How to rock the Econolodge
Tim Arnold, drummer and singer for Good Old War, meditates on the touring musician’s life, and how it so often comes down sitting in hotel rooms drinking shitty beer.
TODAY IS A DAY OFF TOUR.
As of right now I am sitting in a hotel in Cleveland, one warm beer halfway done and the one on deck sitting alone in a way-too-small ice bucket. It’s about 4:30pm. It’s Father’s Day.
The blinds in the hotel are half open and it’s drizzling outside. Keith is in his room with his midi keyboard creating string arrangements for songs already released; Dan is in his room working on his chicken-picking. Jason is having a hot tub party by himself.
The walls are a fine houndstooth pattern. The lamps are leather and brass. There are bags with clothes bursting from the zippered pockets and chargers and unmade beds and warm beer. The wall contains a standard print of an oil painting from some far off coast that really evokes nothing. Everything’s a brown or white. Or brown and white. Looking out the window from the fourth floor I see other hotels and power lines.
In an effort to not have our van / trailer stolen, we chose a hotel by the airport which means ample parking, security, and distance from the frothing, seething underbelly of the great Cleveland. That’s not to say Cleveland is especially brutal. It is like any other city. Danger lurks and anything can happen. We’ve just learned a few lessons over the years, and not staying downtown is one of them.
Most of the time nicer hotels have bars in the lobby, with prices just outside my budget — there’s really nothing like paying eight dollars for a Budweiser. If I close my eyes its almost like drinking a really nice craft beer. When I open my eyes I see many traveling businessmen flirting with the bartender if it’s a woman, or talking about the game if it’s a man. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and get back from a show and find an entire wedding party, much drunker than I am. Sometimes it frightens me, other times I join in.
Mostly I steer clear of those engagements as a result of me not being “on their level” and by that I mean they are fucking hammered and I’m just drunk. Sometimes those conversations can be one-sided and it can get awkward, sometimes violent if you don’t participate accordingly in their drunken rant about how they were in a band before or how their cousin is in a band and you should “check out their cd.” Almost always these highly intoxicated folk will ask your band name and “Good Old War” usually receives a twisted face which leads to an uneasy explanation of how it came to be, followed by a reassuring “we don’t love war or anything” and how we aren’t a metal band, etc.
If I close my eyes its almost like drinking a really nice craft beer.
A day off on tour provides some unbelievably needed alone time. Being on the road is a very close affair. I am in a van with three other people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s definitely not overly exciting and can, a lot of the time, be a bit depressing. Sometimes you need a little time to yourself. One could sit on the bed under the leather lamplight and read the gideon bible, maybe watch a baseball game, ponder tomorrow, or just sit, alone, with nothing but the groovy hum of the air conditioner to calm their overactive mind.
The world is your oyster when you have an entire hotel at your disposal. The aforementioned bar is an option during business hours, or you can just drink in your room enjoying a nice warm one. If you are feeling saucy or are just buzzed and bored, attempt to breach the roof. Standing on the roof is far superior to looking out the window from the top floor and you feel free. Bring a six pack, a blanket, and maybe even a friend for an exceptional time, the amount of fun definitely depending on the height of the building and the caliber of the company you choose.
I’ve always had the fantasy of meeting a gorgeous housekeeper and falling in love, but it hasn’t happened yet. I picture her voice rousing me from my slumber at around 9am, a soft, sexy “housekeeping…” accompanied by a delicate knock at the door. I haven’t given up hope though. I’m a true believer that fantasies can come true, especially if you are a celebrity or very wealthy, the combination being the best scenario.
Tim Arnold is a member of Matador Ambassadors, a collective of journalists, athletes, musicians, and filmmakers with gifts for storytelling.
Alas, the best you can really hope for is a comfortable bed. Today for example, we have wonderful beds with soft mattresses and my personal favorite, the blanket that is like a waffle and is laid between two sheets, and a down comforter on top. The cotton waffle blanket keeps it easy breezy under the heavy down which makes for the ultimate sleeping experience. My dreams instantly change from apocalyptic nightmares to confusing conversations with people I know but look like people I have never met. It’s a pleasant change of pace. A good bed is hard to find.
Being on tour can be tough but it can also be the time of your life. I remember when all we had to eat was a jar of peanut butter and the breadsticks nobody wanted from dominos last night and our bed was the van. I remember those days fondly, and I don’t think I will ever forget them. And every night I get to play music for people on a stage and have at least some of the people appreciate and enjoy what we are doing I know that what I’m doing is something that I was meant to do. Something that I need to do.
It feels too good to run around the country with my brothers in art, making the best music we can make, to ever truly bellyache about how tired we are or that there is no beer backstage or that we have to drive 16 hours to get to a show the next day. I feel lucky to be in this hotel.
I’m gonna go try and find a way on to the roof.