Originally I had planned on making this newsletter a holiday catalog of sorts, but since certain merch-related goodies haven’t yet been sorted out by the band, their manager, and by Santa “Merch” himself, I’ll include these specialty items in the December issue (to be posted shortly, ah swah!).
In the meantime, having just returned from the Lone Star State (and a couple of days in New Orleans), I can tell you that I managed to find the ‘genuinely’ haunted painting in Austin’s historic Driskill Hotel (built in 1886). This is the painting of a little girl holding flowers that many visitors report feeling dizzy, sick, and even experiencing strange physical “lifting”sensations while viewing it. Although it is said to be hanging on a wall in the plush hallway of the 3rd floor, it is actually on the 5th floor (it might have been moved from the 3rd floor back in 1999). I know this because Laralee and I systematically checked every painting on every floor (probably a hundred or so oil paintings in ornate frames amid the other Texas décor), narrowing the ‘haunted little girl holding flowers’ down to three possible candidates before determining the ‘right’ one, and this without any ghost hunting equipment (infrared thermal scanners, EMF meters, ultrasonic listening devices, etc.).
While riding a quirky elevator (with the foul lingering of cigar smoke, no doubt from someone oblivious to Texas laws), and taking gloomy staircases in the wee hours, I’m sorry to say that we didn’t encounter any ghostly apparitions – the only souls up at that time being some guy checking his watch, a woman who must have gone on one helluva shopping spree (judging by all the bags* she had with her in the elevator – what stores were open at 3:30 AM!), and a short lady with an outrageously big hat that bumped into us (she did apologize, though, mumbling something about being confused). But getting back to the haunted painting, although we didn’t have reactions to viewing it that others have described, there was something eerie about it - something that just didn’t seem right, and I believe this may have had to do with the background. I’m not a card carrying paranormal investigator (at least when it comes to hotel hauntings), but I think it is worth mentioning that the floorboards under the carpet in front of the painting are a bit warped, and there is a vent of some kind on the ceiling above it. This wouldn’t explain the painting changing colors or the feelings of vertigo and downright dread that some have claimed, but it might be responsible for some of the anomalous physical sensations also described. Needless to say, if I wasn’t busier than a cat covering crap on a marble floor (where a giggling girl bounced a rubber ball), then I’d investigate this ‘inanimate’ specter further, maybe even go looking for orbs, cold spots, fireballs and, of course, slimers. But get this: Later that night, I might have seen the famous “Houston Bride”, not in room 29 where she killed herself back in the early 1990s, but bending over the sink in my own bathroom (on the 8th floor) in the middle of what could be described as a Technicolor yawn. I ain’t a woofin either! And let me tell you, THAT was scary, especially knowing that a glass (er, snifter) of Remy Martin Louis III costs $125.00… and it was the cognac spectaculaire that she was abusing.
* In all my born days, I aint never seen so many shopping bags!
While on the subject of ghosts. I keep reading where BMB was seen at the recent Tool show in Austin. Well, it wasn’t me, y’all… possibly my doppelganger with a lamie, but I think T*** would detect that, and have the damn thing banished. So far I’ve only attended the Houston and NOLA shows, and I must say both were remarkable, with the Houston show being one of the best I’ve ever seen (Junior’s lighting blew me away, as did the rest of the stage projections, intricate laser tracery, etc., ad infinitum). As part of the “Make A Wish Foundation”, afterwards the Houstonian and I hitched a ride to New Orleans on Danny and Justin’s tour coach. With an oil refinery or some other industrial plant having exploded earlier on (definitely not an alien mothership landing, though), leaving I-10 shut down, it was a bumpy ride on the alternate route (?), and the jams of a Pawtucket (RI) duo called “Lightning Bolt” (played several times by Breck, so it seemed to my bleeding ears) made getting any sleep all the more difficult. But the really important thing here is that when it finally came time for a nightcap – a shot of Vodka as suggested by a drummer, or a bass player, or by “Knobby” (FOH Engineer), the bottle taken from the cabinet only had about a half of an inch of liquor left in it. All the drummer, or the bass player, or Knobby could do is shrug and explain that it was just too early in the tour. They hadn’t accumulated a fully stocked traveling bar yet. But who do you think carries a flask in their backpack (instead of ghostbusting gizmos?) I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t a doppelganger at the Austin show (a doppelganger in Kelowna BC, perhaps, but not in Austin). Let this be a lesson to the “Lightning Bolt” guys in RI (who seem, at times, to actually be performing inside liquor cabinets, and that’s not a “this is how small RI is” jab!)
