Arcata Eye Scene

A-town art, music, theatre. Mostly music. Updated Wednesdays.

Clay Smith: View from the Van – August 14, 2007

Traffic merges, ebbs and flows. We merge, drive, talk, smoke, drink, laugh and even cry. Our spirits, while low in the second week, are in a state of reconditioning. Even though long drives, dangerous breakdowns of both vans, and inter-band conflict are omnipresent, we struggle on and overcome. We even triumph. This is the week of redemption, our Return Of The Jedi week.
We’ve all become closer through late nights, shared drinks and a few outright fights. As it turns out, this story ends in triumph rather than disaster, redemption rather than tragedy, and in the end nothing but love and the bromance.

Day 16: Sunday, Aug.5
I-5 Southbound 10 a.m.

We’ve been driving all night. I’m about to take over for Greg. Shift driving. Shift sleeping. Shift smoking. We’ll be at our friend Kim’s by noon if this traffic doesn’t get us.

San Diego, CA 6:30 p.m.
I wake up feeling some of the road’s effect slip away with a cup of coffee. We’re at Kim’s. We got in, had a few drinks and all slept the day away to catch up from the all-nighter we pulled. My Life In Black And White is broken down south of Tahoe and can’t make the show, and the show is screwed up due to promotional neglect. Fuck it, we’re at Kim’s. Personally the show could be in a cave full of bears and bat shit, and as long as we can get drunk and crash at Kim’s, I’m happy. She made me a frozen pizza. I’m stayin’.

3 a.m.
A really drunk person is called a “Tied Up Penguin.” Your shoes? “Dooleys.” Bad directions? You got “Falcoed.” A wallet? We call it a “Mullins.” Neckerling. See what long drives will do for your mind!?!?

Day 17 : Monday, Aug.6 1 p.m.
A teary goodbye.

Los Angeles, CA 3:30 p.m.
A good long walk in Silverlake revives our physical parts. Our friend Robert Szeles who is giving us a place to crash revives our minds with conversation. Our spirits have been significantly raised by our arrival in LA. I always hate the idea of coming here but love it once we arrive. The show is at the Knitting Factory on Hollywood Blvd. Whoa. My Life has their van fixed and should arrive soon-ish.

10 p.m.
Brendan, our friends Trisha and Jess, and I head out to find a bar. Since our Spokane gay bar experience we’re sold. Gay bar or bust. Jess, Trisha and I laugh our asses off as Brendan asks person after person where the gay bar is. Fucking hilarious. We’re walking down Hollywood Blvd. in uproarous laughter at his shenanigans. The show was great. Good sound, good energy, good back stage hallway, good whiskey, good friends. All in all a great show.

11 p.m.
Van catches fire when we move it to load up. Uh-oh.

Day 18: Tuesday, Aug.7
10 a.m.
We hunt for auto shops all morning only so to discover that they can’t find the leak in the fuel line once we get there. The cause of the fire, a leak in a line under the engine’s manifold, is sneaky and doesn’t want to be found. It seems to clear up, so we just get on the road and power it out to San Francisco.

San Francisco, 9 p.m.
We drink $1 PBR’s in a bar down the street from the venue and discuss our fuel leak. Did God fix it? What the hell? The show here at Ireland’s 32 inspires more Neckerling. “Thirty-Twoed”: Getting double booked and dicked over by a bar.
Guess we will see.

5 a.m.
Just back to the hotel. After a late night swim in a very cold pool Greg and I went for a long walk to hash it out. The show, while pretty screwed up, turned out to be really fun. Our friends showed up and we had a good time.

Day 19: Wednesday, Aug.8
11 a.m.

We smell the fuel leak again and hunt for shops, but no one will even touch it. Brendan tightened a screw on the fuel line’s hose clamp, and the problem appears to go away. This has happened before. We’ll push on to Santa Cruz hoping someone will check it out.

Santa Cruz, 6 p.m.
We pull up to the venue after a nap and soccer in the park to find the engine on fire again. FUCK! Plans are made to leave it here until the next day and then take it to a shop. We might miss Sacramento, but at least we won’t all burn up in a fire. The Blue Lagoon is hosting us tonight, and it looks like a good place. Our friends Ricardo, Rose and Vanessa are in town. They got a hotel room big enough for The ’Neckers and them – I hope My Life has a place to crash.

2:30 a.m.
After a few stops at bars, a little money spent at the liquor store and a walk to the hotel, we smash headlong into a ridiculous session of taking questionable but hilarious pictures and laughing.
What is it about a hotel room that brings out the homoerotisism? Not sure about that, but I know it’s funny. I also know that I had a great time tonight despite the fact that the sound man cut us off after seven songs because they over booked the night. Attention dumb bookers: DON’T PUT FOUR BANDS ON A BILL IF THERE ISN’T THE TIME FOR FOUR OF THEM TO PLAY!!!!!!!!
We were just filling up the room and converting the locals. Women were starting to dance. I argued with the sound man and he said, “Welcome to the real world, dude.” YEAH RIGHT. Santa Cruz is the real world? No way no how.

