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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: August 24-August 30, 2003

Thursday, August 28, 2003:

Someone on Music Babble just pointed out that if you play "Sit Down. Stand Up" by Radiohead backwards, the part at the end where Thom is ostensibly saying, "The raindrops" sounds an awful lot like "Fuck Nero" over and over. It's pretty convincing- I'm pretty sure that bit was recorded backwards, actually, because the noises of Thom inhaling between lines sound normal in the reversed version. And given his frequent comparisons between the current state of the Western world and the ancient Roman empire (in "You and Whose Army," in interviews, etc.), that exclamation would make sense. Yay for discoveries!

CURRENT MUSIC: Pu Dnats. Nwod Tis.
CURRENT MOOD: Eureka!
REMIND ME TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE GUY JESSI OVERHEARD AT BARNES & NOBLE TALKING TO HIS MAIL-ORDER FIANCEE ON THE PAY PHONE. It's a good story.
TIME: 12:15 AM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, August 26, 2003:

Shaved off my beard in a fit of boredom. Am still hideous.

CURRENT MOOD: Woe is me! Alas, alack!
TIME: 3:53 PM.

How bored? I spent the morning watching a videotape of shows I'd recorded in early 1991, fast-forwarding to the commercials, so I could compare the ads back then with the ads now. It was a weird experience. I really don't think of 1991 as that long ago (regardless of the fact that it's been over half my lifetime since the '90s began), but to watch most of these spots, you'd think handlebar moustaches and flappers were still in style. The commercials moved so slowly! Even on programs that skewed to a younger crowd. I was 10 at the time and Tim was 8, so we'd taped mainly episodes of Simpsons and ABC's Friday night TGIF lineup (Full House, Perfect Strangers, Family Matters), and yet the commercials weren't sexy or loud or full of smash cuts and popular rock songs. There were ads for Parkay, Country Crock, L'eggs, Keebler, and Quaker Oats- in prime time! Apart from during The Price is Right, when's the last time you saw any of those products advertised on a major network? And when's the last time James Whitmore was seen as a desirable spokesperson, the way he was in Meijer ads from back then?

Those advertisements that did dare to attempt to appeal to a younger audience were pretty tame by today's standards, too. Ads for Burger King ("Burger Buddies"!), Taco Bell, and Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi that attempted to be "hip" basically played to a soundtrack of breakbeats that DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince would've dismissed as too safe. And the diet soda ads had huge "100% Nutrasweet!" logos at the top of the screen as well.

It was fun to see cheap spots for long-forgotten shows like Babes (fat = funny!), Parker Lewis Can't Lose, and True Colors, too.

There were a couple Pizza Hut commercials on the tape. One of them was set to a jingle that went, "Change for the better/Change for the best!" And it actually had a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen stating, "'Better' and 'best' claims based on a taste test comparison between Pizza Hut Pepperoni Pan Pizza and Domino's Regular Pepperoni Pizza." As if they felt a moral obligation to justify their claims that their product is the best! It was really sweet, in a way. Like those mid-'50s commercials that bleeped out the names of their competitors because studies showed consumers thought it was too mean to say your product was superior to another one. Nowadays, commercials basically scream, "Buy MAYTAG! Fuck Sears! Fuck it right in the ear!" Another commercial advertised a medium pepperoni pizza for $5.99, which made me wince, since I think it costs around $10 or $11 for a medium cheese pizza at this point.

I'm really an old man.

Weird moment: I was crying last night, and suddenly I paused and realized that I could see perfectly clearly without my glasses for a few seconds. I guess the tears distorted my vision to a degree identical to that of my optical prescription. It was kind of a cool, once-in-a-lifetime thing, like the phenomenon I read about where a guy fell through a plate glass window without it shattering, because all the atoms-or-something in the windowpane were lined up a certain way for a moment, so he could pass right through it.

There's a funny bit in The Low Budgets' tour diary about being stuck in Detroit during the blackout: "We explored downtown Detriot [sic]. It is a vacant depressed shithole of a city. Imagine North Pilly everywhere but people are too defeated to even bother to shoot each other or mug you." Word, Low Budgets.