Upon our arrival at the venue in NOLA, as Laralee and I scraped ourselves off the bus (the others still sleeping) and went in search of our hotel near the French Quarter, I couldn’t help but notice that, although it was only about 8:00 AM (or even earlier), someone was already camped out in front of the entrance. Boy, the following those guys in “Trans AM” have is almost fanatical I remember thinking as I tried to get my bearings straight.
Unlike the Driskill or even the Le Pavilion, our hotel wasn’t haunted. Of course I was so tired that any ethereal presence with bad intent or just good-natured mischief making would need to have the patience of a Saint. The combined snoring alone would, in all likeliness, be more efficacious than Egon and Venkman’s nuclear accelerative machinery. And sleep we did, right up to show time…
As I’ve already mentioned, the NOLA show was great. Danny and Justin’s ladies had flown in, so the FOH was well stocked with Stellas. Although Buzz (Melvins) had decided not to join in on a song (telling me that the band would sound just fine without him), he did share some rather humorous stories backstage. One of them was how Adam, tour manager, Mary Jo, and he had been invited to ride along on patrol with a Texas Ranger in Austin, and were later taken to a certain location (I think it’s called Texas) where they could fire a plethora of weapons… and shoot to their hearts’ content. They even got to experience the lawman ‘light-up’ someone, but, unfortunately, this wasn’t a Tool enthusiast. I told Buzz that, while this was pretty cool, when I was in Houston, an astronaut with NASA who liked my newsletters asked Laralee and I if we wanted to go for a ride on the next space-shuttle launch and watch them perform middle school-level experiments while orbiting the earth. Before he could respond, a couple of female Melvins fans were escorted into Adam’s dressing room with hopes of getting a photo taken with him (Buzz). Adam was all smiles, telling them how, when hanging out with Buzz, kids were always coming up to him (Buzz), some even wearing Tool shirts, wanting his autograph, but not aware of who he (Adam) was. Knowing that Adam (not Buzz) was waiting for a couple of bottles of “Lucid” to arrive, I decided to hang around a bit longer. Hell, a shot of “Lucid” and box of Triskets and you’ve got a party. But the bottle never arrived, so I moved on to greener pastures (Actually I was glad it didn’t show up, because I was going to be viewing fractal geometry on Breck’s laptop later on the bumpy bus.)
While the crew was busy dismantling Danny and Justin’s dressing room, I noticed that Dan had a James Bond soundtrack on his iPod. I therefore requested Nancy Sinatra singing “You Only Live Twice.” By the time Danny dialed it in, just as those gorgeous strings began, we were informed that the wardrobe case needed to be packed up. Alright, rather than bore you with anymore behind the scenes stuff, such how Junior doesn’t care much for the water sound effects in the Cornelius “Point” CD that is played before the band takes the stage, I’d like to go into some detail about the “Krystal Nightmare” that occurred after the buses and trucks had left for Tulsa… OK? By “Krystal”, I’m referring to that fast-food dystopia on Bourbon Street, the one that is often besieged by late night drunks, but which is particularly lacking in civility after a Tool extravaganza. Having trudged through the crowded rue with its brass discordance, sewage, and variegated brilliance, looking for something to eat at that hour (anything would do, even a strip of baloney floating in lime Kool-Aid or bag of stale Bugles from a vending machine at Chevron), we were forced to seek sustenance among the sweaty tattooed throngs with their sackfuls of steamed mystery. Waiting for a half an hour in a line with raw heads and bloody bones in knock-off Tool tees, we watched a roach on the wall watching us. Now, the Houstonian doesn’t like roaches, especially if it has a higher number then her when it comes to gold at the foot of the rainbow. Still waiting, I thought about the little fella’s fate. It could have been born and raised in an award-winning bistro, or even in a muffalata shop, but, no, the poor thing was given the spark of life at the NOLA Krystal. Oh, the damnability of it all. But, like us, it had to play the cards it was dealt, waiting on a wall for its order to be wrong. The more I think about it, you probably don’t want to know about the heathen near-vegan’s burger with ONLY mayo and cheese (after waiting 30 minutes for the first one with everything, including the cheese and mayo that he specifically stated that he didn’t want). “You mean you want everything BUT cheese and mayo?” the exasperated manager asked, taking charge, himself, of this evidently impossible assignment. With a deadpan expression and sheer frustration, over the drunken rancor as voodoo marionettes boxed up greasy squares, I uttered: “Sir, it’s absolutely critical.” Standing among the sweepings, I glanced up at the brazen roach, and commiserated with it. If only it had come into the world in nearby Illinois, it would at this time be feasting royally in a glorious White Castle! I wish I had my proton pack. Such was the “Krystal Nightmare.” The next morning, the place was sparkling… and we had a proper Creole lunch elsewhere.
