Touring with the Poor
and the Infamous

Alexandra Cuadra

© Copyright 2009 by Alexandra Cuadra


 I was born in San Diego, California where one never expects life to turn cloudy and when it does you run. I ran for only four days in the states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas but it was enough to bring out the sunshine, that i carried with me when i returned home. This piece was intense for me to write because growing and moving on can be difficult, but I believe nothing happens upon coincidence, and here is my proof.

It wasn’t supposed to play out this way but something makes me think this all happened for a reason. A quick trip to the south to experience the life of up and coming rock stars turned into a brand new perspective on my personal life.

Black wheels with shades of dust ramble quickly along the tile. Unfamiliar faces pass by like trees in a car and I wonder where they’re headed. The song “I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again” flutters in my mind as I think that unfortunately the answer to the latter lyric isn’t never. Walking through the connector tunnel single file, the hot breath of anxious travelers is at the back of my neck. I find my seat in the middle and spend the next five minutes hoping for smaller bodied neighbors. A young man returning home from visiting colleges and an older lady kind enough to give me her People magazine (because she didn’t know who these “young” people were) sat down and I breathed an invisible sigh of relief. However, I breathed too soon and my heart sank as two young kids around five and nine take their oversized seats behind me. It was hours of “MOM I don’t like this show” and the undeveloped anger comes through my chair. I tried to imagine it was turbulence before I relieved his mother of one more child. I try to read but the shrill voices of adolescence pierces my ears. I turn and give a glare at the preoccupied mother but this doesn’t faze her. 4 hours to go and the only hope of relaxation is to fall asleep on my fold out tray.

 “Prepare for landing ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Nashville, Tennessee.” Irritable and a cigarette away from feeling normal, I leave the aircraft so tired I'm not tired and say goodbye to my new friends. The rental car is waiting and I’m uncertain of how I feel about mobbing in a Corrola.

The foliage puts me in a south kind of mood and I watch out the window picturing the settings in some of my favorite books, finally being able to compare with my imagination. One by one the honky tonk bars appear and cease to disappear as long as the road goes. For a second I picture Coyote Ugly and making it in the music business, the thought leaves as quickly as it came and in big block letters STAGE FRIGHT rolled through my head like a marquis. The anxiety to see my brother after some time being on a cross-country tour with his band pulses through my limbs like a caffeine high.

3 shows, 3 nights, and 3 different states are what lie ahead for me. I find it ironic that upon coming to Nashville, I am submersing myself in the opposite of country. Rock pop, deep lyrics and spot on harmonies describe a little of what they're about but nonetheless it was nice being in foreign territory and seeing faces I know down to the chin. Two other bands join the tour and I put attractive faces to names I’ve heard. Their name is The Gallery and it’s fitting because I am constantly staring, trying to figure them out. Showbread is the headlining band and they are more metal but less social.

The connection I have with The Gallery’s drummer is undeniable and progressing fast even after two days knowing each other. The side-glances, the stares, and the various comments built a tense wall between us. The on again off again boyfriend that resides downstairs in my parents home makes a small guest appearance in my conscience before it disappears completely.

The comfort that I suffer from at home with the on again off again weighed low compared to the intense attachment I felt for this soul. My character morphed before my parents eyes and the cloudy headed girl cleared and sunshine was once again, if only brief. I can feel this change take place as I find myself having an epiphany of being self-serving. Spending too much time thinking about how awful it would be to hurt this person’s feeling is wasteful of everyone’s time.

The drive from Nashville to Alabama was a scenic one, spending hours pointing out those huge red brick houses with the classic front porch surrounded by acres of vibrant green grass. We reach a Starbucks and as I sit outside I hear talks of farms and investing in new livestock, not at all like the conversations that can be overheard daily in California about who fucked so and so and so on. The drive goes on and as we pass up the jack Daniels factory I try to convince my ultra Christian mother to buy me a couple, but it was a try and a fail. The road winds on each side mirroring the other with shades of green and trees that cluster together so close you would think they were cold. The fog came quickly and he brought his plus one, rain so fast your windshield wipers don’t have the stamina to be useful. We watched the car tail lights in order to keep from swaying from our lane and after about an hour of that we hit blue skies. The weather differed drastically from one minute to the next and the next task that lay ahead is finding out hotel before the second show of the trip.

