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Raspberry Nostalgia• by Chris Morrissey • St. Paul, MN

About the Writer
My name is Chris Morrissey. I'm 27 years old. I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I play bass, sing and tour with a number of musical outfits. On my travels, sometimes I get the itch to test my writing chops on friends and family, mostly trying to convince them that dropping out of college for employment where itís considered disappointing if you donít drink on the job was a good idea. I hope you approve.

Editorís note: Iíve been receiving Chrisís email missives from the road for two years and each one of them, replete with myriad photographs, were as funny as they were insightful. Given all the lame movies and books available on the topic second hand, this take is first hand Ė and truer than true.

February 2005
After a Month on the Road

I'm ready to come home. However, we have two more weeks with a teaser two days in Minneapolis. We've all hit the proverbial "wall" today, or we are having the male equivalent to a period. We half-jokingly considered driving home today, but then we all patted each other on the back and said "C'mon fellas! Just two more weeks." The shows with MM have been very interesting, to say the least. The crowds have liked us for the most part (although I had to blow a kiss to two young gentlemen who were flicking me off in Dallas. They put their hands down after I acknowledged their presence in front of 5000 people.) The backstage accommodations have been pretty incredible with catered meals that would be damned expensive in a restaurant, and our own private dressing room with bathrooms and our WHOLE rider!

The other bands' dressing rooms are more like foggy pharmacies. These guys make some of my friends (who will remain nameless because my mom is getting this email) look like D.A.R.E officers. The opening band is comprised of guys who will not live past thirty. A comparison: We eat vegetables, talk about how much we miss our friends and love our families, value sleep, enjoy when we can remember our show the next day, and have a couple glasses of wine after a show. They smoke anything that is dry enough to catch fire, all carry plastic bags with uppers and downers and god knows what else, drive through the night after shows (ephedrine and coffee), sleep until load in (4:00 or so), drink heavily during load in, smoke enough weed and pop enough pills before the show to maybe forget that lives are messes and that their band sucks that their lives are messes and their band sucks, and do it all again—a great disrespect to Mother Music.

I know I know, lots of the masters were addicts, but somehow the great art that these people gave us combined with actual talent somehow excuses it. Trust me, the only thing these guys are masters of is how to pack a gravity bong. We have nicknamed them as follows: Foghorn (a jovial chap who uses phrases like "psychedelic warrior”), The Wind (who wears a coonskin cap and makes you feel as though you are dreaming when you look at him), Spicoli (alright, that one's obvious) and Casper (they all have rather ghostly complexions). I will try to get a picture of these guys for my next email and I won't tell you who is who and it will be a fun little game for you to try and figure it out. I lost my camera charger (one reason that it has been a while since I have written) so I'll do my best to make haste. I love you all, and I hope you all still love me.

The venue in Dallas.  We called it The Death Star. Tickets were 80+ dollars and it cost the kids 12 dollars to park. Someone is getting rich off this shit. Clear Channel is pure evil.

Boiled Nuts
February 2006

I'm writing to you from the Ole’ Miss Motel in Oxford, Mississippi, one of the nicest, cheap rooms I've ever been in. It's a step up from the Scottish Inn in Atlanta, where we heard someone yell out a desperate "RANDY!" at 3 am. You would think that I'd be used to the south by now, but it's always quite the culture shock. Whenever we order something at a restaurant we get a quick, "Y'all from up north?" When we say Minnesota they usually just laugh and ask what we want. And when we ask them which restaurants in the area are vegetarian/vegan-friendly, we usually get a look that says, "Y'all think gays should marry, donchu." I think it's safe to say that a lot of people who don't eat meat also support gay marriage, so I guess the look is justified.  When we asked our food question in Atlanta, a nice young woman directed us to a barbecue joint nearby. Maybe vegetarian in the south means "a place where you can order corn." Now to be fair, Athens, Georgia had some very nice vegan diners and ethnic food places, but that's only because Michael Stipe owns that town.