CURRENT MOOD: Meh.
SURPRISING MUSICAL DISCOVERY OF THE DAY: Turns out I really like "My Girl" by... whichever Motown band sang "My Girl." And whichever Motown producer got credit for writing "My Girl" despite probably not having a hand in it at all. Still not a fan of the Culkin film of the same name.
TIME: 1:21 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, August 24, 2003:

I'd been up for 27 hours straight when I started writing this; forgive me if it goes astray.

The only conclusion that I can reach is that I am destined never to have a fully satisfying Radiohead concert experience. Yesterday, Jessi and I went to see them (with openers Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks) at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. In the afternoon, when Jess and I crossed the border from Illinois into Wisconsin, I joked- for no real reason- that the gigantic "Welcome to Wisconsin" billboard should bear the slogan, "Wall-to-Wall Stupid People!" By the time the night was through, however, I was ready to write to the Wisconsin state legislature, demanding that they add that very disclaimer to the billboard in the interest of truth in advertising.

But let's start at the beginning, because I like long-winded stories. As regular Disclaimer Music Review Archive readers may know, I first attempted to see Radiohead live back in 2001, when I drove to Toronto with Jen and her roommate, Anne. Four songs into Radiohead's set, however, it became clear that the kidney stone Jen was suffering from required immediate medical attention, and the concert basically turned into a surreal ER-goes-to-the-carnival episode for me. Anne went to fetch medical assistance, some kid OD'd next to Jen (who was lying on the grass in pain), and I mistakenly flagged down opening act The Beta Band, thinking they were first-aid personnel when in fact they were just joyriding in a golf cart. All to the muffled soundtrack of Radiohead echoing off the trees and pavilions. (I remember the ground shaking to the beat of "Idioteque" as Anne and I ran back to my car, since Jen had been taken to the hospital via ambulance.) A horrific night all around.

So I'd hoped that maybe the East Troy show could be the mindblowing live experience I'd read about in so many reviews (and heard on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings). Jess was equally psyched about the prospect, so I picked her up from her apartment in Ann Arbor yesterday morning and we were off on our Head trip! Get it?

We passed through Kalamazoo after a couple hours, and decided that it would be fun to make an impromptu side trip to the Cracker Barrel where our friend Alan works. We didn't know if he was scheduled to work at the time, but if he was, we planned to pester him with annoying questions about where we could find the Pecan Divinities and "those brain-buster puzzles where you try to get the spoon out of the pile of wires using your mind," because we are two hilarious funny people. We were in luck: Alan did a double-take when he saw us, and hung out with us for about 20 minutes when he didn't have to ring up customers. We didn't mock him as much as we'd planned, but it was nice to see him, and he gave us copies of the complimentary Cracker Barrel Travel Almanac. The book has some interesting bits, and also features a smiling cow with a word balloon saying, "Hi Chris!" though I suspect Alan added that himself. Jessi and I ate breakfast there and she bought a copy of The Good Citizen's Handbook, which is a hilarious and fascinating compilation of pages taken from 1950s manuals on proper citizenship and good behavior. ("A good citizen eats meat. Plenty of meat!")

So we drove through Indiana and Chicago, up into Wisconsin. On the way, we chatted and occasionally paused to point out tiny visual ironies we saw along the road, which is my favorite pastime in the world. Jess, too, thrives on minutiae like the inherent goofiness of a roadside diner named "The Eatin' Station," or minivans that have the names of high school dance teams written in soap on the back window ("Honk if your a Galaxy fan [sic]!"), which is one reason she's so much fun to hang out with. She understands how gloriously sad and funny that stuff is. The drive went really quickly as a result.

At some point after we'd made it into Wisconsin, she gasped and pointed off to the side of the road in delight. We were approaching the Mars Cheese Castle: a giant cheese shop that's shaped like a castle, proudly flying both an American flag and a Green Bay Packers flag above its turrets. Naturally, we stopped there. Jess took my picture next to the giant wooden emblem that said "MARS" on the side of the building. (Although, judging from other logos on various paraphernalia around the store, it can also be spelled "MAR'S CHEESE CASTLE" or "MARS' CHEESE CASTLE." I think the apostrophe is just decorative, however.) Other signs on the building advertised "Cheese and Cocktails" and an "Art Museum inside."

