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Cex Tour Diary pt. 3

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In third and final episode of his extensive diary, Oakland's craziest MC shares the intimate details of life on the road with The Postal Service.

Cex Tour Diary pt. 3

04/24/03 when we went to Milwaukee

Jenny and Jimmy in the van.†

We got to Milwaukee early to go to a barbecue. I didnít know hardly anyone there, but it wasnít that weird. First it was Jimmy and Jenny and I standing around smiling and kind of talking to each other. Ben and Joan were driving separately but they called and said they werenít going to make it in time for the barbecue and would just meet us at the show. Nick went in the van to talk into his cell phone about business issues involving the new Death Cab record. Jenny disappeared and then Jimmy and I got a little scared and decided to have a walk around a little strip of stores we had passed on the way in.

We went to a musical instruments store down the block. The guy working there was maybe in his fifties, but he looked strong, and had some quality of sculpture about his face. Not chiseled, but paper-machied. He opened the door for us because it was locked, even though they were open. His hair looked like there was shoe polish in it and his store was walls and walls of acoustic guitars. I think we were hoping for some weird old pedals that the old man, ignorant to their experimental applications, might sell us for cheap, but it was all acoustic guitars and drum parts. Also, he started talking to us, telling us with rising passion in his voice about how Jimi Hendrix came to this store in the fifties and got his guitar fixed there and how this guy and his family were fixing all the big starsí guitars and now youíve got Guitar Center and the big box stores and so just to stay competitive he has to sell these shitty Mexican-made guitars for one hundred and eighty dollars and do you know how much profit there is on selling one of these Mexican guitars for one hundred and eighty dollars? Itís like seventeen dollars. The old man was getting increasingly louder as he talked. Then he said something about girls that I didnít really catch, and donít remember at all, but relieved me of feeling any further obligation to politely delay our exit. We found Jenny at a Goodwill and she had picked out another dress for me, since I gave the blue one I had in Chicago away to a girl in the crowd that asked for it. There was a guy at Goodwill carrying around a huge knife in a super creepy way. Jimmy and I told Jenny it was a good thing she didnít come to the musical instruments place with us, but I canít remember exactly what it was we thought the old man had said about girls.

The three of us walked back to the barbecue house. The grill was going. I asked BJ from the band Noon Duet if the burgers they were grilling were for everybody, and he said I could totally have one. But then this one guy who had his daughter with him was totally going to give his daughter two hamburgers and me no hamburgers at all. It was weird. She was like nine at the most, and I guess she was saying she wanted to eat two hamburgers, and I was totally waiting until everybody who wanted one got one before I snatched my own, but when the coast looked clear and I rolled up the dude made this big deal like I was taking a burger away from his daughter. EVEN THOUGH SHE HAD ONE IN FRONT OF HER THAT SHE HADNíT FINISHED. I wanted to be all like, ďDude, this is a perfect opportunity to teach your daughter about sharing,Ē but I didnít say anything. THEN he took out some secret fries and he and his daughter ate them and he didnít offer them to anybody else. Jimmy saw the secret fries, too. I donít know who that guy was and I donít know why it heated me up so much but goddamn, at the time it felt like the whole world had turned upside down.

We drank a lot of Red Bull on this tour. Jimmy has a friend that works for Red Bull and got us ďsponsoredĒ by Red Bull, which meant we got a few cases of Red Bull for freeóand Iíve seen those cases at Supermarkets, theyíre fucking expensiveóand thatís it. We didnít have to mention Red Bull or drink it on stage or hang up some banner or anything. It was great.

There was a Benihanas near the school auditorium we were playing in Milwaukee. I had never been to Benihanas and I got the rest of the team to say theyíd go with me, but then they dropped out one by one so I ate at Benihanas by myself. I had one of those big Asahis. Maybe I had two. I ate a bunch of sushi while watching groups of post-college professionals in their casual wear make small talk with each other.

I walked back to Wehr Hall, where the show was going down, crossing over a rickety bridge and trying to smother the suggestion which had appeared in my head and suggested that I throw all the money banded up in my camera case out over the side and into the water. I got to the show and had some Coronas and played a set which wasnít bad but definitely felt like either a 1) support slot at a college show set or 2) a end-of-tour-is-sort-of-in-sight-but-not-close-enough set, or both.

