Life with JOY

or

notes from the road

By Nick "Aeroplane" Peria

the players:

Vermont Joy Parade

Benjamin Strosberg -a.k.a.- Captain Bennypants

Anna Pardenik -a.k.a.- Fanny Ardeno

Galen Peria -a.k.a.- Duke Aeroplane

Ben Aleshire -a.k.a.- Jowles Endwell

Devin Robinson -a.k.a.- M. Lee Mason

Dan Fancher -a.k.a.- Jiggs Endwell

Taylor Smith -a.k.a.- The Mysterious Mr. Smith

Wyatt Beaudry -a.k.a.- Mr. Goodbody

Zeitgeist Apparatus II -a.k.a.- The Bus

 

guest staring:

The Bloodroots Barter

Casey Papendieck -a.k.a.- Poodledog

Laura Gregory -a.k.a.- Alias Unknown

Tyler Emery -a.k.a.- Crazy Loyd

Ishi Wooton -a.k.a.- Early Graves

Ramona -a.k.a.- The Dog

 

 

ACT I

enter the Parade

It seems only natural that this starts with a train. A train, a bottle of cheapish bourbon, and a

man in a three piece suit staring out the passenger car window. I only wish I had hopped it half-drunk

and looking long in the tooth, fleeing from the law, but you have to start small. Anyway, the train rolls

alongside the river down to Albany, the failing heart that is the capital of New York state.

I've been invited to tour with Vermont Joy Parade and I'm off to meet up with them, their fireapple

red school bus, their piles of instruments and dirty oldfangled formal wear, and that special etherrealm

of music they create which I can only describe as joy. Good old-fashioned clean wholesome joy.

Good old-fashioned, clean, wholesome, dark and seedy, down to the raw nerve, stomping good joy. The

kind of stuff that reminds you why rust-spots make an old car even more beautiful. The kind of stuff

that reminds you of a hat broken in with sweat and stale tobacco and maybe a few bloodstains. The

kind of stuff that makes baptist ministers lock up their daughters at night.

I meet the bus out front of Valentines, the nights venue, and its hugs all around. Then I'm

shuttled aboard where I mash my belongings into an already filled corner and toast to beginnings with a

a glass of moonshine offered up by the Duke of aeronautics, Mr. Duke Aeroplane himself. Then its brief

hellos and how've you beens and everyone vanishes like smoke rings in a stiff breeze. Around corners

and through doors and down alleyways, and to the laundromat where Jiggs Endwell has to dry the

clothes he washed a few days before, in whatever town that was.

I run across the street for a cheap can of beer and by the time I return the bus has attracted a

crowd, like ants around a sugar-cube. I meet Ricky Sticks who apparently has some sort of pull in the

area though I can't tell if he owns the bank next door, the venue itself, the entire city, or if he is just

another late-night freak, which seems more likely as he rattles away on an iron table with two

drumsticks lacking tips. He offers said sticks up to Miss Ardeno and says they are autographed, clearly a

mass market stamp from the factory, and Ardeno holds them for a moment and then hands them back.

The police show up shortly after and ask if he is bothering us and then tell him to go away. I'm mistaken

for a member of the band and I make the right corrections though I'll give that up in a few hours and just

smile and nod and say things like: yes yes I'm with the band, these are my kind of people, official

pressman you see, that's right drinks on the house, a doctor of journalism, traveling shoe salesman, and

so on.

The opening act starts inside and I sit on the bus and watch the various pre-act rights: dressing

to the gills in the cramped little hallway, guzzling glasses of water from the hand pumped cistern,

cooking a last minute dinner, plucking a melody on a three string gas-can banjo, tripping over the

seemingly endless river of footwear pouring out from the back of the bus. Then my ears flicker on

upward as the notes of a tenor banjo warp themselves around the metal walls, pouring out the venue

door like grease-fire. The Bloodroots Barter, who have been touring with the Joy Parade for the past

few weeks, have started their set. I guzzle the beer and eat a cigarette and sprint inside where, to my

complete and blissful satisfaction, I am literally blown to parts. Straight out of their holler in Kentucky

these guys and gal are a romping good time. The kind of deep-brooding bluegrass that gives you

goosebumps; stomping gloom like the pulse of blood behind the eyelids, like the hot flash of lightning

amidst the gloaming.

Then the Joy Parade takes the stage bleeding into the Bloodroots set for their last two numbers

and my feet begin to move in spasms that are hardly controllable. I find my way over to Mr. Goodbody,

traveling soundmanextraordinare/merchgal, and notice that he suffers much the same in the footspasm

infliction. So we spasm together, whilst others dance and bob and hop. As always when I see the

Vermont Joy Parade I'm in heaven on a stick and I remember just why these cats are so god damned

good at what they do.