The Cheese Castle didn't disappoint. How could you be disappointed with a building that's basically a sincere shrine to cheese, where you can buy a block of cheddar that's shaped like a beer stein? We each took a Mars catalog for a souvenir, and Jess bought a pack of smoked string cheese for us to snack on as we drove. Coincidentally, I later remembered that smoked string cheese is the same semi-obscure snack Anne had bought for the trip to see Radiohead in Toronto a couple years ago. Anne ate most of it and got violently ill in the hotel that night, after Jen was released from the hospital. You see what I mean when I say it was a bad experience?

After some more driving, and passing a ridiculous amount of signs congratulating Harley-Davidson on their 100th anniversary (there were motorcycles in 1903?), we arrived at the Alpine Valley compound roughly an hour before admission began. Once again, I'd forgotten about the concept of time zones. Anyway, we were made to park in the middle of a huge field, bereft of pre-marked aisles or... any sort of coherent organization, really. I was waved into a "spot" near a row of trees by one of the many 14-year-old kids working at the theater, giving the whole venue a feeling closer to a day camp than a hub of Rawk.

Jess and I immediately noticed that we were surrounded by people who didn't exactly fit the traditional description of "Radiohead fan." While I disagree with the pervasive impression that Radiohead appeals only to pretentious hipster types, we were still expecting to see a large contingent of them at the show. However, as we sat in my Ion with the air conditioner running for an hour, we saw no one but neo-hippies running around. Frisbees and hackeysacks were flying through the air, those few young men who chose to wear shirts bore the logos of Phish, Dave Matthews Band, and The String Cheese Incident (and, oddly, Ween), people were peeing whenever and wherever they felt the urge, etc. Not to sound condescending, and not that I denied these hippies their right to enjoy Radiohead (at this point in the evening, anyway), and not that I'm especially fond of stereotypically angsty, solemn Radiohead fans to begin with, but it was just weird and unexpected to see them all there. It'd be like going to a Jimmy Buffet show and noticing that everyone in the crowd was a stoic, beret-wearing beatnik. Or going to a Tom Waits show and being surrounded by screaming teenyboppers. Or going to an Alan Jackson show and being surrounded by members of MENSA.

To kill time, we read our Mars Cheese catalogs, agape at the sheer randomness of it all. The catalog is a lot like one from Hickory Farms, except... weirder. The pear cheesecake, for instance. Or the amusingly named "Princess Feast," which consists of a big sausage and roughly two pounds of cheese (fit for cramming into the most delicate royal maw, I assume). Or the "Bottle N' Stein," which includes of one of the aforementioned cheddar blocks shaped like a beer stein, and a 21 oz. salami shaped like a beer bottle, with a Miller label on it. Out of boredom, Jess called their customer service line on her cell phone and asked if the salami actually tasted like beer. It doesn't. Though I bet the guy on the other end of the line let out a "Eureka!" after she hung up, and rushed off to the Mars R&D department.

Finally, at 5:00 CST, we wandered down to the entry gate, where we each got felt up by a much-too-thorough security guard and were subsequently let into the park. Alpine Valley is a big outdoor ampitheatre, with an arena full of actual seats which is skirted by a big lawn, where the less fortunate can stake out a place to sit. For those of you who are familiar with metro Detroit, it looks a lot like Pine Knob or Meadowbrook Music Theatre, only without all the advertisements choking the scenery. We had lawn tickets, because I have yet to unravel Ticketmaster's sadistic and arcane rules that determine how one gets actual seats in these places. Jess and I plopped down on the lawn and people-watched for awhile. There was a much more diverse crowd inside the actual theater than in the parking lot. We saw a few funny T-shirts, including "Child Scientist," "Sure, I'm a Marxist," and "My Other Jesus is a Camaro." And we snarked about many T-shirts more.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks came on at about 6:30 Crazy Non-Eastern Time, and did an engaging, focused (if brief) set, with Stephen much more laid-back and friendly in his stage banter than I'd expected. I was kind of bummed that he didn't do "Black Book"- the only truly great song on his self-titled record- but the new songs, from Pig Lib, were interesting, and the band was totally into it, which made for good listenin'. Too bad Jessi and I were the only ones on the lawn who were listenin', but S.M. had a vocal and appreciative audience down in the pit by the stage, which was cool.