The show ended without incident and we packed up our stuff to go play acoustic sets at the Cactus Club. BJ had invited us down to do it, and we kind of thought it was going to be a completely off-the-cuff, casual, fireside type thing but it turned out to be kind of an event. I mean, people were there to see us (to see Ben and Jenny, actually) play acoustic. I drank four hard ciders, then I think Joan H. went on first, and I ran out to the car to get my minidisk player to record the sets but couldnít find it and ended up missing her Steely Dan cover, which made me feel like a douchebag. Jenny went next and everybody in the audience flipped out. It was maybe 40 people but it was a small room and really late at night so it felt like a much bigger deal than I think any of us had envisioned. It had been written up in the Onion, too, which is maybe how people heard about it. Ben played next and did the most songs of any of us. People were really excited and gave him requests. I went last and did ďYou KissĒ and a cover (ďMoonĒ) and I think thatís it. I felt like I totally botched it up but Jimmy told me he was jealous that I could go up and do that. I think I botched it up, though. Ben was really good acoustic.

At the Motel 6 I drank a Corona in the bathtub.

04/25/03 when we went to Minneapolis

This was the night Nick came up with the crazy dance where he jacks up his pants and rolls up the legs and wigs out.†

Atlanta had bummed me out but the show in Minneapolis made me want to die times ten. After my set, I went into the van and called virtually everyone in my cell phone. Nobody was home. The club, 7th Street Entry, was really stingy with the drinks, too, even though we had sold out their club, and Ben vowed never to play that place again with any of his bands. I was thinking about calling Erik at Kork and telling him to maybe take a break on booking me in Minneapolis at all for the next few years, but later on I would be glad I didnít. Erik is a smart guy anyway, I doubt he would have really listened to me. I mean, he would have listened to me, but he wouldnít have stopped booking me in Minneapolis. It was my fourth show in Minneapolis. At my third show, there was some article in the paper about Tigerbeat6 and the Paws Across America tour that ended with a plea for Kid606 to kill me. To actually MURDER me. I donít know what crazy retard thought that would make any sense ----I mean, weíre friends, and up to that point Miguel (606) had put out all my albums, why would he kill me? In any case, it bummed me out big time. But the show on the Postal Service tour bummed me more. I called everybody and nobody was home.

The winner of the best hospitality spread of the tour: Atlanta. Hereís a picture of Lil Rob and some of the food we got backstage. I took this picture before the show started so some of the very food in this picture was later puked up. (Also, sorry if itís confusing that Iím now giving you all these pictures out of sequence, i.e.: this is a picture from Atlanta in the middle of the story of Minneapolis. I donít really know why I didnít include these pictures at the appropriate place within the previous parts of this Ďtour diary,í but I am guessing that the slap pictures and the Cross-eyed Crooner shots had seemed to set the bar so high that these guys didnít seem so great to me while I was assembling parts 1 & 2. Secondly, I know the ending of this, the third and final installment of the tour diary, I know the ending is going to be kind of anti-climactic so Iím trying to maybe compensate with photos. Iím in Portland, Oregon right now typing this into my laptop and the Postal Service tour seems like it happened last year, even though it happened four months ago.)

Oh yeah, and I guess I saw a little Hee Haw in the basement of the 7th Street, too, with some weird local girl who was really, REALLY stoked on herself, and her friend. I think I forgot all about her the next day, but I think they with the first band that opened up. I donít remember them very well at all but I wrote in my crazy book that these two girls in the basement of the 7th Street were totally, TOTALLY stoked on themselves. Also, Jenny got sort of sexually harassed and then fifteen minutes later was feeling like it was her fault, and like she didnít want to hurt the harasserís feelings. Nick, Ben, Rob, and I grabbed her shoulders and shook her a bit, trying to tell her she should feel rage, not guilt, but I donít think we helped at all.

04/26/03 when we went to Omaha

Jenny was a total spazz all day in the car. She was SO excited about Omaha. I guess that itís her home away from LA because the label her band Rilo Kiley is on is out of Omaha and something of a dynasty there. I donít know if it was the bummer sauce Iíd slathered on the night before, but after a while I started getting the feeling I was a stowaway on the USS Somebody Elseís Party. I was pretty quiet in the van. We ate at a Thai restaurant and I was pretty quiet there, too.

The show went really well, though. My set did, at least. The show as in this wide basement called the Sokol Underground and there were some bona fide Cex kids there. The rest of the heads, most of whom looked straight off the Makeout Club, seemed really down as well.

By the end of the Postal Serviceís set I had imbibed six free Smirnoff Black Ice drinks and didnít feel buzzed at all, but the moment I put my lips to the seventh, opaque splotches sprung up in front of my eyes and I was instantly immersed in a migraine. I stumbled from the merch table to the green room and crashed on the couch until everything had been loaded out. It wasnít much time, but having my eyes closed for even just a little while helped me clear out some of the ghosts obscuring my sight and gave me the strength to walk to the convenience store and get some water.

