Yay: A day off!
Boo: Driving 11 hours to Tulsa.
We were all looking forward to sleeping in a bit, but Lou was insistent that we get on the road early, so we had to compromise. I left it up to Channing in the end, because she’s a girl and I assumed she needed some girly time in the morning, for doing her nails and hair in other words, all of the things that I used to need time for back in the 1990’s.
So Channing says 10am, and that’s what it will be.
11 hours to Tulsa, and the A/C in the Sprinter van is acting a-fool again. It’s very inconsistent, deciding which vents should blow on you and which shouldn’t. Most of the ride, I’m in the front seat, frozen faced and sweaty balled.
I wrote in my note pad that Wheelz knew his “fast food landmarks”, but now writing this, I have no idea what the context was, but I guess it doesn’t matter. Knowing that we have someone who can figure out directions according to where the nearest McDonald’s is could be pretty handy, especially if one of us needs to get his sugars back up to avoid a diabetic coma.
Once we got into Tulsa, nearly 12 hours later, we checked into the hotel across the street from the Citiplex Towers of Oral Roberts University, an Emerald City-like structure that instead looks to be made of solid gold. It’s a behemoth of a building that looks dreadfully out of place in it’s surroundings.
Citiplex Towers. Paid For With Popcorn Earnings.
Lou was most impressed that Oral Roberts made enough money selling his popcorn to pay for such a building, and after a moment or two of scratching our heads, Griff chimed up “I believe you’re thinking of the other Oral. Redenbacher. Except it's ORVILLE, not Oral."
In Lou’s defense, Oral Roberts University students sell popcorn to raise money for tuition.
John 12:24: "Jesus said, 'Unless a kernel falls to the ground
and dies, it remains only a single seed.'"
We saved our appetites to go and get a proper meal instead of fast food once we got into town, but according to the hotel desk clerk the whole damn town closes at 10pm, darn you Oral RedenRoberts! We decided to drive for up to 30 minutes to find a place that might be open, and like a beacon of light, promising overpriced food and a menu that has more options than a NY Deli, Cheese Cake Factory was indeed open.
I usually like to pick up the check for meals for everyone, but not this place. I immediately felt bad when we announced separate checks, and everyone but me was ordering water to drink. I announced I would pay for a round of 8 drinks, so choose wisely. Blanton’s 12 year for everyone! (sigh).
Lori G.W. is a huge supporter of the band, and not sure if she appreciates the “G.W.” to describe her, those initials reminiscent of a former president. She was kind enough to set up the gig tonight in Tulsa, and as a bonus, wanted to know if the band had any interest in flying in an old WWII war plane called a P19. Uhh….YES PLEASE, said a few of us and Uh…HELL NO said a couple and Uhh.. P19 HAS PEE IN IT said one of us, and giggled like a schoolgirl.
We woke up early and headed over to the airfield, where indeed a P19 awaits to be flown. It’s an open air cockpit, with the pilot in front and one passenger in the rear. “We consider you the co-pilot,” one of the instructors said, “but for the love of god do not touch anything.” No problem, and it’s an odd feeling seeing what I call the joy stick moving on its own while the pilot upfront mans the aircraft.
That's me in the back, praying a silent prayer at the top of my lungs.
I didn’t hesitate when it came down to going up in this thing, nor did Randy, Griff or Jim, but the rest showed a little resistance until my flight was complete, and I disembarked the plane with a huge grin. “Spectacular,” I said, and it was. Everyone, including Lou, took a turn going up over the city of Tulsa for an amazing ride. Lou overcame his fear of flying for this one, making him especially heroic. Especially after we pretended like something was odd looking on the tail as he was taxying in front of us.
Lou overcoming his fear of flying AND his fear of headset mics.
All in all, a pretty amazing day. Thanks Lori!
A word about fear: I have a soft spot for those who can overcome their fears. I remember as a child, my overprotective mother would wrangle us all in the basement at the slightest word of a tornado. Tornado Watch wasn’t merely an alert that told you that the conditions were pretty good for a tornado to develop. Watch or Warning meant that “EVERYONE HAS TO GET IN THE BASEMENT RIGHT NOW!!” she would yell, and then order us to “GET UNDER THE CARD TABLE AND COVER YOUR HEADS!” It scared my to death, even though I peeked out once and could see neighbor kids playing outside in the sunshine.
