Monday, June 23, 2008

Tom Waits - El Paso

I'm of the school of thought that more so than most other events in one's life, the concert goer's experience is formed by what leads up to the show, the contents of the show, and whatever happens after the show. Keeping that in mind, this is going to be a long fucking post.

Brace yourself.

When the tickets for the Glitter and Doom Tour went on sale, I was on top of things and got pairs of tickets for each show without definite takers for any of the extra tickets except for the El Paso show at the Plaza Theater set for June 20th. That taker was one John Michael Pike. Along with Pike, we had six others heading out to El Paso--two carloads--our car being driven by Mark with his old lady sitting shotgun.

After running Pike errands that led us to a Juneteenth parade with black cowboys on horseback riding through the middle of Austin, we hit the road on Thursday with a planned stopping point of the Holland Hotel in the Alpine. As we approached Johnson City, Pike decided that he was going to let us choose what he was to slam at every gas station we stopped at along the way. We chose the Budweiser/Bud Light Clamato Chelada. I was lucky enough to get to drink any tall boy I wanted. By the time we arrived in Alpine, Pike had ingested 96 ounces of that shit, having stopped in Johnson City, Ozona, Bakersfield (where we were hoping to catch a glimpse of a previous mirage of a beautiful girl working in a gas station about 50 miles from nowhere), and Fort Stockton along the way. Despite all the stops--many including adventurous shits throughout West Texas--we made pretty good time to Alpine and coincidentally got in at the very same time the Steen & Co. car was pulling into town.

We all checked into the hotel (Harley and John 2 into the Sunday House Inn famously possessing Texas-sized rooms and adorned with an autographed picture of Thomas Haden Church as Lowell in the lobby), defecated (some of us multiple times, and Pike's being especially rancid as the amount of the semi-toxic clamato he'd put in his body caused him to emit horrifying odors in myriad ways), and dawdled. After wasting a proper amount of time, we headed down to the Buffalo Rose, receiving surprisingly good fare all the way around, and then made the rounds to various Alpine Bars on a refreshingly cool desert night, spending a large chunk of time at the Railroad Blues Bar, where Pike was fortunate enough to find another Clamato Bud Light (light to maintain his figure, of course), upping his amount imbibed to an even 120 ounces on the day. Impressive? Yes. Would I advise anyone to ever attempt such a feat knowing what I know about the endgame? Never.

Upon returning to the Holland, Jeremy and Pike shared some special moments (and some delightfully lewd ones), some of which were forever captured on film for posterity's sake by Miss Shelley. More drinks were consumed. People were happy.

When we woke up, we discovered that the amazing breakfasts that were included in our last trip to the Holland were only on weekends, so we chowed on our continental breakfasts and headed to Marfa, where we proud defecators made sure to leave our mark wherever we could. Pike and I washed down our Pizza Foundation grub with tall boys, and before you could say "I shat" we were heading towards El Paso (some of us going a more direct route than others) and a date with Waits.

We rolled into El Paso, dropped Pike off at the border, and headed off to find a hotel. Luckily, El Paso is rife with Gentlemens' Hotels and we found one befitting the reason we were in El Paso in the form of the Gateway Hotel. It was dirt cheap and centrally located, mere blocks from the Plaza. As Mark, Megan, and I walked around stomachs a-growlin', we attempted to get in contact with the second car (who, it turned out, were a few miles out after having been pulled over twice by those always diligent West Texas Peace Officers), so that we could eat. Once they pulled up behind us, we (sans Pike, who was presumably up to no good in Juarez) headed to Kiki's, where we had great dishes including the Machaca and Rosa's Mole. The food was so good, in fact, that the other crew returned the next day for lunch.

After Kiki's, we headed back downtown to the Plaza, where we began the process of entering the theater, looking around, breaking in the toilets, etc. By 8:00 pm, we were in our seats awaiting what we assumed was going to be greatness.

We were not disappointed.

As Tom Waits walked onto the set (which looked pretty much the same as it did in Phoenix), the crowd went crazy, and Mr. Waits promptly busted into a most stomping-up-the-sawdust rendition of "Lucinda", riling the crowd up. As he rolled through early numbers "Way Down In the Hole", "Falling Down", "Chocolate Jesus" (megaphone and all), and "Singapore", it was clear to all that this man and his band were really at the top of their game. Honestly, aside from the first breakdown in "Hoist that Rag" not seeming entirely together (the second breakdown was fucking amazing, though, with great sax/guitar interplay between Vincent Henry and Omar Torrez) and the occasional lead guitar part seeming slightly off effects-wise, there wasn't a weak point in the show.