The show ends beers are quaffed gear is schlepped and then its off to the local market-franchise

for late night grub fixings where an impromptu jam is held in the parking lot while waiting for Jiggs. A

few of the Bloodroots and a few of the VJPers rattle about instruments that were carried along, bang on

a parked car, beat out the rhythm on a suitcase of beer, and coax a passerby to sing a song, which he

does, and they all collaborate. People walking out of the market film it on their cellphones, stare with

their mouths open, but mostly just smile. Then its off to somebodys apartment where food is made and

poker is played until the wee hours, when some odd combination of music in the living room erupts with

flutes and keyboard and of all people ol' Ricky Sticks whacking on the hardwood floor. I am drunk and

sleepy and lose my money and walk my way back to the bus in early city dawn in a state of complete

content and climb atop the back-most bunk attempting not to stick my feet into somebodys face.

I awake in the afternoon and sit bolt upright slamming my head into the roof of the bus which is

about a foot from my face while laying down and it is ahundredandsomething degrees and my only

thought is, so, this is the whole sardine thing. And then, why do I smell Onions? A cup of coffee and the

morning search for a bathroom where the seat is attached to the toilet. Mr. Smith is over on the corner

busking with his dobro style guitar, wearing his thick tinted sunglasses and black hat, mouth slightly

open, staring slightly up, looking rather blind. Perhaps that is why his case is full of crumpled singles,

but more likely its the guitar playing doing it. Off to find some potable water to fill up the two five

gallon jugs with Mr. Goodbody. When we return M. Lee Mason asks me if I want to learn how to pump

grease, a handy knowledge when traveling in a bus that runs on the stuff. When its finished I smell like

french fries, I have a slight hangover still, I'm wearing the suit that I slept in, and am quite certain the

construction workers from the next-door sight are giving me crooked glances.

Captain Bennypants and Early Graves are lost somewhere out in the city looking for tattoo

supplies, Miss Ardeno and the Duke are cleaning up the bus, Mr. Smith is busking, Jowles is nowhere to

be found, Jiggs is still asleep, Mason is covered in grease, and we were supposed to leave town over and

hour ago. The first meltdown, I am quite certain, is imminent.

And like clockwork a wooden shelf launches from the bus door and explodes into pieces on the

sidewalk. “Why is all this shit piled in the way of things we need to get to on a daily basis,” “we were

supposed to leave an hour ago,” “do we really need to get more grease right now,” “we're never going

to make it on time for the show tonight,” “where in the hell is Benny and Ishi,” “its a big score guys, over

a hundred gallons,” “you've just been puttering around all morning,” “fuck you, I've been doing things

that need to get done,” “your an asshole that's what you are,” “the bus was filthy so I spent all morning

cleaning it.” Swearing fills the air, people storm off in different directions, the bus sits still.

Within a matter of moments everyone reappears, hugs, apologizes, explains their viewpoint,

and calm, shaky on-edge calm, settles. I am amazed that something that sounded like serious ruffles in

the feathers of the day is over so quickly. When you live down to the bone on a bus with a group of

people who all have their own eccentricities and ticks a common medium must be reached, and must be

reached quickly. Life on the road must prevail and carry you on. A group of musicians more like family

than any sort of collective is surely a leap, rather than a step, in the right direction.

ACT II

welcome to Oneonta, welcome to jail

We're rocketing down interstate 88, reaching cruising speeds of sixty miles and hour down hills

and somewhere around forty up them. “That was good oil, the bus is running smooth,” says Mason

from the helm, and with each bump everything rattles and pops, books fall from shelves, possessions

roll this way then that. I smell sage, tobacco, and listen to small clumps of conversation. Everything

here is measured in bus miles; if you can get there in two hours by car then we can get there in

somewhere around three hours by bus. That is, of course, if we don't stop at some side-road store or

haberdashery, where everyone rockets off the bus as buckshot. This seems most likely the reason that

bathroom breaks are taken on highway off-ramps, where we roll to a stop and people emerge from

places you didn't know there were people, from bunks and closets and underneath heaps of blankets,

walk off into the tall grass to stand, or squat, and piss.

We arrive in Oneonta, at the house where the music is to happen, about and hour late, and a

sense of uneasiness sets in. The owner of said house had listed several things in an email about the

night which should be repeated here, and are as follows: there was to be a barbecue with food which

we were welcome to eat, there were to be kegs of beer the money charged for said beers was to be the

bands payment for the night and to suckle at we were more than welcome, and finally, this was to be a

party, a live music event, there would be people, and not just a few. All of these were dirty lies.

Of the five to six people seated on the porch of the house no one really greets us or welcomes

us or acts even slightly as though we are expected. So we mull about in awkward circles, smoke, roll our

knuckles, bend our knees, make our dinners, change our clothes, dust our hats, tie our ties, brush our

zooms. At some point or the other somebody happens along and mentions that the owner of the

house, the ringmaster of the nights festivities, is in the process of writing a term paper and should be

down in an hour, no more than two. The black clouds of foreshadow turn to tar-black molasses and the

uneasy feeling in the gut turns more toward the first rumblings of the nerve-shits.

