Frontalot Tour Diary Day 15: Florida & Louisiana

This is probably going to make me sound provincial and small-minded, but it never occurred to me that the south could be full of stunningly gorgeous landscapes.  It is.  We just finished driving across about 30 miles of elevated highway that took us through marshy swamplands between Baton Rouge and Lafayette and the visuals were nothing short of exquisite.  At one point there was a row of electrical towers, rising 100 feet from the water, which stretched far enough into the distance that they faded into the mist.  What are some other multisyllabic, positive adjectives I can throw out?  Mesmerizing. Breathtaking.  Bucolic!  That’s my new favorite word.  I hope I’m using it correctly.

Go ninja go ninja go!And that’s just a small stretch of highway!  The south as a whole has been (choose one of the words above).  It has also been a great place to play.  Florida, land of sunshine, airboats and hanging chads, treated us well.  Our first show was in Gainesville at a science-themed cafe called the Laboratory.  The owner, Larry, is a great guy and really dedicated to the whole laboratory metaphor.  Beer is served in 500ml marked borosilicate beakers, sandwiches are named after famous scientific pioneers, and the bathroom is even called the “Bodily Fluid Evacuation Chamber.”  Most importantly, nerds flock to this place.  Over 100 extremely enthusiastic people came to the show that night and made it perhaps the highest-energy show of the tour so far.  Big ups to openers O.N.E. and ninja rap pioneers the Krondor Krew for getting the crowd whipped up into a frenzy before we went on.  A slight aside: apparently the Krondor Krew has been attempting to get in touch with the Ask a Ninja guy, to no avail.  That seems like an obvious pairing to me, seeing as the ninja community is probably pretty small.  Here’s a question for the ninja: why are you ignoring these guys?  Man up and collaborate!

what_a_divaThat night we all slept the sleep of the dead because Star and Mitch, our super-amazing hosts, pretty much had a bed for everyone.  Did I mention that they were awesome?  They were.  Not only did they make us a delicious breakfast, stay for the entire too-late-for-a-school-night show and make us feel entirely at home; Mitch also took us out to the marshes to see alligators!  We even got up close but not personal with one prehistoric chomper.  Brandon was convinced that it was in a particularly good mood due to its perpetual grin.  I’m not so sure, but it did stick around long enough for us to get a good photo before it swam gleefully away, no doubt looking for someone with a bigger camera.  Star and Mitch: thank you!  And thank you again.  You made Gainesville a wonderful place to stay.

That afternoon we drove to Jacksonville, where we had some amazing, gas-inducing Mexican food at La Nopalera before playing the Jackrabbit. The turnout was moderate but energetic, and Brandon’s opening set went over particularly well.  So well, in fact, that one fan’s desire to be close to the band led her to sit on the stage, though she had her back turned and was texting the whole time.  She also refused repeated polite requests to go stand and face the stage so she could, like, watch us.  Damian handled the situation like a consummate professional, invoking peer pressure to change her attitude by informing her that the audience thought she was a “jackass.”  Poof!  She was gone.  I’d like to give a shout-out to Rob, the sound guy, who not only did a great job but also declared that there would be no “short, fat or skinny jokes” which gave me a brief respite from Sturgis’s incessant needlings about my height.

Snore!The next day we drove west through the panhandle and came across a Tea Party rally on the way to a Wendy’s (where I ate for $3.20 – huzzah!).  It was truly fascinating to see up close a fresh and vibrant part of America’s political discourse machine, even if what they had to say was somewhat misguided and often misspelled.  And apparently tiresome, as you can see from the photo.  You just don’t get to see this stuff in San Francisco.  Old ladies there are peppy and exuberant, on the whole.

Around 9pm we arrived at our destination: New Orleans.  We stayed at the Chateau Dupre, which we suspect was the inspiration for Stephen King’s short story 1408.  It took us an hour and a half to load in.  Why?  Here’s an interesting factoid: reservations with do not get sent to the hotel until the following day, yet they allow you to make same-day reservations.  Lame!  You’d think the interwebs would make that instantaneous.  Anyhow, once we got a room key we loaded our over-filled luggage cart into the elevator, which promptly failed to close.  Instead the door got stuck about two thirds of the way open, wobbling back and forth in an almost organic manner.  We managed to get it shut by pushing it all the way open.  Our room, #401, was bizarre and mostly uninhabitable.  Aside from having only one bed, it also had zero windows, no air conditioning and an unusually tall ceiling.  Damian promptly went back downstairs to get us a different room while I stood and waited with the luggage, alone but for the sound of the elevator, jiggling menacingly.

A boy scout conventionEventually we got a much better room, #311, which was also a secret room due to it not being marked in any way.  We then proceeded to do some wholesome sight-seeing, which was more taxing than anticipated.  Who knew touring a botanical garden, painting fences and helping old ladies across the street could give you such a monstrous headache?  Maybe it was the bowling.  Who knows.  Thankfully we happened upon the Tiffin Inn Pancake House the following morning, where I had delicious French-style pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream.  Mmm!  We also discovered a trick of the waitressing trade: when there’s lipstick on someone’s coffee cup due to improper washing, the waitress will say “That’s not your shade!” and take it away for swift replacement.  We know this because it happened once prior at a Waffle House.  How does this information travel?  Perhaps in the same way the trees talk to each other in “The Happening.”

That pretty much sums it up.  Tonight we land in Austin in order that we are well-rested for tomorrow’s show at the HighBall with Terp2it and Brandon, who has done an inordinate share of driving today.  Three cheers for Brandon!   And for “W-I-M” areas, whatever they are.  We just passed through one.  Joy!

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