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Book Club Tue Sep 10 2013

Book Tour vs. Punk Tour: Zero Fade Author Chris L. Terry Expounds

Zero Fade - Front Cover Draft.jpgZero Fade, the debut novel by Chicago's own Chris L. Terry, is released by Curbside Splendor today. (Buy it, watch the live action video trailer, read our Q&A with Terry.) Just coming off a real-world book tour, Terry has begun a blog tour, stopping today at Book Club to share a hilarious account of band life versus author life. Read on, and check out the details of the Terry's entire virtual tour.

Last month, I did a book tour to promote my novel, Zero Fade. My wife Sharon and I rented a car and drove from Chicago to the East Coast, where I did readings at independent bookstores in Richmond, Philly, New York, Boston, Rochester and Pittsburgh. I set it up through friends in each city. It was a success. I sold over a hundred books, and since I only hit places where I'd lived or knew people, I constantly had the overwhelming, birthday-party-feeling of being surrounded by friends without the time to really talk to them. A nice problem to have. I felt like a rock star.

Actually, I felt like a punk rock star. In 2003, I was singing for a punk band called Light the Fuse and Run, and we did a 100-day summer tour of the U.S., Canada and Europe. We were popular enough to fill a house party in most towns, but it was a rare gig that paid over $50. We were doing it for the love, and I was running out of love.

I was 24, fresh out of college (six year plan!) and starting to crave an adult life where I could use my English degree for something besides making lattes and getting hammered on my porch five nights a week. I was worried that I was outgrowing my high school savior, the punk scene, and craving diversity as I encountered straight, white nineteen-year-old man after straight, white nineteen-year-old man in each city.

Even with my misgivings, that 2003 tour had a sense of discovery: I played music in ten different countries. It also showed me the limitations of my life. Every new town had the same ol' Taco Bell, and that was where I ate, unable to afford better. And when I hit the road for the next city and the next Seven Layer Burrito, the people I left behind went to their steady jobs, or curled up with their girlfriends who didn't hate them for leaving for the entire summer. I imagined them eating vegetables together in a magical place that didn't smell like foreskins.

This was the average day: Wake up at 1pm. Play the, "Is that smell coming from the rug or my body?" game. If it's an odd-numbered day, take a ho bath in the sink. Do not change boxers. Drive six hours to the next show while everyone smokes and the guitarist changes the radio station before the next song starts. Seven Layer Burrito. Bassist's Chicken Quesadilla farts. Sit around a bar or anarchist space for three hours until the show. Play for sullen young men. Buy beer for nineteen year olds who proceed to party and have discussions about bands you don't care about while you toss and turn on your sleeping bag, ten feet away.

At the end of the tour, I remember flying home from Amsterdam and arriving in Richmond at dawn. I walked over to the coffee shop where I worked, and my boss thought I was starting a shift. Gone for almost four months and nothing had changed. I knew I needed to leave, but when I did, I missed it. So, it was cool to tour again as an adult.

The 2013 tour had comfort and familiarity instead of adventure. There are no new stories about a trucker reaching out his rig to hand me pot cookies in a traffic jam (Shouts out, Colorado!), or moving our equipment out of the basement as soon as possible because the locals want to play Strip Foursquare with us (Shouts out again, Colorado!).

The average day looked something like this: Wake up early enough to jog. Sit around, drinking coffee and eating fruit until I have a grown-up bowel movement. Shower. Drive to the next town in an air-conditioned vehicle. Find a place with salad for lunch. Read to two-dozen smiling people. Refrain from writing filthy things in their books. Get a beer with half a dozen of them. At midnight, go to sleep in a couple's guest room, which is obviously the room where the dude has to hide his Danzig posters and Star Wars toys now that he lives with a real live woman.

That's the difference between being 24 and 34. For years, I let the world come at me, absorbing its surprises, and that has equipped me for doing things on my own terms and getting the results that I want. Because when you're in your mid thirties, it's all about...using the bathroom. Taking a decent crap is the test. If you can't do whatever it is you want to do and stay regular, it doesn't pass.

