Throwing Shades

Must see Rocketman. Can’t see Rocketman. Should I see Rocketman?

I’ve been meaning to see the Elton John biopic since it opened in the UK two weeks ago. The timing seemed perfect but I just couldn’t get the spare couple hours. I was too busy helping Eric clear out his mother’s house and then we managed to spend two nights in a nice Airbnb near Hastings, mainly so we could be somewhere with decent wifi to keep our tiny empire of records and shows running.

I got to see Eric’s wonderful sold out London show at the 100 Club (I think I got up and played a few songs with him and his able sidekick Ian Button, I’m so tired right now I don’t remember for sure!) Went to Brighton for the gig on his 65th birthday, I know I brought some gluten-free cupcakes and candles out on stage, but the rest is a blur. I remember checking into a manor house turned Hilton with a wedding do going on: men with shirt tails hanging, women in bare feet wrapped in shawls, everyone swaying through the lobby clutching bottles. I shamelessly told the Scottish desk clerk that it was my husband’s birthday and voila he presented us with drink vouchers so we got to join the crowd in the lounge and then out in the parking lot when some joker pulled the fire alarm. “The Britain the tourists don’t see,” said Eric. This is so us, I thought. This is our idea of romance!

Developed a raging eye infection just in time for my gig in Brighton and then flew to Sweden in agony. I know self-acceptance is supposed to be a big part of getting older and this may be the point where I dump my eye makeup forever, or at least til the swelling goes down. Thankfully this time it affected the eye I can’t see out of anyway. I think I’m starting to resemble Jack Nicholson in one of his crazier roles…

Malmo was lovely and I had a nice day with my hosts Mats and Zuzan, getting to have coffee and aperol spritzes in a garden, a rare chance to see the town I’d be playing in, usually it’s all glimpsed in passing “Look, there’s people, living life! What must it be like, to be sipping a beverage, laughing with friends, in this place?” (Sweden is dangerous, I find myself adapting my language to sound Swedish even though every person you meet there speaks perfect English)

I felt so happy after playing both shows, Brighton and Malmo. It’s the in-between times that are hard right now. I feel wracked with insecurity. Trying to keep upbeat and positive to get my book out into the world but seriously depleted of energy. I need to go on a diet, exercise more, heal my eye. My friend Karen made me go to the doctor in England and it seemed to help a little bit. Then there was more house clearing. On the plane back from England I finally watched Bohemian Rhapsody and cried so much the French guy next to me tapped me on the shoulder and offered me his cocktail napkin to wipe my eyes, or at least one eye. Then I made the mistake of watching the film about journalist Marie Colvin. I was drawn in by her glamour, the eye patch, the bravery of a war correspondent. By the end of the film I felt sure I was going to lose my eye too, not because of a selfless need to expose the truth and share stories of struggle but because I have a thing for eyeliner.

IMG_2912Maybe for the next time?

The French couple next to me asked “How can we get to this place, Jersey City?” From JFK? Ah, you need to get the AirTrain to Jamaica Station, take the LIRR to Penn Station and then get another train. Insane, right? I looked at their terrified faces and then remembered that was exactly what I needed to do to get back home and I was in danger of missing the last train upstate due to a flight delay. My eye was swelling up and I felt if I didn’t get a bottle of water before I got on the last train I would die.

There’s a spot in Penn Station where you line up for the upstate NY Amtrak train only. It’s the most bedraggled group in the station aside from the homeless population. People with bizarre luggage, ballcaps, a few haughty sophisticates. As I skidded to my place in the line and saw Hilton Als with his headphones on join the queue I was as good as home. I slept a few hours and went to the doctor.

So Rocketman opened yesterday in the US and I wanted to go but by the time the first showing rolled around I was too tired to get in the car. I’m going down to NYC today to open for Ian Hunter, it’s his 80th birthday shows at City Winery and they asked me and Eric to do one but Eric’s still in England dealing with his mother’s house sale. It will be strange to play for this crowd on my own, together Eric and I have opened for Ian, who’s a hero to us both, loads of times. A guy posted on FB “Amy Rigby is opening for Ian Hunter on Sat. Who is Amy Rigby?” maybe just innocently asking a question but giving the impression I had no right to be there because he hadn’t heard of me. I’d wear dark glasses but that’s Ian’s thing. With one eye I’ll stare the crowd down and say “I’m Amy fucking Rigby.” (probably not, I’ll likely shuffle my feet, duck my head and say something embarrassing. It’s my way. The songs are the sucker punch.)