All I could think about was getting to a motel and sleeping off the rest of my migraine so I could see and speak properly again, but on the ride back to the motel I got the impression Jenny was bummed about the showóthat it hadnít lived up to her expectations of Omaha or something. I would have tried to investigate more but in my migrained condition I didnít really have the tools for good bonding at my disposal.

04/27/03 when we went to Denver

Jenny, Jimmy, Rob, and I walked down the street looking for food when we saw two little girls in bizarre belly-dancing costumes dip into what looked like a long-vacant building sandwiched between two empty lots. Puzzled and amused, we followed them into the building Alice-style to find a fully functioning Moroccan restaurant and a fantastic five-course meal complete with B+ belly dancing and an authentic Moroccan waiter spinning glasses of water around on his arm.

Primary among the minor misfortunes besetting the actual show in Denver, it happened to be the last thing between us and our two big Seattle showsóSeattle having the singular distinction of the cities on this tour of being the only one where Ben and Nickís houses are. Itís unfortunate, but itís unavoidable with shows at the end of a tour. Thereís no way to be more psyched about yet another set in yet another town than you are about your bed and your stuff and your mail and a breath.

The other problem, which would have made me want to die had I not shared everyone elseís impatient indifference to anything other than the impending 20-some hour drive to Seattle ahead of us, was that the club we played had a volume restriction imposed on it by the city. A really shitty and quiet volume restriction. During my set the sound guy had to keep a decibel meter in front of him and pull down the faders whenever my output got above a certain level. Which resulted in a very oppressive atmosphere (there were cops walking around, too, which was weird and which Lil Rob felt made a big contribution to the tight-assedness of the vibe), and a quiet, embarrassing set. I should have just gone acapella after the first song or two, but I tried to soldier through it and got mostly utter confusion and maybe some pity from the crowd for my efforts. Really--- it was comically bad. The Cex that Aquarius Records has been following all these years is the Cex that showed up in Denver with the Postal Service. There were some kids who pow-wowed with me by the stage right after the set, though, and shot good vibes into my system and quelled any depression that might have boiled its way up past my pre-Seattle obliviousness. After that, I changed my pants and slipped through the crowd, who seemed to be OK with the unspoken contract of minimal effort from all parties involved Ė bands, audience, staff, everyoneó which lay gently over top of the night.

I made my way to the front lobby where the merch was set up and sat down to write in my crazy book when this high-maintenance chick in a high-maintenance-chick hat walked out of the bathroom and wiped out. Just blam! right on the floor, on her back. She seemed awake but waaaay gone for a few minutes, until she suddenly snapped upright and turned normal and started telling the cop hovering above her that she felt fine and was going to go home. The cop wouldnít let her move, though, and called the paramedics, who showed up shortly, parking their ambulance on the sidewalk in front of the venue. The wipe-out girl was standing not fifteen feet from the merch table and Lil Rob and I had a perfect view of one EMT lecturing her while another EMT stared at her tits. It was so flagrant. It seemed almost fake but it wasnít. We couldnít contain our laughter.

After the drama dissipated I got back into my crazy book and started meditating on my plans for the rest of the year. I wrote:
ď1) sell as many of my possessions as possible (cds, stuff, shit, studio gear, clothes)
2) go to Europe, Australia, Japan
3) actually do #2Ē

A month before the Postal Service tour began I had some grand schemes about a fall tour which would put me in Europe for four or five weeks, then Australia for two more, then Japan for two, all back to back. Then maybe six weeks in the US. I was super gung-ho about it until the Postal Service tour started winding down. I figured that part of my faltering confidence in this dreamy uber-tour was all the money I had been accumulating from the almost-always sold out PS shows making me soft. One way to combat that, I knew, would be to spend a shitload of it on new gear. Portable gear. Get rid of everything that couldnít be hauled around with me on the road. Touring used to stress me out because I was far from home and the people I loved there, but after I ran away from Baltimore and felt like I no longer had a home to be far from, my main beef with touring was that I couldnít finish new songs from the road. By the end of every tour I was so sick of the songs I had been playing that I never wanted to hear them again. But a completely portable studio could nix that problem altogether, and I could maybe stay on the road for months, eating up cities--- gorging on roads and fields and mountains and trees, devouring new places, new buildings, new people, new friends. If I could move and write, Iíd never get full, never get bored, never have to stop moving and empty myself out alone at home.



where is your punk rock safe,
and why are you still there?

