On The Road With The Mermen, Part 4

On Jan. 15, with haphazard grace, The Mermen wandered 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, arranged themselves inside the white Ford Super Clubwagon 350

window van and, pulling the matching white trailer with the gear, drove all

night to San Diego. In late January and early February we published Whitman's

first report. Yesterday we presented "Part 3." Today, the journey

continues:.

New Orleans, LA, Friday, Jan. 26. Howlin Wolf. Practically in a

coma, a sack of flesh occupying a bench seat, I arrive in New Orleans with the

band at Sam the painter's, where we're supposed to stay with him but he is the

archetypal painter...no shower, no hot water...the crew says let's go and Sam

is sorrry about it. I tell him it's no big deal, we'll see him later at the

club. We check in to a hotel on St. Charles, above the streetcars, and stay for

three days in which I eat way too much fried food. The club is great in every

respect. Backstage area w/bath...beer for us...dinner home-cooked...good stage,

good sound system...they like the music...me and one of the techs talk about

our secret love of art-rock. About 50 people show up in a blinding

thunderstorm. But Robert McFarline, a Spanish teacher, enthusiastically

compares us to Dick Dale (but in a complimentary way), so it's not a complete

waste of time. We eat gumbo and walk around the quarter.

Mandeville, LA,

Sat., Jan 27. Marley's. Sleep late. Another flat tire (same one) makes us wait

on the street with the trailer for two hours. Play in a suburb of New Orleans

just north of a 24 mile bridge across Lake Pontchartain. We open for the

venerable Dash Rip Rock. This turns out to be the worst gig of the tour so far.

The bar has the most comprehensive delivery system for daiquiris I have ever

seen. Shannon, the bartender, tells us that her eye looks the way it does

because she poked it with a kitchen knife when she was four. The crowd goes

mild. Nothing like playing a song and having no one react. We amuse ourselves.

Shlong haircuts are out in force. A patron buys a CD and tells Leslie he's

gotta get it now and put it in his car because he's gonna go get in a fight...

The Times Grill, run by Callen, Angela and John, serves us an perplexingly

excellent meal.

New Orleans, LA, Sun., Jan 28. We have the day off. We do

laundry, I try to ignore the Superbowl, the crew gets a tour from the road

manager of Dash Rip Rock, who Leslie befriended, and get home at dawn. Drinkin'

and carryin' on!

Route #20, Mon., Jan. 29. 65 MPH. Rushing East in the

gathering darkness. Rain clouds graying the rapidly fading light. Alabama from

the back seat... Charmingly mannered women...gruff, distrustful men, greasy

food. The first batch of regional postcards get purchased, written and sent.

Roz munches bbq potato chips in the passenger seat, navigator to Mark's pilot.

We're only a couple of minutes late to a radio interview. The mood is

pensive.

Jacksonville, AL, Mon., Jan 29. Brother's Bar. It's Mark's Bday

and we get him a watch and a Key Lime Pie from Winn Dixie mkts. It puts me in

the mind of Joni Mitchell's "Refuge Of The Roads" from the album Hejira.

It's raining and looks to continue for days. We do a radio interview but I'm

not in the mood. The show is for about 10 people, most from the radio station.

If it keeps up, I'm going to start getting used to it. I think we made 40

bucks. People keep asking us: "What are you doing here?" We can't answer. We

eat catfish at the diner nearby and I wonder when my digestive system will ever

forgive me. After we stop Roz plays sad music and I wonder where we are going

to sleep. Money running low. The mood is grim.

We have key lime pie and

Peet's coffee for breakfast. get kicked out of the econo-lodge by concerned

employees..."Are you staying another day?" In Oxford, AL? Yow! We stop at a

mall where the food was recommended by two maids at the econo-lodge. Shoulda

known. A walk through the cafeteria line confirms the suspicions raised by my

nose on entry...there's nothing here I can eat.

We drive on through the

rain and rough roads to Florida...

(To be continued...)