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We leave New Orleans at 9:30 a.m. to drive what one friend calls “every bit of 10 hours” to Knoxville, Tenn. This drive takes us through the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and a corner of Georgia before depositing us safely in the Eastern Time Zone. In Knoxville—-which, in the words of the promoter, is in the grip of “two overlapping spring breaks” as well as the hangover from St. Patrick’s Day—-the streets are deserted. Luckily, I have purchased a Priceline hotel room for about $50. While Drummer J. and Fill-In Bassist C. roam Knoxville looking for adventure, Singer C. and I retreat to this hotel. Though Singer C. usually sits in the back seat of our minivan, I expect her to switch to the front seat when half of the band is absent. Yet, she does not offer to get in the front seat. Thus, I chauffeur her east on I-40 to a Best Western about 10 miles away.
At the Best Western, we are assigned a room that smells like an ashtray with one king-size bed. I ask the mulleted woman at the front desk if we can be assigned a room with two double beds that doesn’t smell like an ashtray. The answer is negative—-though the hotel still has vacancies, we must sleep in the room we were assigned. Thinking that my labelmates, who are also playing the show, may also need a room, I ask whether I can purchase a second room at the same Priceline discount. “There’s no way!” the mulleted woman exclaims, laughing. She explains that the cheap rooms were sold to Priceline months ago and, even though I bought my room from Priceline less than 48 hours ago, my friends cannot get the same rate.
In the ashtray-scented room, I watch an episode of The Walking Dead. The episode is bloody, and many die. I note that the deserted town in which the survivors battle the undead looks not unlike Knoxville.
We return to the venue at 10 p.m. I am starving. I learn that my labelmates planned to eat at a vegan restaurant, but decided not to when they found an EMT working on a patron who had apparently had a heart attack. I search for this vegan restaurant for about 20 minutes—-figuring that the emergency is over by now, whether it ended in death or not—-but can’t find it. Instead, I own up to the that I am no longer a proper vegan and step into a pizza parlor, where a young man behind the counter informs me that I can have a large pizza—-eight slices—-for $8, or I can pay $2.50 per slice. I pay $5 and eat two slices in 90 seconds, then order another. In this way, I pay $7.50 for four slices of pizza when I could have paid $8.00 for eight. I consider asking the young man behind the counter to sell me another slice for 50 cents and give me four more for free—-in effect, retroactively activating the $8 deal previously offered—-but suspect this request is un-American.
Meanwhile, at a vintage shop next to the venue, my labelmate is contemplating the purchase of a Farfisa organ. The organ is priced between $350 and $400. I suggest offering $300. My labelmate says that she did, then felt bad and offered $340. I comment that she is a terrible negotiator, but who am I too judge? I just paid $7.50 for four slices of pizza when I could have paid $8 for eight.
Back at the venue, about 10 people watch the show. The headlining band is called The Sniff. The guitar player burps into the microphone more than once. Generously, the clubowner pays my band $100. Like St. Teresa, he is immediately put on the fast track to canonization.