Hand Grenade Job was on tour in the great American South and Northeast over the past two months. Over the course of the tour, HGJ’s Beck Levy chronicled her experiences on the road. After the first leg concluded, she came home for a short break before heading back on the road. Read previous entries here.
April 13, 2017: Day off in Montreal
Mary and I have tattoo appointments with Charline Bataille. Her place is pink and covered in her beautiful, weird, bright art. I want to live there. We listen to Snoop Dogg. Mary gets tattooed first. I love the sound and smell of tattooing, I guess it’s the smell of plasma? I also love the smell of gasoline, paint, and most solvents. But it’s no secret that I’m a sicko. When Char is finished with Mary, I hop up onto the table. While Char tattoos a bouquet of bright, veiny poppies on my left arm, Mary is getting her second tattoo of the day, a black, hand-poked tattoo from Samantha Garritano. This is what I wanted touring with Gauche to be like, happening just after our shows together are over. Mary’s band comes and picks her up. She’s playing in Providence tonight with Downtown Boys.
Now I’m alone. It feels surreal, but I left reality a long time ago. I navigate to a cafe that Sam recommended. I change my clothes in my car and freshen up with baby wipes, all in full view of a group of teens sitting on a nearby stoop. Walking down the street, I can’t stop thinking about how today the U.S. dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan. People probably can’t tell I’m American by looking at me, but I feel like I’m wearing a scarlet letter nonetheless. Isn’t it strange how people drive to work and go grocery shopping and go to the movies and walk their dogs after the MOAB just got dropped? Doesn’t it just seem like everything should grind to a halt? No matter how many atrocities I witness, firsthand or from afar, this shocks me still.
In the cafe, I order an espresso and a cardamom Earl Grey biscuit. I can say maybe ten words in French, and none of them are helpful. I feel so dumb and rude ordering in English.
I’m sure I sound like a wide-eyed child, but for real, everything looks more interesting and cool than in America. And the biscuit tastes better than any vegan/gluten-free pastry I’ve eaten before. I breathe deep, connect to WiFi, and catch up on texts.
April 14, 2017: Day off driving from Montreal to Boston
Breakfast: hash browns, beans, and fruit at a greasy spoon diner. Food just tastes better here. What are we doing wrong? My friend the polemicist Jules Bentley recently travelled to France and told me in an e-mail that American food is garbage and it’s disgusting what we’re doing to our bodies here. I thought he was being hyperbolic, because that’s kind of his thing, but after the past couple days that’s how I’m feeling too.
I don’t really want to leave Montreal, but the only constant in my life lately is that I keep going. So I go.
Approaching the border back into the U.S., I notice way more surveillance cameras and barbed wire than I did on the Canadian side. I’m bracing myself for a long ordeal, but I’m through in under a minute. Borders are brutality. What’s the opposite? My mentor Dan Moshenberg once told me that the opposite of prison is tenderness, citing Bessie Head’s Collector of Treasures for proof.
The horizon is periwinkle, the sky directly above my car is bright blue. There’s snow on the ground. Evergreens line the highway. In my rearview mirror, I see neon orange clouds.
When I left Montreal, while I was still on WiFi, I texted my Uncle Klark to tell him I was about to be on my way. He texted back with his address, which I clicked, and I set the directions from there. The maps app gave me options for three routes. I chose the second fastest because it looked more beautiful, going through a national park. When I hit the park, I roll down the windows and breathe deep. I can see a million stars but I mostly look at the road instead. In deference to the stars I put on Hum. The road is windy and pitch black. I pass some ancient looking cemeteries, and roads with names like “Richard’s Hollow.”
Eventually my GPS tells me that I’m 10 minutes away from my destination, which is weird because I’m pretty sure I’m in New Hampshire. I pull onto a gravel road and begin to suspect that something isn’t quite right. I look at my phone and sure enough, I’m at the right address in the wrong state. And since I’m in the middle of nowhere, my phone doesn’t have service. I try to retrace my path but I haven’t really been paying attention, just spacing out and looking up at the stars. The compass utility on my phone still works, and I try to use it to just drive south. I drive like this through the dark for about an hour, not seeing any signs for a highway. I slow down and just hold my phone out, trying to see if I can get even one bar of reception for new directions and to let Klark know what’s up. I find a bar. I’m not too far from a highway and Klark isn’t freaked out that I disappeared.
Klark isn’t really my uncle but my dad’s best friend, from childhood. Musicians have friendships that are a lot like family, so there are a couple people my parents’ age who I think of as aunts and uncles. Klark has just come from seeing The Magnetic Fields. It’s late but he sits up with me and I tell him about my journey. A herd of raccoons approaches Klark’s window and he grabs a box of cookies from next to the door, feeding them. Klark and his wife Sarah have an intimate relationship with the local wildlife.
They’ve set up a bed for me in the basement. On it I find a bathrobe, flannel pajama pants, and slippers. There’s also a drum kit set up, with a note handwritten on the snare. Klark tells me it’s from the drum tech for Hole. I go to sleep happy.
To be continued…