WEEKEND IN NEBRASKA
This past weekend, I took the Megabus out to Nebraska from Chicago to play a solo set at the Lincoln Calling music festival. I don’t have a car and I am terrified of driving, so whenever I go out to play a gig without my band, I’m often seen clutching my acoustic guitar on trains and buses throughout the country. A lot of people have the notion that carrying a musical instrument automatically turns you into a chick magnet. However, I can safely say that the most attention I’ve gotten from a woman while equipped with a guitar on a train was one time on the Red Line in downtown Chicago when the 5pm just-got-off-work crowd forced a middle-aged housewife’s gigantic ass to pin me to the window for twenty five minutes. Other than that, the combination of my ratty guitar case, frazzled unkempt beard and deadened, world-weary eyes doesn’t seem to illicit anything from women except for the occasional glance that seems to say “You would never be able to provide for my children.” Having an instrument handy will, however, most likely make you a prime target for being forced into horrifying conversations with crazy, elderly men who look at you, yell, “Guitars, huh?” and then go into a long tirade about the war.
As I finally settled down in my seat after humoring a seventy year old man as he told me about how my guitar case reminded him of a one night stand he had in Korea, I read a few chapters of a book called Descent of Man by Charles Darwin. Darwin’s most recognized work is Origin of Species, where he introduced the theory of evolution by suggesting that all creatures’ traits developed over time from lesser creatures, instead of being independently created in full form by a higher power. Since he was a timid guy and this idea was controversial enough in the 1850’s, he didn’t even bother mentioning that humans most likely evolved from monkeys, fearing that this would cause a gigantic uproar from bourgeoise debutantes who would be outraged by the suggestion that their relatives were shit flinging apes. However, as the years went on, slavery was becoming more and more rampant in Europe. Scientists at the time were actually rationalizing slavery by saying that humans were most likely independently created as eight different species, with white Europeans being the most highly developed, and black “savages” one of the lowest forms.
Darwin was a staunch abolitionist, and wrote Descent of Man to prove that man as we know it is in fact just one species that evolved from monkeys, hoping that this humbling fact would make one race less prone to feel superior to the others. He spends most of the book discussing all of the similarities that human’s physical and behavioral patterns have in common with the rest of the animal kingdom’s. On the bus ride, I read a chapter about how in most species of animals, the males are much more eager to mate than females, and often need to compete with other males by using acts of aggression, flamboyant plumage and passionate song to entice the female into copulating with them instead with of the others. Often times, females are ambivalent to sex altogether, and have to be stubbornly coerced into the act by the male. No shit, Darwin.
After nine hours of driving through the flat corn fields of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, I arrived in Omaha and got a ride into Lincoln later that night. The music festival took place in a series of music venues located around downtown Lincoln. Duffy’s, the venue that I was hanging out at on Friday night, was on the main strip. This area looks like most college downtowns; sports bars and nightclubs mixed up with fast food chains, local restaurants and coffee shops. Around 8pm, the street was crowded with a sea of drunk college kids walking to and from different bars, and as the night grew on, they were getting drunker and rowdier.
At around 10:30pm, I witnessed a fight break out outside. It was between two athletic gentlemen who were in their late teens. One of them yelled, “You are a pussy!” and the other one lunged at him and yelled back, “No, you are a pussy!” As a crowd of passersby accumulated to watch the spectacle, one of the girls who was with them intervened and held one of them back, yelling for them to stop fighting, but also giving a look that seemed to say that she loved the attention and would probably put out if one of them threw a punch.
Darwin 1, Humanity 0.
I slept on an air mattress at the house of a photographer for a music website called Hear Nebraska, and then woke up and met up with the organizer of the Lincoln Calling festival to kill time until the show that night. We had heard that there was a show going on in somebody’s basement around town, so we drove over there to check it out around two in the afternoon. When we got there, about twenty people were huddled in a dark, musty attic, drinking cheap beer and watching a puppet show. The puppets were decaying, plastic baby dolls that had been punctured with holes so that they could be rigged into marionettes, manipulated by detached pieces of rusty exercise equipment. It was a musical drama set in the 1950s about foul mouthed gangster babies who were competitive boxers. The music was provided by a group of ominous looking men who wore hockey masks and black wife beaters.
