(The following letter was written on a variety of Amtrak trains traveling between Fort Worth and New York. This is the second part. The first may be found here.)
12-28-03, 5:13 PM -
Sitting on the train, rolling out of the urban outskirts of Dallas. We're entering the long stretch of quiet country towns between Tyler and Texarkana. Clouds hang low, & people are quiet.
Whew. What a hell of a vacation. I've taken longer vacations before, but so much has been packed into this week that I damn near forgot that I don't live here anymore.
First let me say that the inaugural performance of the matthew show couldn't possibly have been more enjoyable. To the loving horde who showed up, I extend my deepest gratitude. No performer could ask for a more appreciative audience. Extra special thanks to Hippie for being the boots on the ground, and to Melissa Kirkendall for making it possible.
This show did sort something out for me also: I am definitely making Fort Worth (and Texas) a regular port of call in the touring which shall materialize this year. New York's still my home base, but Fort Worth is most certainly my Southwest branch office.
The whole thing has left me in something of a quandary, truth be told. The more time I spend in both NYC and FW, the more I find that I need both. NYC is definitely the place for a man with a new album to be, since even the energy you pick up walking to the drugstore makes you want to leap up and conquer the world with a stick.
But there's a certain relaxed, deliberate pace that Fort Worth provides that's great for the creative juices as well. So ideally, I would live in FW to create, then live in NYC to promote. On a budget that bears absolutely no resemblance to my present one.
I am looking forward to plugging back into the NYC gumption grid, however. And on that note, I should inform my New York contingent that I'll be appearing at Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg on Tuesday, January 6th at 8pm. I'll be sharing the stage with Tomorrow's Friend and The Fashion, whose fun garage rock stylings I've mentioned before. So a good time isn't just promised, it's guaranteed.
The Galapagos is a fucking cool place that I've wanted to play ever since I moved to Yankeeland, so I'm glad I can finally mount their stage. Not in the Burgess Meredith sense, of course.
Drank a shitload of wine & Fat Tire over at my new friend Jana's house on Friday. Guitars were brandished, old tunes exhumed, and more than a few carpets were stained. I blame deanpence and his insistence on fake gut-punches, causing me to flinch like a little girl and inadvertantly share my drink with dead homies.
Ate like a sumbitch, too. I had already declared this an Atkins-free week on account of Christmas temptations beyond the will of any mortal, but HOLY MOTHER OF FUCK. Candy, cookies, cake, bread, tortillas, gravy, and just evil after hell-begotten evil. I'm quite certain that at least 10 of my recently-exiled 50 pounds has begun building settlements in previously occupied territories. How do I know? This morning I had to cede the invaders a belt notch.
So as I depart the Land of Chicken Fried Steak, I'm jumping back onto the health wagon. Which, by the way, includes more Tae Bo. My body HURTS after last night's show, & that ain't right. It's not like I'm doing triple soucows up there or anything. Nerd rock shouldn't be that painful. I hope.
12-29-03, 11:40 AM -
As I said before, I thought I was going to get a lot of writing done on this trip, but I find that I spend most of my train time in idle contemplation. Constant scenery shifts & random personal interactions make it difficult to enter one's own world. Besides, my brain is full of performance & promotional ponderances, to alliterate extensively. And that's as it should be.
Lotta people getting on the train in Illinois, all bound for Chicago. We're past rush hour, so I don't know what it's about. Probably going home after Christmas visits, just like me. All happy to be back in their bustling city after lounging in the drowsy sticks.
My legs still hurt like a motherfucker. Gotta step up that exercise. Only got 7 or 8 hours of intermittent sleep last night, and only that much because I had two seats to stretch out in. I didn't get that luxury on the New York-to-Chicago leg of my southbound journey, so I'm a bit dubious about my chances this time as well.
I guarantee you this: I'm sleeping like a bastard in my own bed on Tuesday night. Oy.
1:40 PM -
We're only half an hour from Chicago, but you wouldn't know it to look at the landscape. Flat, flat, flat. Grass and trees, creeks and bogs. Ah, there's a smokestack. And another. And another. Hello, Chicago. Still pretty barren out here, though.
A kid across the aisle is telling his big sister, "It's the Chinese ting ting!" Lord knows what that's about.
Got that weird back-of-the-throat feeling now. I hope I'm not getting sick. At least I won't miss any work.
1:58 PM -
There's the Chicago skyline. The Sears Tower still looks like Barad-dur to me. Needs a big fiery eye between those white spires. Not the prettiest city, but then I've only ever seen it from the airport and the train station. Using those points of reference, New York is a hellhole.