I can't get over how huge Jesus is down here either. He takes up more advertising space than Wal-Mart. I know I already told you about the Trucking for Jesus guy and the 1-800-JESUS-CHRIST billboard, but the list goes on and on. I can't help but wonder if other religions have billboards with sassy quotes that God might say, if God chose to take up some ad space. Like the billboard we saw yesterday: "What part of “Thou Shalt Not” didn't you understand?" – God. That sounds strangely similar to the pink XXXL t-shirts with Garfield saying something rude like "Oh no you didn't!" or "This is an A-B conversation, so C yourself out." I'm starting to think that the same people are speaking for both God and Garfield. They rally sports lovers sometimes too, like this one: "Let's meet at my house before the game on Sunday" – God , adding a little logo for the football team at the bottom.

If this hasn't caught on in Asia yet, I'm going to take it there. I had this idea for an ad campaign called "Buddha don't think so!" and I'm going to aim it at those over -indulgent Asian businessmen. It'll have a picture of a man in a suit drinking with a prostitute at a karaoke bar and the Buddha shaking his finger at him saying "Buddha don't think so!" It's going to be expensive, but maybe if Buddha is wearing Nike's or something I can get a sponsor.

When we took this picture, I was alone. He's been in my dreams never since.

April 2006

My exciting new title of "Senior Rhythm Section Member" has afforded me some lavish perks. Let's just say that there are always some cashews left in the mixed nuts container no matter how much the other guys want them. And now we stop the van every time I have to pee. So far we've been to Colorado, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, NYC and Philadelphia, and they've all been super fun shows. One highlight was playing Red Rocks, a million year old natural amphitheater, which was converted into a performance venue in the 1930's. It was super rad except for opening for two jam bands that played for a total of five hours. We left after the first of two because I threw up on Chad's patchwork pants after eating a laced quesadilla from a parking lot vender. That totally harshed his mellow. He was really looking forward to the rest of the set. It all worked out in the end because our friend Pippin got a seriously kind board mix of the show, so we've been blasting it in the van ever since.

A view from the bleachers at Red Rocks. I was smiling because there was a dragon telling me a story on top of one of the rocks. He was so funny. He was also very beautiful and wise.

Gunfights and Gasoline
July 2006

Now that I have your attention let me clarify that by "gunfights" I actually mean many guns drawn and pointed, and a suggestion by a Portland police officer to go inside the restaurant we were in front of. We never heard a gun go off. This was after some young hooligans ran past us talking about "smoking some dude." It was ironic, because we had just exited the restaurant to do some smoking of our own, not with a gun, but with some fine organic tobacco. We don't smoke cigarettes that are bad for you. The ones we smoke have a native American on the front and native Americans don't use additives in their tobacco (unless you count peyote), and someone told me that smoking them is actually the nutritional equivalent of eating a spinach salad.

Anyway, these guys ran past us and got into a car and about five seconds later what must have been the bulk of the fleet of Portland police cars pulled up ten feet from where we were standing and about twenty cops with different-sized guns got out of cars and hid behind their doors like fucking Dragnet. We were a little dazed just watching it all happen when one of the cops said, "Uh, guys, why don't you go into the restaurant. These guys have a gun and have supposedly fired it in one of these stores." It woke us up enough to get us back in the restaurant with the rest of our party who chose to get their nutrition from actual spinach salads. We waited inside for a while until they had the scene all cleaned up and we finished our food.

The gasoline part of my subject is much less exciting, but like gunfights, it starts with a "g." Basically, this is a driving tour and gas is $3.30/gallon out here and we're not even to California yet. Whoa. The drive, however, is exceptionally beautiful in this part of the country and I wish everyone could see this landscape. Beautiful land. I'll be home soon.

I was drinking beet juice shortly before I was almost shot. By the time I get home I'm sure the story will have evolved into me taking a bullet for Peter, and then, wounded, disarming the hooligans and saving the day.

How’s Your Aspen?

February 2007

I write to you from a Radisson on wheels, a mobile Marriott, a hovering Hyatt. Besides the coffin-like sleeping quarters, it has everything a person will need (except for one thing I've heard is in the top-of-the line busses known as "poop grinders" … we don't have those.) We have a 50' plasma screen TV with satellite direct TV, mobile Wi-Fi, fridge, freezer, microwave, leather couches, shower (like I will ever use that) and even a massage chair. The bunks are adorned with individual DVD players! The first couple nights were tough for sleep.A lot of the standard issue problems: nightmares, nausea, a feeling of suffocation, the deafening "night terrors" of our guitar tech a few bunks away (he has a lot of flash backs), and when exhaustion finally overruled all these factors, a teething 8 month old hollering for breast milk. A few nights of this has lent itself to a constant dreamlike euphoria that has made minutes run into hours and hours run into days. [cough]