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Maybe tomorrow I’ll go see Rocketman. 

The Ian Hunter show at City Winery tonight is sold out, but you can see Amy Rigby on Fri. June 7 at Dawson St Pub in Philadelphia and on Sat June 8 at Outpost in the Burbs, Montclair NJ. I’ll have genuine pop legend Wreckless Eric on bass & the also legendary Doug Wygal playing drums.

Local Artist

People often ask if I play around here much, and the past few days I’ve had the perfect illustration of why the answer is…”uh.” You’d think it would make sense, there are friends and neighbors and venues, fans even within easy driving distance. But – it’s fraught. You don’t want to be a nuisance (“what, her again?”) like you have nothing better to do.  In another town, people don’t see you looking like hell at the post office or buying toilet paper in the supermarket. You can maintain some aura of mystery, But the worst is, you make yourself vulnerable getting up there. It’s easy to put that out of your mind when you separate daily life from the hour or two you perform.

I went into work at the bookstore/bar the other day and I saw that the poster I’d put up a few weeks before for my HiLo show in Catskill had been taken down and replaced with one that said “Do you enjoy humor? Do you like being funny? Join us to talk about it.” And they’d torn off almost all the tabs on the bottom, to make it look like people were interested. Who tears down another person’s poster? And I work here, bitch! And people aren’t funny because they enjoy it. I had a good mind to call the number on one of the last remaining tabs.

Oh well, I thought. I can’t let these things get to me. My poster probably just fell down, and those nice comedy people found a clear spot to put theirs up. I probably handed them some tape to do it last time I worked and didn’t even realize.

But then the other morning, when I walked into our beloved local cafe, the very place I’m playing – BOTH of my posters were gone. Just, physically removed, by some person who clearly has a vendetta against me. Who have I annoyed/angered so much that they would go out of their way to mess me up? I mean, it’s only the second time in a year that I’ve played around here, so I don’t think I’ve been a nuisance. Did I cut in front of someone in line to get coffee? Take a person’s stuff out of the dryer at Clothespin Laundromat?

Maybe it’s a Trump supporter? I hear they play “The President Can’t Read” on the local radio station a lot. Disturbingly, this is the only comforting scenario.

I admit when Eric and I lived in France, we used to occasionally take down the posters of this duo called Vis a Vis. But they played nothing but annoying covers. And they put posters everywhere. I don’t take any solace in the idea that whoever took down my posters feels the same sense of justification.

Will the person (or persons! Maybe it’s a whole team saying “Let’s get her!” Oh shudder…) who’s messing with me be there at my Catskill show tonight? Will anyone be there? I mean, there were posters, but…

Copy of Add a subheading

Reader, I Wrote One Too

A publisher’s representative calls the bookstore/bar to check up on an author event/reading:

“How many would you say attended?” she asks, cheerily.

“Oh, it was full – very full!” I say.

“Great, how many would you say exactly, or at least ballpark?”

“Well, I wasn’t actualy there, but everyone who was said what a great night they had!” I’d in fact heard that it was kind of light crowd-wise as these things are usually packed, but it was the middle of a cold, rainy spell, and in solidarity with the author in question and all authors everywhere, I lie.

“And how many books did _________(author) sell?”

“I think they must have done well, cause the stack’s looking a lot smaller than before the event,” I say, hoping my vague optimism will satisfy her.

“Could I get a definite number there?”

I’m curious now and look it up in inventory. Umm…again, in solidarity, I double that number, no wait, triple it – oh hell, I give her the tripled number quadrupled and hang up before she has a chance to ask how the other authors did at the event, so she can compare and possibly decide to drop any further promotion efforts for their author who thanks to our tiny bookstore event is either a dud or a king.

*

A local author with a national reputation and publisher calls regarding an upcoming library event in town:

“I need to know you’ve got my books to sell and someone to sell them! It’s going to be a well-attended event, very well-attended.”

“Let me just check on that for you-“

“I can’t talk now, I’m catching a flight, and I need to know when I land in two hours – will there be books? I need to know there’ll be books!”

I picture him, movie star handsome, dressed in tweed, running across a jetway, a laptop slung over his shoulder, books to research his next project bulging from his roller bag as he shouts into the phone: “It’s going to be a well-attended event, WELL-ATTENDED! We need books! BOTH OF MY TITLES!”

