das Reinheitsgebot? Yeah, you heard me.

The Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 is the oldest still-valid beverage law in the world. It allows only the use of malt, water, and hops for producing beer and its name in German is a mouthful - das Reinheitsgebot - as German names tend to be.

Why do people always say that Germans have no sense of humor? Just think about how much energy they must exert just to keep a straight face while saying half the shit on their minds using those silly words. I believe their sense of humor went underground long, long ago.

Mary Beth and Jeremy recently invited me to their house to discuss the Bavarian Purity Law and get drunk on the porch. Actually what MB said was:

"Hey Jess, we have some Hofbrau Maibock at home and it's 7.2% alcohol, do you wa-"

and I interrupted:

"What time?"

I showed up at the appointed time and within minutes was peering into the fridge, the fridge which proves that YES, WE ARE RELATED.

I didn't know anything about Hofbrau Maibock but it didn't take long to pick up on two things: 1) YUM and 2) I was on a fast track from sober to wasted.

By beer two I'd already hit wobbly and ventured to Jeremy, "Maybe I'm imagining it or maybe Bud Light has made me a wimp...but...DAMN."

He nodded sagely, "It's the Maibock."

Maibock is tapped in Munich's Hofbrauhaus in the last week of April for its yearly May debut. America's first authentic Hofbrauhaus is in Newport, KY and you can go there and drink Maibock in the bier garden while scarfing Bavarian food with the Cincinnati skyline as backdrop.



The Wiedemanns didn't necessarily die for my sins but they did get in a lot of trouble

Last weekend, after fetching N from the garden and preparing to leave the Hess-Schumacher home, I asked where I could buy beer in the neighborhood.

Hal told me there was a corner store three blocks away and added: 'We had a murder there last week.'

I nodded evenly and thought: SWEET. Hal told me that it was the store's first murder. It's not like THE spot to go get murdered or anything.

I drove to the store, ignored the cop car in the parking lot, ignored the kids hollering at each other, ignored the ramble-eyed man standing in the middle of the store muttering and cussing to no one in particular, and perused the beer fridge. And then I saw it. The beer of my youth.

The soft, glowy image I have of Wiedemann has everything to do with my personal associations with the brand and nothing to do with the piss-thin barely-beer taste of the brew. Which I care for deeply.

One month after graduating from high school I moved into a house with seven strangers. We were interns who officially rehabbed abandoned buildings for a low-income housing co-op and who unofficially cracked jokes, drank beer, and made merry.

It was kind of like a Real World series except that we were in the ghetto. And no one was filming. And our building may not have been up to code. We didn't have a tricked-out pad like MTV's Real Worlders. The building we lived in on 14th Street had A LOT of character, though. A SHITPILE OF CHARACTER.

We had three floors, giant windows, old fireplaces, a toilet that flushed, and an indefinite quantity of roaches which persisted in darting in and out of our belongings no matter how many times we bombed the house and left for three hours to let them stagger around, drunk on poisonous fumes, until collapsing and dying.

We had a hatch to the roof which we lifted by standing on the stove whose oven door was kept shut by a log propped against it. We had parties on the roof and slept on the roof in sleeping bags and once in a tent. We had an eight-track player and the Easy Rider soundtrack on vinyl. And we had a plastic Wiedemann sign hanging on the kitchen wall.

I was the youngest member of the household that first summer and one of the others asked me when I moved in if I liked beer. 'No,' I answered honestly. 'Oh, well, you can't be an intern then,' he said, 'Interns have to like beer.'

And so I made the necessary adjustment. I wasn't about to lose an opportunity to learn more about the city's grievous housing policies while gaining valuable community-organizing experience. I would learn to like beer.

George Wiedemann (b. 1833) came to America from Germany as a young man and founded his brewery in Newport, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati. By 1889, the Wiedemann Co. was not only in business but was kicking ass and, possibly, taking names.

George had two sons, George Jr. and Charles, and a grandson, Carl, who all took turns running the business.

They guys had some legal issues since they weren't exactly DOWN with Prohibition and faced tens of thousands of dollars in fines and impending jail time. Charles actually died while awaiting trial (NOT a happy time), so it was up to Carl to continue the family tradition of getting people drunk, regardless of that silly 18th Amendment.