Mr. Goodbody, the Duke, and I, walk down the hill to a local convenience store. Our attire

draws eyes, as if three men in suits rarely amble about the streets of Oneonta. Its almost as if you can

hear the clucking of old women as they peer out from behind the drawn shades and sigh and make a

mental note to double-bolt the door before going off to bed. Everyone we see is invited to the party,

the people on porches, the random passerbys, the whole sorority on the porch across from the store, all

those who make no eye contact. Jowles and Captain Bennypants whiz by in somebodys car and wave,

we stick our thumbs out, but they are past us. Cheap canned beer, cap guns, a few cases of ammo, and

dull coffee that with creamer added is still translucent and tasteless is all we come up with. The chubby

fellow behind the register is invited to the party and after a long study of our identification he smiles

politely and seems uninterested. On the walk back the Duke contemplates why he bought such a large

cookie that will only leave him feeling ill.

I shoot a few people back on the porch along with Poodledog who fains death and slumps like a

sack of wet noodles to the lawn. A few gunfights and someone plucking a guitar. Time snails on. No

word comes. The Bloodroots take command and begin to pile their gear into the living room, cleaning it

first of the nasty bits it contains: turning couches atop one another, pushing refrigerators into halls,

plugging in mood setting lights, setting up the bone rack, the beer can microphone stand, the other

bourbon bottle one. I get on the bus and smell fried onions, mushrooms, sausages, and open a tallboy

and listen to Fanny play the squeezebox accompanied by Crazy Loyd on guitar. Jiggs keeps asking

people if they have seen the scissors and when no one has he grumbles and sighs and keeps upturning

things in his search. A dozen minutes later, having found the lost scissors, he comes out from the bunk

area and proudly displays the word COLLEGE masking taped in an arc across the front of his suit-vest.

Inside the Bloodroots play mainly for those of us traveling with the Joy Parade and two or three

other people who talk loudly over the music to be heard and also through the window to those sitting

on the porch too lazy in all their stoic college glory to come inside and listen to the ruckus. So the

Bloodroots bring it to them, moving out onto the porch to stomp and hoot, garble and grunt. I walk

about the crowd with a microphone and dangle it in peoples faces and ask them things like: “so what do

you all think,” “is this the cats pajamas or what,” “buy a CD,” and I receive answers like, “this is

fantastic,” “where are you all from,” “I don't know,” and, “is there any beer here?”

The Joy Parade start the number It Might as Well be May and get a good fire built underneath it

just as the shit hits the proverbial windmill. Out of seemingly nowhere there are flashlights on the porch

and I look behind me to see two police cars with lights a blinking parked curbside. My gut reaction tells

me to run and run fast, my brain tells me that I have done nothing wrong, the seven or so beers I've had

and the microphone in my hand tell me to stick around, things might get interesting, a run in with the

law requires keen observation and an instigating disposition.

It all happens fast, too fast to tell what exactly is happening too fast. Mr. Smith, Fanny, and the

Duke are suddenly in handcuffs and being pulled from the porch by a mancop and a womancop. Mr.

Goodbodys camera starts to go off like fireflies in July and I dangle my microphone in front of the police

asking what the charges are to which I receive no answer. The crowd boos loudly and a roaring cheer of

ENCORE sweeps through it as a half dozen more squad cars arrive as backup and I realize now that a

good deal of people actually showed up once the music came outside. “Parties over,” says the mancop.

“Go home, everybody go home,” says the womancop. “If their a drinkin' then ID em,” says the mancop.

“BOOOOOO,” says the crowd. “What are the charges,” says the crowd. “These are professional

traveling musicians,” says somebody with us. “Take me too,” says Jowles. “No warning was ever given,”

says the crowd. “We don't need to give one,” says the manwomancop, and then, “who owns this

house?” “I do officer, but I was trying to get them to stop.” “Well, your under arrest too,” and the little

boy who owns the house cries and goes to jail. And everyone left goes inside and feels sore from being

fucked.

Everyone paces about with the shakes, one or two take a long dull tug at a bottle of whiskey,

chain smoke, say things like, “lets burn Oneonta to the ground.” Mr. Goodbody and Jowles go viral on

the interweb sending off emails into the void and posting pictures, asking people to call the police

station and demand that the Joy Parade be released. We pass the tip hat for bail money and a few

people laugh thinking its a joke, it comes back with seven or eight dollars. Somebody says, “sorry man,

this usually doesn't happen,” the usually tossed in there to mean that it has happened before, but if I

were a betting man, well hell, I'd bet that it wouldn't happen.

A few angry hours later Mr. Smith, Fanny, and the Duke are back on the porch, rescued by

Bennypants, set loose on bail for committing the horrendously vile crime of noise. Thats right boy-o, the

official ticket, scratched in with pen, right in the section left blank and labeled violation, penned in with

mancop chickenscratch, with all the classy flow of a first graders traced alphabet test, reads simply,

NOISE. Mr. Smith is angry, and rightly so, he paces uneasily and talks about how something so asinine

has yet to happen to him before. Fanny keeps to herself and smokes. The Duke says things like: “I

thought for sure I would get back and you would be baking a cake with a file in it,” and “how do you

arrest a man playing a waltz,” and “I only wish my hat was full of confetti when they took it off down at

the station,” and “It was the highlight of my musical career. I feel great.”