After the show, the festival organizer and I headed over to Duffy’s, where I was going to be playing that night. I played first, around 9pm. At one point towards the end of my set, I noticed that the venue had become quite full, despite the roaring thunderstorm going on outside, and there were a lot of very attractive women watching me. I was becoming extremely self conscious about the ragged and unkempt state of my hair and beard, and announced that if four people bought CDs then I could afford to get a haircut the next day.
When my set ended, a woman in her fifties went up to me and told me that she worked at a hair salon down the street, and said that she would give me a free haircut if I wanted one. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind giving me a haircut right then so that I could be more confident talking to women at the bar. She agreed, so we walked over to the hair salon. She unlocked the doors, turned on the lights, gave me a haircut, and then we walked back to the bar. When I got back in, a beautiful Hispanic girl approached me and told me that she was moved by my performance and raved about how passionate and romantic my voice was. She bought me a few drinks and we talked for about forty minutes. We looked into each other’s eyes, and her tender and honest appreciation was extremely moving. I was quickly falling in love with her, and was making plans to quit my band, sell all of my personal belongings and move to Nebraska to beckon to her every call. I tried touching her hand and then she pulled it away and quickly started talking about something else. Then after a little while she said, “You know, my roommate really wants to sit on your face.” I told her that I thought we were having a romantic connection, and she explained to me that she was engaged to be married and was trying to set me up with her roommate. At that point, I realized that I was so infatuated with her that I didn’t notice that I had been painfully holding in a pee, so I excused myself and went to the restroom. When I came back out, she had left the bar. So had her roommate.
I was very sad that the Hispanic girl had left, and I sat at the bar by myself for a little while, wondering if I should have ignored my urinary needs and persuaded her to back out of her engagement so that we could start a life together. Moved by the buzz of alcohol, I walked around a couple of blocks in the rain to see if I could see her through the windows of any of the restaurants, but I eventually went back to Duffy’s without any luck. As the night progressed, I ended up talking to a tall blonde girl who I had met briefly outside the night before. At around two in the morning, I asked her if I could sleep on her couch for the night. She said that I could, so I grabbed my guitar and we headed for the door. As soon as we walked outside, a dirty homeless man in his late sixties with a greasy black mullet pointed at my guitar case and then started furiously playing air guitar while aggressively barking in my face like a dog. He then politely said “God bless” and stumbled away.
We got to her house, and I set my guitar and backpack down on a couch in her living room. She asked me if I would go outside and tell her if I saw her doing anything through the window in her living room and her bedroom. I walked back outside in the rain, and saw a silhouette of her dancing through the curtains of her living room window. Then she moved into her bedroom, but I couldn’t see anything through that window. I went back inside and told her that. She was relieved, and said that she just wanted to make sure that people outside wouldn’t be able to see her “fooling around” in her bedroom. I found this to be a very forward statement. She gave me a sexual look and we sat on her bed. I got up to use the bathroom. When I got back, she had fallen asleep. I asked her if she wanted to fool around, and she said that she was tired and just wanted to sleep. A word of the wise to the gentlemen readers out there. If you are with a woman, under no circumstance should you ever go to the bathroom. It just gives her the opportunity to realize that she could be doing much better things with her time, such as sleeping.
Darwin 2, Humanity 0.
I woke up around eight in the morning, walked around town with my guitar for a bit, and then got a ride back to Omaha to wait for the bus back to Chicago. As I was standing at the bus stop, a man in his fifties wearing a grey sweater slowly gravitated towards me, and eventually said, “Guitars, huh?”
“Yep,” I said.
“Ya know,” he went on. “I was at a store the other day. Nothin’ but guitars and musical instruments. Can you believe that?”
“Oh,” I said.
“Yep. Never seen anything like that. A store, that had nothin’ but music. Good stuff! What, uh, what kind of guitar you got there?”
“Oh, I think this is a Gibson,” I said.
“Yep,” he said. “I think I saw a Gibson at that music store. That’s what they called it, a ‘music store.’ Store full of music. Yep, definitely had one of those Gibsons.”
“Oh,” I said. Then the bus arrived. The man wasn’t waiting for the bus, he was just looking for conversation. I said goodbye, boarded the vehicle, and headed back to Chicago. I was sad to leave behind everyone that I had met in Nebraska, but people all seem the same and sort of blend into eachother after a while if you don’t get too attached to them, don’t they?