With the passage of the 21st Amendment (1933), the Wiedemann Brewing Company was reopened.

When I was slurping down my first Wiedemann, it was made in Evansville, Indiana. It is now owned by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company and shipped to Louisville, Cincinnati, and southern Indiana. And though no longer local, it is a homeland institution I still honor with grave respect.

(Not unlike the regard I hold for the annual yell-off between Kentuckians and Ohioans before the Riverfest fireworks on Labor Day. Broadcast on the radio by WEBN's Eddie Fingers, several hundred thousand people scream on command and try to put the other state to shame. Best case scenario: standing on a deck overlooking the river with Wiedemann in one hand, bratwurst in the other, screaming my brains out. And beating Kentucky)

Last weekend, I took the six-pack of Wiedemann I bought from the corner store to my cousins' barbeque. I immediately went down to the basement where the menfolk were watching the horse races on television and handed a can to my uncle Paul.

'Wiedemann!' he said, 'I haven't had a Wiedemann in 20 years.'


What's N up to these days?

Since leaping from the Detroit marquise into my arms,
N has been in Ohio:

Keeping the crows away from the vegetables.

Hiding from me in the jungle, I mean, Hal's garden.

Going to barbeques and getting drunk on Wiedemann beer with my cousin Mary Beth.


Utah scares me but it sure is pretty

I've been to Utah half a dozen times but each visit was short and less than 24 hours long. Recently I was in Salt Lake City for 11 hours, between Benise's Sacramento and Denver shows.

I was walking down a Salt Lake City street feeling unnerved by the cleanliness that I find somewhat unnatural and creepy, when I saw this sign and started thinking more about the Beehive State.

I know that Utahns got this moniker because their settlers, the Mormons, fled the Midwest, followed Brigham Young into the desert in 1847, and worked like busy little bees, displaying all of the industry and cooperation and toil typical of pioneers.

I know that Joseph Smith (1805-1844) founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - AKA Mormons - in 1830 and that he's considered a major prophet by Mormons, right up there with Abraham and Moses.

Joseph's family back in Palmyra, NY were Christians who respected all denominations. In his teens, however, many of them converted to Presbytarianism, and for whatever reason this troubled Joseph to find one true Christian religion.

Instead of rebelling like most teens by withdrawing, smoking, and getting into moonshine, Joseph had VISIONS: From God, Jesus Christ, and the formerly unknown Angel Moroni. Revealed to Joseph was the location of golden tablets which told new histories of early American tribes and the Bible.

Well, it caused a stir.

Joseph's followers eventually moved from New York to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. And everywhere they went they pissed people off because they said their brand-new faith was the only valid religion and that the Book of Mormon was THE work of God, right up there with the Testaments.

Community relations were not helped when Joseph introduced the concept of polygamy and encouraged Mormon men to take more than one wife. In fact, it led to his being killed at the hands of an angry mob.

My childhood intro to the religion were the Mormon girls who lived on my street. They weren't allowed to drink soda, which didn't faze me since my mom didn't buy soda either, though for reasons related more to my sugar intake than salvation.

What did make an impression, however, was the Mormon girl telling the Catholic girl who trotted up the street everyday to St. Mary's in her plaid skirt that she wasn't going to heaven. Tears were shed, parental reassurances were given, and I thought the whole thing could have been avoided if we all went to Montessori school and learned from the lesbian ex-nuns to think for ourselves.

I actually own a Book of Mormon.

In an unlikely but true scenario, I once pounced happily on a group of Mormon missionaries when I was 18. I didn't care that they wanted to convert me, I didn't care that we didn't agree on anything except that soda isn't good for you. I was in Chile, I didn't speak Spanish, and I hadn't expressed a complete thought in way too long. So when Elder-This and Elder-That knocked on the door, I was uniquely amenable to shooting the theological shit and I talked and talked and talked to show my Chilean hosts and remind myself that I could do more than smile, nod, and say thank you.

I didn't give Mormons or Utah another thought until a friend, Anonymous, took a cross-country road trip and stopped in Salt Lake to buy drugs.

Anonymous told me that the crackhouse he went to was lovely and immaculate. Anonymous said he would have joyfully eaten off the floor of the spotless crackhouse. I imagine it as the IKEA model of crackhouses.

