“Falling down, you can’t get up. Nothing left to land on.”
You know something’s queer when you not only drive up to the wrong motel, but you actually try your rented key at said lodging. Of course, the burly gentleman who “greets” you will quickly point out your mistake, but seeing a hairy belligerent clad only in his briefs will throw any straight American male into a frenzy of confusion and distress.
Despite these terrifying conditions, I had to drive. My only other choice was to sit in this strange parking lot, a dimly lit area where curtains were twitching as eyes peered from behind to investigate the commotion, and calls were probably already on their way to the local police. Luckily, I saw the receipt from my inn as I climbed back into the Pontiac, and therefore had a name to go on as I sped back onto the highway and into the early hours of November 24, 2002.
All this considered, I was still happy to be out of Ohio. Although the Cranberry exit is only about 30 minutes past the Ohio/Pennsylvania border, it was far enough to relieve the tension I’d felt swelling in the few days prior. Something was terribly amiss in the Buckeye State, and I wanted no part of it. What I sensed was not your healthy, soul-feeding revelry, for there is nothing wrong with a bit of intelligent chaos. No, what I smelled was foul, like the stench that comes from ignorant plebes when they’re cooped up in a frat house for too long.
Just before the fit hit the shan, I was told that Jeremy DeGroot was scheduled to perform at a pub just north of Pittsburgh on Saturday evening, so not only did I have a decent excuse to skip town for a day, but a damn good one at that. Mr. DeGroot embodies what drew people to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Joan Baez back in the 60’s; right down to the harmonica, Jeremy busts out a powerful acoustic show, needing no strobe lights or groove box to radiate his brilliance throughout his audiences. Jeremy puts thoughts together that would otherwise remain scrambled within our psyches, and conveys them in a potent yet unmolested manner. Just like Ryan Adams, Sage Francis, and the late Bradley Nowell, Jeremy speaks in Real lingo, in a tongue that our generation understands, and thus weaves remarkable imagery into the sounds he produces.
This is not Creed, nor is it metallica. It is Integrity that sets those punks apart from Tool and Aereogramme, the difference between the Strokes and Velvet Underground, and why Brittany Spears has nothing on Lauren Hill.
After securing my room for the night, I made my way down US-19 to Monte Cello’s, a two-part establishment with a restaurant on one side and a tavern on the other. I arrived around 10, and tried my best to act like one of those “cool guys” as Jeremy waited to do his Thing. I’m not much of a drinker, and in all honesty, I was looking for a chance to play with the little onyx bowl I had filled and waiting in my pocket. Since this is not Amsterdam, though, I played the Game, and a few drinks later I had practically forgotten about the evils that were brewing back in Ohio.
All was kosher until a group of young ladies walked into the bar- one wearing a red sweater. Now, I normally don’t care what folks dress like, but prior experiences in this town with vixens in red sweaters have kind of jaded me, and when I saw this one, I almost urinized my jeans. My palms grew sweaty and my mouth went dry, and I looked all over for a way to sneak out with Ninja-like stealth. “Get yourself together, man!” I yelled silently. “You came out here to chill, not to let some freakish bout of Yore snip your…”
“Do you care if we sit here?” a delicate voice asked. I shook my head and muttered something foreign as I offered up my chair to the very sight that had startled me. At the same time, Jeremy took the stage, and within minutes, I was relaxed once again. It was a profound dish of wit and lyricism that is rarely heard over radio waves of Today, but that’s the joy, I guess. Jeremy’s style isn’t some chic trend, some worthless tool to get attention just by playing a few cool-sounding melodies. There’s certainly plenty of that out there, but not many as real as DeGroot.
Although this girl seemed decent, I still couldn’t get the thought of sinister maniacs out of my head, and I occasionally found myself looking around for the legendary Lemonhead. Sadly, he was nowhere to be found, but all was safe regardless…at least, until Bo Jambles and Larry Sputnick of The Hud joined Jeremy for a few songs. This is when a shot of 1800 was quickly followed by a round of Buttery Nipples with the ladies, then another shot of tequila from some dude who liked my shirt. This quickly turned things Weird, and as the cats up front jammed away, I grabbed the closest seat and tried to gather my bearings. I remember them playing “Slinky,” but the other tunes escape me, and before I knew it, Jeremy was alone again, playing the infamous “Yo Mamma.”
The Buttery Nipples, there was something peculiar about those, now that I think of it…but at the time, I simply drank a bunch of water and figured my tolerance at fault. Jeremy continued for a while, as I guzzled several pitchers of water in an attempt to level myself out. However, things were growing rather feisty, and I began to hear all sorts of mixed dialogue that bore the tone of communist propaganda and rebel chatter from Oregon. When Jeremy finished, I decided it best to head back to my hotel, for by that time I had started seeing little munchkins dressed like panda bears scrambling across the barroom floor.
Back on the road, just 6.3 miles from my destination. On the way to my motel, I saw an SUV on the side of the road with its hazard lights flashing and smoke rolling from beneath the hood. As the vehicle still had people inside, I pulled over and walked to it, simply to offer my assistance. Just as I approached the driver’s door, a lunatic dressed in full football gear and brandishing a machete jumped out from the tail end, screaming, “you die, Wolverine gypsy!”
Right. As the rest of the occupants started to growl and exit the Forerunner, I figured that my help wasn’t needed, so I got back in my car and took off.
And if that wasn’t enough, I pulled into the wrong hotel parking lot.
I made it back to my room sometime around 3:30, and turned on the TV to suck out any awareness I had left in me. ESPN was on, and there was footage of looting and cars on fire as the reporter spoke of a sensational riot. Johannesburg? Los Angeles? Nope- this was in Columbus, Ohio. Yep, right there in the state’s capital, vehicles were burning, and the Man was dressed ready for chemical warfare. It even made CNN. Was this the repercussions of oppressive brutality dished out by the Government? Maybe a revolution was underway against the bourgeois? Maybe? Maybe?
The sad Truth is that this Mayhem went down after Ohio State University WON their game against Michigan. For those who have seen the twisted film Gummo, keep in mind that OSU is just an hour away from Xenia, and while the two may financially rest in opposite worlds, the general mentality is quite similar- bored troglodytes, getting rowdy on some drunken Ego Trip. You can dress a jackass in Abercrombie & Fitch garb and buy him a Mercedes, but in the end, he’ll still be a jackass, and if anything, he’ll eventually flip that Benz over at a frat party.
Pyromania should be ruled out of this one, for if that’s your calling, buy cars from the junkyard and blow them up in some deserted rock quarries. It’s actually a lot of fun, and with practice, you can make some pretty cool spectacles. If this were a grounded protest, I’d sympathize, if not cheer right along. However, these were not Zapatista activists trying to make the world a better place…they didn’t even lose the game!
As I found myself yelling at the television, my hand brushed against the piece of onyx that I had forgotten about in my pocket. Check out is in about 8 hours, and I’ll be heading home shortly thereafter. I turn off the TV, and enjoy the rest of my time in PA.