It only makes sense that this sort of crap-shoot happens in our bleached asshole suburbs and

towns and cities and metropolises, these places that bring back the taste of heavy bile vomit to your

mouth. These places where it is all too obvious how tightly wrapped society and all its makings are,

twisted about itself as though some sort of demented, hellish screw. It would seem as though there is

no place for joy. No place for anything beyond the regular, nothing extra-ordinary. The police have the

power and you best not question it, their authority is King. You might just as well occupy your closet.

ACT III

Crazy Loyd finds some doughnuts, Mr. Goodbody finds the bog, the plague finds the bus

The nice thing about a garbage bag full of doughnuts is that if you happen to bite into one and

find you dislike it you can simply toss it aside and go for another. We are sitting here on the bus in the

parking lot of a serious chain-hotel some odd miles outside of Oneonta with a contractors bag filled up

with garbage doughnuts that Crazy Loyd found in some back-alley dumpster and brought back to us in a

shopping cart, and its a free for all. Someone boards the bus, sees the bag wedged between the two

booth seats of the dinning nook table, smiles, grabs one or two or ten, and then goes and climbs

through the window of the one room that was rented for the thirteen of us to take a shower.

For some reason I'm given one of the two beds in the room as everyone else would rather sleep

on the bus in their bunk, or on the floor like Loyd, or out in the van in some anatomically incorrect

position with Ramona like Early Graves. In the morning I make my way about the hotel looking for the

free coffee that I know is set out in some little trafficked corner. I pass by Poodledog, Laura, and Mr.

Smith floating about in the pool. Early Graves is in the lobby at the coffee station and mentions there is

talk of sticking around until the bowling alley opens. Outside Crazy Loyd has wheeled his doughnut cart

to the lobbies curbside and is debating putting a sign on it that reads: free continental breakfast. The

Duke says he will play the accordion next to it.

Back on the bus Fanny mentions that the chambermaid came to the door twice while she was in

the room and told her that checkout time had passed by an hour. No one knows where Jiggs is. Captain

Bennypants fires up the bus engine, which has the effect of a dinner-bell or maybe even an air-raid

siren. It's the warning that you have a ten minute window while the bus heats up. If your off about

somewheres, buying some last minute junkfood, doing laundry, busking, looking for water, having your

shoes shined, playing the accordion in front of a shopping cart full of garbage doughnuts, and you

happen to hear the bus engine start, you best make it back in that ten minute window.

“Where in the hell is Jiggs,” says somebody. “I saw him headed to the shower,” says somebody

else. “Are you kidding me, we already checked out,” “we were supposed to be out of the room an hour

ago,” “maybe he's just gone for a swim.” I look out the front window and spot him. He's crawling out

the hotel room window with just his pants and suspenders on, wet hair, with a towel under one arm. He

comes aboard and its all smiles. “The housekeeper came in the room while I was getting out of the

shower so I ran and jumped out the window.”

Down the highway we go, slowly up hills and slightly less-slow down them. I sit up front and

watch the landscape slide on, hilly farms, meandering creek beds, everything a dull brown with little

green, the undulating swath of farmland that is mid-state New York. I take notes and watch bus life but

mostly just doze on and off, dreaming of barbecues and french fries and po'boy fish sandwiches, the

olfactory response to sleeping on a bus pumping out recycled grease fumes.

Night falls once more as I sit by the hissing bonfire and drink my beer with my mouth. The

Bloodroots have connections up here near Plattsburgh and have put us up for the night on an old thirtyseven

acre farm pocked with walking trails and fields, home to a bulldozer made pond and a small

cabin, a dozen or so miles southwest of the city, owned by a friend of theirs, a fellow named Eric. The

swordfish, bell-pepper, squash, and potato kabobs sizzle and pop as they drop their oils to the fire,

watched over by the tentative eyes of Poodledog and Laura. Jowles stands nearby and stares, most

likely wishing we had oysters as well.

Inside Early Graves is working intently with little rush on a new tattoo for Captain Bennypants

with the supplies gathered in Albany. Mr. Smith plunks along on the gas-can banjo, Mason works on a

beer as we talk of carousels and carnivals hidden deep in the forest, Eric and Loyd work on a stew of

magic proportions, Fanny calls it a night to get some rest as she is feeling under the weather, all awhile

the tattoo gun hums its soft bumblebee hum. The cabin is sparse yet storied, filled with the odds and

ends of what I imagine is a life well lived: a shelf full of bones and rocks; the jaw of a fox, a nugget of

quartz, a deer femur, a lump of feldspar. In the corner is a cider press, on the windowsills dozens of

potted plants, stacks of cds and books, musty blankets and rugs, a bizarre forced air wood stove that

looks as though it would send you back in time if you happened by too close.

We eat by the fire as the Duke strums the six nylons and pass the paper bag that holds the

bottle. Mr. Goodbody grunts, grunts again, has a splash of whiskey, and then heaves a solid log onto the

fire. If the flames reach lower than five feet he is unhappy and piles on more wood. We chat and

smoke, handrolls readyrolls a pipe here and there, take a pull from the bottle, open a beer, take a bite of

swordfish, hum and haw and seem all in all in a good place of mind and body. Poodledog mentions the

notorious, in these parts at this place, night-walk, and Eric becomes animated. “Who's in,” he says, and

after a brief description, a walk through the woods with no lights, just nearly everyone says, “me.” “Its

at least a two beer walk,” says Eric, “so stalk up.”