Then more sitting around. We had to move to different spots on the lawn twice because people kept sitting down literally inches in front of us, and then deciding that they wanted to stretch out and lean back into us and mack on each other while basically sitting in our laps. Never again with the lawn tickets. Anyway, it wasn't very long before Radiohead took the stage, launching into "2 + 2 = 5," and the entire crowd on the lawn stood up and started stampeding as close to the front of the lawn as they could get. 

Now, Jessi and I are not tall people. I'm maybe 5'5", and I'd be surprised if she was taller than 5'1". So we always get screwed at concerts unless we manage to shove our way to the front. That proved to be impossible this time, so we ran around for a little while trying to get an actual view of the stage. Finally, we hopped up onto a wooden deck to the far right of the stage. The deck was also far enough back from the action that we got to experience that bizarre illustration of the difference between the speed of sound and the speed of light, where it looks like the tempo is way off because it takes longer for the sound to travel to your ears from the speakers than it takes for the image of the musicians playing to register. (You know what I mean, right? You'll see the drummer hitting the cymbal before you'll hear the cymbal, which makes it look like there's a lag in your brain's audio feed.) I'm spending a lot of time talking about this phenomenon, when in fact it only happened a few times last night in the first place, as we were too far away for me to really discern what was happening onstage, except when Thom Yorke started merrily dancing around like a rebellious marionette on a bunch of songs.

Alright, so we were on this wooden deck, right? There were about five tiers of decks, actually, and we were on the third one up. (Or the third one down, if you're a pessimist.) It really wasn't a bad spot, because there were giant video monitors on either side of the stage that let us see the band closer, albeit through typical Radiohead-style video filters. And we weren't being crushed by the 35,000 other fanatical fans; there were only a couple dozen people on the deck, and they all seemed pretty mellow. All, that is, except for the unbearable grown-up fratboy and his mind-numbingly ditzy date, who stood directly behind Jess and me and yakked at each other in the most irritating and loud of all possible nasal voices. On the nasal scale, they each rated a GigaDrescher. They proceeded to talk through every single song, complaining that Radiohead doesn't sound more like U2(!), trying to identify the songs that were being played by their track number on the album, boisterously singing along to "Backdrifting," and so on. Jessi and I put up with it for about five songs, but when they started to wreck "Fake Plastic Trees" ("I was singing this song earlier- 'and fake plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaastic trees!'- and my roommate was like, 'What the fuck are you singing?' She just totally doesn't get this kind of music. God, I love this song. I think it's on The Bends...") we simultaneously turned to each other and said, "We're moving."

So we walked one deck higher and wound up standing behind a fortysomething guy and his pre-teen son, both of whom were totally into the show. It did my heart good, actually, to see a middle school-aged kid enthusiastically grinning with recognition when he heard, say, the opening drum tic of "The Gloaming," or clapping along with "We Suck Young Blood." They were nice people- the dad high-fived me during a blistering version of "Myxomatosis"- and I want to remember them as proof that not everyone at the show sucked. The other people on that deck did, though. Especially the guy who violently grabbed me while I was transfixed by "No Surprises" and shouted in my ear to ask if I had any weed.

But enough about the crowd: Radiohead were obviously having a blast onstage, and every single song connected (except a wan "Scatterbrain," which is among the weakest on Hail to the Thief anyway). Thom was in good spirits, particularly on "You and Whose Army?" during which he spent most of the song playfully mugging for his piano-mounted camera, and Jonny Greenwood beat the living crap out of his guitar on lots of songs. The highlight for me was an intense "Street Spirit (Fade Out)." With the stage bathed in morbid blue light, and the ampitheatre surrounded by the stars, the song took on depths of sorrow that made me imagine that the entire Earth was slowly collapsing to the strains of the tune (dissolved in molten lava a la Terminator 2, if you like), finally to be swallowed up for good just as Thom plucked the ultimate note. Love that song. Even though I can only imagine how powerful and overwhelming it must've been for the people with decent seats, for whom the sound was more all-encompassing, I can't complain that Radiohead didn't deliver.