Having been to Salt Lake since, I'm not a bit surprised by Anonymous's well-lit and sparkling drug experience. I have watched what I assume were city employees spot-clean the rims of garbage cans on downtown streets with spray bottles of disinfectant.

The city gives off a STRONG WHIFF of sanitary tidiness. But I think it smells funny.


It's fun to take pictures of each other tromping across the street, waving orange flags at cars. It's a good joke. Especially when you're half drunk on sake.

It reminds me of Seattle, where jaywalking is a big no-no. I was once followed into a coffeeshop by two cops who informed me that they saw me crossing the street without using the crosswalk. They didn't give me a ticket, just a warning, and a friendly reminder that what I'd done was illegal and dangerous.

I found this reprimand by the Seattle police just as I found Salt Lake City's orange flags: hilarious. And irritating.

I think orange flags and friendly reminders are patronizing. They offend my sense of personal responsibility. I think the penalty for being dumb when crossing a street should be getting hit.

And if I think about it too much, WHICH I AM WONT TO DO, I will eventually leap from thinking about personal responsibility and crossing streets to thinking about personal responsibility and fundamental Mormonism.

Is it THAT different to say, "It's not my fault I got run over by a car! No one gave me an orange flag to wave around!" than "It's not my fault I'm raping a fifteen year old who didn't want to marry me! I need at least three wives to gain entry to the kingdom of heaven and I'm just obeying the will of the Lord!"


I know that plural marriages were outlawed by the church in 1890 and that the so-called fundamentalists of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are not even considered true followers by more mainstream Mormons. The fact remains, however, that the fundamentalists are numerous - there's an estimated 6,000 to 11,000 thousand members in the U.S., and powerful - they rule the border cities of Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT.

This is nothing compared to the populace of the regular old LDS church which exceeded 12 million in early 2004. But in terms of how many women they have BRUTALIZED, it is significant. Because plural marriage is no free-wheeling hippie lovefest. PLURAL MARRIAGE IS NO RAINBOW GATHERING.

A lot of boys in Colorado City/Hildale aren't psyched about it, either. The creaky, old, rheumy-eyed men tend to kick them out of the community, especially if they're hanging out with a teenage girl THEY want to fuck.

I mean, the old man has had his eye on his friend's daughter since she was like TEN, and she's finally getting tits and getting old enough to start having ten or fifteen kids, and some young punk thinks he can GIVE HER A RIDE HOME FROM SCHOOL?

If I were that boy and tossed out into a world I knew nothing about and cut off from everything and everyone I'd ever know, I'd probably do meth, too.

Men who do stay and enter the upper echelon of the community are still afraid. If they lose favor with the leader, they'll lose their homes and their wives and children will be reassigned to other men. Women are afraid for the same reason. And they're all quaking in their boots over disobeying the leader for fear that they'll lose salvation.

I know I'm a public school heathen who no amount of baptism, confirmation, and weekly CCD classes can save, but seriously: CAN SALVATION BE THAT GOOD?

It looks like the government is finally getting on the case. I hear that the current FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs, is being indicted on two felony charges related to underage marriages and that on May 6, the FBI announced that it had placed Jeffs on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

It is also alleged that Jeffs had warned members that LAUGHTER CAUSES THE SPIRIT OF GOD TO LEAK FROM THEIR BODIES.

Now that pisses me off.


Trucker poodles

Trucker. Poodles.


SPOTLIGHT: Timothy Holland

Tim is from Jeffersonville, Indiana. I know Tim as the video guy, or LED Wall Technician, and honorary wardrobe girl since he was no stranger to a sewing machine.

I appreciated Tim for a couple of reasons: he didn't mind when I wouldn't tell him who drew on his sneakers while he was asleep, he once gave me a high five after I said, "Oh for pete's sake, Tim!" just because he likes that expression, and he was kicked out of his high school band for laughing.

As someone who irritated A LOT OF PEOPLE on the high school track team by laughing, I'd like to give Tim a shout for actually getting booted.

Tim is married to his high school sweetheart with whom he used to work at Domino's Pizza. Tim's future wife was the girl on the phone who said, "Thank you for calling Domino's. Can I take your order?" and Tim was the delivery guy who showed up at the door.

Tim also put in time at McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Chi-Chi's, Subway, Taco Bell, Arby's, and Wendy's.