We're in the woods now, in the dark with not a light lit, walking mostly two by two. I feel happy

and at home as this is my sort of gig, something I do often and find solace in the fact that there are

others who enjoy a pitch-black ambulation through a dense thicket of trees with a group of kindred

relations. I'm not exactly sure who I'm talking with but they happen to share my like of Neil Young as we

have been talking about him for the past four or five minutes. In the silence you can hear a

whippoorwill, treefrogs, bullfrogs down or over or up in the pond calling for a mate. Every so often you

also hear that unmistakable metallic snap of a fresh beer being opened so I assume we must be halfway

there, wherever there may be. “There's a bog up here somewheres, so whoever is leading us keep an

eye,” says Eric. Suddenly there is yelling and the snapping of branches as something, or somebody,

moves away from us fast. A headlamp snaps on and Early Graves is down a small hill, wrapped in thorny

brush, laying on his back in the mud. He rejoins us and the light goes off. We keep walking. “I feel like

some sort of infant toddler,” says Jowles.

A few minutes later I rush up the ranks to the leader, Mr. Goodbody, and we match our steps.

“You see that asshole over there,” says he. “Who,” says I. “That asshole, right over there,” he

pauses, “that asshole over there being a prick.” I chuckle and let him go ahead ten or twenty yards, hard

to tell in the dark. We walk onward, Goodbody in the lead, and I hear a splash, followed by a shkalunk,

followed by another splash, followed by “I found the bog,” from Mr. Goodbody. I turn on my headlamp

to see the damage. Goodbodys wingtips are covered in gunk, as are his ankles, his pants, and nearly his

knees as he removes himself from the gumption. “Funny thing is,” he says, leering into the

lamplight, “these aren't my shoes.”

Back at the fire. The Duke, Fanny, and Bennypants have all gone off to bed claiming that they

feel ill. Jowles and Poodledog are inside blasting jazz and trying to catch each others darts as they whip

them at the board on the wall. Mr. Smith seems to have vanished somewhere along the walk. By the

fire Mr. Goodbody, Eric, and I have managed to stumble the conversation into the narcotic of empire, of

time, of police states and the protection of eggs. “Where's Mr. Smith,” I say. Goodbody pulls off his

caked socks and lays them fireside to dry. “But really,” he says, “if you think about it. Take the

revolutionary war, there were people with guns taking over forts. There are no forts to take over

anymore. The camera is our gun. Microphones are guns. The internet is a weapon.” “Where's Mr.

Smith,” I say, “did he come back with us?” “I know what you mean,” says Eric, “five thousand years ago

I wouldn't be sitting here with a bunch of strangers. I have my eggs and I have my beer and they are

mine. I'd be saying, who in the hell are these people traveling from so far away to here. We wouldn't

be doing this.” I'm uncertain as how to put these two statements together so I say “where's Mr.

Smith?” “Emotions are like making a stew,” says Goodbody, “mind if I bum a smoke,” says Eric. “Where

the hell is Mr. Smith,” “at first you add too many spices,” “thanks, I don't smoke all that often so I don't

buy them,” “but if you let it sit awhile, the second taste is great.” “Hey guys,” says Mr. Smith as he

walks up to the fire.

ACT IV

bus votes, cheeseburger tattoos, drinks on the house

The foggy haze of morning and the taste in my mouth is reminiscent of cheap tin and even

cheaper kerosene. My back aches and I find I've passed the night in my greasy fartsack on-top of a fortyfive

pound free weight, my head somewhat under the ripped out backseat of a minivan on the corner of

the front porch. Fanny and Laura sit down by the still smoldering fire drinking coffee, Captain

Bennypants and Mr. Goodbody are in the lawn doing odd stretches, Bennypants clothed, Goodbody in

his underwear.

I decide to take my cup of coffee for a walk about the property to clear my head and I run into

people all over the place. Sitting up on the roof of the bus Mr. Smith plays slide guitar, Mason is busy

trimming Crazy Loyds hair, down at the pond Early Graves plucks his tenor banjo, Poodledog is walking

about with his mandolin. Out back in the old hayfield I run into Eric looking for his cat. We walk

together for a short while and he tells me a brief glimpse of his life. A migrant worker who moves with

the seasons, down to Texas and the Midwest, plants trees, works the cornfields. He does it mostly in a

little black bus converted into a home on wheels. “That's how I bought all this,” he says and waves hand

out over the field.

