RW118 - Between Me and the Tree

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to the fact that John likes to hug a tree and feel its energy, but he wouldn’t do it in a group of people. It would just be between him and the tree.

John has only been awake for some number of minutes.

Last week’s show was pre-recorded the week before because Dan was out of town visiting Denver, Colorado.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

How long can you stay awake (RW118)

The longest John has ever been awake unintentionally was close to 36 hours. He was doing stuff and forgot to go to sleep. The longest time he was going for it and toughening it out was when he missed going to sleep and just kept it going the next day, but it was probably not more than 48 hours either. Even on drugs he has probably not gone more than 3 days.

You can make 48 hours when you get up at 7am, you get your shit together to fly to Europe on a red-eye, you get to Europe on the crack of dawn, but you don't sleep on the flight and you are all fucked up, you got all this stuff to do, like rent a van, drive to Utrecht to get the gear, figure out the deal and drive to the show, play the show and then drive to the hotel and check everybody in. Pretty soon you are at 48 hours without even trying. The record of anybody being awake is 264 hours or about 11 days in 1965 by Randy Gardner ([ Dan was referring to this article).

Blues Traveler, The Grateful Dead (RW118)

Dan was listening to Run Around by Blues Traveler last weekend and he was wondering if it was okay to like this song or if it was a guilty pleasure like The Bachelorette. John is in favor of that whole school of Lower East Side hippie choogling jam blues. Blues Traveler's harmonica playing is super-exceptional, but it is also too many notes for the ear to hear. If you got that kind of talent and a briefcase with 40 harmonicas in it, you could just calm down and play the harmonica, you don’t have to play every note in the scale. That is true for many guitarists and vocalists as well.

Once you cross the Grateful Dead rubicon, there are very few people who do the hipster Dead-head thing, which is to say that they like the Dead because the Dead makes it under the wire and they don’t like other hippie jam music. It is not common, like saying you like Britney Spears, but you don’t like all the pop music. Instead, if you like the Grateful Dead, you are not throwing a bunch of pretends anymore, but you are open to all that music or maybe even all music. Once those little tendrils of Jerry’s guitar tone get in on a person, you all of a sudden love Reggae and Jazz. John does like the Grateful Dead and all of the associated musics about equally. He likes to groove and to jam, he will even choogle. He has never fully hippie-danced, but he can sway to some groovy hippie thing.

Hugging trees (RW118)

John has been dancing with a tree and then hugged it. He pulled over all by himself when nobody was watching and hugged a tree, because he wanted to feel the energy of the tree. Just the other day John told his daughter to hug a tree: They were walking around the forest and ”Look how old that tree is!” and she was ”Ew, it is old!” That tree was older than her Nanna! We are going to hug this tree, you are going to touch that tree and feel its energy and it will feel your energy.

She did it, but she hasn’t indicated that she was built to be someone who sits head-bowed, eyes-closed, feeling the energy of a tree. That is not who she is exactly yet. John does it! He is all about feeling the energy of a tree. He is not going to do it with a group of people and he does not want anybody to be his guide, but if he is going to do it, it will just be between him and the tree. John feels a little bit like that about Blues Traveller.

Driving a truck from Portland to New York (RW118)

When John joined Harvey Danger they had a small staff of people. They had a tour manager, a sound man, a base tech and a merch guy. The sound man was a guy named Fish from New York City which was an appropriate name for this big burley long-haired stoner guy who after Harvey Danger started working with Blues Traveler. The merch guy was a kid by the name of Foocheese, his real name was Dennis. Generally the philosophy of merch is that you hire a cute girl who has a vivacious personality to work merch and you will sell three times as much merch.

Foocheese was a Husky kid who didn’t talk that much and who was just sitting there selling Harvey Danger T-shirts. Who knows how many T-shirts they could have sold! One time when they were on tour, Phish came to town with Blues Traveller and John got to watch the show from the stage. Everybody in the band is great and it is great, fun, and grooving music. Maybe John doesn’t deserve to groove and be this happy? Foocheese and Phish had somehow worked together and everybody already knew him, although he was very young.

One leg of their tour ended in Portland, Oregon and the next leg started a week later in New York, so Phish had to drive their box truck with all their equipment to New York. Everybody was glad they had a week off to go home, sit around and then fly to New York, but John said that he is on tour and doesn’t want to sit at home for a week, because that is just going to screw him up and mess around with his travel head.

