The Taco Before The Storm and “Oh yeah - so that’s what a panic attack feels like”
(Orange and San Bernadino outskirts)
Ashley and I decided that after San Francisco, since the Mayhem tour was starting off in San Bernadino, we could stop off in Orange, CA to stay with some of our good friends the night before, then drive to San Bernadino together for the show. I’ve known Hollie for a while - a good buddy from Florida who moved over to California- it’s hard to see her so much these days, so it would be a good time staying with her and Kenny (a newer friend of mine; amazing person - who works at Blizzard (umm… Starcaft II???)).
We got picked up, did the drive back to the apartment - ate some real great food that Hollie prepped for us; then Ash and Hollie went to go grab supplies (booze) for the upcoming bus days to come. I opted to stay behind and get some Ashtanga in (any time I take more than a day off of Yoga… I get a little rickety physically and mentally - needed it).
Once Kenny got out of work, we all headed together to hit up Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen - a local, organic, Mexican place (sound familiar?). But ya know what? I would eat Mexican every meal, every day - if it were legit. Upon arrival, I realized I forgot something pretty integral… my camera. So apologies - old school iPhone-blog-style for Gabbi’s.
This place was similar to Nopalito in SF, but a little bigger - a touch less modern, touch more contemporary in the aesthetic; lines of plaques of awards and magazine articles on the joint. This place looked fantastic. One open wall that sits on the street side, open kitchen in the back where you can see them making everything from meat to the tortillas themselves - tables lining the middle.
Cocktails, chips and salsa were the start. I went for the Jalapeno Pepino Margarita: fresh jalapeno, cucumbers, muddled with silver tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, on the rocks. Good stuff. It was pretty sweet. Like actually sweet. The agave was… actually pretty powerful. After that one - I switched to a Negra Modelo. Our chips were tortilla chips and a really-nicely-biting habanero salsa. I was quite excited on the habanero salsa - I am really into spice.
We all started off with the Panuchos De Yucatan (puffed tortillas, black bean, achiote pork, avocado, onion, escabeche, habanero salsa). Similar to a tostada but something more. The puffed pastry was certainly more substantial than the normal thinner layered tostada. What’s really cool about Gabbi’s, is that they concentrate on delivering dishes from all different regions and culinary histories of Mexico. The flavors here were definitely a stand-out as far as my Mexican-consuming-standards go… there were all sorts of different, exciting flavors happening here. I recall a note of sweetness through all the dishes at Gabbi’s. It was certainly a signature theme.
My main was the Puerco Poc-chuc. A Mayan recipe with slices of Kurota pork loin, adobo achiote marinade, grilled onions, habanero salsa, plantains, and frijoles negros. The Puerco had that “Gabbi-sweetness” going on - the adobo was a pretty magical flavor as well. The dish came with tortillas (thankfully) - so I crammed all those delectable little bits across the plate into the tortillas and chowed down. Although we ordered only a few dishes between the four of us - everyone was really really full.
All in all. Great place.
We rode back, slept up, and headed to San Bernadino for the first USA show in a year and a half?? Two years maybe?
It’s hard getting readjusted to tour. I know it seems selfish - maybe insane that someone in a position like mine could ever possibly complain… but hey - let me tell you, it’s different for everyone. I applaud and love my three band mates - you could put them in a van, tell them to tour for a year straight in it, eat with 10 bucks a day - and they’d be perfectly content; not a complaint. Me? It’s harder. I’m sure it’s something deeply inherent in all of us and in our traits… I’m a creature of habit… I am trying to fix being so regimented, and people who know me will definitely agree that I’ve come a long way - but it’s the little bits for me: having to be away from family and friends, I miss being able to shower when I want to, sleep in my bed, use a toilet when I need to, have personal space… When you’re out on the road, you now have 8-10 siblings that you have to share a space with, share a living place and work place alike - you can’t sprawl out like usual.
