Mermen Road Report, Part 9

Mermen hand towels?

Driving to Washington, DC, Feb. 11. The cold

is deepening as we move north. Clear and about 40 in the sunny cloudless sky.

Sandspits, shallow water and ocean haze as far as the eye can see from the

bridge over the Oregon Inlet. We stop at beach after beach at the urging of

Salt-Water Thomas. It always turns out to be beautiful and restful, if brief.

No surfable waves today. We are running out of room for our found objects.

Shells, detritus and sand litter the floor of the van. From the rear-view

mirror hangs a kinetic sculpture. Three rubber fish skeletons. One horseshoe

crab carapace. Driftwood. Some dried wildflowers. A laminate. A sun-bleached

leather thong. A small wooden spider. A stuffed mermaid. Seaweed. A stick

figure made of twigs and mud.

The daily meals on the road depend on

regional customs dictated by economics and availability. I document here the

acceptable truck-stop fast foods. Snacks grabbed while gassing up, products

consistently available all over the country. V-8 juice. Cashews, peanuts and

sunflower seeds, cooked in oil and salt. Apple juice laced with spirulina

(brought from home) Sardines and anchovies preserved in oil and salt. Good

digestion is the barometer of happiness.

We visit the Wright Brothers

Memorial in Kitty Hawk, NC. On top of Kill Devil Hill we take pictures of

ourselves underneath the inscription: "dauntless resolution and unconquerable

faith." Jim stands under "unconquerable." I stand under "faith." Martyn stands

under "and."

The weather turns dark, cold and rainy as we get in the van

and head to DC.

Washington, DC, Feb. 11. The Bayou,

Formerly a barrel

factory and then a speak-easy in the '20s, this pit/monument to dinosaur rock

in the east coast played host to John Entwistle last week. The Potomac river

flooded up to their front step. Once again we missed the horrible weather.

Knock on wood. Met and enjoyed the two bands opening for us, Outer Body Llama

and Fun Lovin' Criminals, but the staff of the club was stand-offish enough so

that I never actually met any of them until we were leaving. The stage is six

feet above the dance floor and surrounded by a balcony. It's the Christians and

the Lions.

We meet Ivan Pongracic (or "Strato Cossack") from the Cowabunga

Internet Surf Music Discussion Group. Here is a man with a pronounced accent

and to whom English is a second language but you would never be able to tell

from his postings. This is one of the things I love about the Internet. I could

meet and talk with every person from the Net and I would never be able to

identify any of them. Their face and language do not, in my eyes, fit with

their postings to the web.

Bill Henke meets us by arrangement at the club

and takes us back to his parents house in Bethesda, MD. They are home, but

asleep. Too bad...we can't play with 'em. He tells us that they are

intellectuals and that he is a "big disappointment to them." He's 32 and living

at home in a bedroom transplanted from another time and place into a house

belonging to two retired people. I spread my stuff out on the floor of the

family room. That's the East Coast catch-all term for a room that is full of

stuff and things. Not to be confused with The Den, or The Living Room, or The

Rumpus Room. The house is well-insulated from the 3:30 AM blow-up outside. 30

mph winds bring the chill factor down to the teens. I am reminded of the houses

of my friends families from my childhood. I sleep like a rock.

Off at my

Mom's house, Feb. 12. We spend a night at my Mom's house. She and my step-dad,

Jim, live on the Tred-Avon river in Easton, Maryland, about 90 minutes from

Washington, DC, due east. The house is right on the water and surrounded by

trees. We have a big dinner, do laundry, and my Mom gives us all monogrammed

hand towels that say "The Mermen" and have our first names on them. Awww Mom


Long Brach, NJ, Feb. 13. The Brighton Bar. Breakfast followed

immediately by lunch at Mom's. Photographs. Up the New Jersey coast to Long

Branch. This is a neighborhood rock 'n' roll bar at the Jersey shore. 4 TV's,

all on different channels. A young Goth couple approaches me after the set. Len

tells me that he and Joanne were at the show we did last year here (attended by

about ten people.) He tells me that in 16 years of music playing and listening

tonight was the first time he had ever cried at a show. Great turnout and

response and we spend the night at Jim's brother's, in Tom's River, NJ. The

genetic resemblance is startling. But there the comparison ends.

On to my

birthplace, Philadelphia.

To be