Most musicians on tour just want to be home with their lady, but John didn’t have anything going on with the rest of his life and he would just have gotten yelled at by somebody at home, so he offered to drive the truck to New York for $500 (see story in RW49). Foocheese asked if he could come, but John didn’t really want Foocheese to cramp his style. He just wanted to drive across the country through open land and Foocheese was just going to be sitting there looking at him. Phish insisted that John would take Foocheese because it was all rental gear and they wanted somebody from the company to mind the rental gear or some shit.

Right after they were finished at the show in Portland at 1am John wanted to start driving the first leg, but Foocheese offered to do it because John just came off the stage and Phish told John yet again to let Foocheese drive the first leg. Fucking nanny state! Not only does he now have Foocheese along who seemed to be this little kid, but he is also going to drive the first leg? This whole thing had going haywire.

They drove out of Portland at 3am and John went to sleep. As John woke up it was 10am and they had driven up the Columbia river to Idaho. John wanted to take over, but Foocheese said it was fine. They started talking and chatting and it turned out that John really liked Foocheese. He is smart and funny, but quiet and down-tempo. He is a kid, but he digs him. At 1pm Foocheese still said he was fine, but he had been driving 10 hours and was doing shows and stuff for a full day before that. At 6pm John said ”Dennis, pull over!” and made him stop, although he still said and he was completely fine.

Now the bar had been set at 15 hours by Dennis Foocheese. There must be some bands where everybody splits the driving, but that was never the case in The Long Winters, because a couple of people would offer to do a driving stint and drive for 2 hours until they were done, but it is harder to pull over and have you drive for 2 hours instead of not having you involved at all. It ended up that John and Eric Corson did all the driving, where John did 90% and Eric 10%. When Sean Nelson was driving, he was having a cigarette in one hand and fiddling with the tape deck with the other hand, driving with his knee. John does a little bit of that as well and when he is by himself he will sometimes take his pants off.

John just likes to drive because his mind will go off into wonderful places. Dennis handed him the steering wheel and John had to fucking drive through the night because he wasn’t going to get showed up by this little kid. John got to 12 hours of driving and he was tired and wanted Dennis to take over again, who then drove them all the way to New York.

During the entire trip they never stopped moving except to get gas and they did the entire thing in 3 legs of which John’s was the shortest and the third leg was the longest of them all. Dennis just kept going and going! John had met someone with a supernatural ability! Professional Interstate truck drivers make stops because the law requires them to pull over and take a break, but Dennis had a superpower that if his car had unlimited gas he could drive for 30 hours, no question! Maybe he would gradually lose the top-end of his reflexes, but he never got bored or stiff or fatigued. They ended up being in New York 3 days earlier than anyone would ever have thought they would be able to and they had to stay right outside of New York in Pennsylvania in a cheap motel because nobody in New York was ready for them.

John talked to Dennis years after the Harvey Danger tour and he had not realized his superpowers either, because he had never driven across the country. It was his first time and he parlayed it into a job, like a tour roadie Rock ’n’ Roll band dude who just drove and drove. He was the ultimate driver of all time. John still thinks of him of this Buddha-like figure.

How long had Dan stayed awake (RW118)

Dan stayed awake a lot in college. He would skip a night and then only sleep a little bit the following night. Maybe his longest was 48 hours. It was horrible! He got very little sleep for prolonged periods of time, which was also horrible. When Dan had his first kid, they were cluster-feeding and he didn’t sleep through each night until their son was 2 or 3 years old. John is cluster-feeding all the time and he is always still hungry. There are certain substances that can cause you to feel that way.

John’s preferred drinks as a kid (RW118)

In the 1970s John would take Tang over anything else if he had the choice. (They have talked about Tang in RW47 and RW18, but Dan couldn't find that reference during the show) He preferred Tang even after Crystal Light arrived. His mom was having Crystal Light flowing out of a fountain in the living room, but John didn’t want it because it tasted like Aspertame. John's dad drank Tab which also tasted like Aspertame, but John wanted pure natural cane sugar. He didn’t want Orange Pop either, because it was too much.

When John was in 7th grade, he discovered powdered Lipton Ice Tea (John talked about that in RL267), which was exactly what his taste receptors wanted. It was refreshing and so lemony! What he didn’t realize was that this Ice Tea was not only full of sugar, but also full of caffeine. John actually had his own canister of it which he kept in the downstairs bathroom, so he could make glasses of Ice Tea of his own in his own space, his own kitchen, which was just a bathroom because all he needed was a spoon and a glass. Only later did he realize that he was completely jacked up on sugar and caffeine all day, because he was jugging that stuff. Back in the day, there was no comprehensive perspective of nutrition.

