Mark Mallman tour diary, Vol. 10: The sea! The sea!

Categories: Tour Diary
Me in LA.JPG
The game is won on the field. Some bits of advice are impossible to follow to fruition. "The game is won on the field, Mallman." This is the kind of hodge-podge rhetoric that makes so much sense, you end up feeling like shit about yourself because you can never live up to it. Life is not won. If anything, death wins.

I first heard the saying when I was editing sports at the TV station nine years earlier. Mr. B came into my office. "Mark, I'm having troubles. I want to meet women, you seem to do well for yourself. Can you help me? I'm lonely." He was a stout man, and the stars were not kind to him. "I can't help you with loneliness, Mr B.," I said, and just that minute hit play on my tape machine. It was a sound byte from then Green Bay Packers quarterback, Brett Favre. "Well, you know, the game is won on the field," he said. I stopped the deck, turned my chair towards Mr. B, and just looked at him. "I guess Brett is telling you to start going to some nightclubs." But I couldn't help him with the loneliness.

I hadn't truly been alone, ever. Until now. Years of rock tours strung together into a ball of rubber bands. Dense. Coiled. I kept spacing that this might be a one way trip instead. My cousin, who is not actually my cousin, agreed to roll from Milwaukee to L.A. I met her eight years ago on account of her last name. "Hey, I have a cousin who is not actually my cousin, are you related?" And she said, "Yes, he is my cousin." So, when I mentioned to my friends we'd be stopping in Vegas, nobody asked if we had a thing, cause we're cousins -- but not actually. Either way, we didn't have a thing, which is why I asked her.

We split south through Des Moines for dinner. Then to Kansas City, and stayed up to the untold hour of sunrise drinking gas station boxed wine. I put a lampshade on my head. She deleted the pictures. Even though this wasn't a rock tour, I didn't know any other way to behave. I took to the highway without even a map, where late checkouts and wicked hangovers are commonplace. We put in a good 12 hours through Oklahoma rest areas and Texas truck stop buffets. Certain Econolodges are thumping on Saturday nights in Amarillo. I kept one eye out the window on the van. I quoted Laurence Olivier, "Is it safe? Is it safe?" My non-cousin insisted, "It's safe. It's safe." But it, and all the contents within, was everything I owned in the world. "Nothing is safe." I said under my breath. She rolled her eyes and read a New Yorker, I channel surfed. "What? It's true. We are an awful, malformed evolution. A mutation. Ooh, dirty cartoons!" She shut out the light.

Sunday, we stopped in Albuquerque for lunch with Little Bobby, a musician and Trekkie who speaks to his dogs in Klingon. For 10 years I'd shared New Mexico stages with Bobby's reckless, acid-induced bands. He has a studio in his living room. I gave a monologue about time travel. "We walked through the time door but it was to no avail. No, this time travel machine was calibrated precisely parallel to the same trajectory of time we were already on. It wasn't science fiction, it was science real." Bobby raised his eyebrows in disappointment. "It's not weird enough, Mallman." Was I losing my creative edge? On the way out, I passed a poster of my own face from 2005. It felt like the real me was dead forever years ago, and I was now the clone who killed him looking back.

The desert was a milestone of stones, and we didn't even need the air conditioning we didn't even have. At 8 p.m. I checked into the Luxor, Las Vegas. Snickering, "Two queens." Did I mean the beds, or us? We went downtown for steaks. Under the neon awning of Fremont street, a hair metal band was shredding "Round and Round" by RATT. Women in bikinis danced outside on bars and tables. The gin was overpriced, but the night was worth at least 13 dollars. A man dressed like a supermodel from a Robert Palmer video was half bent over near a garbage can. We decided to stay an extra day. I'd said before that rock and roll had taken me everywhere. But on the way to everywhere, I'd stopped in Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Times Square, Beale Street, Bourbon Street, and so on. No rock musician has the balls to be a trucker, no matter how bad ass they look in a CAT hat. Every rock band is a tourist. My non-cousin and I drank blueberry somethings in the hotel and lost all our nickels. I won't go into greater detail; just recount your own vacation and put me in there as well.

My non-cousin drove all Tuesday, I ate fried zucchini and read through scripts. We penetrated the Orange County line in the dark. Mr. B handed me the keys to the Santa Monica studio. My one-key life wasn't even a week long. We loaded into the large concrete loft, and I dropped the non-cousin at an airport Holiday Inn. "Good luck out here." Hug, but no kiss -- just shrinks away in the rear view mirror. I would spend my first night on a folding couch alone. And the next night. And the next night. Each day was a deeper solitude. And now I had windows, unlike the church basement. Already there was much work to be done. The studio needed to be set up with two composing stations because I would be working cross-platform. I blinked, and the sun was down. I scribbled "make it a point to catch the sunset."

Somewhere in the studio, a fire alarm chirped every seven minutes: "need batteries." I showered, then drove to Grauman's Chinese Theatre. W.W. was working on the latest Ryan Gosling/Rubin Fleischer flick, "Gangster Squad" there. The scene was a bunch of mobsters shooting fantastic blanks at extras. Highland and Orange were blocked off with caution tape. A crowd of women in painted-on dresses drooled for a far away glimpse of the heartthrob, Gosling. We were told to cover our ears. Kaplow, kaplam, kerplunk. The crew broke for lunch. W.W. and I went to the roof of the theater where some lights were rigged. He wanted to get some overhead shots of the set. I was standing on the most famous movie theater in the world with my fantastic friend of 20 years. Music had once again taken me to Los Angeles, but friendship gave it purpose. Woody Harrelson was visiting the set seven stories down, and Hollywood went on as planned. Drunk tourists swayed like palm trees at a bus top. A homeless caveman screamed "What's anybody's name!?" through the window of a pizza shop. Blocks away, the passenger door of a parked car flew open and an inflatable sex doll popped out. I passed it on my walk back to the van. A couple made out under the streetlamp. It was 1 a.m. "Should I go to a bar? Maybe I could fall in love for a couple hours?" I drove through Jack in the Box and ordered a breakfast burrito instead. I-10 East felt more like a schizophrenic synchronized swimming event than a freeway. I kept thinking of zombie movies. Possibly the only sober car in a 500 foot radius, it wasn't a virus at all the started the zombie apocalypse, it was flavored vodkas. Cake eaters will eat anything, but brain eaters are picky. Santa Monica would confuse them. Zombies. California drunk drivers aren't discreet.

When I pulled into the parking garage, a Siamese street cat was sleeping in a fat ball on the convertible top of a 2011 Porsche. The van was so very out of place amidst the luxury sedans of 17th and Broadway. He pranced out through a gate, and I thought "You and me cat, we're both pulling off this huge scam." All night, the fire alarm needed batteries. If I sleep through the fire, blame it on earplugs. "His body was burned beyond recognition, but once his earplugs melted out, he could hear the ambulance coming with the keen ear of a police dog."

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