Monday, January 21, 2008

Birmingham (day off)

The manholes of downtown Birmingham have steam rising from them 24 hours a day. I sleep late on our day off. In the late afternoon, Phil, Fresta and I head into town for food. We almost settle for Chick Fil-A, which is, in my opinion, a shitty meal on a day off, but providence reigns and it is closed. The Roots are on the stereo in the van. We persevere and find good barbeque. Fresta has never had Fried Green Tomatoes. We find a record store and music store where I get sticks. Jack Dijonette (sp?) and a weird mallet stick. (Both by Vic Firth for any drum geeks.)

For those who don't know, wash day on the road is serious fucking business. While we are out Travis wakes and asks that we pick up detergent. "What kind should I get," Phil asks me. "Why don't you call the olfactory genius," I say. Phil calls Travis back - liquid detergent with fabric softener. I suggest we stop at a market downtown but Phil waits until our only option is the gas station by the hotel. Fresta emerges from the mart, snaps a photo of a bumper sticker on a black woman's car that says "Forget the thrills, Dope Kills!", and shows us a box of powdered soap called Trend. Uh, oh. As Phil already knows, this is not going to bode well. When his assumptions are proven right, Fresta feels like he was set up to do the wrong thing, and Travis and Phil head back out for the right stuff.

Later that night Travis and I take a walk. We walk down dead end roads behind the hotel and talk about being kids. The air in Birmingham is warm like an Oxycontin buzz. Behind the gas station a black man is relentlessly hitting his crack pipe. "Poor guy,"Travis says. "He'll never get high off that stuff. It's meth that has the real high." Travis tells me more about Meth addiction than I ever imagined we might discuss. His awareness of the need and the consiquence of his addiction is scary - it has a kind of self-awareness that one could, if not careful, use to justify the drug as much as steer clear of it. But Travis is careful. "Being sober means telling the truth," he says. "If I don't stay with what is true, I'll get high. And then it's all over." We walk down Arkadelphia road to a truck stop. When we walk in, an older black man sees us, and with an air of recognition says, "Old Testament brothers! Born in fear!" I get an AC adaptor for the van, waters, and a live Gram Parsons cd. Emmylou Harris is from Birmingham.

Travis and I walk back and take the van out into the city. It doesn't take long before we are gloriously lost. We listen to Midnight Marauders, although I think we'd be just as happy with silence. We drive though poor parts of Birmingham with the windows down singing,"Suka nigga - Nigga Nigga!" We talk about drugs, porn, God, and being children, all subjects intersecting at various points of essence. "My old dealer will be coming to one of the shows," Travis tells me. "Will I know," I ask. "I won't tell you until after its happened." I believe the heat and air of Birmingham in the middle of the night would make the mind of anyone who has used turn to drugs. But the only crystal scored on this night starts with a K and comes on a square bun. We call Phil so he can lead us back to the hotel with his GPS.

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