Since I hate to end this on a smug grown-up note, I am going to share an excerpt from my recently unearthed 2003 tour diary. At this point, the band had been out for almost three months, and were about to play our third show in Europe:

8/5-- Conked out for three hours, tops, and woke up to flies buzzing around me and East German sun blaring into the room. Outside, a woman walked a dog in a dismal courtyard and, rubbing sleep out of my eyes and body, I ate some of the bread and cheese that the kids had left out for us.

The van ride sucked, being half asleep and feeling the van get progressively hotter. We got to Fluff Fest in Czech in the early afternoon, and turned off an unassuming suburban street into this field filled with punks milling around checking out distros and vegan food tents, and coming in and out of the enormous gymnasium where the bands played.

There were thousands of people around, a good chunk of which were crammed into the gym watching bands on the high stage and letting the day's heat rise off of their bodies.
A river ran by the show, stopping in a little dam. Assorted dreadlock types in Speedos were jumping in or lounging on the dam.

We played around 4pm, under the hot lights as kids streamed into the gym to our first song. I couldn't believe it. Kids in Europe knew the words to our songs. Weird enough when kids in our hometown know them. Jeez. I took a photo of the crowd, "To show my mom why I don't have a job."

Four songs in, I thought I was gonna puke from the heat and was moving way less by the time we were done. I felt faint and went outside to drink nearly two liters of water, jump in the ice-cold river and eat some veggie burgers.

Yaphet Kotto (A punk band from California, not the actor. - 2013 me) showed up while we were playing and, after 1000 Travels of Jawaharlal (Japanese band we were on tour with. - 2013 me) destroyed the stage, we hung outside and drank the California guys' Jim Beam. As the Japanese guys got drunker, we all began to laugh and trade expressions. I found out that in Mike Tyson's Punch Out, when Piston Honda says "Fujiyama Nipponichi" it means, "Mount Fuji is the biggest mountain in Japan."

I swam more, surrounded by dogs fetching bottles out of the water and passing them to other dogs on the shore. The swimming and whiskey wore me out, and I took a nap in the van until Yaphet Kotto played. It ruled to be in the back of a room watching a couple thousand people watch my friends' band onstage.

Afterwards, me and Mike slipped off to the adjoining bar to drink absinthe. The bartender had a mullet and knew enough English to say, "BIG RISK" while he was pouring our drinks. Then he kept calling the spoons, "knives." See, you pour sugar into a spoon, add a drop of absinthe, light it on fire, pour it in the shot so it catches fire for a second, blow it out, and do the shot. Tastes like a strong vodka with a splash of mouthwash in it.

Once everyone else got wind of what we were up to, we had to make a few trips back. Each shot felt like two or three drinks and made me heady, almost more like good pot or an opiate. Mike and Kirby got incoherent and me and Mag from Yaphet Kotto went back into the showspace to crash the '80s dance party. We found a big circle of kids boogying and singing along to "99 Luftballoons" and I entered the floor with some sexy push-ups.

Soon enough, it was on, and a conga line circled the floor to a David Hasselhoff (unironic in Europe) song. Mag leaned over and goes, "This is the whitest, most European thing I've ever done. It's like Sixteen Candles times seven!" So, I said, "Including us, there are two and a half black dudes here. We gotta represent!" Then we danced to Wham! because they didn't have any Prince.

Josef (Our Czech driver who looked like Elliott Smith and Beetlejuice mixed together. - 2013 me) rounded us up. Mike and Gan were passed out in the loft and Kirby was puking on the side of the van. We drove into town and Kirby got out of the van to puke and passed out on the sidewalk in this little town square. Had to wake him up, then drag grouchy-ass Mike out of the van when he was convinced he was already in the apartment. I took a shower and fell into a black sleep.

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