There and Back again with dios

Chris Ziegler spent 25 days on the road with diosmaybe the 25 most important days of their careerand he ended up in a Detroit hospital.

"Hey," I said to this Texas girl with goggle-eye glasses and red lipstick; that was the small-town library she wanted to work at and the porn store she did work at right there. "Did you like dios?"

"Yes, I loved them!" she said.

"Can dios stay at your house?" I asked because when you are a merch person, conversations are always potent and efficient.

"Sure!" she said; it turned out she'd done merch, too. But then dios found a hotel anyway—the guys in Saves The Day and Grandaddy had decided to pass their rooms on to us, the inauguration of a tour tradition. So I left by myself. We went to Dealey Plaza at 3 a.m. Someone had painted an 'X' at the spot in the street where Kennedy took the shots, and I stood there as headlights fluttered by and tipped out a Lone Star, and then I whipped that bottle spinning high over the train yards. The smashed glass sparkled off the tanker cars, and the girl said, "Can you help me put together this sex swing I got from work? I want to swing in it when I watch cartoons."

"Sure," I said. "Do you have any tools?"

"I think it comes with tools," she said. "Where is your band?"

"I dunno," I said. "Sleeping?"


Party van, Myrtle Beach
DAY SEVEN:

NEW ORLEANS

We were giving away guest-list spots because we were friendless in town—it happened a lot—and bam-bam-bam we shanghaied an entourage: two college boys and two college girls from New York, an Australian who loved Saves the Day and who'd been in town for a month, a singer/songwriter/strip-club waitress named Stacie who personified everything we'd ever heard about Southern hospitality and bought everyone a round of everything. Stacie was a tiny wisp of blonde—ethereal, you could say, depending on the dress; at her strip club, she was a fawn among moose. She got us in free. "I always wanted to be a stripperrrr," said the college girl with the tattoos, swaying. One of the guys steadied her. Dios was split into atoms now, no one sure where anyone else was, in the streets with all our strangers. Didn't matter. Two bars later, Stacie told me she was a spiritual but not necessarily a religious person, told me that a client at the strip club who was born into the Illuminati—she asked if I know what that is—had his face rot from cancer, had R.J. Reynolds rebuild his face for free, and now he wanted to die, ashamed of the papier-mâché hedonism he'd built into a life. Because she was the girl at the strip club who was his only true friend, he wanted to leave her $500,000 and a mansion. I believed all this totally; I would be a bad person not to. We broke down smaller again, waved and hugged goodbye to Stacie, reconstituted into dios at a bar next to the bus, paid $40 for parking after an argument that ratcheted up a notch every time we lapped the block. The capillaried New Orleans back streets were lit the same as Stacie's club—pink on red slapped over slats of black—and two drunks in polo shirts were flopping off the sidewalk, their wristwatches cracking against the cobblestones. This was Joel's birthday. In the morning, I called Stacie. She said the college girls cried when they left.

DAY 11: ATLANTA

This is how it worked every night: a pile of limp T-shirts; a CD set nice and square with the corner of the merch table; a wad of utility tape to keep it all secure, dispensed with sympathy by one of the other merch people, who all had calculators and laptops and computer-printed mailing lists while I made change from my front pockets and kept text-messaging J.P.: FOOD N WHISKY U OWE ME SIX DOLL. By now, you had to dig through a layer of fireworks and old R&B 45s to get to anything we could legitimately sell, since I'd started using the merch boxes as reserve cargo space. The sign we'd made in Pecos was spotty with sticky kiss marks from the bottoms of bottles; anything that sat too flat for too long would probably play coaster for part of the night. But some kids always put up with it because they liked the band. They would buy things because they were worried about us getting enough to eat or because they wanted to make sure we made it to the next city. And because most of them didn't even see dios, since dios often played a half-hour before the tickets said the show even started, they'd talk about other bands they liked instead. Most of these bands were horrible, overtrebled, mopey, cheese-metal rehash, the kind of thing you'd montage over a prom scene in a movie, but it was the way the kids liked them that I found heartening. All they cared about was immediacy, the song as it was right then—they listened to music like they were playing it, one note linked to the next, instead of trying to translate it all into something else. They were still able to like bands without having to hold them up against some older band to see where the light shone through. I told a lot of them to listen to the Kinks, and they bought dios CDs without ever having heard dios.

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