It got cold! What happened to the balmy 110 degree heat of Tucson? That was just two weeks ago. Now it’s in the 30s. Jesus! If only I had my sweatshirt. Somehow it disappeared a few nights ago in Denver. The John Birchers were right. You can’t trust a hippie. Instead of my comfortable hoodie I’m stuck with an aesthetically offensive and unpleasant smelling fleece from Quixote’s lost and found.
But enough bitching. Minneapolis is one of the best cities in the North. Joe and I stayed with Deb, a very hospitable friend of Joe’s. She let us drink her vodka, take baths, watch Chuck Norris movies while riding her exercise bike, eat her Trader Joe’s goodies, and play her cool old Harmony guitar. Upon arrival, we were welcomed and fed but we didn’t have much downtime. Just enough for some homemade enchiladas next door at Chris’s house (he runs Half Door Records) and a few episodes of some reality show on the food network with chef Ramsay.
Palmer’s Bar is one of the oldest in town and predates prohibition. I wanted to catch local legend Spider John Koerner at the bar’s birthday party the night after our gig but I didn’t make it out. Locals call getting drunk at Palmers getting Palmerized and its inevitable. The bartenders make sure that you don’t remain sober and it’s easier to get Jameson’s than water. My night there’s a bit of a haze, frankly, but during our set or after it someone was up dancing on the bar, someone was vomiting in the bathroom, nookie was being made in the backyard, and I hugged Big John.
Big John’s runs the door and from what I hear he’s a local legend. He’s large and surly and doesn’t take guff. Late night, after the sets were played and as the bar was closing, Joe and I loaded out. With drunken affection I threw out my arms and, like hugging a tree, my arms wrapped around some minor percentage of him. The bar went quiet and John was completely rigid for the first second of the embrace. As my boozy brain wondered whether this whimsy might lead to unpleasant consquences he returned the embrace and laughed.
John loved it.
"This can’t be the place. Is this the place? Whoa, cool!" exclaimed Joe as we rolled up slowly to a mattress store with my name on the marquee. Right off the main drag in Aberdeen sits a 25,000 square foot goliath called The Sixth Avenue Gallery. We parked the Bean and walked through the doors. Yep, there were mattresses. Plenty of them and a nice selection, too. One for every budget.
The brain child of Jason Hepola, a nordic fellow with a healthy blond beard and a generous smile, the Sixth Avenue Gallery is a collection of businesses gathered together under one roof for the sole purpose of hosting music shows and making rent any which way. Jason met us at the door to take us around.
Back in Kansas, Jason had five mattress stores. To hear him tell it, if you walk into his store, you’re walking out with a mattress. I believe it too. He’s a charming bastard. In addition to the mattress store there’s a bar with a working old school NES to play (I got in some good rounds of Kung Fu and Contra), a billiards school, tattoo parlor, art gallery, diner, and some other things too, I think. Jason’s got a house around the corner but he spends most of the time at the Gallery and so keeps a crash pad on the top floor with his two lovely little pooches. The landlord said he wouldn’t last one month. The Gallery’s been there almost two years.
After getting a tour I showered up in a back room where they had hacked into the plumbing and affixed a home depot shower head. I always find it stimulating to shower in rough and bizarre circumstances. Like behind a shed. Or at the beach.
After putting on fresh clothes, I found Joe. We had a couple beers, set up our gear, and kicked back. I learned to play Magic the Gathering a bit, since there were a bunch of folks doing that, and I beat Jason in the round we played. It’s not fair to claim any credit, though, since he more or less told me what moves to make. The game held my attention for a little bit, but seeing as how I hadn’t slept the night before, I was more interested in hopping myself up on local beers and downing some 5-hour energy shots from the Texaco/casino across the way.
It was a late night crowd at the Gallery and things didn’t really start hopping until around 1. It’s the only joint left open at the end of the night so when the bars close, people funnel in. Most of the time it’s good folks at the Gallery. Once in a while, though, there’s a fight or a high percentage of bastards. According to Jason, there’s a cycle that repeats. Guys and gals hang out to see music and be social at the Gallery, since it’s one of the only cool venues in town. But because there are cute girls, drunk dudes from other bars and various locals come to hit on them when they run out of chances wherever the started the night. They annoy the girls, who then stop coming to the Gallery. The would-be casanovas lose interest once the girls disappear and then they stop coming around, too. After a time, the girls begin to return with the threat of being hit on removed. And the cycle starts all over again.
By 4, the joint was going pretty strong. Joe developed a bond with Tank, the fellow running the door. Tank recently got out of jail and was working the door as a part-time pro-bono gig. His dad used to head up some local biker chapter and he gave Joe a pin of a chopper. I believe the pin was passed out at his dad’s funeral not too long ago. That pin made it onto Joe’s hat, and I imagine it’ll stay there.
We turned in at dawn. When we got up Jason’s dad was manning the diner counter. He whipped up some everything Omelets, a pot of coffee, and he kept us entertained with some funny stories about Jason. Some cop telenovela played in the background. During breakfast, the local preacher stopped in. He eats there to support local businesses, rather than at the chains down the block. Somehow we got chatting about Gettysburg and because the preacher likes history, the conversation went on for a good while. In the end, he bought us our breakfast. It was free for us anyway, but the gesture was sweet.
We parted ways with Jason after many thanks for his great hospitality and generous compensation. I picked up a good sci-fi novel in the Red Rooster cafe and bookstore while Joe made some phone calls. We headed off to Milwaukee.
We showed up in Denver on a rainy night. Our whiskey bottle was running low. When we got to Quixote’s in the downtown district we didn’t have anywhere to stay and we knew it would be a long night. I fired off a bunch of couchsurfing requests from my phone but with a 13 hour drive to Aberdeen, South Dakota ahead of us, there wasn’t much for it except to accept this was gonna be a hard couple of days. Couch or not, we weren’t doing much sleeping.
Quixote’s is an homage to the Grateful Dead and hippiedom. It’s wallpapered with Dead posters floor to ceiling. The bathroom has a gigantic black and white mural of Jerry that you look at while peeing. Before our show, some Phish concert was being simulcast from Vermont and they wanted us to wait until the show was over until we started playing. When we did start, a girl popped out of the shadows and began hula hooping to Joe’s opening set in the center of the floor.
We played until about 1 or so and then packed it in. We’d made some friends and held some attention, but this wasn’t really our crowd, and there weren’t many folks out anyhow.
At an all-night diner somewhere in Denver, Joe and I had some nosh and coffee, checking out the other folks up at 2am on a weeknight. One fellow held tight to his large trekker backpack. A couple, sullen and jaundiced in the florescent light, picked at their fries in silence. Our waitress wore dreads and told us about her five jobs and how she never seems to get on top. We drank down the pot of coffee, fired up the Space Bean and motored into the night.