the skinny. tuesday. november 30, 1999. 5pm.

if you've never spent 36 hours in a small car with 3 large men, brother, you just haven't lived. we left after work on a thursday night, and forced becky stark to take pictures of us like parents on prom night. we drove our rented powder blue nissan altima (a repressed middle aged man's escape pod) straight through the night from chicago's hyde park to portland, maine. without stopping for more than gas and food, we traversed the entire stretch of indiana, ohio, and the big one - new york state. there were just barely enough caffeinated beverages, chips, soynuts, apples, granola bars, crackers, and cookies in the car to get us all the way there and back. how we ended up with a rental car is a long story, one involving a van getting stolen (and then found!), extremely large pants, a dented roof, a highly efficient use of trunk space, shared instruments and amplifiers, great gas mileage, and the generosity of an insurance company.


on the drive out, there were some tense moments. john was continually rolling down the window in an attempt to spare our noses (why he didn't just get a plastic tube, i'll never know), but he started us off like a champ. the filth of the bathroom at our stop in ohio damn near killed the lot of us. chris heroically carried us into the wee hours of the morning. at approximately seven in the morning, with the rest of the band asleep and his droopy eyes on the road and weezer on the stereo, travis fought to stay awake through his shift. at approximately noon, nearing portland, the rain came down - and the rain kept coming. robert expertly avoided hydroplaning us into early retirement. but there's nothing like an old thumper and some shipyard at the end of a long journey to nurse your broken spirit. we spent the evening with robert's brothers matt and andrew, and their roommate kevin, who were hospitable enough to let us sleep on their couches and floor.

the next day we roamed about portland in search of poster hanging materials. after much ado about kinko's (and a friendly old couple), we hit the town with our homemade promotion machine. like poster ninjas, we managed to cover every post in town without making a sound, but we bothered a lot of people with our handouts. we randomly met up with josé, the singer/songwriter of spouse, the band we were opening for, and who set up this show for us. we also randomly met a guy named steve, whose main life interest was the legalization of a certain organic substance, but he was remarkably interested in our music nonetheless. party on, brother.

we took a trip to bullmoose record store, where we left some flyers, and travis finally managed to get a copy of american football's full-length album, which he'd been trying to find for about 2 years. then we took the casco bay ferry to peaks island for a couple hours to see robert's house and the rocky glory of a maine beach.

embarrassingly skinny and pale, we strutted our rolled-pant-leg and shirtless selves around the beach, opened bottles on rocks, pretended to be the karate kid, and threw rocks at the water. yeah - take that, atlantic ocean. after the locals had seen enough of our rippling muscles, we headed back to the ferry to meet robert's dad for lunch. from the ferry, we spotted a real life transformer being built. it was a day full of chance meetings, as robert ran into at least 5 people on the island he hadn't seen in years. at the restaurant, the manager (who was giving us free drinks because robert's dad had done him a good turn as a bank teller) just so happened to be from the same town as chris and john. he had gone to the same high school and had the same biology teacher. weird. the waiter creeped us out with his deductive skills and his french, and travis ordered the only vegetarian entrée on the menu - that is to say, from the children's menu. ah yes. grilled cheese - refuge of the damned. everyone else enjoyed some of the local seafood. did you know robert doesn't like lobster? we doubt his maine-liness sometimes.

later that night, we had the privilege of opening the monumental spouse record release party. due to the space constraints of our altima, we had to borrow a lot of equipment, including a guitar amp, a bass amp, and a drum kit. that's right, we borrowed more equipment than we brought with us. anyway, despite the lack of proper guitar amplification (sorry your amp wouldn't fit, robert), we played to an enthusiastic crowd. special moments included the dedication of "we'll be there" (recently renamed "the city lights the sky") to robert's family and the unexpected appearance of our new (and slightly blunted) friend steve and a few u of c students who just happened to be in the neighborhood (huge props to elliott brennan!).

that evening was spent with our good friend katie gaudet and her sisters at gilbert's chowder house, where again, there was but one vegetarian item on the menu - a garden salad. don't worry, there were also french fries of questionable vegetable origin. we laughed ourselves silly about virtually everything, and thoroughly enjoyed some shipyard summer brew. lenny g, who had been pretty bored the vast majority of this trip, finally got to make an appearance as we played some football in the street while the remnants of the ralph nader rally went by in protest/riot/parade form. oh, and then on our way to find ice cream, we caught a glimpse of car dressed up like a pig. we searched all over town for a better look at this miracle, but to no avail. if only we could have caught it, hogtied it, and made it the new merc-mobile.

it was early in the morning we left portland, and it was a long, long drive. the rest areas in new york are insane, but they had great pinball games and all kinds of great activities about the erie canal system for the kids. at one point, we all got so hot from the sun that we took our shirts off and blasted some classic rock out the open windows until we just couldn't handle being that lame any longer. it was both a high and a low point of the trip, if you catch my drift. we got so tired from driving (picture of us all asleep in the back), we let lenny g drive for a bit. that little football can merge onto the highway like you wouldn't believe, but we're still not sure how he was working the pedals. after about 18 hours of taking turns drooling and driving with brief stops for meals and gas (burger king's new veggie burgers aren't that bad), we finally arrived in chicago at about 11:30pm. mmmmm.... horizontal sleep is much better than diagonal sleep.

here are some special thank yous:

SETLIST:

smile like asterix
the sun is falling
keep your hands away
a year ago
permanent marker
we'll be there (now called "peaks island")
does it get you?