Nachos (RW118)

Dan does remember a time before Nachos. Maybe it just took a long time until they came to Pennsylvania. ”Can I put shaved meat on it?” Dan remembers seeing commercials for Nachos in the movie theater in the ”roller coaster” that would compel you to buy concessions. He found it horrific! Just have popcorn like a normal person!

Chicken as health food (RW118)

There was a time when chicken was being promoted as health food, because beef and pork are bad. People didn’t eat chicken back then. John’s mom didn’t eat chicken! Is this Sunday dinner on a farm? Chicken is horrible and it is virtually tasteless, but they had to do something to get people to eat it. The first thing was fried chicken, which failed, because it turned out it was bad for you. Then they started saying that beef and pork was bad, because then people would only have one place to go and would start thinking that chicken was good.

John's mom and dad were married during the go-go madman years of the late 1950s / early 1960s where they all dressed very nicely, women wore gloves on airplanes and men never didn’t have a tie on. She said they ate meat, which meant steak, lamb chops, or pork chops. She would eat liver, but his dad wouldn’t. They would have steak or lamb chops or pork chops at every meal.

Chicken was just picnic food and you could maybe have an entire roast chicken at dinner sometimes, but it was only in John’s lifetime that chicken became the ubiquitous protein that you just throw into things. Sliced chicken in a salad, chicken teriyaki, chicken in everything. Chicken was the original white meat and because it was white it must be good, because it doesn’t have color in it and color is what gives you heart problems, like blood. People, John included, would order things like chicken fettuccini in a heavy cream or breaded chicken with gravy and they would congratulate themselves because they were eating healthy.

The USDA food pyramid would say that you should eat X number of grains and vegetables, but in 1979 it looked different than it does now. It seemed weird, because you weren’t going to eat that many nuts. If you are living in a world where you have canned peas, a pork chop and some canned pears for dinner every night, it is very weird to think in terms of a food pyramid.

John ate chicken as though it were health food, covered in gravy, breading and sugar until well into the 1990s until it finally trickled down on him that nutrition was more complicated than that. He still doesn’t understand it completely. Yesterday John had a hamburger at lunch and then another hamburger at dinner. Dan does this a lot of the time, at least a couple days a week, but he is not necessarily eating the bun both times. A bad day for Dan is a day where he didn’t have any beef!

Colorado (RW118)

Dan was in the beef- and high-plains-town Denver, Colorado last week. Many years ago when Dan was telecommuting, they would pull the whole staff together every few months. Because Dan’s boss loved to travel, he was picking all these cool places and one time they went to Telluride in the off-season when it was more affordable. They didn’t ski, but they did some hiking and climbing and they went high up on the mountains in these little Jeeps, like 9000 / 10.000 feet.

Those 4-5 days many years ago were Dan’s only experience of Colorado, but this time he had a couple of good reasons to go to Denver and to Boulder. John had previously said that Denver was a hole with this horrible brown pollution cloud swirling around, but Boulder was alright. Dan really loved it there and he kept sending John pictures of the clear sky without any brown cloud. John had been giving Dan the business a little bit.

A lot of the kids from John's High School in Alaska in the 1980s went to college in Arizona. Those are party schools in the sun and there is a weird Alaska-Arizona pipeline, but even more than that there is an Alaska-Colorado connection. Even if you have never been to Colorado, if you are looking at the United States from Alaska, Colorado looks right and feels right for those who didn’t want to go to Arizona or Florida to throw themselves into some completely alien thing.

It does not have a similar feel to Alaska, but you imagine it as a place you are going to be comfortable. It is the West, there are mountains and there are a lot of sports. Even though everybody up in Alaska is really bold, there is a lot of anxiety interacting with the lower 48 states. Seattle is very busy, full of different people and such a freak scene. Anchorage is a complete freak scene, but it is manageable because it is contained. It is just big enough that you don’t have to see the same people every day, but it is small enough that you can feel like you are all Alaskans, whereas in Seattle there are vampires and people with bad magic and machines.

