Twelve or thirteen years ago, via MySpace, I struck up a correspondence with a Canadian musician named Edgar Breau. He commissioned me to do some art for a forthcoming CD. He didn’t use it.
But then, a few years ago, Breau was in town for a gig with his 70s band, Simply Saucer, and we met in person. He told me that he came upon my old cover design and realized to would’ve made a better cover than the photo he ended up using, so, for a time, the CD was sold with an insert of my cover replacing the other one. I was happy to have my work acknowledged.
A week or two ago I saw online somewhere that Simply Saucer was playing in Columbus with Cheater Slicks. It was on a Tuesday that I had nothing happening, so I texted Brian and asked to rent a car. Brian used to be my doorman at the bar Sundays, but his real job is at Enterprise.
I’ve driven to Columbus four times before; three of those to see Cheater Slicks. I knew the route via interstates but wanted to see if there were other ways to get there. Since I don’t use Google anymore and don’t have a smartphone, I tried the Apple Map app for the first time. It suggested a route which looked like more or less a straight shot down mostly secondary roads. I took out my notebook and copied out the directions.
After exiting I-94 at Valparaiso, much of the ride was through fields and small towns in Indiana and Ohio. It felt totally different than being on the big road, away from where people live. There were traffic lights along the way and little diners and gas stations. A few times, following my handwritten notes, I wondered whether it could possibly be the right way, but then the next road sign would appear assuring me I’d made no mistake. Somehow, I arrived at the Motel 6 in Columbus quicker than any other time I’d traveled to this town. I had to wait to check in behind an old lady with a small dog, who insisted that she needed a room with the headboard facing east rather than west. She also didn’t want to be in the pet-friendly section of the motel, as her dog was assuredly much cleaner than most humans, let alone other dog. She was sure they would give her dog fleas. The clerk humored her patiently, as did her husband, who came in after she left and apologized to everyone. The clerk told me she does this every week.
Cafe Bourbon Street, where I thought the show was happening, now has a thing called Pierogi Mountain within it. I was a couple hours early and hungry, so I gorged myself on dumplings with different fillings, then topped it off with something they call Hungarian Poutine. I washed it all down with Old Granddad and soda water. Tom said he’d be there around 8pm. Twelve years back—around the same time I was corresponding with Edgar—I’d driven my rented Yellow Cab to this same club to see Cheater Slicks’ 20th anniversary show. It looked much the same, aside from the pierogis.
I wondered why the stage remained empty, save for the DJ, as 8pm approached, then saw a chalkboard schedule to the side of the bar which indicated that the bands would be playing next door at The Summit. I gulped down the rest of my whiskey and went over there.
There were no pierogis at The Summit and the Old Granddad was a far less generous pour, though the two rooms shared a wall and a doorway. I watched a white-haired guy set up Simply Saucer merch. Tom came in a few minutes later and we talked for a bit. I went over and reintroduced myself to Edgar, who seemed really surprised to see me. He told me about a Russian coworker who believed in giants and told Edgar everything in the news was a lie. I told him that sounded like a typical Russian to me. Dave told me about what it was like traveling with the late Andre Williams, Tom told me Cheater Slicks were working on a new record, and the white-haired merch guy turned out to be Craig Bell from Rocket From the Tombs. It was a good night.
The show ended around 1am, I said my goodbyes, and drove back to the Motel 6 on Olentangy. The next morning I drove to Nancy’s Home Cooking for breakfast. I’d discovered it my last visit to Columbus. “The Food You Dream of in Jail.” After finishing my garbage omelette and grits, I went through the kitchen to use the bathroom. It was occupied, so I stood outside the door and looked at the stove, with a huge pan of home fries sizzling. The cook came back and asked if I had any kitchen chops, whether I wanted a job. For a second I pictured staying there and making breakfast for people for the rest of my life. Then the bathroom door opened and a lady came out and told the cook they needed more soap in there.
I dropped off a couple copies of the music book at Used Kids, where Tom works, then hit the road. I started on the interstate, but then decided to trace my steps down the back roads to Chicago. I only got turned around once or twice, but was back in time to catch The Devil, Probably up on the North Side. I had drinks with Ben and Tal at an obnoxious yuppie bar after, then dropped off the car and Divvy’ed home.
I’d only been gone a day and a half but it felt like forever.