It's been a while since I've met someone who deserves sainthood more than Kirby James Fairchild. It wasn't enough that he and his All Smiles band played a major role in making our summer US tour so perfectly enjoyable. No, Jim took it upon himself to offer up his Chicagoan home to us on our last night in the States, then gave us a place to do laundry, then took us to breakfast the next morning, then let us store all of our gear in his living room, then offered us invaluable advice about playing overseas, then drove us to the airport, then parked (and is now watching) our van while we were gone. He's a truly wonderful individual, and I'll never tire of exclaiming my love for him (obviously). Thank you, Jim.
After Jim dropped us off at O'Hare International, the terror began to sink in. Something unexplainable happened to me between ages 13 and 25 that has left me absolutely horrified of flying. I grew up in Hawaii, so my family was constantly flying across the Pacific to our Portland relatives and back. I don't ever remember having any problems other than the usual restlessness and boredom that affects any kid who is forced to sit still in a small area for more than six hours straight. The past five years though, I've become a complete wreck when faced with the grim reality of boarding a plane.
I promised myself this time, I'd be taking some sort of drugs to shut my brain off. Sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, intoxicants, any or all of the above. Anything to get me across the Atlantic in one sane piece. For some reason though, I was feeling brave. "I don't need that stuff in my system! I'm a man! I'm a MAN!"
Hours later, I was trapped 39,000 feet above icy black waters, 1500 miles from land in either direction, in a coach section that probably wouldn't have sufficient legroom for Gary Coleman, in the middle of a Boeing 777 that was shaking and lurching violently with every tiny pocket of subzero wind beneath it's wings. I was not a man. I was a hyperventilating, fidgeting, restless, 6'9" trembling mess of a person. I tried to watch one of the Oscar-quality movies ("Wild Hogs"? "23"? WTF!?) on the little screen in front of my face, but every time the plane shuddered around me, the screen shook with it and I seriously thought about using my worthless wool blanket to parachute out of the escape hatch.
So I did what I always do in that specific situation. I prayed without ceasing, just like my mother used to tell me to do. I prayed so fast and so furiously that my desperately whispered cries for divine intervention began to unconsciously mash-up with Snow's 1992 crossover dancehall hit, "Informer...you-know-say-daddy-me-snow-me-i-going-blame...
stabbed-someone-down-the-lane...don't let-this-plane-crash-now!" I didn't even stop to think about how offended I would be if I were in God's position at that moment. I didn't have time to. I was too busy preparing to die.
But then we landed. On dry land, without flames or that fat guy from Lost carrying me out of the jungle to safety. I came as close as I've ever come to physically kneeling and planting my lips on the asphalt. But then my stomach turned and I made a beeline to the bathroom. Hello London!
We waited in the endless immigration line for an hour while I hypnotically watched the same woman's lower back/upper butt tattoo expose its questionable self every two minutes as she bent over to pick up her bags and put them down again twelve inches later. I wondered if my own sweaty butt looked much better, tramp stamp or no tramp stamp. The rear of my jeans had definitely endured a lot of damage over the past eight hours. I helplessly waited for the bile to rise into the back of my throat again, then picked up my own luggage and took a tiny step forward.
Finally we were walking along the corridor away from the baggage claim, giant instrument flight cases dragging behind us. At the end of the hallway was a kind-looking man holding a handwritten paper sign with "MENOMENA" scrawled on it. We shook hands and loaded all of our things into the back of his futuristic Toyota van.
The first difference I noticed about European culture was in the automobile department. The strangest thing to me was that I recognized all of the brand names—Honda, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Volvo—but 90% of the vehicles themselves seemed to be taken directly out of a brochure advertising life in the year 2025.
Most of them were hybrids or diesels, too. Why are American cars so old-school? I pondered this as our friendly driver zig-zagged through the most bizarre roadway system I've ever driven through. I hadn't slept in nearly 24 hours, but every time I nodded off, the swerving car reminded me of the airline turbulence, and I awoke instantly in a cold sweat.
Not that I minded seeing the unfamiliar scenery all around me. London is ancient, sprawling, and beautiful. I was just too weary to properly digest it all. So I closed my eyes and tried to think of something other than white rappers wearing circular leather Africa pendants around their necks (and John Lennon sunglasses) while lip-synching the timeless lyrics, "whipped down me pants, looked up me bottom." I hate you, Snow. Because I can't stop loving you.
I must have finally blacked out, because when I awoke, we were driving through Portland again. Young men with tightly fashionable women's jeans and neatly sculptured hairstyles. Young women with ballerina shoes, bright skintight leggings, bulky sweaters and oversized sunglasses. Wait...is that a cobblestone road? A red
double decker bus? This isn't SE Hawthorne! Oh right, we're thousands of miles away from home, and I almost had a stroke a couple of hours ago. This is Camden, London, and we have a show to play somewhere along this colorful street. There it is! The Barfly! We will be rocking you tomorrow night, Barfly. But for now we must sleep.
The hotel room was tiny and stuffy, but I didn't have time to process this before sweet, sweet sleep overtook me nanoseconds before I belly flopped onto the skinny mattress.
Menomena dot com
All Menomena tour diaries on LocalCut
Allmusic Guide on Snow's 12 Inches of Snow
(4 1/2 Stars!?!?!)
Photo: Snow. From the heydey.