*

A pretty young blond woman browses the shelves. The man with her looks over his shoulder to make sure she’s occupied, out of earshot. “Do you have any copies of _________?” he asks.

“I’m pretty sure we do!” I say. “I love that book.” It’s been a New York Times bestseller for weeks.

“She wrote it,” he says in a whisper. “She’s too shy to ask.”

*

An older couple shuffle around the bookstore. They share one beer, look at every book in the place.

“Excuse me, do you have a local authors’ section?” the man asks.

“Sure, it’s right over-“

They’re both wearing survival wear, as if they’re spending a month in the Australian outback. Floppy hats. Hers is tied under the chin with a leather cord, his sits at a rakish angle.

“I don’t need to SEE it,” he brushes me away, literally swats at me with his hand like an outback fly. “You see, I’m publishing a book soon and thought you might like to carry it.” I start telling him to bring a copy or two in for consignment but that’s not aligning with his dream, which is me or anyone falling to their knees and saying “You brilliant, brilliant man! We’ll get carpenters in at once to erect a wing for this mighty tome, the likes of which the world has never seen!”

“Author events – do you do those?” he asks, but doesn’t wait for an answer. “I might want to talk to someone about setting one up.” He flicks through the table of new age-feel-good-impulse buy-easy-wisdom books that in the last year have started giving way to miniature copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. “Though I see this is a pretty wholesome spot and my book is about decadence.” I start to say how we do serve alcohol, but quickly shut up as I picture that senior Satan-worship group from Rosemary’s Baby in the all-together except for bush hats plus bifocals, socks and sandals. Then I start busily folding Curious George onesies to emphasize our family-friendly, anti-decadence atmosphere but he and his companion are already hauling their stringy khaki-encased thighs up the street to find a more amenably seedy atmosphere that will give his brilliant treatise its rightful dank platform.

*

A cheerful woman approaches the register. “I’m the editor of __________!” she says, almost giddy with happiness. “I see you have it up on the top shelf – how’s it doing?” I tell her it’s been selling well (in a store this size, that could mean 3-4 copies but, y’know it’s good to be positive – it definitely hasn’t been ignored!) I apologize to her for not reading it yet, but tell her it looks compelling. I love every book in the store so much, just for the sheer act of existing. If you’ve done anything to get marks on paper down and in print, you’re okay in my book – you wrote a book. Better than okay – you deserve…a reader. So sometimes it makes people a little shameless.

Author, publisher, self-publisher, bookseller. Editor, agent; reader.  It’s a miracle when the right book finds its way into the right hands. But it happens all the time. I’ve seen it all my life as a reader, and for the last seven years working in a bookstore. There’s no shame in making that happen. I admire and aspire to be a person who makes a book. I love people who love books.

I navigated the world of book proposals and potential publishers with the help of an agent for the last several years and am proud and terrified to announce that my own book will be published – by me – in October. There’s no shame in it, right?

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I’ll start doing pre-orders and give more info in June. In the meanwhile, come see me play in May or June if I’m in your neighborhood. Before I don my survival gear.

  • Thu May 9    Catskill NY   HiLo  (w/Tim Higgins)
  • Fri May 10    Bordentown NJ  Randy Now’s
  • Sat May 11    No. Andover MA  Crossroads Music Series
  • Thu May 23   Brighton UK  Prince Albert
  • Sun May 26   Malmo Sweden  Folk å Rock
  • Fri June 7       Philadelphia PA   Dawson St Pub
  • Sat June 8      Montclair NJ     Outpost In The Burbs

 

Wheels

I drove by James Baird State Park last night. It’s on the Taconic Parkway, just north of Poughkeepsie. Every time I’ve driven past that exit for the past eight months, I’ve kind of shuddered. It’s where my old car died back in August. Every time I’ve driven past James Baird State Park since August 2018 has been in either a rental, or my husband’s car. Or…the train. The train’s been great, cause it goes by the west side of the park so I don’t have to see the James Baird State Park sign.

It’s been a journey, these past eight months, trying to figure out what to do to replace that car. It’s been a journey in a lot of other ways, because Eric’s mother died just after and that’s been huge in our lives. She was in her nineties, we didn’t expect her to rally but you don’t simply go okay, goodbye and get on with things. Or you do, but you feel it every day in a lot of different ways. For Eric it’s working. I can’t believe he’s gotten a new album together and it’s stunning. I’ve been moving along to finish and publish my book and that’s happening in October. But I just haven’t been able to deal with looking for a car.