"Hoist that Rag" absolutely brought the house down. His monologue between songs while seated at the piano was especially engaging, having chosen to regale the audience with animal kingdom factoids and shrimp-jokes. The combination of "Lie to Me" (in which his yowl is at rabid peak to start) and "Goin' Out West" (where he really plays up the "I look good without a shirt" line) could have ended the show without encore and everyone probably would have clapped and hollered till their hands bled and their throats exploded. He started a rearranged "Jesus Gonna Be Here" a capella, and it absolutely captivated the audience until the instruments came in surprising everyone with a much more relaxed, lounge-y feel than I think most were expecting.

For the encore, his aping on "Make It Rain" was perhaps the peak of his theatrical touches in the show, and "Dirt in the Ground" (lowered considerably) made for an optimal closer.

As we left the theater sated, everyone looked at me with jealousy in the eyes and hearts, wishing that they, too, were seeing him again in Houston and Dallas.

Following the show, we headed to a terrible bar called "The Black Market" or something to that effect, which was not any place any of us wanted to be (Mark appropriately deemed the experience at The Black Market the reverse of the afternoon that we went to Pirates 2 (shit heap) and then had to watch The Thing to make everything better). We quickly made our exit, informing those who'd not yet returned from a pick-up that we'd not be staying there, and headed to an underground punk show. We left that after realizing that there was very little alcohol and no way for most of us to pay for it as we'd run out of cash the day before (but not before Jeremy discovered a secret room of dick paintings) and made our way toward the hotel and The Tap. The Tap was much more our kind of bar, and we stayed there till they kicked us out, headed to an alcohol-less party with a stroller in the hallway and baby stuff throughout the apartment, promptly left (but not before Pike informed them that he'd be back at 6:00 am to steal the baby), and returned to the Gateway with a small party that ended pretty much when the alcohol ran out, but not before a former co-worker who has since moved to Las Cruces and we ran into at the concert called needing a place to crash, meaning I got to sleep with Pike.

Don't worry, Jackie, nothing happened. Well, I did wake up in the middle of my four hour slumber to ask Pike, "How much did you bribe the Priest?" After gathering his druthers, he replied that he'd paid the Priest $100 and that the Priest had baptized the baby.

The next morning the members of the Tonucci party and our Las Cruces add-on headed to La Malinche*, where Pike could not get bread to save his life, but the rest of us received everything we wanted. We then parted ways with the New Mexican, packed up our things, and headed out of town.

We left El Paso at about 1:00 pm MDT. We arrived back in Austin at about 2:00 pm CDT. In between, Pike ate a pancake sandwich at the Sands in Van Horn, which somehow managed to usurp the place that his chilaquiles had occupied and blocked up everything that came after it for a good five hours; we hung out in the parking lot of an Ozona Town & Country for somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour, scratching off lottery tickets, eating Godfather's Pizza**, destroying the men's room, and furtively slamming the latest in our series of tall boy buys (I actually went in and bought a second, since we had been there for so long); and Mark managed to avoid all deer that got near us, including the one that jumped in front of the car. It was pretty much the lollygaggingest return trip from El Paso you could imagine, but there was no rush, and there was enough conversation about bowel movements (especially regarding my recent ass illness) to keep things light.

We did return to that gas station at the Bakersfield exit, but it had closed fifteen minutes earlier, so no clear determination as to whether or not the beautiful gas station employee--who Pike had straight dibs on, and Mark's old lady had lesbian dibs on--A) still worked there, or B) existed at all.

*As we were choosing to eat at La Malinche, Pike told us the story of La Malinche and expressed his admiration of the naming of the restaurant. While I'm not sure why they'd named it that, it is pretty awesome.

**I was especially pleased to find a Godfather's (albeit one in a gas station) in Ozona. When my siblings and I were but mere children in Cedar Falls, IA, we were treated to Godfather's almost every Friday night as our one night of eating out a week. Later, when we lived in Kansas, we would go after church. It has long since become nearly extinct, with only a handful of Godfather's still in existence, to my knowledge. I can only think of two that I have seen in the past ten years. One was in Moundsview. The other is in Ozona about 1500 miles away. I was truly shocked to find it.


Little Brother said...

I eat at the Godfather's in Winona about every time I'm there. St. Cloud has at least one, so maybe I'll stay here so you can eat at one. There are also more Taco Johns than anyone can keep track of, so maybe we can make a day of it...

Weibel said...

Where fun goes to die, Rochester, MN, has at least 7...after it is the city of strip malls, and every strip mall has to have at least one pizza delivery is a rule in most building permits.

Catfish Vegas said...

Fantastic tale of the El Paso show! I drove out there with a crew from Tucson. Check out my review and some other recent Waits stuff, along with great downloads.

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