04/28/03 when we drove to Seattle

Oh my god, we were in the car for almost 20 hours. We stopped to eat and pee, of course, but never for very long. I donít know how any of us would have lived if it werenít for Stars of the Lid. I donít know how I would have not cried if it werenít for Stars of the Lid and a relaxed attitude about occasional drug use.

I used to be really against it, back in high school. Well, for like a year I was really against it, which is pretty typical I guess. Now I donít know what I am. I guess my main thing is avoiding having any kind of mental mantra or rule which can be summed up in a few words.

our first day in Seattle

I forget where we took this picture--- it was pretty early in the tour, though. Itís amazing how much time you spend at gas stations on a tour.

The ~three days we spent in Seattle are kind of a blur to me, squished together with each other and with the three days I would spend in Seattle less than two months later, when the Dismemberment Plan kidnapped me and brought me to the Pacific Northwest shows of their farewell tour.

Jimmy, Jenny, and I watched a few DVDs at Benís house and went to thrift stores in Capitol Hill. I hung out a little with my friend Lucianne who is an astrophysicist and who I accidentally murdered in the liner notes of my second album, OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN! I bought THE FRAGILE at a used CD store.

Hereís Rob painting that girlís nails black in Arkansas.

Hereís a picture I took of Jimmy in New York City.

The Postal Serviceís first show ever, in San Diego, CA.

04/30/03 our second day in Seattle


05/01/03 when we went to Portland

People talked all through my set in Portland. I kind of want to partially blame the layout of the particular club we played, but shirking the blame isnít going to make me a better performer. Some people liked it. My head was elsewhere. After I got off stage I spent the rest of the show writing in my crazy book. I went off for a few straight pages. Not all of it makes sense.

ďThere was a big stretch post-DC where it was just turned off. I switched it off. Mostly the same way I had switched it off before (in July/June/May of 2002--- which holds, I believe, the record for longest period of celibacy for me since age 15. Iím not bragging, Iím asking you, Ďhelp us, all of us,í etc.) The same way being by being supergeneradismal over a girl who I asked to marry me. I mean, thatís not all of it. Itís been tough and thatís helped, but Iím also making a concerted effort here not to be an asshole. And maybe itís because I donít think that any concerted effort like that on my part would ever be enough to stop me from doing asshole things to those I love, but for whatever reason, despite the fact that I have been technically(?), legally(?), reasonably(?), materially(?) GOOD, I do not feel good.

ďI do not feel like a good boyfriend or a good person. I feel the opposite. I think that the reason I do not feel good is because of the lesson I had printed indelibly across my brain during the previous summer, the summer of 2002, which I spent alone in my grandmotherís apartment, curling free-weights I had bought from Target, completely unable to escape the pulsing, glowing red truth emanating from all the tired boygirl Baltimore melodrama from which I could not find a way to extract myself. Showing 24/7 across the inside of my skull were these words, this lesson: ĎYOUíRE NOT A SAINT, YOUíRE SCARED.í

ďBut I grabbed the whip out of his hand and hit myself even harder. I dug a hole and when I couldnít keep all the light out of it, I ran west across the map, trying to outrace the sun, to find somewhere darker.

ďI used to do what I wanted, I used to kiss the girl if I wanted to kiss her because I knew if I didnít, it wasnít because I was good, it was because I was scared. I hated feeling paralyzed. I felt like acting, even acting bad, would make me infinitely happier than all the frozen people around me, all the excuse-makers, all the flakes neck-deep in denial. Iíd take the most actingest action first available: taking time to deliberate or decide could mean falling into a black hole, hesitation and doubt breeding litters of children in my head. I know Iím too susceptible to the comforts of delusion; Iím paranoid about falling asleep and sinking into complete irrelevance. Movement is the only defense I know. Move, and try as hard as you can to make tangible things to leave behind you, mark where youíve been. If you canít make a tangible thing, do something you can write about that people will read. Written words are at least more tangible than spoken ones. They stay written, they donít deteriorate. When I began to suspect delusion or inertia in those around me, I didnít take the time for a trial, for deliberation. I booked.†††

ďAnd where did this take me, what did I become? I write in a journal about how right I am. I scream into a hole, a tiny little hole. I write and I tour, I pretend saying what I write in front of a crowd makes it better, makes it real. I tour. I go wherever I can paint my caricatures uninterrupted by anyone who might question their accuracy.