Down in Guatemala or was it Mexico (I swear this is the last time I will use either of those phrases…okay maybe I’ll do it one more time but then no more) I promised myself I would find a vehicle as soon as I arrived back home, before I left for a few dates taking me as far west as Delaware Ohio, near Columbus. That gave me approximately a week to find a car.

I’d kind of resolved to finance a newer car, something certified, something with a warranty. When I looked back over the life of my last car, a 2002 Subaru Forester, I had spent a fortune doing all the repairs it needed to keep running. So when the transmission went, at 220,000 miles, I couldn’t justify spending more to keep it going. There were just too many other problems waiting in the wings to send the car back into the shop while I walked, borrowed and rented more cars.

How many times have I sat at the side of the highway, waiting for a tow truck? At least as many times as the different cars I’ve owned. This last time really did it for me. Not to say you can’t have problems anytime, with any vehicle. Upstate, where we live, deer can take out a brand-new car as easily as an old beater. But…

I made appointments with the local dealers, the ones I’d heard good things about. The cars in my price range weren’t super-inspiring but they were serviceable, they worked and most had a few features I’d loved from my old Subaru: heated seats, AWD, moonroof.  With amazing fuel efficiency that felt like it would help me save money. Why, this car would pay for itself in no time!

But…old habits die hard, and when you look into the world of newer cars, the possibilities are limitless. Whereas on Craigslist…

Oh why was I back on Craigslist? Because I didn’t want to make a practical decision for once in my life. I wanted what I always want, a bolt, an arrow of love, random chance meetings leading to intoxication, attachment. Or rough happenstance, you’ve got $1000 (or two, or three or four) to spend and goddammit, you’re going to make this work NOW, even if you pay and pay and pay down the line and together, with that thousand dollar vehicle, you make it through, you make it work, TOGETHER! That time we hitchihiked to a car rental place. That ride in the tow truck. That tackle/repair shop near Columbus, where I killed an afternoon and nearly missed the gig. That repair shop off the interstate, somewhere in Virginia, where I said goodbye.

Yes the lure of Craigslist. I called Dick, who had a decent-looking Honda Accord for sale. I mean, this car looked like a great bet for somebody. Dick was up north of Saratoga.

“So, do you have GPS? Well, either way, y’see – you cross over the railroad tracks and then make your first left – wait, what kind of car are you driving? Cause it’s a dirt road. You go down the road to the very end, about a quarter mile and you’ll see a bunch of cars…”

I’ve been there before. Not with Dick, but many times by now. I pictured driving up there, a window into the life of Dick, retired mechanic from the North Country. Another story unfolding in the form of a pile of metal, and rubber I would learn to love and make my own… I called Mike at Lacy Subaru.

So, I drove by James Baird State Park last night, in my new 2014 Subaru. I have shows all weekend, one next week, near Columbus. I don’t want to have to find out if the tackle/repair shop is still there.

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Amy on tour (tickets and info here

  • Fri Apr 5     Brooklyn NY       El Cortez
  • Sat Apr 6     Baltimore MD     An Die Musik – A Folkal Point concert
  • Sun Apr 7    Reading PA          house concert
  • Fri Apr 12    Delaware OH      Pat Cave at Endangered Species
  • Thu May 9   Catskill NY           HiLo (w/Tim Higgins)
  • Fri May 10   Bordentown NJ  Randy Now’s
  • Sat May 11   No. Andover MA  Crossroads Music Series
  • Thu May 23  Brighton UK        Prince Albert
  • Sun May 26  Malmo Sweden   Folk e Rock
  • Fri Jun 7        Philadelphia PA  Dawson St Pub
  • Sat Jun 8        Montclair NJ       Outpost In The Burbs

Every Day I Wash The Dress

I probably shouldn’t have washed the dress in the first place. It was just – so blue.

I bought it because it was blue. I bought it because in the Zihuatanejo market, in the stall of Analillia, it made me look alive instead of the way I resembled an old winter coat every time I looked at myself in the mirror.

It’s one of those cotton Mexican dresses with the bright flowers embroidered down the front. It felt a little too much of a transition from my NY winter black wardrobe, but I wanted to buy something from this sweet person, I liked her taste, in amongst all the stalls in the market, and I’ve always wanted one of those dresses.

