Something strange was going on with this tour. Something odd in the air in every city. Something was off with the promoters or with the other bands or with the venue. Downright bizarre shit.
Buffalo - I pulled up to the venue in Buffalo at 7:30. The lights were out. I contacted the promoter.
‘Hey there. It’s Jay, the one playing tonight? Am I in the right place? All the lights are off’
‘Jay. Jay Kutchma. I’m supposed to play here tonight’
‘Look man, I got punched in the face at one of the shows I put on a few days ago. I completely forgot about your show’
‘So it’s not going on?’
‘Hey man I got PUNCHED’
‘IN THE FACE’
‘Okay. I’m really sorry to hear that but…’
‘Look, you can head to this great Open Mic night. I’ll get you on the list right away and get you bumped up a few notches so you don’t have to wait’
That’s right. I got bumped a few notches 700 miles away from home at an Open Mic night in Buffalo. I am making a T-Shirt with that slogan.
Niagara Falls - Only a few shows into this trip and I’m feeling really worn down. Man, I am really and very oddly beat down. I decided that I’d be good on this trip. Lots of water. Lots of oranges. Limit the alcohol. I also decided to dip into the pocket and get a hotel room before I crossed the border to Canada. I stopped in Niagara Falls. Folks, you have no concept of what a cheap crappy hotel is until you have been to a cheap crappy hotel in Niagara Falls. It’s a competition up there to get a medal in The Shithole Olympics. The place I got was cheap, five bucks cheaper than its neighbor…Bit-O’-Paris. That was five bucks I badly needed to save.
Note to self: if you ever make it to France, stay in Bit-O’-Niagara.
The Niagara Hotel (or some such generic name) was a real hole, towels provided only on request kinda hole. In fact, right before I took a shower I found out the shower curtain was also provided only on request. Ahh, listen though as a nervous hush stills the Niagran crowd as The Niagara Hotel steps up for the gold medal attempt at The Shithole Olympics:
Halfway through relieving myself I realized that, yes the toilet paper was also available upon request from the front desk.
The Niagara Hotel wins the gold!
Toronto - Showed up in Toronto to play a gig at 8PM. I had an hour and a half slot. I get there at 6. There’s a band on stage and a good relaxed crowd. Turns out this particular Tuesday is the last night for this band that’s had this 6PM Tuesday slot for the past couple years. People are turning out to see their last show. The band is going to a different town, moving, chasing that big brass ring. At 7, it’s really getting popping. They finish at 7:30 and there’s a real nice crowd of 60 people in there. At 7:45, I’m looking at my watch and these guys aren’t concerned with clearing the stage for me. They’re hugging and kissing and drying tears. I look at the bartender. Maybe there’s a Canadian conversion rate for ‘Time’ that I missed out on.
‘So, I’m supposed to go on, like at 8?’
‘Let’s give them till 8:15, it’s their last show’
And as you can guess it, with every minute that ticked by, four people gave a hug and a kiss and a tip to the bartender and out the door they went until it was just me and the band…at 8:20. They’re counting their tips. About the second song in to my set they stop and listen. One of them rudely interrupts the uncomfortable silence I had going on in between the songs:
‘We’re really sorry about this, we didn’t know someone was playing after us. It was a special night and…’
A plate drops somewhere. One by one they file out, apologizing.
‘Stay in touch’
Yes for sure next time.
‘Keep at it! You’re really good!’
Until it was just me and the bartender.
‘Hey man, I still have till 9:40, if it’s okay by you I’d just like to keep on playing for the last half an hour’
‘I’m here till late anyways. I don’t care. Go ahead’
At 9:20, two people came in, ordered a beer and had a seat. At 9:30, another two. At 9:40 I let out my last chord and took a bow.
‘Hey man, you’re really good’
‘Keep it up!’
And at 9:45, I am serious, ten people walk in to see the regular Tuesday 10PM band.
The place was packed by ten after 10.
Rochester – Played three hour-long sets for five bucks, a stale Danish and cold coffee. At least things were back to normal. Ended early at 11. Had plenty of time before shuteye to read the new Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan.
Ithaca – Played the last Saturday of the tour to a group of good folks. Home free now. After having Sunday off, there’s just one more gig in Arlington on Monday with Brandon Butler of Boy’s Life and Canyon. So stoked about that gig. Then I go home and start kicking ass on The Five Fifths version of The Detroit Album.
Stayed the night at a friend’s house and woke up Sunday morning, brushed my teeth, took a look in the mirror and noticed these strange blood blisters on the inside of my lips opposite all four of my canines, about the size of the head of pencil erasers. What the hell? Shit. What did I drink last night? What did I smoke last night? Strange. Never had or seen anything like this before.
So I did what every good boy should do in this situation: I called my Mom.
In between where I was and where I was going are my folks and the duplex I grew up in. My grandparents formerly occupied the other side of that duplex. It’s kept clean and prepared in case any of their kids drop by with a life-threatening illness. Or they want to stop by and say hey.
‘Mom, look, I don’t know what this thing is but I have tonight off then one more show in Arlington. Your place is just a little out of the way but I could sure use some advice on this, a comfortable bed and the guarantee of toilet paper within arm’s reach of the commode’
She took a look at the blisters and didn’t know what the hell it was. She looked in her home medical book as thick as a brick lying on its side. I talked with my folks for a bit, ate a little something and went to bed not really concerned about it. It’s probably just nervous ulcers. A case of the ol’ mouth zits. I didn’t know. No one knew. I went to bed.
I woke up Monday morning and overnight each of those four blood blisters burst and left four more in each of their places. The back of my throat was purple. My folks took me to a medical clinic to a doctor who had no interest in getting a good look at me. If she could’ve looked at the inside of my mouth from a mile away with a telescope, she would’ve. I was given antibiotics, a kick in the ass out the door and told to rest. I reluctantly cancelled Monday’s show.
Tuesday morning. Each of those new blood blisters burst and left four more in each of their places. My folks took me to the Emergency Room. White blood cell count comes back fine. Negative for Strep. All tests come back fine. No one knows. A virus? Maybe? Can’t really test for all of them. By now my mouth was completely swollen and the blisters are now on the inside of my lip. It hurts to eat. It hurts to swallow and no one can give us any answers. They hooked me to an IV to get some fluids in me.
‘Has he eaten?’
He hasn’t eaten.
‘Can he drink?’
He can’t drink.
‘We can keep him overnight’
I have heart-attack insurance folks, not insurance for any of this trivial blood blister stuff or limb severed issues. I got the I-Got-It-Real-Bad-Insurance. I can’t afford to stay in the hospital a night. Can’t afford to be kept overnight. I was given some medicated mouth rinse and told to hope for the best.
What the hell is going on?