by Gazelle Amber Valentine
July 7, 2010
After a couple days camped in a Detroit parking lot during a heat wave, we were relieved to find out that our visa paperwork was ready and we could cross the border. Went to a Kinko’s (well, what used to be Kinko’s, then became FedEx Kinko’s, and is now apparently going to be called FedEx Office — smell a corporate takeover?) and printed out our “labour market approval”. For some reason phrases like that sound funny to Americans, especially when “labour” gets a “u”. What can I say, we’re barbarians…
We always have apprehension over border crossings. Something about dealing with agents who aren’t overseen by the bounds of normal cop restrictions — no Miranda required, can hold you in a cell as long as they want, strip search you, and conceivably accuse you of absolutely anything — and on top of that dealing with them as nomadic musicians, with more equipment than any duo should ever be expected to own — is just unsettling. Not to mention knowing that a month of shows could be canceled if they decide not to let you in. So we make sure all our papers are in order. And that all our stuff (including us) is spotless. Canadian border guards have a reputation for turning away people they judge to be dirty and shiftless. They still probably think we’re shiftless (answering “where do you live?” with “in this vehicle” doesn’t seem to please them) but at least we’re clean hobos.
Driving onto the Bridge To Canada feels like jumping out of a plane. Okay, maybe not that exciting. But you do have a sense that you’re committed to a path that could go seriously wrong if you’re not careful. For example, never having crossed Ambassador Bridge before (we usually enter at Niagara Falls) we got confused as to whether we should follow signs for “trucks” or “cars” — seeing that “RV” or “bus” were not options — and ended up having to reverse out of an entry lane. One more strike against American intelligence.
Speaking of which, when we were in Europe a couple months back we had a British sprinter. We fucked up in toll booths a couple of times (thanks to our inability to read German) and Edgar, riding shot gun on the left, glibly adopted a British accent so that we wouldn’t get pegged as stupid Americans. Neither of us was sure why we felt the need to defend America’s honour in that way, but it seemed like a pretty good out. Let the Brits take the blame. Other than the lane mistake our Canadian crossing was pretty smooth. Not a long wait and less aggro guards than we’ve had on some occasions. They did make us open the trailer and for some reason honed in on a small suitcase which they made us take out. “What’s in that suitcase?” “Buncha stickers.” “Mind if we take a look?” “No.” Poor guy opens the suitcase upside down and 300 stickers flop out the sides.
At immigration the guards were young and sarcastic so the process was actually fun. Our booking agent had been supposed to fill in an hourly wage on the labour market form and instead of doing that he’d given the entire tour income. Many jokes. Driving out away from the border is a huge relief. We’re in!
July 8, 2010
First show of CANADIAN CACOPHONY tour is in Windsor at Coach & Horses. Playing a house show with a full bar and better power… although we did blow the breaker a few times at our show there last year. This time we knew in advance which circuits were bad so the power held. The staff at Coach are awesome nice people and really appreciate us, which is icing on the fact that it’s a loud, dark, awesome room to play on the floor. And there’s surprisingly good sound from the PA too. The crowd was totally along for the ride, and we were on fire. This is why we play music, to feel like this. Hell, yes.
July 9, 2010
Spending the night in a parking lot at a mall. Walked around and looked at stuff all day. Got a couple pairs of earrings. My old feather earrings that I made are draggled and worn out, and I haven’t had time to make more. But fortunately feather earrings got stylish so I can just snag some at the mall. Me and Edgar ate dinner in the food court. Canadians are lucky to have really, really, really good middle eastern food readily available. I will taste that meal in my memory for the rest of my life. (And in my mouth whenever we end up in that parking lot again — just try and stop me!)
July 10, 2010
Leaving our mall parking lot we headed east and stopped at a Flying J for gas. It sucks for us buying by the liter — we’re constantly trying to mentally convert into gallons because we know our miles to gallon capacity, not our miles to liter. And it’s also more expensive here. The sad part is you never completely turn off the part of your mind that yells “woohoo” when it sees $1.00 on a gas sign. So we’ve got a quarter of our 65-gallon tank filled and are back on the highway about five minutes when a car starts riding riiiiiight beside me. This has never been a good thing: 99% of the time it means they’re trying to tell you that something’s wrong with your trailer. The other 1% it’s an old, fat, naked, sunburned, masturbating flasher. Ah, life on the road. Sure enough we have a blown trailer tire. Usually this would just mean a fairly back breaking fifteen minutes of work changing it while praying nobody veers onto the shoulder and kills us. But we just had a blowout a week ago and haven’t been able to get to a place to fix the spare.
Realizing we’re within sight of an exit ramp, we drive very very slowly down the shoulder toward it. The blowout is on the highway side so we know there’s not a chance in hell of getting it changed while parked on the shoulder. There’s nothing like a ten minute tenth of a mile drive wondering if you’re doing further damage to integral metal parts while other vehicles scream past at full speed. Once on the exit ramp we throw some cones out behind us and pull a bike out of the trailer. I ride up the road to the truck stop we can see and ask about a tire place. Alas, we’re not in a town and the lady says it’d be a 20 minute bike ride to get to one. I ride back to our sad parking spot and get on the phone. Long story short, I eventually get hold of a place that’s open on Saturday and can do the work. But I have to drive the RV there. We unhitch the trailer and Edgar stays with it while I drive the messed up tire into town for repair. I totally hate being separated this way since we only have one phone. Fortunately the repair gets done fast. Then, miraculously, the manager/owner type guy I’ve been pleasantly chatting with (old enough to’ve been a Black Sabbath fan back “when Ozzy was a kid”) tells me the repair is on the house. THANK YOU KAL-TIRE!!! I haul ass back to our special exit ramp and give Edgar the thumbs up. Ten minutes later we’ve got the spare on, trailer re-attached and are on our way to the show.
Toronto is one of those cities that’s hell on earth to deal with when you need to park a huge vehicle and move over a ton of equipment into a club. Streets are jammed, pedestrians and bikers threaten to brain damage themselves clipping your mirrors, and every club we’ve played in Toronto has some awful staircase to load up. Except the Bovine Sex Club… sweet Jesus, what a relief! Dude from the club totally staked out parking for us (which clubs are always supposed to do but love to bail on) and there were no stairs. Stage was decent size — couldn’t fit my whole rig but enough of it to freak everybody out and sound huge — and as an added bonus featured a side banner of starry-eyed cows. Again we had a great crowd that got it and was with us and we destroyed. There are times when you destroy as far as the audience is concerned, but you yourselves don’t feel you did your best. Then there are times you play your best and people just don’t get it. This was a night we played our asses off and knew it, and the crowd did too. So it felt awesome. Needless to say such a good night couldn’t end early. We were still packing the trailer as the sun began to rise. But it’s not so bad to be exhausted when you’re satisfied.
July 13, 2010
Played in Hamilton after Toronto. Stage there is cool because it’s super wide. Not very deep though and has a low ceiling, so I invented a new way of stacking my cabinets. Sometimes having to do that really sucks, making things unwieldy or affecting the overall sound. But this new arrangement looked and sounded cool and wasn’t in danger of falling on us either. Pretty cool. The crowd was small but they were all up front headbanging and throwing beer in the air. We played our asses off again even as every single stick Edgar used broke immediately and his drums continually fell and slid away from him. Next stop, London!