When I got it back to my simple little hotel room, with an ancient TV and a lawn chair for furniture, a room that I would resent horribly in the US but that feels quite homey and correct here in Mexico, I turned on the shower. I have yet to feel the“hot water” this place advertises, but it hasn’t mattered – any shower I’ve taken has been to cool off and rinse away sweat from walking around in the brilliant sun and eighty five degrees.

I love Zihuatanejo! I love Mexico. I’d never been here until three days ago and didn’t know what to expect. I was worried I’d built it up in my mind too much – this place I would get to when I reached a certain point in my life, a place I’d enjoy and call my own in a different way than those other places I love like New York and Los Angeles and London and Chicago and and – they’re all big cities. I don’t have any experience with different kinds of travel. It’s always seemed too daunting to me, I like my comfort. I’m not a snob but I’m not that tough either. I can’t camp. Not yet anyways. I hate to think we’re set in one way and can’t break out and have new experiences. But I like to fix my hair and put on makeup, I like hot showers, I like all cotton sheets.

I can’t really fix my hair in Zihuatanejo. There’s no hair dryer and even if there was, it would be curling and frizzing the minute I stepped outside. I don’t know who I am without fixing my hair but I’m aiming for Thelma or Louise. They’re my go to’s for that moment where you say fuck it and tie a wet rag around your neck.

Anyways, back to the dress. I thought it made sense to rinse it in the shower, to soften up the cotton a little and..just in case the blue dye ran. I didn’t want to walk out in the heat and end up covered in blue dye.

Thank god this bathroom tile is sort of putty colored. There’s been a lot of blue dye. If this were a black and white movie, it’d be a scene from a low-budget remake of Psycho here. Lots of dye running down the drain. Lots of dye.

A wet cotton dress weighs a lot as I stand there twisting and wringing to squeeze out the water and dye and get it on a hanger. Yes, maybe this was a mistake to wash the dress, but imagine if I’d gone out walking in it?

I washed it again today and hung it on a hanger to dry, near the window in the shower. The maid knocked on the door. No, es limpia, gracias, I kept her from coming in and accepted a clean towel. I couldn’t let her see the dress, thinking she’d either laugh or tell me how to wash it but I wouldn’t understand. She would be so lovely and kind, like everyone I’ve met here has been. But I have to take these things slowly.

It’s been really good arm exercise. And there was a little less dye today. Tomorrow I’ll wait until after the maid comes to wash the dress again. Now I’m going to the beach to try and get a little color on my skin. When I come back, I’ll put the dress away until tomorrow’s washing ritual.

Did I mention I came here to play music? I’ve done two gigs and written a song already. Had a wonderful Mexican guitarist Javier Rojas play on a song with me last night at a luxury resort in Ixtapa – we sat side by side on white chairs and it was surreal. I liked the sound of our guitars bouncing back to us across the grass and fancy cabanas. Javier plays with his foot on a stool in the classic style, in an immaculate white cotton shirt. The night before that I played in front of a thousand or so people with all the musicians from the festival doing short sets.

But that’s the world I know and roll with, the world of music.

It’s the cultural code I have to crack. That’s where I’m a neophyte. How to shop in the market. How to order a taco. When and how to wash a dress.

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Oh…Mexico

I played these two shows in Hudson and New York City, they made me feel so good. I felt lifted up and excited and ready for…Mexico.

I’ve wanted to visit Mexico forever – long been a fan of the handcrafts, the culture, the food, and pretty much any person from that country I’ve had the good fortune to work with. I finally got a gig there, a week in Zihuatanejo at the Zihua Guitar Fest. It suddenly occurred to me about three weeks ago, good lord, I’m going to Mexico! This snowy winter, I’d looked longingly at music folks I know having a blast at 30A Songwriters Fest in Florida, or the Outlaw Country Cruise or Cayamo and thought “aren’t I vacation-paradise worthy?” Then I remembered I was going to Mexico.

One of my brothers, who’s traveled to Cancun and even golfed at Hilton Head gave me pause: “Look, don’t be surprised if people start drinking on the 8 AM flight.” And “Do you know any Jimmy Buffett tunes…just in case?” I told him I didn’t think it was that kind of festival, but just in case, yes I have long played Margaritaville, in private at least. Buffett is cool, yes I said it. I guess you could say I’m even a closet Kenny Chesney fan. This attitude will serve me well, right, on the beach in Mexico?

