On The Road With The Mermen, Part 3

The road is long and dangerous. But the Mermen are up for it.

On Jan. 15, with haphazard grace, The Mermen wander off on

the beginning of a nine week slog across America. Guitarist Jim Thomas, drummer

Martyn Jones and bassist Allen Whitman, accompanied by soundman Roz Jones (no

relation to Martyn), guitar tech Mark Dickson and their roadie, known only as

Leslie, arrange themselves inside the white Ford Super Clubwagon 350 window van

and, pulling the matching white trailer with the gear, drive all night to San

Diego. In late January and early February we published Whitman's first report.

The story continues:.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sun., Jan 21st. The Dingo

Bar. Matt Kora, who has taped almost 100 of our shows, says that after this,

the 2nd show of a two night stay, he doesn't need to see another for the rest

of the tour. We redo "Black Mountain Rag" at half-speed. We do "Latia" and

"Hawaii 5-O." Girls fight for dancing space in front of the stage. At the party

afterwards in the bar we get drunk. Again. They tell us that other bands don't

stick around The Dingo to drink after the show. We tell them that at no other

club do we stick. We convince one of the owners to quit an 8 dollar an hour job

at the ominously titled Citicorp on what was to be her first day. At 7:30 AM

she was crumpled against the wall of her bedroom, pulling off a bottle of Jack

Daniels saying: "I don't know what to do...I gotta be at my new job in 30

minutes..." She never made it. We're so proud of her.

Monday is spent

saying good-bye. It takes forever to leave Albuquerque.

Jan 23, 2:45 AM...

We cross into Texas listening to a live bootleg of Rush (Toronto, 1986). An

hour ago we stopped to look at the stars. No cars on the two-lane blacktop of

interstate 84...i could easily see the red glare of Betelgeuse on the left

shoulder of Orion and the blue-white cast of Rigel burning at his right foot.

We're headed east into the big state.

Jan. 23, 7:32 AM. Route 84, going

south. Mid-state Texas. We're listening to another live bootleg...this time

country singer Holly Dunn (Calaveras Co. Fairgrounds, CA, 1995),

Austin,

Texas, Tues., Jan 23. The Electric Lounge. A painter works on a platform 4 feet

up the wall of the club. Inspired, maybe, by our performance he paints a large

canvas with a likeness of a frog on a lily pad. At the end of the show he sold

it to an audience member for 200 bucks. 280 people see The Mermen on a Tuesday.

Before the show I take a long, cold walk around Austin, past the 6th St. scene

and up to the state capitol. "Largest in the country...larger than the U. S.

Capitol in Washington, DC." We spend the night with the wonderfully hospitable

Steve Sheinkin and Sarah Simpson. Breakfast is at Dan Rather's favorite spot.

But the food is bad. Next door is the incredible Tesoros Trading Company. A

store of imported knick-knacks from everywhere. The owner has impeccable taste

and we can't stop ourselves from overspending on cool stuff.

Houston,

Texas, Wed., Jan. 24. Urban Art Bar. 271 people come to see The Mermen in

Houston! We hear radio ads for our show on the way in to town. On arrival the

right trailer tire goes flat. Our crack road crew has it repaired and gets

sound check done at the same time. Logistical genius! Thank God for Roz, Mark

and Leslie. Experimenting with a distortion bass sound. Separate amp setups for

clean and dirty. More gear on stage. We get a great reception. I walk in

downtown Houston. It's really depressing. Big buildings and closed stores.

Panhandlers on every corner but I'm from San Francisco, the panhandling capitol

of America, and I'm used to it. I tell the audience that we're looking for a

place to spend the night and after the show Mike, Kari and Eric approach us and

offer their home in west Houston. In the morning they bring us donuts and

coffee in a blissful suburban setting.

Dallas, Texas, Thurs., Jan. 25. The

Galaxy. The owner changes the deal. He cuts the pay in half and tells us we

gotta pay for all our beer and wants 20% of whatever t-shirts and cd's we sell.

We momentarily consider not playing but then decide that it is better to do the

show thereby showing the guy up. We negotiate to keep all our merchandise

money. We make three times as much on that as we do on the performance fee.

haha! At Cafe Brazil, across the street, it is our waiter's first day and he

gives us the ultimate conspiracy story of fibonocci equations, pyramids,

earth's pole shift and illuminati stuff flying all over the place. The club is

a big empty room. It's a small but appreciative audience. At the 24hr Doughnut

Lady the Boss herself takes Roz's donut, throws it away and gives us two whole

boxes! I think she thinks were famous. It's the place where all the Dallas

misfits go. I am reminded of a cast party at High School.. It's a safe

environment for all to be and be seen. 13 hours to New Orleans. I take 600 mg

of codeine.

(To be

continued.)