Especially in the 1970s and 1980s you had a picture of Colorado that came out of that little bit Hunter S Thompson, a little bit of Veil. Boulder was a hippie college paradise at the time and not a wealthy place. Denver was not a thriving city. It just felt that you could go to Colorado and be safe. John’s sister went to college in Durango.

When John was 17 and had graduated from High School, he didn’t go to college, but he headed off on a great big adventure crossing the US for the first time. He was headed out to see America and he was really headed toward Colorado. No matter what else, he was going to Colorado! Heading to California would have been the logical thing to do, but John bought a motorcycle in Yakima, filled it up with gas, tightened the chain and said ”I’m off!” and he didn’t go to California, but to Colorado.

John spent a lot of time there: He turned 18 there and he went to jail for the first and for the second time for some trumped up burglary charges. (John mentioned that in FF6) They were just trying to make and example of him, they threw the book at him and John had to spent 10 days in jail in the Boulder County Correctional when he was 18 years and 11 days old. He had been to juvenile jail before, but never to jail jail. Because he was only 11 days over the line, he was the youngest person there and it was pretty fun and pretty good education.

Still, Colorado is not like Alaska! It is dry ground, dry air, and pine needle floor, whereas John’s part of Alaska is wet ground and cold tropical rather than high mountain. The skiing in Colorado is way better, the culture is fun, and it is sunny and warm even in the winter. At the time John was there, Denver was on the skids, Boulder was a little town up to the North and there was nothing in Golden.

They were still hiding nuclear bombs in the desert up there! Stapleton Airport in Denver was still a thing and it was a different time. After John got acclimated to the universe of Colorado, the world in Denver and Boulder started to really change and the cities connected. Before there had been country side between them.

The feeling from back then was that everybody who headed West from the Mississippi would come to that front range and stop because those mountains were so gnarly to get over. You can mountain-bike all around there. Whether from the South or the North, all that driftwood started to migrate to Denver, the biggest town on that front.

When John was on tour in the early days, they would play in a venue in Denver called the Lion’s Lair. Even after they were doing well everywhere else, and even after they were doing well in Denver, they were still playing the Lion’s Lair because John’s booking agent had a thing for it and felt it was a thing they had to do.

All that gives the city its vibe even though it is now all glossy, techy and groovy. There are a lot of rich and healthy people with rosy cheeks, but John can still see the ghosts of 3-wheeled covered wagons everywhere and he can feel the ghost soul of the place. There is always going to be something really dirty in the heart of Denver.

Dan doesn’t understand why John is so down on Denver, because Dan would live in Denver in a heartbeat! It is a lot like Austin, it is not weird. Dan went to one of their best barbecue places and it was very good, albeit not as good as Central Texas barbecue which is a hard standard to meet. It had a lot of what Austin has plus it had mountains plus it was beautiful weather until 11pm. Even in February and March you will have beautiful days where the temperatures are in the high 60s (up to 20°C). Austin is another town that has a lot of ghosts of 3-wheeled covered wagons littering the ground, although it has done everything it could to exorcise them and replace them with chrome and stapled-on plastic bits.

Dan notices that John pronounces ”Colorado” as ”Coloraedo” and he recommends John to watch The Untold History of the United States on Netflix. At one point they said ”Ioway” instead of ”Iowa”, which John has heard. There was a famous New Yorker cover with a picture of the United States that started in Brooklyn and showed all of Manhattan, but across the Hudson river there were dragons and LA was in the far distance. Saying ”Ioway” also feels a little bit like something from the Tom Mix era of Westerns where they would say it as a sort of colloquialism that didn’t really translate. There are people who say ”Oregone”.

When Denver moved their airport, FEMA put an underground city in the old airport that houses the world government. Dan was told by several people that he should look for it, which he did. He did see the bizarre murals and the fact he saw them confirmed that there is something underground, because why would you otherwise put up a mural like that? It was unnerving and seems like a strange decision, it does not seem like a thing you put in a big airport or anywhere for that matter. You might see it spray-painted on the side of an abandoned building in the center of town. All of Denver is weird and it is built on a foundation of weirdness. They cleaned it up, they gussied it up, John Elway made it all fresh, and it is all his fault! But there is something dark there. It is not dark, there are a lot of cities where there is something dark and Denver doesn’t have that, but there is something weird. It is just weird.

