's Florida--the only place we're not going.
Got bronchitis somewhere between D.C. and Santa Cruz and had no air on stage through Raleigh, Austin, Tempe, Arizona. My lungs want to go on tour too, find a better body. They're sick of the smoke and damp and the party in the living room. Chipped a tooth on the mic trying to make it work, Will blew a fuse and Jimmy has lost every drumstick. Our van smells like a zoo.
"Record sales are down," Bryan says, betting our band's money away on rummy. But my boys are still cheery, the Mexican stuff being cheap here, and look from under this table to be walking on the walls.
Will changes his strings at night looking like a battlefield medic, eyes insomnia-wide, wire cutters in his mouth, playing the E and the A back and forth listening close as if for a heartbeat.
In Vegas I decide to wear the priest costume on stage. Bad joke, no one laughs, so I change. We make 35 bucks minus what we drink, but the Strip sends up a flare and we go as if to rescue.
At the Hard Rock a grizzly bear in a v-neck sweater tries to sell me bad medicine. I tell him I have my own, but in the bathroom mirror I realize I do look like the type who might be buying: hair dyed and wild, eyes squinting out of purple pits, nose running. I actually meet a girl named "Taffy," there on business, thinks this mess is interesting. She likes music but I tell her I'm growing not too. She says, sing something but I can only cough.
The Urgent Care doctor in Phoenix shakes his head at me.
"Stop smoking. Get some rest. Wear ear plugs."
But I can't do any of those things.
"Have insurance? Any money? Folks to call?"
My turn to shake my head at him.
He gives me a handful of samples, pills big as nickels, and I take one in the lobby at the water fountain. Will waits in the van.
"Well, let's hurry."
Back again across the sand towards San Diego. Past the reservation casinos and their rollercoasters, sandstorms and mountain snow all on the same drive.
"There's Mexico!" Ricky points to lights south that can't be Mexico. My boys practice Spanish, running out of things to say to each other in English.
"Basta, basta," I mutter from the back bench and my fever ticks up a degree.
This van is an ambulance whose hospital keeps changing and the patients drive themselves.
Denver breaks my fever over skyscrapers in front of mountains. We carry guitars through snow and stay with a friend of a friend who can cook and doesn't have cats. Jimmy goes to Western Union and then buys a round on his parents. A stranger buys a record and the van an oil change saying, "I know how it is. Remember me when you're famous."
We forget his name immediately, but hope what he said is true, the first time the word "famous" has been mentioned on this tour and it sounds so good to us. I finish my antibiotic in the nightclub with some gin. On stage, my lungs are filled with that thin mountain air--the locals expect us to run out of steam--but we plug in and the feedback rises out of amps in expectation and when Jimmy clicks us off, we stomp through our set, and the music comes back.
About the author:
Sean Ennis is a Philadelphia, PA native, and now an MFA student at the University of Mississippi.