On my way back I hear the bus wheeze into life and know it is time to go. I grab a few budded

sprigs of sweet-birch to chew on, mash my belongings into my bag and then mash my bag into other

peoples belongings on the bus. What the Duke has said rings true, something along the lines of, “we

sleep like rats with all our possessions gathered around us.” There are two different shows tonight in

Plattsburgh and as we bump and pop and rattle along down the road the conversation turns to what we

should do after them. Jowles grips the wheel and takes quick glances into the rear view mirror. “So

who thinks we should go to Burlington tonight?” “No way man, if we go to Burlington people are going

to disappear.” “I really think we should.” “Its going to be real late and some people can't sleep well

when the bus is moving.” “Yeah, have you ever tried to sleep in one of the top bunks when we're

blasting along?” “I just think it would be a good idea to get there.” “Lets just stay at Eric's place again

tonight and get up early.” “Like theres a chance in hell that will happen.” “If we set a time to be ready

to leave by then people will be ready.” “Has that ever happened before?” “Does the ferry even run all

night?” “If your not ready by ten o'clock tomorrow then I'm giving you a tattoo. Of a cheeseburger.”

“Let's just vote on it.” “All for going to Burlington?” “Okay that's four.” “All for not.” “Okay that's five.”

“Wait a minute, to Burlington or to Wyatt's place?” “Wyatt's.” “Okay, I want to change my vote.”

“Wait, what are we voting on?” “Guys its really hard to hear whats going on up here, will someone relay

whats going on?” “Does anyone know where we are going?” “Where did the directions go, they were

taped right there on the back of the seat?” Mr. Smith pulls a waded, torn paper from under a blanket,

looks it over, then assures Jowles we are still on the right road. The votes end up going in favor of

staying at Erics place again, though I'm uncertain if thats what people were really voting on. By the third

round I stopped putting my hand up. Captain Bennypants gets up and scrawls TEN O'CLOCK OR

CHEESBURGER on the schedule board hanging above the drivers seat.

We arrive at the alleyway between the nights two venues, the ROTA art gallery and the

Monopole bar. I help Mr. Goodbody schlep the sound gear to the upstairs of the bar as the Bloodroots

and the Joy Parade play brief sets at the ROTA. We set up and do a sound check; is the light green, yes,

is that light green, yes, wait no its red, turn the nob down until its green, plug that in there, and this in

here, and that over there. While we set up the bartender, kind soul, informs us that drinks are on the

house tonight and the silly notion that I was going to avoid imbibing this evening goes right down the

gutter.

Two pints later I'm down by the bus listening to Mr. Smith play the trombone. Mason practices

a few licks on the resonator over by the dumpster while the Duke changes into his suit using the side

mirror as a looking glass/clothes hanger as people walk in and out of the bar. Jiggs sits up on the hood

and drinks coffee from his mustachioed mug, Bennypants and Fanny look ashen and complain of not

feeling well, the Bloodroots start piling their bones and racks and instruments upstairs. Over by their

van there is some sort of Tesla experiment gone horribly awry; dozens of multicolored cables pouring

from a hole in the brick tangled in vines, some simply ending, others seemingly going straight through

the pavement, under a bulge of moss, into a steel basement door. I half wonder if the thought police

are on the other side grinning into their headphones as I make my way inside past two college age

fellows, one saying to the other, “there are way too many beards in there.”

The Joy Parade have started their heaven-sent cacophony of the night as I sit here at the bar

with a foamy pint and scribble notes. I look into the mirror behind the carnival glass colors of liquor

bottles and smile at the fact that I am still in the same suit I wore back in Albany. The crowd tonight is

into the vibe. I can tell by the way in which they move, as if electricity is pulsing just below their skin.

They bob and sway and hop and hoot as the Joy Parade, in all their antiquated garb and glory make the

airwaves ring. And as I watch my reflection reverberate to the count of the upright I can't help but think

that this is right as rain. Come hell or high water these people are the real deal, and what they are doing

is vastly important. To hell with the endless march of so-called progress, screw the political shit-slide

that is corporate America, piss on the bipartisan platform. If capitalism is weighing you down, then its

high time to occupy reality. And the Vermont Joy Parade has a stronghold, not just in their music but

also in their individual lives, on just what it is to be authentic. And when it all comes crumbling down, as

surely it must, I'm certain they will be inspired to play a dirge as it burns. Perhaps I can sway them into

calling it There Goes the Fucking Farm.

With a fresh pint in hand I decide to step out for a quick smoke and run into Eric on the way,

detouring back to the bar for the shot he offers to buy me. “These guys are wonderful,” he says while

leaning in over the bar and then asks if I mind if he joins me for the smoke, saying “we should go back to

the old entrance, you've got to see it.” We pass through a door that is clearly labeled DO NOT ENTER as

well as FIRE EXIT ONLY and KEEP DOOR LOCKED to a concrete slab landing at the top of a flight of stairs.

Running alongside the left hand of the stairwell the old brick of the building is exposed and crumbling to

a chalky powder. “This place was built around the time of the revolutionary war. It's amazing isn't it, to

think of how storied these walls are.” “Old building often outlast their creators by a long shot,” says I.

“There's a law office down the road with a cannonball stuck in the wall. A god-damned cannonball.”

I'm about to say something in response to this about music and other art forms, including architecture,

having a sense of timeless wonder when the steel door I'm seated next to bursts open and smashes me

in the kidney leaving a sweltering ache. The bartender sticks his head in, “oh shit, sorry man. The door

sticks so I kick it open. And you guys can't smoke back here.”