The show concluded with an insane, hypnotic rendition of "Everything in Its Right Place" at about 10:30 CST, and that's when the real fun started! 35,000 people wanting out. Jessi and I found a shortcut out of the park, and got back to my car fairly quickly. Carefully slaloming around the lovingly arranged pyramids of beer bottles that were sitting in the middle of the damn path you were supposed to take to get out of the makeshift aisle, I figured we'd be back on the highway in 15 or 20 minutes at the most. Initially, the flow of traffic that was already headed out of the park looked reasonably orderly: just like any parking lot, you went down your "aisle" and merged into the main path that was moving perpendicular to you. Simple enough.

The first indication that something was amiss was when we got to the end of the aisle. Scads of people were walking by, and we were waiting for a break in the traffic, when a really stoned- yet friendly- guy tapped on Jessi's window, telling her to roll it down. "Just to let you know," he said, "you guys are going to sit here forever unless you just totally push your way out through the people. The second you see one of the other cars being willing to let you in, you've gotta just plow through the people. They will move! They're gonna get out of the way! But you've just gotta do it, or you're just gonna be stuck."

I thanked him for the advice, and he and his friends sucked down a couple beers. None of the cars moving along the path gave any indication of allowing me in, and there was still an endless parade of pedestrians between me and the other cars anyway. So the guy leaned into Jessi's window again: "Tell you what, man: I'm gonna do you a huge favor, alright? I'm going to go block one of the cars from moving, but you've got to be willing to push through all these people like I told you. Can you do it?"

"Yeah, I'd really appreciate that, man!" I said.

"Alright, I'm gonna go, then, but you've gotta just push through them, even if it sounds mean. They're gonna move."

"And knees can be replaced," his friend added.

The helper guy laughed and joked, "Yeah! And they hate you anyway, man! They've been talking smack about you- 'The Guy in the Green Car'- all night! You're never gonna see them again, and this is your chance to get them back, okay? Are you ready?"

I nodded, and he plowed his way through all the people and stood directly in front of this presumably pissed driver, before yelling, "Go! Go, man!" to me. So I inched my way forward, and dang if Helper Guy wasn't right! About 80 people yelled some variant of "Watch it, asshole!" at me, but they did indeed move, indignant though they were. I thanked Helper Guy and naively thought, "You know, these hippies are alllllllll-right." He wished Jess and me a good night and then started a bonfire back at his car. Unsettlingly close to his car. The traffic had come to a standstill just as I turned, but I was at least in the proper lane. Or so it would've appeared to any logical person. In fact, I was feeling so cheerful about the whole matter that I motioned for a guy in a red Summit to merge ahead of me when the traffic started moving again. (That and the fact that he was also inching forward to clearly indicate that his honor was at stake, and would gladly sacrifice one of his headlights before yielding to me.)

-We sat there for a few minutes, then, and traffic moved only a foot or two. Enough for Summit Guy to stick the nose of his car between mine and the car ahead of me, but not enough for him to actually turn into the lane. Around us, people continued to walk back to their cars, other cars began to line up down the aisles, and there was much post-concert partying. A distressing amount of post-concert partying, in fact. So much so that it became clear, after 20 minutes or so, that the people who were actually in line to get out of the park had no real interest in getting out of the park whatsoever. People in line were getting out of their cars to do bong hits with people from other cars, chat up the ladies, shoot the shit with other hippies they recognized from previous shows at the park, and pretty much just act entirely brainless, indulging their every whim except those that might result in any sort of forward momentum toward the exit.

Summit Guy came up to my window and started chatting with me about the other shows he'd seen at Alpine Valley (the Dead, Phish, Willie Nelson, etc.), but even though I tried to be polite, I'm pretty sure he picked up on the fact that I didn't consider this traffic jam to be one big party, and he wandered off because I'm a buzzkill. I'm not a patient person in traffic to begin with, but Jessi and I both agreed that we were entitled to be a million times more furious than usual about this particular incident because it was caused by stupidity and inconsideration. For one thing, there were no members of the Alpine Valley staff in sight, directing traffic, which was dumb for a concert as packed as this one, and a parking lot so vast. But mostly, it was the stupid people who didn't give a crap if they ever left, and thus didn't care if anyone else did, either. (Say, two kids from Michigan who'd hoped to drive straight through the night and get home around 3 or 4 AM.)