The weather in Alabama seems to be bipolar as we go through an intense rainstorm one minute and come out the next under a blue and cloudless sky. Who knew Birmingham Alabama has the most confusing freeways and their hotel receptionists aren’t even aware of where THEYRE located let alone trying to lead us there. Back and forth on the freeways frustrations rising we decide to screw the hotel and find the venue my brother would be playing at instead. I made my dad defy his man character by asking for directions this time since Google maps proved unreliable in so many ways. The drive was short and we arrived on a dirt and gravel path leading into darkness. A row of dimly lit lights hang from the roof of a decent sized warehouse and it reminds me of one of those secret music venues that appear to be shitty on the outside but inside, the lights show and stage look brand new. I wait for The Gallery to get on and I watch them in their own worlds setting up and getting ready to pour their heart and hard work out, hoping to make a connection with the audience in a positive way. The lead singer Brendan and his swoopy hair make the girls inch closer to the stage. The guitarist Shea stands behind and to the left, tuning his guitar and looking out at the various fans that already adorned t-shirts. The band warms up at their sound check to make sure it is perfect for the ears below. I stand in the middle in my usual pose, arms crossed swaying to the music, maybe some leg movements until I get off beat and have to quickly change it up before people notice how uncoordinated I am. No one would have noticed me even if I stood there naked; the eyes are locked on the band as they move around stage. “ You are more than a conqueror you are more than a prisoner of this world of pain, you’ve come home” flows out of Brendan’s mouth as Dave the bassist’s fingers go up and down, side to side, bending his left leg to every beat. The drummer Ryan’s forehead glistens with sweat and his concentration shows in the facial expressions and the keyboardist TJ stands guarded by a mic and keyboard.

The music starts and I can feel my organs vibrating inside of my body but I like it. They killed their set and I watched as onlookers migrated to their merchandise table to get themselves a memory of the music.

 Goodnight Caulfield is next and I stand close to cheer on my brother, trying not to get in the way of groups of 16 year old girls taking pictures with their phones. They’re sound check goes well, “Check... Check TUNA FISH, TUNA FISH…Can I get more tuna in the guitar amp?” They all move around the stage getting the audience connected, the drummer stays planted, mouth agape, an uncontrolled habit when his full concentration is on playing. Girls are making hearts with their fingers, which match the lead singers heart tattoo on the middle of his chest. Nicolai the bass player sports a brown hulk Hogan stash for the mere purpose of scaring people off. Joey the guitarist jumps around before hurrying back to the mic for back ups. Adam plays the last song which appropriately says, “Its all over now, sleep while you can, forgot what’s on your mind, you do it every time,” softly while he falls to the floor and lays there until the clapping has begun. They all played so fast it was over before I knew it and I gathered with the bands as they packed up for the next state.

Arkansas was the best and worst stop I made on the trip. The area of Little Rock was sketchy and groups of homeless people gather on the streets. This all paled in comparison to the simple fact that I would be seeing him again. This show wasn’t unlike the rest and soon it was over and the equipment went back into the trailers and next up was trying to find a place to stay for the last night. The Gallery and Goodnight Caulfield bought two rooms close to each other at a motel 6 and we all piled in with the bud lights and relaxed. I went to bed in the morning and when I woke up it was time for me to catch my flight home back to my hellish reality. I said my goodbyes; one, which was very hard to do, and I got in the backseat and drove off.

I sobbed like the little girl I am the whole plane ride home as I realized that my current relationship status was depressing and needed to end. My eyes were opened over the course of three days and the feelings of freedom and relief surged through my corneas onto the same fold out tray I sought relaxation from on the way there. In no way was this expected and I felt like an instant junky trying to get my next fix via text messaging whenever I could. Living on opposite sides of the coast couldn’t be farther from what I desired but I don’t forget connections and I wont forget him, ever. Wishful thinking places me wherever he goes, following like a shadow until the dark comes.

Alexandra Cuadra was born and raised in San Diego, California among the general suburbia population. She is 19 years old living at home and going to school at the local community college. Since the age of seven she was writing short stories non-stop and it naturally progressed into a lifestyle that she continues to thrive and grow in.

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