The Joy Parade/Bloodroots encore ends and I help pack up gear and once again schlep it onto

the bus. If you haven't ever tried to carry a keyboard stand, two boxes of foot-bells, and a snare drum

down a steeply pitched set of narrow stairs while slightly drunk it is an enterprise I recommend avoiding.

In the alley people mingle and stumble and stand around. Upstairs last call is called and served. On the

bus a weird sideways version of mathematics and geometry is carried out as we open hatches and try to

stuff irregular shaped items into nooks that are too long or too short. The bus engine explodes into

being. Mr. Goodbody has vanished. We wait half an hour then circle through town twice looking for

him, then surrender him to the night. Once more we rattle down an old country road, under the pelt of

stars, in this crazy time-machine of a home.

ACT V

homecoming

The morning after the Monopole show and we are on the ferry to Vermont, no one with a fresh

cheeseburger tattoo as everyone was ready to depart on time. I must admit I was tempted to see what

came about if I happened to board the bus and hour late, but best to let some things stay unresolved.

While sitting on the ferry, watching the breakers of lake Champlain toss and foam about the bow, I can't

help but think of old Homer and his Odyssey, and wonder if some malevolent godly force will blow us off

the map. I've often thought of the bus, the Zeitgeist Apparatus II, as some sort of vessel at sea while

traveling about on it, and sitting here on the hood, as it is carried from shore to shore of a somewhat

large body of water, only adds to the fantasy. We rock and weave with the waters below us, all the

earthly possessions of these good people with whom I travel rolling to and fro. I mention the Odyssey

above because more than anything, this ferry ride represents a homecoming. The following days collide

together like a head on collision of memory and time. What happens next comes in flashes:

We arrive in Burlington and there is a mad rush to gather the supplies that only this good city

can provide. Then a last minute show at the Hilton down on the waterfront, where I eat cheap greasy

pizza for the third day in a row and make a mental note to consume some greens sometime soon. A

comical site these sweaty stinking (of odor not soul) musicians piled together at the top of a set of stairs

near the lobby with its gold-trim and chandeliers and where the price of a room is slid across the

counter on a folded strip of paper to you if you happen to be the kind who is curious about such

matters. Afterward Jowles and Mr. Smith find the pool and I go off to find some cold medicine.

The drive down to Middlebury. Jowles says, while looking over at the High Peaks across the

lake, “you know what the best thing about New York is don't you. The view from Vermont.” That night

the Bus Plague hits hard with Captain Bennypants sick, Fanny sick, the Duke sick, I sick. We stock up on

herbal remedies at the co-op, throat sprays and tea-tree drops and supplements of all shapes, colors,

and sizes. The show at 51 Main where Bennypants plays one number then goes of to bed, the Duke

collapses afterward, and to which the Ticonderoga chapter of Joysticks shows up in mass.

Sleeping on park benches, pissing under bridges. Trying to sleep on the bus as some god awful

frat party happens up the hill and I can't seem to find where I stashed my ear plugs. Tying my boots and

socks to the footstep on the outside of the bus to air out the stench, Fanny giving me the present of a

bottle of baby powder, every time I step too hard a white plume explodes from my feet. We swim in a

waterfall on the outskirts of Middlebury in the icy early Spring water. I drink a cold beer and float in the

stream. Jiggs is left behind and then left behind again. That night the show at Middlebury College

where we raid the food palace as Early Graves calls it. Crazy Loyd is handed a mason jar while on stage

full of clear liquid and orange peels and asks what it is. “Orange peel water,” says somebody and he

takes a pull and says “tastes like fucking moonshine to me.”

A brief intermission as the Joy Parade heads to Canada and I have to dismount as my passport is

expired. I wait to meet up with them two days later out front of the Radio Bean, drinking a thick

oatmeal stout and listen to a band that reminds me of the Beach Boys. I get back on the bus and its as if

I have been only gone for the length of a decent nap.

That night down at On The Rise in Richmond, Goodbody and I mull about the bus and a fellow

comes over for a chat, looks at the bus, is inspired by the fact that it is a moving home. “Most people

don't understand what people go through to bring them art. Especially musicians,” he says. During the

show Jowles passes the tip hat into the audience and says, “we are proud to still believe in the best

nation on earth,” a random cheer, “that's right ladies and gentlemen, the do-nation.” Later on the

money is divided up and comes out to seven dollars a person and a pool starts to go and buy cheap

beer. We drink it in Mr. Goodbodys kitchen and then go off to sleep where we see fit. In the morning I

look over from the couch I passed the night on to see Jiggs sleeping in his three piece suit, with shoes

still on, in the shape of a banana on a couch that is far too small.

The next afternoon I randomly run into my good friend Rome Waters who I thought was still

down in New Orleans. We hug and cheer and he is invited onto the bus and comes for the night down

to Nutty Stephs in Middlesex for Bacon Thursdays. The Junktiques bus pulls in and unloads a denizen of

folks as Jowles stands patio-side with a plate of bacon, a bowl of melted chocolate for dipping, and a

schooner of red wine. Bennypants plays most of the show standing atop a piano bench and occasionally

yells things into the crowd with gusto, getting down only to balance Fanny's guitar on his chin. The

whistle and whine of the accordion, the thump thump thump of the upright, the howling moan of the

cornet. People dance in the hallway elbow to elbow while waiting for the bathroom. Cap-gun fights

break out in the parking lot. I sit on the bus with Waters and we tuck ourselves into a few serious heavyduty

IPAs.

