tour diary

updates from the road by Starsapien

8/25 -- nashville to los angeles


I’m pretty sure Jeff Berlin is sitting a few seats ahead of me. The chisel of his nose and chin, and his still-jet black locks give it away.

This was a bass player’s bass player.

Jeff Berlin didn’t last long in Holdsworth’s band, but I think that’s where I first heard him--“Water on the Brain II” or something.  

I idolized his inventions and his musical dogma. Metronomes? Time comes from the heart, kid. Tablature? Learn to read notes, not numbers!

Berlin’s rules made me feel “better-than-you,” which was a particularly good feeling at age 13. But the guy also divided musician chat rooms across the early internet.

He played a trio gig at Morristown Theater one fall. My dad took my brother and me up the street for a slice first. Some neighborhood joint. We’re munching, and in walk two geriatrics in baggy hoodies. My dad clams up. He whispers, “That’s him. That’s Jeff Berlin.” The other guy was Mike Clark, his drummer. 

After the show, Berlin signs my CD, “To Jack!!”

I hear he’s mellowed out in recent years. I don’t even know if he’s gigging anymore. But the chorus on his bass makes me seasick now.

8/20 -- oakland to denver for a layover, then nashville


There's something about the Illuminati at the Colorado airport. A hidden code my friend told me about, etched into wall paintings and sculptures here.

I asked the Starbucks lady what she knew about it. I waited in a long line. 

No loose lips here. “If you aren’t ordering anything sir please move.”

I don’t do myths. Not usually. 

But it’s hard to ignore the pyramid adornments in otherwise milk toast terminal artwork. And the unsettling ringing--something near fifteen thousand five hundred hertz. I feel mania rising. 

The most damning piece of evidence: the shell-shocked gothic creature who scorns rollers-by. A gargoyle. He covers his winged ears, as if taunting all these loser travelers. They can’t see the fearsome shadow cradling them.

Also, and I may have dreamed this, but I keep seeing G-Man types walk through a door near the men’s restroom. Seven or eight at least. Briefcases, fedoras, knowing looks, all that. 

I grabbed my bag and walked over there for a better look. There was no door.

8/15 -- los angeles to oakland


I know a few deejays, and they might think it’s a little early for Fall Out Boy playing over the gate ceiling speakers.

But I see a tía sewing and bobbing her head to “Dance Dance.” Maybe it’s alright.

A quick cruise north today for business downtown. Small planes like this always drill cool air into your forehead. It’s helping keep my mood mellow. Even the intercom from the pilot that the plane needs to be “restarted” due to a computer glitch doesn’t chafe me.

But it gets me thinking about rebooting a plane, like it’s any old Dell desktop. Is that how it is? 

One too many risky Limewire downloads to the fuselage, and the Hot Single Moms In Your Area storm the cockpit and hold your files and luggage hostage? So you shut it down, boot it back up, and go on like nothing ever happened?

Last time I straddled the Bay, I left town with a few thousand in my saddle. I get the feeling I might be the one paying out this time around.

8/13 -- new york to los angeles


Someone’s grandma went heavy on the gin and light on the olives between gates this evening. An hour into the sky and there’s vomit all over row 10. 

I’m far enough back I can’t catch the scent. But the problem is they’ve left the lights on ever since The Big Commotion. I thought this was a sleeper’s flight.

But really, the bad omen came for us at the start. Taxiing for takeoff, a voice over the intercom—pleading for a passenger in an aisle seat to graciously give up their spot to a pregnant woman who, God bless her, was stuck in the middle.

“Hit the button if you’d like to volunteer.”

A silent cabin. Finally, someone shouts “OK!” and swaps seats.

Then there’s the beer fiasco. 

Look, I got this airline card that’ll give me six times the points on the in-flight stuff, and I’d like a free ride to Atitlán for surf season, baby.

So sure—gimme the Stella in a can, please. And of course the plastic cup, too. And let me flash this glossy credit card all the while.

I kept trying to pay for these beers like a good little passenger but FOUR—count ‘em—four different flight attendants refused my card. 

I finally walked the plank to the back of the plane. I’m seeking points, not buzz, after all. The stewardess laughs in my face and says, “Have a good night.” Another beer, on the crew.

On top of all this, I’m watching the guy next to me’s screen. He keeps rewinding the movie because he’s not paying that good attention. One of those superhero flicks, I don’t even know anymore. Really frustrating. 

I’m thinking about those guys who sneak scissors onto the Parachute Day helicopter, just in case they realize mid-air, it ain’t any better on the ground.