"Man, you did them all, huh?" I asked Tim.

"No," he replied, "I never worked at Hardee's or Long John Silver."

And that's Tim: exacting. He has a ridiculous penchant for details, a boundless number of facts crammed into his head and he's not afraid to share. Tim's wife gave up Domino's to become an RN and she is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Nursing Education. Since his checkered fast food past, Tim has studied and worked in video - for a local news station, for corporate gigs, as a roadie, and for one year in the FBI.

I asked Tim what he did for the FBI and he gave me his favorite answer to that question - "STUFF" - which didn't really fly with me so he confessed that he did top secret two-way video conferencing.

I asked him what it takes to earn an FBI file, does he think I've earned an FBI file based on my own checkered past that I quickly outlined, and how I can get a copy of my FBI file.

Tim told me that the FBI can dodge, delay, and refuse to give up files for years on end and that I most likely DO have a file and have been photographed but have probably been identified as more of a loiterer, not a PLAYER. And I can't decide whether to feel proud, relieved, or offended by that.

Here's Tim deftly using a needle and thread to fix his pajamas.

Thank you, Tim.


well, this is awkward

Sunday morning I wandered bleary-eyed around the St. Louis airport. Melancholy, I wondered how many hours of sleep I'd squeezed in between the last hangout session in wardrobe, the Benise aftershow party, and a number of tequila-based cocktails.

I decided to buy a book in an effort to distract myself from the urge to stare blankly at my shoes while murmuring the drum beat to "Shambala" and "Tribal" (see Benise website).

The book I bought, Notes from the Underground: The Most Outrageous Stories from the Alternative Press, contained a story written by Ben Ehrenreich and originally published in LA Weekly: "The Hobohemians." I read about tramps and punks and war veterans and Santa Cruz crunchies and yuppie writers waiting in the yards for locomotives to take them to uncertain destinations.

I read about the glory days of hoboism, the current crop of rail-riders, and the attending thrills and perils (freezing through mountain passes, scorching through deserts, getting nabbed by cops). I looked around the airport and thought, "God, I'm so CONVENTIONAL. I could be hopping trains back to Cincinnati. Planes are boring and normal, just like me."

I got on the plane and tucked into my aisle seat with book in hand, ready to resume reading. To my rowmate, I flexed the corners of my mouth ever so slightly in the toothless smile that signals, "I see you and I'm polite enough to acknowledge that but I'm not polite enough to start a conversation so you probably shouldn't either."

I put on my seatbelt. My rowmate chuckled, "I guess I could do that too," and began fumbling with his. "Now let's see if I can get my jacket off," he added. He twisted his shoulders around at uncomfortable-looking angles while laughing lightly. I produced another weary social smile. He asked where I was headed and offered the information that he was going to Maine. I nodded.

A minute later I was staring at the seat in front of me, listening to the Shambala drums in my head, when my rowmate blurted out, "This is the first time I've flown in a plane."

The Shambala drums stopped. I lowered my book and I looked at him fully and sincerely in the face for the first time.


"Yeah," he said anxiously. I realized all the har-de-har over his seatbelt and his jacket had nothing to do with humor. He was scared. I asked him why he was flying that Sunday and he told me it was for work. "What kind of work do you do?" I asked.

He told me, "I paint Wal-Marts."

I could now quietly put my book into the seat pocket in front of me because I was assuming the role of flight mentor for the young man who paints Wal-Marts.

He told me that his uncle owns a business in Illinois that hires men to repaint the insides and outsides of Wal-Marts nationwide. Most of the painters refuse to fly and prefer driving to sites. In fact, the rest of the crew bound for Maine was roadtripping from West Virginia as we spoke.

It takes six men one month to paint the inside of a Wal-Mart. Sometimes those six men need replacements when they lose their job for getting drunk, getting in fights, or landing in jail. In these cases the uncle needs to quickly send someone else to the partially-painted Wal-Mart. The uncle enticed my rowmate to fly with a two dollar raise.

"Flying's fun. You'll like it," I said, "especially the takeoff and landing."

"That's what I'm most nervous about!" he said.

I began lecturing: "Don't worry if we bump around. Turbulence is normal, particularly in these small planes. TOTALLY NORMAL. Especially when we're flying through clouds. I think because of lower air pressure or something."