There is a building momentum like the gathering of energy just before lightning cleaves the sky.

The Joy Parade are tired, and rightly so after weeks on the road. Everyone knows they are back in

Vermont, home for the majority of them, and they are anxious for it all to be over, for the time being.

But the energy keeps building, amassing day by day, and the final show I plan to attend, this evening at

the Radio Bean, is bound to be epic.

If you stand or sit on a sidewalk in Burlington for too long, or just long enough, you are bound to

be left with two impressions. One is that there are a good-many sincerely odd people in this city. The

other is that there are a good-many people trying to be sincerely odd in this city. These are the

thoughts I have as I sit and smoke. Dan Blakeslee has started his set inside and I can hear it coming

through the open doors. I finish the cigarette and go in and listen to the magic he creates with song.

I'm emotionally wiped out as he finishes up and maybe he knows this because he does his encore as Dr.

Gasp, stating beforehand, “I don't do encores,” and then asks if anyone has a mask as he needs one to

really become Dr. Gasp. Captain Bennypants rushes outside and comes back shortly with one but it is

too late, Blakeslee has found a bizarre set of sunglasses, a giant feather, and a bandanna that he wraps

around his face as if planning to rob a bank, and has already begun to sing about the freakish wax

museum.

The Bloodroots start to do their thing and by now the room is packed wall to wall with people

elbow to elbow and its getting rather hot and there is a tinge of stink in the air. There is a good chance

its me so I pay it no mind. There is a large fellow in front of me with long dreadlocks swaying to the

music and to my utter horror, one of his dreadlocks plops into my pint of beer, submerges deeply, then

flings out spraying my shoulder with foam. I contemplate the reality of the situation I find myself in.

The room is packed and getting over to the bar, getting the bartenders attention, ordering and receiving

a pint, getting back over to my spot, if it still happens to be open, without said pint being knocked from

my hands, seems impossible. Do I dare? I look back over to the distance between the bar and I. Down

the hatch it goes. Afterward, when I relate the tale to Captain Bennypants he tries to put an upside on

the matter and tells me I probably drank a few essential amino acids with the beer. Jowles just smiles

and says, “how do you stop a hippies mellow? You can't, they look so happy.”

The Joy Parade roars into life around the midnight hour and the place starts to hum with a deep

and rooted life, like a wasps nest trapped in a mason jar. This is their hometown, and the local fans have

come out in support, to drink and stomp, to shout the words along with the band. I look around me at

the faces and they are plastered with smiles, everyone seems happy, filled to the brim with joy. During

It Might as Well be May, Miss Rebecca, who has traveled several hours to see me and the show, and I

dance the waltz along with several other pairs in the room. The Bloodroots, with Early Graves in his

chicken costume, mash themselves back on to the tiny stage with the Joy Parade, as does Dan Blakeslee,

for a hammering set of encores. It all comes to a crashing halt and as always, is over far too soon. As

the bar shuts down, long after most have left, I make my way around to the twelve individuals who have

welcomed me into their lives for the past few weeks and graced me nonstop with the melody of their

presence. I hug them all, one by one, and thank them. It is nearly impossible to pull myself away, but I

do, with that feeling of a hollow emptiness that results in partings. But I know that it is only a temporary

departure, and in the cool breeze of early morning, Miss Rebeca and I walk back to a cheap hotel on the

outskirts of town throwing pocketfuls of confetti along the way, all the while humming softly, those

notes of joy.

EPILOUGE

exit the Parade

I'm sitting here in front of my typewriter, reading notes, listening to recorded audio, trying to

make these keys sound out a rhythm, a drawn out rhythm that conveys moments in time that happened

like a fireworks pop. I find it funny that I watched the Vermont Joy Parade be arrested while playing the

same song that I watched them play for a college graduation ceremony just a few days later. So I guess,

in some way, I witnessed a full circle. From jail to college; where the line rests between the two I am

uncertain.

I am certain, however, that I dislike summaries as they tend to ignore the meat on the bone. I

could find a thousand quotes by any number of bright people and put one in here for you. But I won't

do that. Instead, there are two things, both forgotten until I heard them on my dictaphone, that I care

to leave you with. The first being the responses, by three people outside of the Radio Bean, to my

simple question of “what do you think?” To which I received the following answers: “I've never heard

music like this before,” “this stuff is epic,” and “these are notes of joy.” The second thing I want to leave

you with is something I myself said when someone was clever enough to turn the questioning around on

me, and asked what it was like to be part of such a thing. My response was this: “these are my people

and I feel at home. It's wonderful to be involved with such beautifully crazy people, or better yet, with

such crazy beautiful people.” I will let you decide which one suits you best. Long live the Parade. Long

live Joy.