Sept. 29, 2004
Flagstaff to Phoenix, AZ
OK, so we didn’t go to the Petrified Forest or the Painted Desert. Well, we did, but it was in the middle of the night, it was closed, and there were no rest areas or truck stops with bathrooms for us to park and wait it out until morning. So Jarico drove 20 miles down the road to a gas station parking lot where we slept. Rather than backtrack, we eased on down the road to Flagstaff.
We were scheduled to have a day off and away from the bus, but once we got to Flagstaff (where we’re playing on Saturday), many of us didn’t go anywhere for a while. We didn’t even get down our bikes and ride.
After traveling for days on end, we had a touch of the ol’ Stockholm Syndrome — sitting inside our wheeled captor, eating lunch, drinking beer, and looking at each other dumbly, not knowing where to go now that the gates were open.
We finally cut the cord, split up, and unleashed ourselves on the tourists and college kids in the tony downtown district. We went to the Pay’N’Take and spent the afternoon drinking wine (Wine! Fancy!) and doing Internet stuff.
Of course, since we Cycleciders are pack animals by nature, everyone ended up at the Pay’n’Take eventually, and we all sat around drinking Pabst and thinking of new skits for the sideshow.
As always when we formulate new skit and bike ideas in a group, people talk at the same time and everybody’s vox volume gets turned up a few dozen decibels. The other mellow cafe-goers in the Pay’n’Take had no choice but to shut up and eavesdrop.
“No wonder people hate carnies, man,” Linda said. “We’re totally dirty and loud and obnoxious, and we never talk to anyone but each other.”
After Jarico cooked dinner and did an interview with a reporter from the local paper, Jeremy pointed the bus toward Phoenix and we all sat around telling really bad jokes until sleep-time.
We awoke the next morning with ears ringing and pounding headaches — we’d dropped 7,000 feet in altitude through the night and my melon felt like a pressure cooker. We blew our nose, and our ears squeaked and then exploded. Good times.
We deposited Metal Mike at the airport — “I feel like I’m getting out of prison,” he said — and lurched through the streets to the Icehouse.
The Icehouse in downtown Phoenix traps coolness. It’s a big, empty, brick-and-mortar alternative arts space with cavernous rooms, metal workshops, a couple live-work spaces, and a labyrinthine basement with hallways and offices. It landed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 1929, and back in the days before electricity and fridges, it was an ice storage warehouse.
Now, the old, enormous L-shaped building — owned by a very highly esteemed and gifted mathematical physicist — sits behind an artful fence made of rusted metal sheets in a deserted neighborhood.
Looming over the parking lot where we’re going to set up the rides, a 30-foot-high trompe l’oiel mural of clouds at sunset broadcasts serenity even as it points to the hot, blank-blue sky above it. Though we’re most likely going to lose money on this gig, after taking a look around the place and realizing it was to be our home for the next 3 days, we still experienced a collective and profound sense of yayness.
The college kids never leave Tempe, so we drove to the ‘burb to try to lure them out of their shells on a flyer-ride. We found that, instead of the hippie-arty enclave we always heard Tempe would be, the town has been nuked, paved, and completely overrun with chain stores in the past 10 years.
We were taking our first real bike ride since we embarked on tour three weeks ago, and we didn’t exactly want to sight-see in Applebee’s-landia, so after flyering all the tattoo shops and record joints, we cruised to some abandoned railroad tracks behind a gravel hill, threw rocks, broke every glass bottle in sight, and discussed strategies about the best way to climb inside the abandoned grain elevator towering over us.
But we had to go grocery shopping and then get back to unload the bus. Linda and this writer cooked a “Teenage Wife Dinner” (tomato soup, grilled cheese, and spinach salad) while the boys unpacked bikes and re-welded the bumper on the bus.
Che made a wonderful discovery — a “church room” in the back of the Icehouse, 50’ by 50’ and completely empty except for a white Victorian bathtub with a custom-made metal “claw foot” base — the “feet” being either eagle talons or dragon claws, not sure which.
So Che dragged over the garden hose and declared himself the first in line to take a “Goth Bath” in the full moonlight. All he lacked for his Goth Bath was soap — and I’m fairly sure this was a worse-than-it-sounds coincidence, but none of us had any.
Almost everyone took Goth Baths, and when it was my turn, it was time to go “flirt and flyer.” We vowed to get our Goth Bath on the next night.
that’s about how bright the moon was, too
We went on a long bike ride to the hip downtown Phoenix bars with our host Johnny, who not only bought us rounds of shots all night long, he also gave us $2 for the jukebox so we could have ourselves a high-school heavy-metal party while everyone else played Fooz Ball.
Jarico arm-wrestled a girl, so Linda arm-wrestled her for touching her man’s hand, and then Linda arm-wrestled us and we actually beat her both hands, which surprised us since she does Russian calisthenics and static trapeze.
The boys watching us arm-wrestle bought us drinks. “I’d already taken down three people before I got to her,” Linda bragged to them. She then demanded a rematch. “Later.”
We met this guy named Pablo who was half Irish and half Mexican (“so I’m angry all the time,” he quipped). He makes freak-bikes here in Phoenix, he told us.
After buying us a round, he reached under his seat, produced a small vintage Samsonite makeup case, opened it up, took out some scissors and empty El Pato hot-sauce cans, and made Linda and this writer both some custom El Pato bracelets on the spot. What a champ.
We learned that his four-year-old daughter tragically drowned in a swimming pool this past spring. Despite his extreme heartbreak, he still seemed noble, mellow, even-tempered, and generous — like a cholo leprechaun Buddha. We begged him to come to our show Thursday and bring his bikes.
We soon got the news that as a result of Koit and Laird being gay with each other on the swing bikes — racing around in tight double-helix circles on the street, trying to smack each other’s asses — Koit jackknifed at a high speed, fell on his head, and got a concussion.
(During the course of the day already, while riding, he racked himself twice and, because his bike has no brakes, ran headfirst into two different bushes.)
So the rest of our night in the bar was spent watching over him until we went home. He kept nodding off, and we kept tapping him and asking: “Who’s our president?” His answer: “You mean the real one, or the one they put in office?”
On the ride home, we lost Koit again when he raced ahead of us and straight past the Icehouse without noticing we’d stopped. We sent search-and-rescue teams, but to no avail.
Koit finally showed up an agonizing 45 minutes later — he’d gotten lost, jackknifed the Swing Bike again, hit his head even harder than the first time, lay dead-like and unconscious in the middle of the street for he doesn’t know how long, and then somehow found his way back to the Icehouse.
We sat him down out in the parking lot while the clowns rodeoed around and around on various bikes and other people gonged on an enormous metal fire bowl in the asphalt yard. Koit slumped over and passed out. We shook him awake, and then he puked.
That’s when we took the WINNER medal off our own neck and awarded it to him.
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