I either completely made this shit up about air pressure or suddenly remembered it from my freshman year meteorology class. He flipped through the safety pamphlet and I suggested he take it as a souvenir.

The flight attendant asked us to please prepare for takeoff and told us the flight would last 47 minutes. My rowmate looked at me with wide eyes and big smile as if to say, "So short! Can you believe this?"

Then I got nervous. For him. As the engines revved, my heartbeat quickened. I clasped my hands in my lap and watched him out of the corner of my eye. When we started rolling and picking up speed, a gigantic smile broke out across my face. I heard a couple of goofy laughs erupt from my mouth as we lifted off and I clamped my hand over my mouth.

My rowmate stared out of the window at the land and the sky and the clouds and said, "Well, this is awkward," and a moment later, "This IS awkward."

For the next 47 minutes, between stretches of cloud-gazing, my rowmate told me about his uncle's business partner who passed away last month from a heart attack. The business partner weighed 618 lbs and used to drive to Wal-Mart, tell his crew to buy a box of doughnuts from the snack bar, and then sit in his truck to eat and watch them work. My rowmate told me about the time they accidentally painted $700 worth of meat and had to buy it. He showed me a photo of his kids and told me how his ex wanted him to buy her a new truck after she drunkenly drove the last one off a cliff.

"What, so she can drive that one off a cliff, too?" I said indignantly.

"That's exactly what I said," he agreed.

As we began our descent and sliced through a cloud, the ride became choppy. We looked at each knowingly and I showed off: "See?"

Hell is other people at breakfast

This morning my mom was talking on the phone to her sister Kathy. I was sitting nearby at the computer and minding my own business when I heard Kathy ask how long I was going to be home.

"I don't know," My mom said. "I'm afraid to ask."

Then she laughed quickly to indicate that she was either a) Making a joke or b) Telling the truth a tiny bit too much.

I stared sullenly at the computer screen for awhile and then said two words without taking my eyes from the screen:


When my mom finished talking to Kathy, she went back to what she was doing and all was quiet until a few minutes later when she called out from the dining room, "Jess? Would it be fair to say that you're not a morning person?"

"Yes," I said.

In a flash, I remembered an article by Jonathan Rauch that was published in The Atlantic Monthly in March 2003 called "Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little-understood group" which, when I read it, made me practically wave my fists around and cry out Yes! Yes! Yes! before throwing a couple of air punches.

That article was such a turn-on that I wanted to hunt down Mr. Rauch and plant a wet one on him and then, with a wink, gently push him in the other direction so that we could each go spend some quality alone time without either of us taking it personally.

With the introvert article suddenly in mind, I amended my curt reply to my mother.

"Actually, I really like mornings. I like getting up early. I just don't like to be bothered."

"O-kay," she said.

And I recalled spitting out the same argument to a dear fellow bus-mate, Tim, just last week. I was the first to wake on the bus, still en route to the venue. When Tim entered the front lounge, we shared a glance, a good morning, and I returned to the absorptive state regularly induced by my early morning companions coffee and iBook.

This didn't deter chattypants from talking to me and expecting me to engage. When Tim noticed that my responses were minimal, he commented on my lack of enthusiasm.

I responded to him with a question.

"Have you ever heard the quote, 'Hell is other people at breakfast'?"

"No," said Tim.

Here I either smiled - or looked stonily - at Tim. I honestly can't remember.

I HOPE I smiled, because as Jonathan Rauch points out, extroverts simply do not understand introverts and it's nice to not be rude about simple misunderstandings. Though, when they persist, GOD HELP ME, GOD GRANT ME THE PATIENCE, etc.

Anyway, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) is the person who said that about people, breakfast, and hell and I have my suspicions about whether Sartre - existentialist, literary critic, revolutionary, and author of works entitled Nausea and L'idiot - was a real barrel of laughs.

But it really doesn't matter because, like my buddy Jonathan Rauch explains, being an introvert doesn't mean one doesn't like people or isn't fun or is shy. It just means that we find other people tiring. We just need some time alone to muster up all that god-blessed festivity and hilarity the rest of you all are expecting.


