IN THE SWAMPS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER

West down the Lincoln Highway, then hit 71 South: no Ohio State football home game this weekend, so a smooth ride and quick. Haven’t taken this route since 2002: when Bean’s grandfather landed his single-engine prop in Wooster to pick him up and took you, Marco, and Mark Outlaw along to fly slow and steady down to Columbus. After some doughnuts and coffee, Bean drove you all back in his 1986 Dodge station-wagon with wood paneling and an America sticker on the back window.

From Wooster to Columbus is a straight route of memory: back and forth to see shows at the Legion of Doom and the Fire Escape (Hot Water Music, Golden, Inept, Mid Carson July); to open up for Puritan and some other band (was it Franklin, out of Philly?) at the Legion when you and J were in Rockefeller; to practice with the Anchor Baby and go record shopping at Used Kids; to watch everything at More than Music Fest (Charles Bronson, Four Hundred Years, the Locust); to visit Damien, Jimmy, and Jerome. A route best soundtracked by Modest Mouse: “Ohio” going south, “Dramamine” coming back north.

This time it’s the Startup podcast for most of the way down: then a quick nap underneath a few pages of Unamerica. Welcome to Delaware – but Ohio, Ohio. Park in the driveway till J pulls in with suit and briefcase: load the gear in and set up, Fritz barking and a good presence. Jam a few riffs for 20 minutes to gauge the levels and the neighborhood shake: good, good, but you shouldn’t start before 10 AM Saturday.

Take off for a “Macedonian Burger,” onion rings, and a Hoppin’ Frog at Son of Thurman: after a Trappistes Rochefort right next door. Catching up: Poland, Ohio, Kraków, North Canton, Barbertucky, Akron rowdiness, jobs, the crew. Back to J’s to watch the Cavs beat the Celtics: 122-121.

Next morning coffee, eggs, bacon, jalapeno cream cheese on a bagel: adjust the drum levels, plug everything in. A quick convo after a set of guesses: set the mics up and hope for the best. Put on your Zildjian drumming gloves: first time to feel that need, but your hands are uncalloused after a year of virtual no-playing, the blisters imminent. Start jamming the riffs, adjust your parts and fills, keep it big: your cymbals up high, visions of Mario Rubalcaba playing in Earthless. Plenty of back and forth on song structure, take down the notes: let’s switch part C with A, and B should go for eight not just four, and what about doing the “Fugazi part” again at the end? You think about starting the song with some noise/free-jazz drumming at the beginning, as you had in a never-recorded Hobo Codes song (“Guns and Caviar”): then launching into the heavy. Cast that idea aside to pare the drumming down and get it done: written and recorded in about three hours.

Break for a snack: dates and water, cheese and crackers. You rest in that non-verbal mode that comes on like a bright cloud after drumming: exhausted and full of adrenaline. All will, commentary, theorizing: subsumed to the percussive. All discursive potential: drowned by focus behind the kit. Palms already getting torn up, blisters on the rise: gloves getting shredded. So you keep washing your hands with the pumpkin spice soap J’s wife has in the downstairs bathroom: smells like America, like Ohio, a sweet rural peace. You will go for two more in the remaining hours: a cover of Sebadoh and a Midwestern-gothic slow one. It’s Saturday afternoon by now and the suburbs of Delaware are full of sun: you and your friend of twenty years are bashing out the doom jams in his basement.

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