For literally an hour and fifteen minutes, no one moved. By that point, the speech portion of my brain had shut down, and I was able only to make disgusted, hopeless sighing noises like Kif from Futurama. And I did so frequently, as drunken hippies kept stumbling heavily into my car, one of them leaving a sizeable dent in my hood. The only things that kept me from bursting into helpless tears were a white-hot rage behind my eyes and Jessi's hysterically bitter running commentary on the party fun we were seeing ("That's right, buddy- stick your hand down the front of your girlfriend's shirt all the way into her pants! Way to go!"). Also, Jessi put The Man Who by Travis in my stereo, which was soothing, though she pointed out that "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?" was a pretty good theme song for the evening.

"What would these people do if I was having a baby or something?" Jessi asked angrily at one point.

"They'd encourage you to deliver it right here, and say, 'This baby belongs to all of us, man!'"

Finally, the line started moving. However, Summit Guy had left his car parked in front of my car and wandered off. (A cliff, one hopes.) So I was totally blocked in, and it took Jess several minutes of directing me in a game of reverse-and-forward to be able to get around him. Instead of going straight down the "exit" lane, though, some guy started frantically pointing me down the aisle from which Summit Guy had originally come. We'd just seen two other cars go down that way, so we figured that guy knew what he was talking about, and followed those cars... into a gigantic clusterfuck that I'm sure could be seen from space. There were no lanes or lines anymore; cars were just vaguely driving in the direction of the exit in a huge bottleneck. In fact, it was even worse than your typical bottleneck because there were added obstacles in the form of parked cars whose owners were nowhere to be seen. (What could be seen, you ask? Hippies jovially doing flips off the tops of SUVs, landing on the ground on their backs... Other hippies playfully pelting each other with beer bottles... You know, the usual.)

It took an hour and forty-five minutes for us to ultimately get out to the highway, during which time Jess and I decided that we hate hippies. It might sound like I'm stereotyping by referring to all these people as hippies, but they were stereotypical hippies. Ponchos, Bob Marley T-shirts, the smell of pot seeping into my car: they were hippies. At one point, I grumbled something about how I now thought Nixon was right to want to shove them all in internment camps, but perhaps that was going a little far. I think the real problem is that the new generation of twentysomething hippies don't really have any sort of belief system to back up their hedonistic, short-sighted, "if it feels good, do it" attitudes and actions. From what I understand of the original hippie movement, that attitude grew out of a simple, pure belief in the power of love, and wanting happiness to reign; if you felt good, maybe you'd be inspired to make someone else feel good and so on. There's none of that now. The idiots we saw at the show last night knew that they liked drugs and sex and hanging around as a big collective, but it was all empty and baseless. There was no why behind it. And it was frustrating as all hell.

It was about 1:30 Eastern Time when we started heading home. And even though it was only, like, 15 hours ago, I don't remember any of the drive back through Wisconsin because I was so wiped out. And also- Wisconsin? Horribly boring state to begin with. My memories pick up again when Jess suggested we find a Denny's or some other all-night diner to recharge, just as we crossed into Illinois at about 2:30. And we could not find one until 4:00. It grew increasingly frustrating to scan those blue signs they post before every highway exit, indicating what restaurants were to be found there, because no acceptable eateries appeared. So we decided that the best course of action would be to yell at the signs:

ME: Why the hell would you put the Subway logo on one of those signs twice?!
JESS: I know! Illinois, you're useless!

I thought I recalled there being a Denny's or Bob Evans or something near the Northwestern University campus, from when I visited Adrienne last month, so we headed out Dempster Road in Skokie to no avail. Turns out my memories are often based on assumptions I have of the way things should operate. I thought about calling Adrienne to see if she knew of any places, but it was 3 AM by then and I didn't think she'd fancy me waking her up to ask about fast-food restaurants, especially since she's been swamped with her final projects for the semester and sleep is, I imagine, a rare treat.