Day 20 : Thursday, Aug.9
8:30 a.m.

We wait on a tow-truck to take us to the auto shop. Oh yeah, the booker and sound man apologized for the short set to Greg and Brendan. Suck on that.

10:30 a.m.
While trying to load the van on the flatbed, the steering breaks. Seriously. The wheel just turns around and around. What’s next?

3 p.m.
Simpsons movie. Van in the shop. We are hopeful but reserved about making it to Sacramento. Shit.

6 p.m.
There’s a new word again. A “Shoemaker” is a totally selfless guy that helps you in your time of need. Ron Shoemaker, owner of Absolute Auto in Santa Cruz, fixed our steering and fuel leak in record time and got us on the road in time to make the show. He even knocked a bunch of time off the repair receipt. He was the best and most trustworthy mechanic I have ever met. Amazing.

Day 21: Friday, Aug.10
Sacramento, 12:30 p.m.

I wake up in the yard around 11. We stayed with our friend Vikki here in Sacto and had a ball. The show last night went well. They say no one comes to Old Ironsides on Thursdays in the summer, but we had a good house. I saw an old friend from my youngest years, Scott. Bluebird and Sunshine showed up. Lisa, Vikki’s sister make us all breakfast before we head out to take on the traffic snarl again. This really is the Return Of The Jedi week. Ron Shoemaker as the Ewoks. YES!

San Francisco, 4 p.m.
We are at our friend’s house. Andy and Michelle are perhaps the most hospitable and nice people we’ve ever known. Andy set up the show here in a little café in the Sunset neighborhood. We do laundry, drink beers and decide that the name for god in our language is “Wernet.”

11:30 p.m.
We all walk to a bar in the Sunset called Riptide. When I say “we all” I mean the majority of tonight’s shows attendance. It was a great night, and everyone danced, sang and cried sentimental tear speak. God I’m going to miss My Life when they are gone.

4 a.m.
We crash on the roof of Andy’s place, Falco, Andrew and Me. Some stuff had to be hashed out as a few disagreements bubbled to the surface. Luckily cooler heads prevailed and everyone is still friends.Day 22 :

Saturday, Aug.11 1 p.m.
It was great watching My Life play the Wii Nintendo thing against Andy and Michelle’s son Vegas AND CONSISTENTLY LOSE TO HIM!!! We’re leaving for Fort Bragg soon trying not to think about the fact that this is our last show together. My Life can’t play the Logger show because their bass player has to work on Monday. Well, at least our last show is at the Caspar Inn, we have rooms up stairs, and the party will go on all night. It will be a fitting end to this tour. Downs be damned. It was fun after all.

Caspar, CA 9 p.m.
Brendan and I are sitting upstairs in our hotel room listening to My Life sound check. We’re playing with our friends the Kerosene Kondors, and tonight is starting to take shape. I’m sentimental and contemplative but determined to go out with a bang, as I’m sure everyone else is.

2 a.m.
Show raged, and everyone had fun. Emotional singalongs and a typical amount of tears.

7 a.m.
I’m up to see My Life off with grunts and hugs. I even gave Andrew back his sleeping bag and backpack. Close call considering we had just been hiding it from him. He thought it was lost.

Day 23: Sunday, Aug.12 12:30 p.m.
I write this as everyone packs. The road home is short. Mendo now, next up Humboldt. We’ll play at the Logger Bar tonight to the home town crowd, have a few drinks, and sleep for a week. This was a long trip, full of exactly the kinds of ups and downs that you’d have to expect. We all lived. YEAH! No one drove off the side of a cliff or smashed into oncoming traffic, despite break and steering issues. Nothing burned to the ground despite neglected fuel leaks. But that’s not some sort of rationalization. We don’t need to get out of this saying, “Well, at least no one died. I mean, look on the bright side.” It’s not like that. We had a good time. We made good friends into even better friends. We traveled thousands of miles together, played to countless amounts of people, and got drunk with as many of them as we could.

Sure, sometimes it was tough. I’m NEVER going back to Reno. I don’t ever want to play another four band show. The next person that tells me that we get thirty minutes to play gets a poke in the eye. You know, ups and downs. Lotta ins and outs here. But we made it, and we’re better for it. The ride home will be a triumphant one, a happy one, but don’t be confused. There are many friends we’ll miss and not see for a while. There are towns and places and faces that we just have to look forward to seeing again someday. So we’re Happy, elated even, for the experience we had and the fact that we’re finally getting home. Do it again you ask? Just give me time to shower and pack. See y’all at the Logger. And damn, someone buy me a drink…

Clay Smith plays guitar and sings in The Rubberneckers. He writes this from the road. Feel free to drop him a line at

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