The day after Thanksgiving (which I spent with John Ziegler’s family in Houston, with turkey and ham and all the fixins, but where I never heard anyone say “grace”, not even for as much as a dadblasted Shipley donut), we found ourselves in Austin. It was after eating lunch at the Santa Rita Cantina (where I’m told they invented Tex-Mex), that what I’m calling the “Thanksgiving Miracle” occurred, and it was Volto! , himself, that was responsible. As we were heading to a “Half Price Books” on the rainy afternoon, out of the ‘blue’, JZ nonchalantly said, “By the way, there’s a Steak ‘N Shake in Austin.” Of course I thought he was only bullshitting me (a Steak ‘N Shake this far west!), but after he persisted that it was true, and after calling information for any kind of confirmation, it appeared that he really wasn’t yanking our chain. (In retrospect, I probably never should have doubted a man who keeps tabs on these kinds of things, knowing exactly where and how many of his beloved “Whataburgers” are currently in Arizona, and, more importantly, how close they are to California.) Well call the dogs and piss on the fire! Twenty minutes later any “thick-coming fancies” turned into a reality. Staring at it in awed fascination, my brother, Laralee and I slowly got out of the car with our cameras at the ready. “What’s it doing here?” I asked anyone that would listen. “It beats the hell out of me!” a voice answered. Even though my bellybutton wasn’t exactly gnawing on my backbone (again, having just eaten Tex-Mex), we had to find a comfy booth.
The numbers were positively mystical. It simply boggled the mind. Gematria, and not that merely affected by mutual radiation or qabalistic echoes. Real gematria! Everything was at work, even with its Thelemic-Algolian 9300 South I-35 (= ate) address. Here was Steak ‘N Shake # 620 (=ate), and we would be seated at table # 62 (=ate). The order number… the waiter’s name… everything had a numerical significance. Now, if you’ve read this far, I want to reward you. As I promised, we’ll get to new Tool merch items soon enough, but, in talking to the manager (the manager of Steak ‘N Shake, not the band’s manager), he confided to us, such was our enthusiasm - nearly salivating at the possibility, that several more of the restaurants were on the way, perhaps as many as four more to be built in Austin! Naw! Well knock me down and steal muh teeth! With this kind of luck maybe the Raiders would even beat the Chiefs tomorrow in K.C!!!
The next day, while walking down the grand staircase from the mezzanine into the lobby with its lavish furnishings ‘painted’ with a Texana brush, on our way to have Chartreuse at the Texas Chili Parlor or chicken fried steak at the Broken Spoke, we passed by a little tike who was staring at the wall, mumbling to himself something about there not being any ghosts. I don’t know if he heard someone talking about the Driskill Ghost Tour or if the buildings Romanesque façade just creeped the poor thing out, or if his folks were staying on the 5th floor, but the boy kept repeating this no ghost thing as if trying to convince himself that it was, indeed, the case. Hmmm. If you should ever find yourself on the 5th floor, and see a guy checking his watch, be sure to ask him what time it is. Also, watch out for a short lady in an oversized hat, and, of course, for the “Houston Bride” with all her shopping bags (even though this is most likely not a ghostly apparition).
But if you’re the adventurous type, esoterically speaking, and don’t fear paranormal events, you might try viewing the supposedly haunted painting hanging there. The little girl holding flowers is ALSO holding something else in her other hand. Is she offering you a gift? Gaze into her eyes… look deeply, and… perhaps she can make good things happen, such as a Steak ‘N Shake appearing out of no where (someone let me know if they see the restaurant with the steakburgers and chocolate-banana shakes on I-35 in Austin), or the Raiders beating the Chiefs on their own turf…
DISCLAIMER: View at your own risk. We will not be held responsible for any supernatural occurrences or paranormal calamities that might impact your life, resulting from casual viewing or trance experiments conducted with the aforementioned painting.