The Long Winters have only ever cancelled 2 shows (RW118)

The Long Winters have only ever cancelled 2 shows. They were running shows where John had 102 fever (39°C), because you just do it, you get on stage and the power comes and you play through your sickness. Then at the end of the show he would collapse in a heap. John played a show one time where his nose started bleeding and blood was pouring out of him because he was so sick, but he just kept on playing! John is vulnerable to sick and when he gets sick he gets really sick. At one show he barfed behind the amps and Sean Nelson barfed behind the amps one time, too, because he was singing so hard he made himself throw up.

They only ever cancelled 2 shows, one of them was in Aarhus, Denmark after the tour had taken them all around Europe. They had been down to Spain and up to Sweden and Norway, to Dresden, to Zagreb, and from there they played the next night in Innsbruck, then there was a drive-day and the next show was in Aarhus, Denmark and then the tour was over.

They were in Innsbruck and they eventually had to fly out of Brussels, so John wondered if they were really going to drive from Austria to Denmark for one show. They had been looking at this tour routing for the entire tour: Barcelona, St. Gallen, putting it together, England for a time, they had to plan for the ferry trips, it was complicated. But this Innsbruck to Aarhus drive and then immediately leave the show and drive to Brussels to cash out, turn everything back in, take the van and the gear back and fly home, are you fucking kidding me? No show in the world is worth that after a 2 month tour!

John really didn't want to play Aarhus and he called their booking agent and asked how many tickets they had sold. The booking agent told him that they were hoping for a lot of walk-up, but John wanted him to tell them they can’t come. John can’t drive 14 hours, play a show and drive 14 more hours. It was the last show of the tour, just shut it down! The agent told John that it was fine and no-one would be mad, but maybe some of their listeners is mad who was in Aarhus that night. It was in an era where they thought they would come back 3 months later, but they never did.

The only other show they ever cancelled was when they left Minneapolis at the end of an enormous tour that had taken them everywhere. They were completely beat up and had played a really triumphant show in Minneapolis, they were headed home. There are a few options in that case: You could play a show in Montana, although it is not very productive because there were not that many Indie Rock strongholds. You can play at John’s friend Bueno’s record store in Bozeman (called Cactus Records & Gifts), but even though they would often stay at the store when they were passing through, they wouldn’t play a show there. They had one last show at the Lion’s Lair in Denver and they left Minneapolis, driving down through Iowa.

Along with Gabe’s Oasis, the Lion’s Lair is one of the grottiest clubs of them all. There is a whole consolation of grotty clubs across America, but the Lion’s Lair is a place where you don’t want to touch the microphones, not just because they might shock you because they are ungrounded but also because there are food particles in them. They might have glitzed it up to a bar full of craft cocktails and Mustache Petes, but all through the 2000s when John was playing there, it was still really grotty.

There had been a few occasions on tour where John has almost gotten into a fight with someone at the club for some reason. It was either with someone working at the club, for instance in St Diego he almost came to blows with the sound-man. There have also been shows where he almost came to blows with someone in the audience. John hasn’t really come to very many blows, but touring is hard and there are many assholes in the world.

The Lion’s Lair is a place where the guys in John’s band almost got into a fight with another band out in front of the Lion’s Lair, that is how dark the energy is there. As they were driving down there they were thinking about just this one show, they were thinking about loading into the Lion’s Lair, playing this show on this stage that is basically behind the bar. This was before Aarhus, so John had never done it before, but he picked up his flip-phone and asked his booking agent ”What if we cancelled the show at the Lion’s Lair?” What would happen? They had never cancelled a show, it was part of their work ethic, and why would you do it? Even if you are sick, you just play and give them the sick show.

If you get a flat tire, you just solve these problems! The band Centro-Matic had an incident one time where the transmission fell out of their van and they hired a flat-bed truck, put the van up on the flat-bed, climbed into the van, and rode on the flat bed which brought them over the mountains to the venue to play the show. You fucking play the show!

John’s agent Matt Hickey said ”You don’t have to play the show! It doesn’t matter, it is the Lion’s Lair. You can just cancel it!” John told him to pull the trigger and do it. At the next interchange they took a right instead of a left and everybody in the van was so happy that they were going home to Seattle! This is how bands often get into car accidents because they are all completely fatigued and they just wanted to keep going. Why would they stop now and get a hotel room and spend 8 hours of their lives sitting asleep? You can drive from Minneapolis to Seattle in a manageable amount of time with 4 people trading off. You just have to get gas, some fried chicken from the hot case and some Gatorade to drink, which will also give you somewhere to pee.

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