Finally got my Gibson back from the repair guy. It had been almost four months. Such a long time, I’d forgotten what it felt like to love an acoustic guitar. I’d tried really hard with the sub I bought and had come to grips with it, but wow it was like a slow motion scene from a movie, when I lifted the renewed guitar out of its case and the two of us were reunited. Oh good, I thought – I’m going to play you – in Mexico.

Then I started worrying about flying with the guitar, and all the variables of international travel. I weighed whether to risk it or not…right now I’m leaning to taking the Gibson, in an indestructible case, just in case, I mean – how often do I get to play in…Mexico?

I had a super-stressful experience at the dentist the other day. First, they were playing Joe Cocker in the waiting room. Now I love Joe – but that is some emotional music and not what you need to de-stress before heading in to see the dentist. Things have gone awry at our dental practice and dentists have been coming and going at an alarming rate. My dear Dr. Smith is gone with no explanation. I’d been scheduled and rescheduled and this time, was greeted by an unfamilar dentist whose name I didn’t catch. An older Papa Hemingway type. “It says here you need fillings?”

I practically flew out of the chair. I’ve had one cavity in my life, the year I lived in England and ate Cadbury Fruit & Nut to add something healthy to my diet. “No, no fillings!” I shouted.”I just need…filling.” We went back and forth in a silly Who’s on First routine: “You don’t need fillings”, “I just need filling” (which sounded…weird. It’s a periodontal thing). I found myself saying “I don’t feel comfortable about this!” when he came at me, just to look, he promised. He told me I looked perfect, I ran out of the office and thought “I’m going to find Dr. Smith, she’s down in Westchester I just know it – I’ll find her, as soon as I get back from (you guessed it) Mexico.

Then there was a Saturday night bar shift I agreed to cover for somebody, and the big blowhard who was sitting in the center of the bar loudly ranking a list of female singer songwriters his lady friend was pulling up on her phone: “Joan Jett?” “Uh – no?” “Edie Brickell?” “Yeah, like twenty years ago maybe.” (Indecipherable) “No, face is below average. But-“ brightening – “she does have world class tits.” It turns out, according to Mr. Charisma, it’s important to respect the talent of these women FIRST AND FOREMOST, but at the same time, it is also necessary to want to DEVOUR THEM.  This a day after the New York Times story about Ryan Adams. Is it acceptable, in this type of circumstance, for a bartender to dump a pitcher of beer over the head of a customer? I slammed pint glasses into soapy water…and thought of Mexico.

More snow came on Monday and I shoveled and cursed the frozen picnic table out back, the dusty Weber grill in the breezeway. When I get to Me- oh wait, I started worrying. How am I getting to Mexico? I pulled up the info for a flight that leaves at some crazy early hour in the morning and returns in the middle of the night a week later. Wait, why did I want to go to Mexico?

Back at the bookstore/bar yesterday, I lost the key to the cash register drawer. Just – it disappeared.  “Sorry, sir, we can’t take your money, because…the drawer’s locked.” As I searched and searched for the key, a lady kept waving a children’s book at me, telling me she was a local author and had autographed it and shouldn’t it be displayed somewhere people could see it because “it’s autographed!” I tried to smile and be encouraging while I crawled on the floor with a flashlight, and when she asked me to please order her new book for the store and then barked at me that surely the public demanded that we order AT LEAST TWO, I gritted my teeth and…that’s right (insert sound of lapping waves, Spanish guitars here).

At home, Eric was nice and made me a cup of tea and I felt sad that he wasn’t going with me to Mexico.

In a few short weeks I’ll be back and there’ll be other things to endure and things to look forward to. I’ll find Dr. Smith, I’ll get a new used car, my book will be revised and edited, I’ll have more gigs. But life will have a certain flair to it, a vibe I never had access to before. I’ll be who I was but…I’ll have been to…and played music in…Mexico.

Dates and tickets available here

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My First Diary

Remember those green leatherette books with the little lock and key? I still have mine from when I was eight. And somewhere out on the internet, there still exists the first online diary I wrote back in January 1999, twenty years ago this week. It was Warren Zevon’s birthday yesterday. Can’t believe he’s been gone for years. Touring is easier now than it was back then, what with iphones and food and coffee culture that isn’t limited to the very big cities. I’m shocked at the amount of fast food I used to eat. At how much Oprah I used to watch. At how new it all felt to me, both the solo touring and the writing.

This is from the first part of the trip.