And so now I'm carrying around an N

Show Day #18: Detroit, MI

I was on a recon mission with Renee for a certain caffeinated beverage from a certain multinational corporation known for its ability to make well-adjusted and addiction-free citizens behave like deranged junkies who'd rob their grandma for green tea frappuccino change. And for being ABSOLUTELY F'ING EVERYWHERE. And for medical coverage for part-time employees.

Anyway. We were walking up the sidewalk, glanced at the Royal Oak Theatre's marquise and saw that the N had fallen off NIGHTS.

Renee saw the N laying alone and somewhat sadly on the concrete.

Renee: 'Grab it!'

I ran to the N, grabbed it, and started to stuff the N into my bag, feeling a heightened (and unwarranted) sense of secrecy and urgency, when Renee came up with the next great idea of the day: Take Benise dancer-ish photos of ourselves and N.

Later that day we noticed that FIRE had lost its E. We looked for it but couldn't find the E so we decided to go back inside and get to work.


Sunshine Skyway Bridge

I woke on Saturday to bright Florida sunshine and sparkling water. After rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and brewing coffee, I noticed that there was water on both sides of the tour bus and that we were driving across a bridge, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

I was sitting in the front of the bus with our driver Bear and Patrick, our production manager, when I jumped up, "Ohmigod! I had a panic attack on this bridge when I was a kid!" and ran for my camera.

When I was 12 years old, my family took a summer vacation to Sarasota, Florida. I had just finished elementary school and was ready to hit the beach, still blissfully unaware of how I looked in my giant blue glasses and new t-shirt that read: How do you spell relief? G-R-A-D-U-A-T-I-O-N

Because, you know, elementary school is stressful, especially Montessori elementary school, where you basically tell your teacher what you feel like learning that day and then roll around on the carpet and imagine things. And maybe write a report about it.

On the drive down I-75 from Ohio to Florida, my dad told me the story of the Sunshine Skyway disaster on May 9, 1980.

Which begs the question: WHAT THE HELL WAS HE THINKING?

The St. Petersburg Times published an article on the disaster entitled, "A blinding squall, then death" detailing how at 7:38 am of May 9, the freighter Summit Venture - a ship the length of two football fields - rammed into the Sunshine Skyway and knocked out a 1,200-foot length of the bridge across the mouth of Tampa Bay, causing 35 people to plunge 150 feet to their deaths.

My dad elaborated by explaining how the sudden storm draped the bridge in thick fog. The drivers making their way across the bridge noticed that all the headlights ahead of them were disappearing. They drove on, thinking the cars were just enveloped in fog, not realizing that they were actually driving off the edge of the shattered bridge and into the water.

Then, my dad told me, one man got a funny feeling, an unexplainable intuition, and suddenly stopped his car. He got out and saw, to his surprise, that his vehicle was literally teetering on the edge.

Little height-fearing, nail-biting, bed-wetting me latched onto this climactic point of the story and obsessed on that man and that moment.

At Camp Joy the previous year, I'd been humiliated by my fear of heights on the ropes course. The course, set in the woods, was meant to instill adventure and confidence in us campers and was a series of increasingly difficult and higher-and-higher-altitude endeavors involving ropes, harnesses, carabiners, and supposed complete safety.

"It's more mental than physical," said the counselors. "You can do it if you want to!"

Well. Apparently I didn't want to because while others were scrambling their way through the trees and enjoying the grand finale of flying down the zip line to an exhilarating and triumphant finish, I was stuck on the first leg of the course, MAYBE ten feet above the ground.

With shaking legs and hands cramped like claws around the ropes, I held on for dear life, cried, and tried very hard not to pee my pants.

A line of harnessed kids behind me waited and stared while a counselor tried to talk me through it. When my weeping persisted, I was finally allowed to inch my way back and give up.

Once armed with detailed knowledge about one of the worst bridge disasters in history, I couldn't stop thinking about how it felt to stand on the edge of death - 14 inches to the side and 150 feet above - an emotion I fully expected to experience myself since another deadly squall would SURELY blow in the day my family drove across.

Not helping matters was the fact that construction of the new Sunshine Skyway had only been completed a few months earlier and the half of the span that didn't fall was still standing alongside as a ghostly reminder.

In 1990 the State of Florida Department of Transportation demolished the old bridge, since "its usefulness was past and it had become an eyesore as well as a navigational hazard." You think?

