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.

DAY 21: BUFFALO

"You like all that Manchester shit like Morrissey and Joy Division, you should listen to the Fall," I told Jackie. "They were from Manchester."

"Oh, I never listen to any music that people tell me," Jackie said. "I want to find it on my own. It's more meaningful that way."

DAY 22: CLEVELAND

Cleveland was as bad as they tell you. We sold $1 worth of merch, and I had to fight to get that. People would hold the CD in their hand, and you could just see the resale-to-Mad Dog calculations roll over their eyeballs. We'd strong-armed some naive college boy into taking us home, and Jackie kept hijacking the conversations to say, "Yeah, so I got a song: 'SEXUALLLLL FRUSTRATIONNNN!'" (He later worked up a new song that went, "Great balls of thunder! Came to me in my sleep! They hit me so hard, baby! I began to weep!" and then I would do backups.) I threw up in Cleveland just to say I did, and I ran into his mom on the way out of the bathroom, my knees probably still damp from hunkering over the toilet. It's okay, I wanted to tell her. I went to college, too.

DAY 23: DETROIT

I had been queasier and queasier since Boston, and when the show ended up just across the street from a hospital, I decided to see if I'd developed a worm or something, and I left dios and Grandaddy and Saves the Day doing cover songs together as soon as I could walk across the street. When my nurse came in at 4 in the afternoon, she was griping about her hangover. Because cosmic coincidence is as inexorable as it gets, she figured out I was with a band and, as she nicked a needle into my arm, said, "You know, I used to see Iggy Pop play at my high school. Of course, back then, he was Iggy Stooge." A saline IV drops your temperature a few degrees; I was shuddering like a shock victim and trying to quiz her ("D-d-d-d-d-did you ever see the B-b-b-bob Seger S-s-s-s-system?") when I passed out. I closed my eyes, and there were the merch boxes, hovering unsteadily in the dark, and when I opened my eyes again, there was J.P., hovering happily over my hospital bed, singing, "Mama, take my merch away. . . . I can't sell it anymore." Dios were just about to play at midnight, and J.P. was in such a good mood. "I thought you died, Ziegler!" he kept saying.

DAY 24: CHICAGO

We were leaving as soon as the Pixies song was done. Girlfriends and their clean soft beds were waiting 31 hours away. Dios was one of the bands that liked going home; other bands never went back, became homeless except for their van on tour for years at a time, sleeping on couches and floors and fistfighting at rest stops. Promoters talked about them like they were ghost ships. The merch girl from the headlining band gave me a little plastic pig—we'd been flirting like we were on a semester abroad; she'd run away from Alaska on a boat when she was 17, and she drank lots of whiskey. She'd been out for weeks, and she thought we were going home too early.

DAY 25: DAY OFF

(TRAVEL)

Sleep in a Chicago traffic snarl; awake in flat Missouri heat. Sleep in a purple-and-white New Mexico sunset; awake in a blacked-out Arizona snowstorm, J.P. crawling, shrunk and shriveled, out of his sleeping bag, blinking and tasting the air like a lizard. He hopped out to pump gas still barefoot, his ankle bones blushing pink as soon as they sunk into a drift. I took a little walk. The van was alive and gleaming under the gas-station fluorescents. I didn't feel the cold at all. Our voices dropped into the snow, and we were the last band ever, the white-light halo around us unraveling into the starless desert dark, our breath puffing into tiny vapor crystals that flashed out and fell away. I turned back around when I heard the diesel clap and cough and saw our yellow headlights scribble over the pumps. I felt like a truck driver, so I thought about my relationships.

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