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Electric Balloon Tour, Day 2

Preparing for tour is a drawn-out, stressful affair. No matter how many times you’ve done it, you always forget to pack something, and neglect to account for some crucial errand you have to take care of before departure. We planned to leave the city at 1, and ended up doing it around 4. Stops were made to clean out the van, and pick up gear, and people, and more gear, and a pizza, and merch, and at every step we were confronted by the deeply antisocial behavior of our fellow drivers. New York in winter is never pleasant, but driving is worse, and driving a huge ungainly vehicle is worst of all. We are witnessing the straight up breakdown of civil society on our roads right now. The standard casual flouting of traffic laws that is expected and even occasionally useful has devolved into an every-man-for-himself race to nowhere, no quarter asked or given. The roads are narrow and slippery, and everyone is pissed. It is a post-apocalyptic libertarian nightmare, like Bioshock. When I say “driving” I really mean “passenging” (sic), as I am the only one who doesn’t drive. Still. I have now had my second learner’s permit expire without getting behind the vehicle, with the notable exception of the one time Julian made me do a K turn in a parking lot a few tours back to demonstrate how easy it was. I managed to do it without incident, and then it was over. I sort of abstractly intend to learn for real when I get home, but I’ve heard that one before from myself.

We were all relieved to finally get the fuck out of Dodge, and our relatively short (2 hour) drive to Kingston, NY passed without incident once we got past the city limits. Kingston is a quaint little town upstate, not far from Woodstock. Down the block from where we played is an actual real and apparently self-sustaining business that sells armor and swords and other knight paraphernalia. I didn’t know what to expect when we first came through to play a show back in 2012, in the middle of one of the extended writing/recording times that produced Electric Balloon. But beneath this absurdly bucolic exterior is a great local scene. As far as I can tell it is mostly centered around BSP Lounge, which houses a dance studio and soundstage as well as a space for shows. Everyone at BSP is highly pleasant and professional, and the sound in the house is excellent. They’ve got a good thing going over there. They also gave us beer backstage, which puts any venue in my good graces. We saw some familiar faces from the last time we played at nearby Bard College, and it was a nice hang. A friend of a friend put us up in his ridiculously large house full of instruments and nice recording gear. There was enough room for all of us to sleep in beds, and he has the place to himself. He hosts bands that come there to record, and drives to the city to play shows. A lot of people in Kingston apparently moved there from the city. Expatriates. I am always amazed at the lives people who do not live in New York City can lead. But if I were going to feel really compelled to leave I probably would have by now. New York, I can’t quit you. What if I get hungry?

Eating on tour is always tough. There are some strategies, about which a longer post is to come. But it’s hard to stay on top of putting decent things in your body when you have so little control over what’s available, and something about being in a van all day makes you feel like you’ve earned the right to eat whatever you want. This is basically the reason Combos and 7-11 Loaded Grillers exist. Case in point: less than 24 hours in, and I have already eaten Arby’s. I got probably the least gross thing possible, a “Market Fresh” turkey sandwich, and it was actually quite good. I have negative associations with Arby’s, as will anyone who has taken that bus to Boston, I forget which one, the one where the rest stop is always an Arby’s. A friend who used to work at Arby’s tells me the roast beef is actually shipped in sort of pasty semi-liquid form and baked into a solid in a mold on premises. It is a sort of postindustrial meat slurry dubbed “beef” by a crack team of legal analysts. I hope they were well-compensated, they really showed their mettle with that one. No one else wanted or would settle for Arby’s, so we ended up making another stop at Panera. This put me in the odd position of punishing myself for eating Arby’s (gross) by not eating Panera (slightly healthier, less gross). It’s exactly this sort of weird shame spiral that makes healthy eating on tour difficult. I just got a coffee, which I must say was quite good. And necessary.

Today we’re headed to Oberlin to play a show at the on campus coffeehouse, Cat In The Cream. I spent a lot of time at Oberlin when I was in school. My girlfriend at the time went there while I stayed in New York, and we traveled back and forth as much as we could to see each other. It was always a conflicted and emotionally loaded time: getting to see this person I was in love with, but also seeing how starkly her new world differed from mine. NYU was not a place where people who attend necessarily have any experience in common, and I’m always meeting fellow alumni that I totally should have met and hung out with at the time and didn’t. Our paths never crossed. My friends from college and I bonded over our shared sense of alienation, of being lost in the sauce. But Oberlin, as far as I can tell, is a place where most people know each other. They reference the same places and activities, and appear to have more of a sense of shared identity and purpose. I imagine this must get a little stifling by the time you get to junior year or thereabouts, but at the time it seemed idyllic. It will be interesting to see what all this looks like as a nominally grown-ass man. At very least, I hope to get snuck into a dining hall and gorge myself on shit like soy milk that I love but can’t quite bring myself to spend money on. Wish me luck.

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