There's even a t-shirt with my name on it that's selling like hot cakes! We'll be all over this country in the next four weeks. Tonight is our fourth show in beautiful Aspen, Colorado. Aspen's legendary slopes and social programs have been a destination that I have long awaited. Tonight my wish is granted. Every amenity, every precaution is taken to make for the most pleasant of pleasant vacations for the world’s assholes. The mayor’s dog is a vegetarian! The bus isn't allowed within the sight lines of any resort or slope! Minority employees are transported in tunnels so all the assholes can leave their Patagonia ass warmers out in the chalet without fear of theft! Jokes about the "cave dwelling, Neanderthal Vail skiers" are always hilarious! Yes, here I am in Aspen.

Playing Nirvana covers on the bus last night. No one ever asks me "what's wrong?" when I look like this.

Atlanta, GA
August 2007

Today felt like an adventurous pilgrimage of sorts. As some of you might recall, I was really wrapped up in the Martin Luther King autobiography last winter. For lack of a more descriptive description, that book changed the way I think about things and gave me one of those feelings like I'd really hit on something resonant. The last few days, I've been reading a lot about US presidential history on Wikipedia and it's SO addicting. I was learning how a lot of them were related to and descendants of Mayflower passengers and such. Do you know how many presidents were born in Ohio? TONS! After I got back from Ria's Bluebird Cafe this morning (it was great), I was reading about JFK and was reminded that Atlanta is where King is buried. I lit up like a joint in my sister's car on her way to work, strapped my man purse on and headed out on a quest to see the grave of my hero.

After asking a few people how to get there, I learned that not only is his grave site there, but also his boyhood home and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he delivered so many of his powerful sermons! I boarded the MARTA, which is Atlanta's pathetic version of a subway. It makes LA's public transit look like New York’s, while still being far superior to Minneapolis's. I got off at the King Memorial stop and realized that I was in an impoverished part of town. Abandoned houses with swirling faded neon graffiti and the modern tumbleweed of dented plastic bottles and windswept pop labels collecting at the curbsides. I think I subconsciously pictured the Historic Fourth Ward as a shining beacon of the triumph over poverty, for which King fought so hard. Save the few block radius around the "National Park" that is the MLK Center for Change Through Nonviolence, the Fourth Ward is one of the worst neighborhoods I have ever seen in nearly 27 years on this planet.

Atlanta is a city where whites can feel very much the minority (population wise), but this isn't what I mean about the Historic Fourth Ward. I was reminded of how recently the civil rights struggle began and how far from completion King's vision is. The block after block of lovelessly-constructed welfare housing and diseased-looking, beaten-down "shotgun" houses was draining to behold. Signs that read "No Drinking, No Gambling, No Drugs. Violators will be Prosecuted" were posted on the front of every building, as if the signs would do anything but make the inhabitants feel inferior to those who drink just as much, do as many drugs and gamble without signs on their front doors. Some of the signs had been mangled by someone trying to give their building the least bit of personality amid those cookie-cutter shacks. And every few buildings, there were large gatherings of inhabitants: poor, Black Americans of every age and not a white face in sight for blocks. From across the street, a group of young men made my presence known and I kindly refused a deal offered to me on a fold-up chair that the owner was "sick of toting around," but other than that encounter, I just walked through, maybe a good two miles, wondering what it would be like to be poor and black in this impoverished area of Atlanta. And as quickly as the broken down houses had appeared, I watched them evaporate into large, elaborate brick dwellings with two cars in every driveway; pleasingly-zoned coffee shops, bakeries and bookstores started to appear, too. Along with these familiar sites came another familiar site: white faces. A sort of unacknowledged tension lifted when I entered the area where the terrible byproduct of greed was no longer visible. I felt guilty.

I entered my room at the midtown Wyndham and enjoyed the air conditioning. I'm enjoying the view of downtown as I type this, and I will enjoy the A&E documentary on the MLK freedom riders in a king-sized bed after I send it. You should come to the south to see what a mess we've made of it.

Graves of honored confederate soldiers, blocks from King’s grave, who were fighting to keep King's grandparents from freedom. They also fought to save the evil practice that if defeated, would ensure the economic devastation of the region for a long, long time to come. Balance is a bitch.

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