DIARY OF A ROAD HOUSEWIFE, PART 1

1999

What I’m driving: a red Ford Contour

What I’m listening to: Mott the Hoople, P.F. Sloan, Dan Hicks, Beth Orton, Dwight Yoakam, bad country radio, Replacements

What I’m eating: Cracker Barrel, McDonald’s, Warren’s deli tray when he’s onstage

What I’m reading: road atlas

What I’m wearing: the same damn thing every night – I miss all my shoes!

Notes:

You must remember, the midwest has the worst coffee in the country (this greatly affects my demeanor on the road). To make matters worse, in the heart of dairyland they lighten their coffee with a substance referred to as “cream”. We all know it as 100% synthetic, never-been-anywhere-near-a-cow non-dairy creamer. I find this practice to be reprehensible, and make it a point of filling the largest possible container of coffee, asking for the milk, and when I’m directed to the “cream”, slamming the coffee down on the counter and walking out. I know, a real rebel would fling the coffee in someone’s face but my idea of trashing a hotel room is throwing all the dirty towels on the floor, so I do what I can…

I’ve noticed that once a person’s reached a certain age, the art of grooming is all that separates the desireables from the undesireables. Well-parted hair can make the difference between a welcoming “Hello, may I help you” and the look that says “I’m one step away from calling security”. Sport clothes also separate the haves from the have-nots. Try taking a walk in any mid-sized American city or suburb wearing your usual coat, pants and boots. I assure you, the guys hanging out by the bus shelter will welcome you as one of their own, while “respectable citizens” will scurry to their cars and lock the doors audibly as you pass by. Try the same stroll in full workout regalia, preferably with headphones (don’t worry about attaching them to anything) and you’ll get appreciative nods all around and even an occasional thumbs up.

I’m sad to report that they’re doing away with the heat lamps in hotel and motel bathrooms. Could someone please explain this to me? They used to help a weary traveller in several ways: Having a large, exposed bulb a few feet away actually does keep you warmer; the ticking of the timer is a comforting , white-noise sound that helps you “come down” from the effects of prolonged driving; and most importantly, after several hours/days/weeks on the road, you can turn to face yourself in the mirror without being too frightened of what you’re about to see.

The proliferation of Cracker Barrels on this nation’s highways and byways is leading to a shocking phenomenon: they are running out of “old-time” junk to hang on the walls! Check it out next time you stop off at one of these reliable but irritating restaurants. Where once every available square inch of wall space was covered with rusted, splintering oxen yokes and metal advertising signs for brands of soda pop no one ever heard of, it’s now reaching the point where they’ll use a white paper doily with a red ribbon attached to give that country store feel. There just aren’t enough ancient class photographs to go around anymore.Diary 1999

My trip began on January 19 when I flew from New York to Minnesota to hook up with Warren Zevon, who’d played Governor Ventura’s inauguration a few days before. That date was not part of my itinerary!

January 20 Minneapolis

Spent the day switching back and forth between the impeachment proceedings and the porn channel (I swear this stuff is better scrambled, where you’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on). Met Warren himself very briefly at the soundcheck – he looked tanned and healthy and kindly extended his hand to me in greeting. They were having some sort of guitar problem, tho, so he appeared a little worried. A late show, so the crowd was well on their way to being inebriated by the time I got on stage. It was fun to play for such a rowdy bunch. A very male audience, sort of the anti-Lilith? Even Jesse Governor Ventura was there.

January 21 Milwaukee

Nobody ever says what a cool-looking town this is. The show was at Shank Hall – named for the legendary venue where Spinal Tap rocked Milwaukee. Again, a lot of guys, a lot of beer. The Zevon crowd is interesting – it’s mainly near-middle-aged men who appear to be exhausted by the quest for sensitivity and really savor the opportunity to let out a few he-man yells in a “safe” environment – I love it!

January 22 Madison

One of my favorite towns, and in winter the hotels are damn cheap! Banged myself in the head with my guitar (at soundcheck no less) so I knew it would be a good show. Such a sweet audience (more gals this time) and two university professors nearly came to blows in the lobby over my last CD. Had a great martini in the Tornado Room w/fellow mod housewife Norma Coates.