ďItís May 1st, four full months since I left Maryland. I have paid off all my financial debts, I have a girlfriend who is maybe the most popular girl in the SF hipster music scene right now, and I havenít cheated on her, I have two roommates who will need something like $650 or $700 a month from me for the next six months, I have a booking agent bending over backwards to accommodate my constantly shifting fears and crises, I have a pair of publicists and a friend in Portland who have helped me release a new record thatís been received (so far) way better than any of my previous attempts at making a record with me on the cover. I have another record ready to come out in the fall, I have shows whenever I want them and possibly no shows if I donít want them, although Iíve been afraid thus far to find out if I can really ask for no shows and live.

ďAnd I write. And I cannot seem to stop the transparency from worsening, from spreading across my skin.

ďThatís not why I booked.

ďWhy did I feel faced with this decision:

ďAnd that was even before I had learned what it was like to be the one at home for four weeks, when Indra went away to Europe with Numbers. Before I knew exactly what itís like to be the lucky one who gets to sit by the phone and wait. To go to work and come home and wait. To swallow every Ďlook at that!í
or Ďguess what I heard!í
or Ďhelp!íĒ

04/30/03 our second day in Seattle

I was backstage writing in my crazy book when Jenny lay down on the couch. I was sitting there with my legs crossed, scribbling in my notebook while she talked, facing the wall to the right of the one I was looking at. She told me about this guy who had been draining her psychically, part monster, part anchor, part widely adored singer-songwriter. I tried to help, telling her that he was a boy and probably would not change, and even if he did, it wasnít going to come in some lightning bolt. If it came at all it would most likely be gradual, with a lot of steps forward and almost as many steps back--- a process that would require Jenny to put her life on total pause if she wanted to still be there and be sane when this guy came around. If he ever did. I was talking to her and trying to be helpful, and as soon as my mouth closed around my last words to her, ďDonít sweat it,Ē I realized who I had been talking about.

05/01/03 when we went to Portland (again)

ďDuring my fall tour last year I realized that if I were to be with Elizabeth, it would have to be 100%, no mistakes, no holes, no snags. I had so much to make up for. I couldnít possibly expect to rebuild six years of trust around a touring schedule. And not touringóthat would be effectively checking out of the real-sweat-real-body philosophy of music I had touted so hard for my few brief years in the game. But otherwise, Iíd be asking her to pause. Asking anyone to pause should be out of the question, much less somebody that meant so much to me.

ďI had six weeks of fall tour to prepare myself for a confusing, premature exit from the hustle. To figure out how to line everyone up and say, ĎI need out for a while. But not because Iím scared.í I wanted to figure out a way to say, ĎBut not because Iím scaredí and have people believe it. And by people I donít mean my four or five adoring fans, I mean: Miguel, Jessica, David, Jeremy, Erik, Grunge, Jason, Craig.

ďI wanted to call the tour ĎTour to Regretí but Miguel had the posters made bearing the ĎPaws Across Americaí title already.

ďMy plan was to tour like there was no future, and thatís pretty much how it went down. I opened my mouth and drink went down, drugs went down, kids got naked, clubs got kissed in. I canít really tell that story well yet, though. Iím not far enough from it. I hope one day Indraís polaroids get put in a book, because they tell that story better than I ever could.

ďI came home for a few miserable, stupid days and took off for the west coast abruptly. The day after Elizabethís birthday. I had six weeks to figure out a way to say, ĎIím not checking out because Iím scared, because I canít handle the work, the time on the road, the criticism and the reviews and the heckling and the hate--- I can handle those things. I can. I could eat it up and vomit albums back in your face far longer than anyone could actually dish that shit out.í

ďI needed a way to say, ĎIím not quitting because Iím scared, itís because Iím trying to be a saint.í But I donít even believe in saints--- why would anyone believe me? Music, which might not ever make me happy Ė-fuck that, which only ever works when Iím not happy, hating the words that just came out of my mouth and trying to say the last thing Iíll ever sayó


05/02/03 when we

There were three more shows after that. I didnít touch my crazy book at any of them. The tour ended with a different band playing between Postal Service and I, which shouldnít have made us feel physically separated, but it did. It felt like it had already ended and we missed it. And then suddenly, it was really over, and I was driving back to Oakland in a different van that didnít have any of the Postal Service in it, driving ďhomeĒ with a bunch of money and this notebook with my picture taped to the front. We didnít even think to judge our crazy books Ė-we barely got to say goodbye. Jennifer Love Hewitt came to our last show in LA but she didnít talk to anybody in the bands.

Ben, Nick, Rob, the van, and our stuff on the first day of the Postal Service & Cex tour. April 4th, 2003.

Thanks dudes.


By Rjyan Kidwell

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