#313, Albuquerque, NM
On the road to Albuquerque from God-knows-where, Arizona, passing Meteorite City, the Petrified Forest, and a "Pet the ostrich" roadside attraction. Rolling through New Mexico on the old Route 66 where all the rest stops sound like country/western songs: Crazy Creek, Dead River, the R.V. and Horse Motel. Red rocks and the painted desert remind you of that song by the Handsome Family but the van is cranking out the Pretenders: "Standin' in the middle of my life with my pants behind me." Realize you're mishearing lyrics again and look out the window at the hand-painted sign. CACTUS STUFF / CLEAN RESTROOMS: EXIT 72.
The van pulls into Albuquerque and it's about a hundred degrees. A quick dinner at the Blackbird Cafe and then load-in at Burt's Tiki Lounge where band stickers and tattoo parlor ads plaster the doors and windows. There's no air conditioning inside, but that swirly fan in the ceiling, you're told, will cool you right down. Shoot some pool and drink the free beer while you wait for showtime. Everyone always wants to know what's up with the stage set and the painted white picket fences. Just smile and say, "Welcome to Balthrop, Alabama."
You've been on tour for three weeks and can't keep track of where you're sleeping anymore. A roadside motel, the floorboards of friends. But the next morning it's back in the van, listening to the Red House Painters, going over the show from the night before, that fantastic infernal romp. Cruising back onto Highway 40, stare in disbelief at the billboard on the entrance ramp that reads: "Hollywood Hotties: our slots put out." Pascal, behind the wheel: "Stay classy, Albuquerque."