January 23 Chicago

Tried to walk down to the lake in Madison but had to literally hold onto the sides of the buildings to keep from sliding down the hill – so this is why the hotel’s so cheap…Got lost on the way to soundcheck in Chicago – why is it that nobody can giver proper directions in this town? Tip: Never ask 2-3 guys in a sport utility vehicle for directions. Ditto cops and gas station attendants. That leaves…who? The Park West has the nicest staff of just about any club. Too bad my dressing room was also the only entrance to the supply cellar. The staff at the Park West and I are on very familiar terms now. My friends Kit & Ted made the drive up from St. Louis. Kit swears she saw the guy from Dawson’s Creek in the audience. I broke a string in a very bad place on what was going to be the last song. Couldn’t break it off and couldn’t keep playing. Recovered, barely, to play one more song minus the low E. No CD’s to sell but enjoyed hanging out afterwards. Got a stupid parking ticket, though, which I plan to fight – they don’t know who they’re dealing with (I’m 3 for 5 in getting NYC parking tickets dismissed or reduced!)

January 24 Pontiac, MI

Checked out of the hotel to find the name “Jerry Springer” on my receipt. “What’s this all about?” I inquired. I guess the grooming habits and general demeanor of me and my pals had us pegged as guests of the Springer show! Rushing to find a quick breakfast place with parking (yet another racket Chicago has going) we somehow ended up in the hell that is Ed Debevic’s. Upon entering this “fun” place, we immediately dispatched Ted to the Hooters across the street to see if they had any eggs (besides the obvious ones). He came back shaking his head so we ended up choking down dry turkey sandwiches and praying that we wouldn’t be forced to wear balloon crowns. At the table behind us a whimpering child cowered before her birthday cupcake as a group of waitresses bellowed “Happy Birthday” and then moved on to the next victim.

Halfway to Pontiac I remembered the time change and realized I was going to be an hour late. I got completely lost just outside of town and winded up heading in the wrong direction on the interstate, tears streaming down my face as I berated myself for being too cheap to get a cell phone. A kindly old gent in a Burger King put his arm around me, drew me a map and sent me back out into the night. When I pulled up at the club, there was a line of people around the block. Turns out Warren had done the same thing and was just finishing his soundcheck! I gave just about everything I had left on stage and drove to a motel outside of town to recover from the day, dreaming of butch waitresses in cat-eye glasses and the Silverdome.

January 25 and 26 Pontiac/Columbus

Woke up to a perfect anonymous snow-covered landscape outside the window of my perfectly anonymous motel on a snow-covered road in You-Could-Be-Anywhere, U.S.A. No show tonight or tomorrow. All I had to look forward to was finding the nearest mall and watching Oprah, which was fine with me. The local mall provided me with all the necessities: Mailboxes, Etc., T.J. Maxx and what must be a local establishment, the Gander Factory (which I at first mistook for the Gender Factory but then remembered I was in Michigan, not Manhattan). Isn’t it wonderful how even the lamest strip mall now contains a Borders or Barnes & Noble superstore? I dined at McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, consecutively, which I believe constitutes the triple-crown of fast-food eating if all items are consumed within one twelve-hour period.

Bored after a day of this, I decided to press on to Columbus, which seemed downright cosmopolitan in comparison. I took in a movie and looked forward to the next night’s show.

January 27 Columbus

My birthday. My 40th birthday. I felt pretty spry. Had lunch with the Koch sales rep, Gerald Moss, who’s always been a big help in figuring out where to go and what to avoid in Columbus. Went over to WCBE for a radio interview with Max Faulkner. We were chatting on the air when someone handed him a piece of paper that said (in black magic marker) “Warren is sick. Tonight’s show is cancelled.” And then in red marker, as an afterthought I guess “Amy does not know this.” I couldn’t conceal my disappointment. I couldn’t help but mention on the air that this was my birthday and I did not want to spend it alone in a motel room. The promoter called in and said she had organized a show for me at a smaller club, the Thirsty Ear. It was one of the weirdest, best nights of my life, with the club owner wheeling a cake onstage and 100 strangers singing happy birthday. I’d really wanted to spend my birthday playing a show and even with forces conspiring against me it happened. I downed two shots of Jack Daniels (it took me about 2 1/2 hours) and called it a day.

pres

I looked high and low for a picture from a show back in 1999 – that’s another thing that’s changed, everything is more documented now. So I’m posting the cover image for new single The President Can’t Read debuting on The Big Takeover site next Fri Feb 1 and available right around then too. I thought if I waited long enough this song would be obsolete, as I wrote it a month after the inauguration. I’ll be playing two shows for the release, Fri Feb 1 at Spotty Dog in Hudson NY & Tues Feb 5 at Mercury Lounge NYC. You can buy tickets for the Mercury here. Thank you for reading this online diary of mine – twenty years old this week!