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Electric Balloon Tour, Day whatever*

*a few days behind here, I should catch up to the present this week

We arrive in Seattle with time to spare, and everyone goes off in different directions to explore. There is really no show prep to do because the venue is small and we are unable to load in until immediately before our set. This unorthodox arrangement sounds like a logistical nightmare, but we all put it out of our minds and try to enjoy Seattle. We are joined by acclaimed artist/Julian’s girlfriend Marie, who will tag along for the next few days. A solid stretch of free time is rare, and solo do-what-thou-wilt free time is even rarer. I am hungry, and I desperately need some exercise, so the choice is clear: walk the mile and a half to historic Pike Place Market. I’m meeting an old friend there to walk and catch up and nosh. One of the nice things about touring is you get to see people who have moved to the far corners of the earth. Pike Place is touristy as hell, but I am nothing if not a tourist, and I had a pretty transcendent snacking experience last time. I am greeted by this pig, who collects donations for the market.


I have no set destination in mind, I just want to walk around and be outside and eat things. We consume potstickers, sushi, some samples of aged cheddar, fresh apple cider, and most notably, a piroshky. A piroshky is an absurdly rich, buttery, flaky pastry of Russian origin filled with sweet or savory ingredients. I pretty much always go for savory, as I do with breakfast. I like sweet things in small doses, not as a primary meal item. We decide on beef, which turns out to be an excellent decision.


It is extremely flavorful, packed with onion in addition to the beef. A lot of savory meat pastries really overdo the meat, because it is first fully cooked and then cooked more by being baked into the pastry. But this place does not fuck around, they have determined exactly how much of the beef-cooking process needs to be accomplished by initial cooking versus baking. The beef is juicy and even ever so slightly rare, just this side of medium. What this picture cannot convey is the sheer weight of this roughly hand-sized food. It must have been about a pound. Look at these things. I challenge you to not be seriously excited about eating at least one of them.

Our next stop is a used book store. It is a really superlatively good store. Like a cozier, sweetly unhip version of The Strand. The lady who runs it has a seriously impressive knowledge of everything she sees one of us looking at, and has all sorts of suggestions. My friend comes here a lot, and they know each other. She has a big batch of old sci-fi coming in, purchased at rock bottom prices from the estate sale of a hoarder. She informs us that it is “happy hour” at the bookstore, and all items are 25% off until closing. I wasn’t planning on buying anything, I mostly just wanted to hang out and see Seattle, but I end up getting four books. My friend recommends Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. I had mentioned enjoying Neuromancer and he says this one is better. Four dollars; sold. Next I spy a copy of Dan Savage’s Skipping Towards Gomorrah, another no-brainer. We listen to Dan Savage in the van sometimes when we’re in a podcast mood, and I have read his column religiously for years. Everything I know about sex that doesn’t come from actual experience comes from Dan Savage, and I love his frankness, humor, and moral consistency. Whenever we go to Seattle I have this abstract hope of running into him and getting him to come to a show, which is of course ridiculous. Dan Savage is found in the “Queer Literature” section, and before I move on it occurs to me that I must also be within arm’s reach of some John Rechy. City of Night really blew my mind when I read it, and I decide if I see something of his I’m going to buy it. John Rechy had an interesting life. The  success of City of Night, which is about his life as a hustler on the streets of various major cities, brought him all this mainstream recognition and work in academia, but he didn’t quit being a hustler. I wanted to see something he’d written after having lived this crazy double life for a little while. All they had was The Sexual Outlaw, which is more of a polemic than a novel, but it fit into the time period I was looking for so I figured what the hell. Sold.

The last pick takes me by surprise, browsing the single shelf labeled “Classical Music”. The NDM Principle of Relative Music by Avenir de Monfred. I majored in music, and studied a lot of theory beyond my actual coursework, but I never heard anything about de Monfred or “NDM” or “Relative Music”. When I see that the introduction is written by Nicolas Slonimsky, I started to get excited. Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns is a regular part of my practice routine, and I love his simple, methodical way of classifying complex patterns. I look at the publication date: 1970. Just long enough after the advent of capital “M” Modernism in music to possibly be useful. I look for information on my phone, and see that neither the book nor the author has any internet presence whatsoever. No reviews on Amazon, even; no new copies available. I flip through, and my suspicion is confirmed: I have in my hand a genuine barely-known fringe work of original music theory, endorsed by a guy I already know to be the real deal. The author’s own introduction consists almost entirely of hating on Schoenberg and serialism in florid and grandiose language. He equates serialism with atheism! SOLD! At the time of this writing I am only about twenty pages in, so stay tuned for at least one long and extremely nerdy post about the merits and shortcomings of “NDM”, which by the way stands for “New Diatonic Modal”. I would seriously never have guessed.

The Seattle show is kind of hectic what with the loading, but it goes well. An old family friend stops by, and we shoot the shit for a while. Notably, the men’s room offers its visitors the unique pleasure of peeing on ice. No urinal, just a big trough of ice. Your pee melts the ice! Check out this thing at the beginning and end of the night:



I don’t know why this was so satisfying but it was. It serves no purpose I can think of except to make me feel powerful, like my penis can mold its surroundings to my will. Like a literal physical representation of male privilege. After the show we stay with friends of friends, nice artist folk. Their house is awesome and contains this:


which Julian says is the remains of the last band to stay over. There is also this wonderful nonspecifically obscene-looking plant:


I wish I knew what this plant was. Horticulturists, get at me.

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