The day went well. Showed up, unpacked, got settled… did a great meet and greet. Worked up the whole day for the show. Don’t get me wrong - the show wasn’t bad. It was different. First days are tricky- you figure out what you’re doing for the tour/set/live-performance in that first 30/40 minutes. Our set was a little too new, a little too obscure. We played 50/50 new material (off an unreleased album) and deeper cuts off our 2nd/4th album. So it wasn’t like a magical homecoming - which is tough… I want to do an amazing show for all the people who come out; the people who love the band - we had some work to do yet.
So we wrapped the show, I grabbed my shower stuff and headed to dinner.
Dinner? Closed. Catering closed for the day. No food left.
Shower? There’s 1 for all the men on the tour (maybe 100 dudes on this one), and the one we’re sharing with the other two rotating bands isn’t open to us for another 2.5 hours.
So we walked back to the bus (about a 10 minute walk) un-clean and un-fed.
That’s where I started to unravel a bit. (Perhaps an understatement.)
I was starting to lose it.
Hungry Matt - not a pleasant Matt. Dirty Matt? Not someone you want to meet. Combine the two - you have a molotovian-cocktail of Asian proportions.
Kenny to the rescue. “I’ve got a car. Let’s go… we’re getting you food and a shower. I will find it.” Hollie Yelped a place nearby; we shoved me into the car and high-tailed it.
Tony’s Diner was a gleaming ray of hope at the end of a train-tunnel; an oasis in the middle of the California desert. (Hollie (wo)manned the camera duties of the day/night by the way) We showed up to what looked like something stuck in a time-capsule.
It was the most beautiful little roadside diner I’ve seen in ages. I love diners… I love these weird little things that float timelessly in space - unaltered by the changing of times; resiliently staying the same as they were decades ago. Outside was an Eastern-European guy with a tie and dress shirt cooking rib-eye steaks in a massive grill. Kenny said he was going to order that.
We walked into what looked like the set of a David Lynch movie; a diner pot-of-gold as far as diners go. Odd… stuff…. kitsch, taxidermy, vinyl-seating, insanely long menus with dishes that amusingly spanned the globe - this was a diner.
I asked the very nice waitress-lady what her favorite thing on the menu was - she replied “Navy Bean Soup.” “I’ll take it!” This Navy Bean soup was Grandma-good. An almost porridge-y texture, some of the best tasting navy beans and ham in a soup I think I’ve had in a restaurant. We ordered some beers and our mains.
Kenny ordered the rib eye he saw outside - rare. Bloody. That was a man’s man’s steak if I’d ever seen it.
I went for the Carne Asada and Chicken tacos. Now… I know a diner on a road-side of San Bernadino may seem like an odd choice for tacos - but these were done right. They were traditional, cooked by a bad-ass of a Mexican chef, and everything I could have wanted to finally ease the pain of the day.
We finished up and saddled up to head back to the bus.
Easy right? Heck no.
Tony’s Diner was merely an exit out of the parking lot, then a mile trek… but. Why is a cop blockading the way back in? Kenny politely asks the officer if we can get back in to drop a band member off and the cop all but draws their gun on him. They tell us to “find another way.” Kenny drives up and thinks he knows where to go. Blockade.
We trek back and forth utilizing any and all maps we have on our phones… Blockades.
Basically - at these massive summer festivals, at one point in the night - they close all ways back in to ease the out-going traffic…. yeah - it makes sense, but what about someone who needs to get back in? We scaled the city limits - going all around the venue to no avail. Panic started setting in. My stomach started turning a bit… it was getting later… darker…
We got onto the high-way (and this is after about an hour of driving to try to find a new way in), we drove up the opposite way to turn around and come back the right way… another officer. This one is friendlier - he tells us we need to get back on the highway, turn around, and enter that same off-ramp the opposite side. We do it, get back in - I get my shower.
Whew. Close call. All in all - 1.5-2 hour ordeal to get back.
First night back in the bus to sleep - and it was off to another hot-parking lot, lined with porto-potties.