We also started pulling off the interstate at random exits, on the "Where there are hotels, there will be Denny's" theory that turns out to be unfounded. It also turns out many ramps back onto the interstate in Illinois and Indiana are currently under construction, forcing us to drive around in circles for a bit.

"How is it possible that there isn't a Denny's for 100 miles? I thought they were everywhere! Or even a billboard for a Denny's, telling us where to go? How sad is it that in this age, we can't even find the advertisement we want?" I said.

"Because we're looking for it." Jessi said. "We attract negative situations."

Finally, in Michigan City, Indiana, after several dozen miles of slap-happy giggling from lack of sleep, we found a Denny's. Even at four in the morning, it was pretty well populated with regulars: some cops, several really skeevy girls with enormous green tattoos on their chests, the playa philosopher and his cronies, etc. Jess and I giggled some more for no reason. (Or for really odd reasons, like the waiters' English-to-Spanish phrase guide that was taped on the ice machine in the kitchen. Just seemed funny.) The waitress, who was very nice, asked for our order, and we each got a coffee and an order of Moons Over My Hammy without the ham. ("Moons without the Hammy- got it," the waitress said.) We each gulped down our coffee, and then the waitress returned and asked, "Are you ready to order?"

"We... already ordered," Jess said.

The waitress paused and put her head down on the table, laughing. "I've got to get some sleep," she said.

"We're right there with you, believe me," I said.

"I've worked nothing but the day shift here for the past 20 years," she said, "from nine to five. And now they've got me working nights, and my body's become so adjusted to sleeping nights that I can't get to sleep when I go home. Last night, I tried some Tylenol PM and three beers, and I still couldn't get to sleep! Your orders will be right up- sorry about that!" And she walked away.

Jessi grinned at me and said, "For a second when she asked for our order again, I thought I was the one tripping and we hadn't ordered yet!"

While we ate our impossibly greasy sandwiches, the playa philosopher in the booth behind me enlisted the help of the waiter in hitting on one of the aforementioned skeevy girls. "Go find out her name for me, and tell her I'll meet her halfway- in a table in the middle of the restaurant!"

The sad thing, as Jess pointed out when the two were finally introduced, was that the girl was totally into him.

Not much else to say from here on out: We got back in the car, cranked up the New Pornographers, and headed on down the road again. However, after having driven all night, and immune to the comparatively small amount of caffeine that's in Denny's coffee after drinking multiple shots of espresso at work every day, it became clear that I probably shouldn't be driving. For one thing, I was having trouble focusing on the taillights of the cars in front of me, telling how far away they were, and I figured that depth perception is important. Oh- and also, I was seeing imaginary deer running alongside other cars. At that point, Jessi took over. Then, around Kalamazoo, she started feeling too drowsy herself, so we stopped and crashed in the parking lot of Alan's Cracker Barrel for a few minutes. Then I ran across the street to the Citgo station and got sick from the Moons Over My Hammy. Then the sun came up and we took some more wrong turns and I finally got her home at about 8:00 AM, arriving home myself at 9:00.

It really was a fun day, hippies and all. I do wish I hadn't had to share Radiohead with so many people who just didn't care, though. And that may sound snobbish, but when there's a song like "No Surprises" that really means a lot to me, I don't want to have to share it with people who are there because they heard this "Radiohead" band was kinda U2-ish or whatever. However, I did get to share it with a good friend for whom I know their music is just as important as it is to me, which is a great feeling and it cancels out all my other bitching for the day. And at the very least, I got some unique memories and some laughs from the whole traffic jam thing- and had a fun road trip to boot. Alright, maybe this was a wholly satisfying Radiohead experience after all. The... end!

Oh- but seriously, don't ever go to a show at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. Ever. I don't care who's playing.

CURRENT MUSIC: Clandestino by Manu Chao.
CURRENT MOOD: Sleep deprivation-induced befuddlement.
OPAQUE, TRANSLUCENT, OR TRANSPARENT? Transparent!
TIME: 7:51 PM.

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