For years after I had a fear of thunderstorms, until one night when I was 13, I realized that there were other things to fear at this time in my life (like will I really go blind doing this myself three times a day?)
I walked out in the middle of a raging storm and stood like an idiot in the pouring rain. Yep, I overcame my fear, and now because of it, I’m pretty much as study as an oak tree until I see a bee and oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my oh it’s just a fly never mind. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll stand holding beehive, but it will be in a bee keeper’s uniform covered with a hazmat suit.
Back to Tulsa. After the flights we had a little time to chill until we had to get to the The Vanguard, a really cool, old school club downtown.
I was prepared for the smell of old beer and broken dreams of last call hookups, but I wasn’t prepared for the flies that buzzed about at soundcheck. I mean, at least three or four buzzed around me, another four or five around my amp. I swallowed one while we rehearsed “Barely If At All” and was thankful that it had visited the BBQ buffet across the street first.
Lou and I got into it about stage volume again, so much so this time that we had to have an old fashioned “sit-down” in the backroom, mafia style, with the heads of the five families present to keep the peace. Turns out, I was probably wrong again because according the others, his volume was no higher than normal. I offered a half hearted apology, and challenged him to a wedgie duel in the alley way outside, and as you can see, it was a draw, mostly because I don’t always wear underwear when it’s 100 degrees out, and I’m pretty sure he got a handful of my butt crack.
Lou and I settling our difference like men. 12 year old men.
Showtime was late, like 11pm, and we got off to a rousing start, and the rousing didn’t let up for the entire set. I thought we actually rocked the flies out of the place, but turns out, flies don’t like fog machines, to which the club must have had a few, because you could barely see your bandmates on stage. Griff pointed out that not a fog machine could be seen, and surmised that perhaps it was the “vaping” that clouding up the joint, and sure enough it was. This gig was like being in a Cheech and Chong movie.
Regardless, every city needs a club like The Vanguard. Venues like that are how we grew up on rock and roll, watching shows and dreaming of making it one day. You form a band and the club you’ve been going to books your band, and you play to empty rooms at first, slowly building a following until the day when those club shows were over. I loved this place, and made it clear to owner that we would be back, if he would have us.
We had about a 6 hour drive to Arlington TX the next day, and although we knew it was going to be tight, we couldn’t resist stopping at this place:
Just look at all of those choices behind us.
What could they possibly be serving at Wheelers Diner? Chris Wheeler (aka Wheelz) swears he's related to the owner somehow, and if this doesn't get the saliva running, nothing will.
Wheelz can't decide between ordering the right side of the menu, or the left.
Turns out the food was great, all fried of course, but regardless, breakfast at 2 pm is always a treat. Wheelz told us he had once considered opening up a sports bar, specifically to honor the Detroit Lions. Someone suggested they should serve a Scott Mitchell burger that looks delicious, but falls apart as soon as you put any pressure on it.
We were about 45 minutes late to soundcheck but the Levitt Pavillion has it together enough that they don’t even break stride when it comes to the show. The only issue of the night was that it was 95 degrees, and the sun was our spotlight for the first 30 minutes of the show, which I played completely blind, due to the cheap hair product I put in my hair that dripped into my eyes. Privileged rock band problems.
This was a fantastic show in front of what seemed like the entire city of Arlington Texas. We played nearly two hours, and included nearly every song that Jim had learned on the bass in the last few weeks. Channing came out front to sing a duel with Lou on Medicate Myself, Randy was stellar, Lou rocked the yard, and Sam has finally come into his own and solidified his status as the drummer for TVP.
The meet and greet after was terrific as well, and we hung with the fans for about an hour. As I was preparing to head back stage after a perfect 3 hour stint in Arlington, I felt a tap on the shoulder. I turned to find a very disappointed woman, about my age. “Why didn’t you play Bittersweet Symphony?” she asked. Sigh. Channing commented “You almost got out of here unscathed.” Indeed.
Much celebration in the back room after, and the celebration went to new heights when Wheelz came back to count the merch sales, and was spot on in his counting. For the first time ever, there was no discrepancy. Post-show inventory matched the sales. Wheelz started whoopin’ and hollerin’ and dancing around like a little girl. “It’s really kind of sad that we celebrate like this when he does his job correctly,” I said to Griff.
“Awww, let him have his moment,” Griff replied.