And actually, Chicago's train station is nice. So I should just shut the fuck up. And I must admit, I feel a bit warm inside at the sight of a big city. Seems silly, but there it is.
Dammit, the Crying Baby Symphony has started up. One gets the fucking idea to wail their head off, and pretty soon the others pick up the cue. And I just got finished deciding that babies weren't pure evil after spending a few days with my new niece. Who is the cutest thing since Pete invented cute things, by the way. Here, have a look:
12-30-03, 8:00 AM -
Sunrise over western New York, somewhere between Rochester & Syracuse. Just ran into a young couple from Houston in the Dining Car who are going to see the big New Year's festivities a couple of blocks from my apartment. Nice to know I'm not the only lunatic who'll take the train from Texas to New York.
A bit strange to see snow again. After a week in Texas, I damn near forgot it was winter. The snow crusting the banks by the tracks looks a bit old, but the rain puddles look fresh. Mmm, sludge.
Tried to sightsee a bit while I was in Chicago, but the bastards wouldn't check my DJ rig as baggage, so I had to lug it around. Luckily, the Sears Tower is only a couple of blocks from the train station, which is in a pretty nice part of town. Stood on a bridge over a pretty canal, got cold, then went & had a looksee at the tower. Yep, Barad-dur.
Weird about Chicago. It's New York in different clothes. Kind of. I dunno, it's got a small-city vibe like Dallas, but you can tell it's bigger somehow. But again, I've only seen the bits around the train station. And the stuff by the tracks on my way in & out, which isn't always the best representative sample.
I'll probably tour over here at some point, but it doesn't really call to me much. My friend Paul lived here for a couple of years and it kinda tore him up. But big cities do that. They're like an abusive spouse who nonetheless gives you the greatest sex. You're tired of them pushing you around, but you just hate to leave the good stuff. What a stupid analogy.
Met the damndest guy in the train station bar. He's a writer, but he's also a Navy cryptography technician. Heckuva nice guy, & didn't pull any secret handshakes on me. I didn't see anyone shadowing him, but there was this wooden Indian statue...
Lots of empty cattle cars on the freight tracks today. Dunno if the mad cow thing has anything to do with it or not. Stupid prions. Wifely can't give blood because she was in England just before their mad cow freakout. I think I'm okay, though, as long as I don't eat her brain.
Speaking of the Wifely, she opted for the plane route, so she'll be going to work soon, while I sit here like a goobersmooch.
Still not sure what the hell we're doing tomorrow for New Year's Eve. We're two friggin' blocks from Times Square, so you'd think it'd be a no-brainer. But somehow I'm suspicious of it. First of all, it'll be cold. Secondly, it'll be crowded as hell. Thirdly, it will be full of idiots. Fat idiots, frat idiots, & hat idiots. Wait, lemme take off my hat.
12-31-03, 11:30 PM -
(no longer on the train, by the way...)
Made it home in one piece, as I'm sure you've deduced. Listening to Dick Clark's carcass make money on the tele, and comforting the cat when she gets nervous and thinks we might be leaving her again at any minute.
The ride into Penn Station was uneventful, being that I'd seen it on the outbound trip, but it was nice to return. It was even nicer to get 12 hours of sleep last night. Damn.
Went to the grocery store on 8th Avenue around 5:30 PM, & the Times Square crowd was already teeming with unbearable characters. Fucking tourists. Was I ever that obnoxious?
So here we sit, drinking our Atkins-approved Michelob Ultra and wussing out on the big party two blocks down. It's just as well. I've had enough partying this month to last a good while. Mom & Dad will call soon so we can hear them incinerate the Christmas tree in the backyard (a family tradition), and 2003 will slip into memory.
It's been a good year, all considered. Moved to Manhattan, released my first album, played my first solo gig, and took my first cross-country train trip. Which, by the way, I would recommend. If you can afford the sleeper car, do it, but a little discomfort in coach is worth the overall experience.
Actually, I'd recommend a train/plane split, if you can manage it. Train on the way there, plane going back. The trip back always sucks, regardless of what mode you're traveling by, so save yourself a bit of sleeplessness and get it over with. But the trip there? Rail, baby.
It'll be time to count down soon. Year of the Rat, is it? I don't remember. Nor am I Japanese.
1-1-04, 1:15 AM -
The stupid tree was too green to catch fire, so we have decided that the theme for 2004 shall be Perseverance. Works for me.
Hi, 2004. Whatcha got for me?