Pennsylvania and Food and Paolo’s Aunts and Uncles
(New Richmond, Pa; Lock Haven, Pa)
Part I. (Part II is the entry directly below)
I write to you today from gate 14 at the Helsinki Airport. The bus, band and crew are floating somewhere between Turku and Stockholm on a party-ferry - why am I here? Let’s try to recap quickly….
We finish the Dream Theater tour, we break for 5 days at home, we fly to Milan to begin 6 headlining shows before adjoining to the support Euro-tour/ us-headline UK tour with In Flames. We show up in Milan to a bus that isn’t the one we ordered (before the tour, our tour manager, Brian Griffin - helped us pick a pretty good bus via pictures and descriptions online from the bus company, MZ). But yeah - this wasn’t the right one. This bus was a crummier one that we’d been on 3 years prior that - it had leaky air-vents then.
So the bus wasn’t right… easy fix? Nah - flash forward two weeks - still in it. Turns out the driver has never really driven in Europe before, he’s a rough driver, a bad parker, sorta not-all-there, and then (icing on the christmas pudding) he knocks off the tailpipe of the exhaust while I was mini-vacationing in Warsaw with some friends and doesn’t get it fixed.
I show up to a gas chamber. This German-engineered machine’s tiny coffin-bunks are now all coated in a nice velvety-diesel-fume. I go to the driver and ask “Uh… what is this smell? Is this gonna kill us? When are you fixing it?” His reply: “Oh. Nein Nein. Dees ist no problem. You all vill be fine.” Hmm.
I spend a night in the chambers of Klausschwitz (as Paolo so appropriately named it) and wake up with a chest-like-iron-lung-asthma, eyes covered in a film… I can’t breathe, speak… I run outside into the freezing Stockholm streets in basketball shorts coughing like a geriatric with emphysema who won’t kick the cigs.
Now… this bus had already tested all of our limits with things like: a trailer that was too small to fit all our gear in (forcing us to half divide luggage between trailer and luggage bays), bunks that all varied in size, a bunk (our TM’s) that leaks super freezing air when everyone else’s bunks are hot, and the newest addition of everyone suffering from black lung.
My options in my head were these: 1. Throw the coffee machine through the front windshield (a plausible, yet maybe not the most rational of ideas) or 2. Book some plane tickets and get off the WMD-on-wheels. I said F the roaming charges and quickly booked a flight the hell out of there.
I booked it so I could stay out of the thing with enough buffer days that that machine ought-to-be-fixed when I return. He just fixed it yesterday. I heard it ended up getting so bad that no one could even go anywhere near the back of the bus on the inside of the bus.
Sorry boys… ya’ll shoulda flown.
Flash back to Mayhem.
We finished up the show nearest to New Richmond, Pa (I do not recall which city that was) and met up with two of Paolo’s uncles: Jan and Bill to go grab some grub. We piled into the car and headed to the Front Street Cafe’.
This was a total locals joint: local folk band playing (which was so good I audio recorded them), a clientele that all seemed to match each other (Paolo and I must have looked like Martians), all locally made sweets and beers on tap - this was going to be perfect. Started off with a sort-of-local beer, the Rivertown Brewing Company Hop Bomber from Cincinnati, Oh (which is close, right?) and the Gumbo.
I am not picky with beers when you’re talking local - and bring on the hops if it’s hop-time. Fantastic stuff. If I remember correctly - they were out of the Gumbo (maybe that’s why I couldn’t dig up a pic). My main was the Pasta Lafayette: andouille sausage and shrimp, roasted red peppers and garlic with a touch of Thai chili in a spicy cream sauce; served over penne pasta. Solid stuff.
Once again, proof that you can find local, good options when you search for it.
The next day, we had a day off near Paolo’s aunt and uncle, Gemma and Tony, who live close to Paolo’s other uncle and aunt, Gio and Linett. We’ve had many-an-amazing-day-off in the past with Paolo’s aunts and uncles in the Lock Haven, Pa area. Any time we have a day off near by - it always means food, booze, and fun stuff with the extended bloodline of the Paolo-family.
Gemma picked us up and brought us to her place for some home-made snacks, access to a washer/dryer (much needed amidst a nasty-hot summer-tour), and a hang with her amazing pets. Since I’m forced to be away from Miyuki so much, anytime I see a Frenchie (like Gemma’s amazing Ogee) - it’s hang-time. We ate, showered, cleaned our clothes, played with the animals, then prepped for a hang-session with Gio and Linett.
Paolo spent a lot of his life in the Lock Haven area, so it’s always amazing to see the spots that a best friend/band member grew up in. Gio is one of the coolest uncles-I’ve-never-had. This man: is hilarious; hunts like Ted Nugent; is (essentially) the Mayor of Lock Have; is a badass; cuts hair like an artist; is someone who I consider a family member to me. Oh yeah… forgot to mention: intensely good cook.
We had lots of plans for the day, but first was to hit the Texas Restaurant, a local institution since 1918. Paolo, Gio, all the cousins, relatives - have all hit this place quite a few times in their day; and it was my introduction to the Texas.
I started with fries covered with gravy and cheese (I know, right?) and The Growler: A chili-cheese hotdog with onions and other bits. This is some fantastically greasy, soul-filling, indulgent-goodness. I scarfed it all down with ease. I love these greasy-spoon old diners that have been sitting in their same spots for years. Everyone recounted fantastic adventures of being hammered and coming to the Texas for some perfect drunk-food.
The next spot to hit was the Susquehanna River, a River that we’ve all spent time in together previously and one that Paolo and his relatives all have spent years visiting. We picked up some booze from a local spot and headed to Gio’s boat. We floated around for several hours, drank beers and swam till we started working up an appetite again.