The new 4-mile long Sunshine Skyway rises 196 feet above the water, nearly 50 feet higher than the old Skyway, but happily its grade is less steep, and many drivers take comfort that they can't see through a steel-grate roadbed to the water so many feet below. I must say I concur.


CG's archery lesson

CG Ryche, percussionist, walked into wardrobe before Friday's show in Ft. Lauderdale looking for someone to tie his hair into a ponytail. In the process of getting his hair tied back he also gave me an archery lesson. He saw the archery kit on Renee's altar, was informed of my utter incompetence, and offered to help.

After showing off his form and skill which resulted in a satisfying thwack of the arrow's suction cup affixing to the mirror, he handed me the bow and arrow.

An admission that I should make here is that I hate being bad at stuff. I recoil from board games and any entertainment that ends with clear winners and losers. I prefer solitary sports in which I'm competing against myself. I can't stand charades but I'd probably really like fishing.

I grew up playing soccer but when I joined a indoor league in New York last year, I was nauseous with nerves. Swimming lessons made me sad because I didn't know how to swim already. Once I learned to swim and joined the team, I gave pep talks to my teammates behind the starting block before every relay about how IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO WINS OR LOSES. JUST HAVE FUN! Same thing for high school track relays.

As for archery, I think it's the sort of thing that one learns at camp and I don't even want to get started on that subject. I suffered once through Girl Scout camp and I was probably crying in my bunk because I missed my mom while everyone else was out in the field learning archery.

Here you will notice that CG is picking an arrow up off my foot where it has, again, fallen limply to the ground rather than doing anything remotely arrow-like. Please also notice that I'm being a good sport by laughing my head off and not a pain in the ass by getting mad like my mom said I did when I was little.

I eventually managed to make the arrow move slightly more forward than downward and that was enough for us all to call it quits.


prissy cowgirls don't make good indians

Show Day #12: San Antonio, TX

Wednesday's show was at a theater near the Alamo. The Alamo, former site of Spanish missionaries and legendary military stronghold, is now flanked by souvenir shops selling t-shirts, shot glasses, Davey Crockett hats, and Texas Ranger badges with one's name on it.

Did I find a badge with my name? No.
Did I find one for 'BUCKAROO'? Yes, I did.

The combination of a slow work day, our nearness to the Alamo, and the sale of Teh Shrine of Texas Liberty doodads affected us in wardrobe. At one point Lana taped BORED in giant letters on the wall with yellow stage tape and appeared to be on the verge of ironing socks. During the afternoon we each took a field trip to the world outside of Benise NIGHTS OF FIRE! and returned bearing gifts.

My contribution was an archery kit comprised of plastic bow, three plastic suction cup arrows, and plastic knife and sheath. I soon found out that I was much better at sitting around making fun of people than actually being able to SUCCESSFULLY SHOOT ONE SINGLE SOLITARY ARROW myself.

Even after I was told that I was holding the bow backwards, the closest I got to having the arrow do more than fall limply to my feet was to toss it forward with the hand that was supposed to be snapping the string.

See how Lana is enjoying learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, as exhibited by her smile and easygoing posture?

Every time I touched the archery kit, I'd feel my smile freeze into place and my sweat glands go into overtime because I KNEW that goddamn arrow was going to somersault lightly to my feet when it was supposed to shoot ahead in a threatening manner, suction cup notwithstanding.

I did excel, however, in pursing my lips like an insufferable goody two shoes while Renee menaced a blade to my throat.


blogging isn't exactly helping matters

If you ever worry that technology is turning us all into a bunch of self-absorbed documentarians obsessed with ourselves, this photo may convince you further that you are correct.

Tim took a picture of Lana taking a picture of Ricky taking a picture of me taking a picture of Ricky and Lana. That sentence alone makes me want to go take a nap.

While all of this rampant photo-of-a-photo business was taking place, we were surrounded by a most vast expanse of nature.

Rising from the depths of an expensive housing development in Albuquerque is the Cibola National Forest and the world's longest aerial tramway which carried us up 3,819 feet and 2.7 miles to a spot in sharp contrast to the dank underbellies of theaters, fluorescent-lit dressing rooms, and exhaust-scented loading docks. There, amidst the Douglas fir, the spruce, aspen, and pine, the 1350 million year old granite and the 250 million year old limestone and shale, we noticed: