TOUR Day 19 - Washington, DC and Race Stuff by Sophie Johnson

This is really the first time that we have woken up in the same city that we are performing in. I sat in a van for a total of 20 minutes today, on the way from our hotel to the venue. We’re at a Residence Inn in Alexandria, Virginia, which is probably my favorite kind of hotel to stay in, because they decorate it like it’s a real house, with a full-size fridge and EVERYTHING. They put the garbage can under the “kitchen” “sink.” It feels like staying at a very clean, malnourished friend’s apartment.

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TOUR Day 18 - Pittsburgh and Nothing by Sophie Johnson

I’m in the back of the van again, a little sick to my stomach, feeling totally shocked that there are only four shows left on the tour. It’s been a bit of a blur. There hasn’t been a great deal of stopping to wander around foreign cities this time around. Lots of late nights in the car, wondering what murky-black body of water is just in the distance.

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TOUR Day 17 - Ohio and Close by Sophie Johnson

Driving through Ohio was achingly beautiful: sky-scraping barns and fields upon fields of sun-yellow corn. We passed by a few Amish vehicles (respectable, low-frills, horse-drawn buggies). I couldn’t get over how much I enjoyed saying “ominous Amishness” out loud. No one said anything about “Amishness” not being a real word. Roadside shacks sold hard cheddar cheese and seasonal jams. The clouds were bombastic.
 

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TOUR Day 16 - Detroit and Empty Buildings by Sophie Johnson

Detroit won my heart. At the hotel, a woman stopped me by the elevator, took me by the shoulders, and said, "You are beautiful, and you haven't been told that enough today, I can tell." She was wearing a lime green nylon dress and smelled like lavender, and honestly, I needed that so much right then I could've kissed her. The show was upbeat and spirited. And then this morning we drove through the city. It took my breath away.

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TOUR Day 15 - Chicago and Nowness by Sophie Johnson

I am back on the road after a work week in New Orleans. I had no idea the rapid transitions would be so difficult. This all started thusly: I purchased tickets last month to fly from Kansas City to New Orleans on August 16, and to return to the road on August 20, so I could go to the beginning-of-the-year training required by the arts organization I work for. The night before my flight, I curled up to go to sleep in a swank hotel in Oklahoma City, and decided I would check in a little early (better safe than sorry). It took me until then to realize that I was five hours away from the airport I was supposed to fly out of.

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TOUR Day 14 - Omaha and Records by Sophie Johnson

In 2004, I spent a whole afternoon daydreaming about the perfect vacation, and I decided it would be driving to Omaha. At the time, my favorite thing in the world was music (because I was a teenager), and my favorite record label in the world was Saddle Creek (because I was openly depressed). Rilo Kiley had just signed to Saddle Creek, which had them joining the ranks of Cursive, Bright Eyes, and the Good Life. (If you are wondering what those bands sounded like, you can do a YouTube search for Conor Oberst and it all kind of just sounds like that. Maybe best described as sad boys whining about how lonely they feel when they whine.) I would be in a “Travels With Charley”-style van, alongside a “Travels With Charley”-style poodle, and I’d listen to sad music the whole way while watching what I imagined would be fields choked with elegant wild horses. At night, I’d hole up in tiny motels, penning the great American novel. Once in Omaha, I would go to the Saddle Creek headquarters, where I would meet sad boys who would totally “get me,” and we’d hang out at vegan restaurants and discuss Bukowski. I am glad I did not go on that vacation. There’s no way I would have survived it.

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TOUR Day 13 - Denver and More Feminism by Sophie Johnson

I haven’t spent much time in Denver, although my sister went to college in Colorado Springs, and I’ve been in love with two people who are from that area. The driving stretches have been BRUTAL. We got into Denver at 4, and the guys all wanted to do the normal thing and check out some recreational marijuana facilities. I was grateful for a moment alone to get the big cry out I’d been holding in for a few days. It felt like emptying out a bottle. Today I feel a lot better.

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TOUR Day 12 - Salt Lake City and Wyoming by Sophie Johnson

Nothing is good about Wyoming. I think there are some people out there who fantasize about moving here and riding horses or some other such nonsense, but really, it’s the worst. I mean, there ARE horses. Horses and cows and then endless fields of flat, arid NOTHING. This is the second time I have driven the length of this state. There was nothing redeeming about it the first time, and no one has changed anything about it since then. 

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TOUR Day 11 - Boise and Bipolar by Sophie Johnson

We are driving through Idaho towards Salt Lake City. We spent two hours walking around a park in Idaho called Craters of the Moon: one of the best-preserved volcanic flood basalt areas in the continental United States. When I was very young, my family went camping in the Yellowstone National Park, and I remember scenes like Craters of the Moon. I remember thinking that walking on the old volcanic rocks sounded like walking on old popcorn. As an adult, I might adjust that analogy and say that it sounds more like walking on styrofoam packing peanuts, but in some ways those are the same.

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TOUR Day 10 - Seattle and Jamie by Sophie Johnson

I am sitting in the back of the van watching the Washington mountains shrink into acres upon acres of wheat and sheepish little summer trees. I thought the “Sophie Johnson This Is Your Life” portion of the tour ended in Portland, but we’re driving through the part of eastern Washington that made up the majority of my trips to and from Whitman College for four years.

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TOUR Day 9 - Portland and The Past by Sophie Johnson

Portland felt like an emotional hotbed. We set up for the show at the Hawthorne Theatre (which we were sharing with like twelve metal bands on the other side of the building). In high school, I liked to ride the bus to this stretch of Hawthorne and go vintage clothing shopping; I would sit at the Oasis Cafe and eat pizza and watch people who were older and cooler than me pass by. That was heaven. I would look at the shows on the Hawthorne Theatre marquee and imagine what kind of music they played. (Based on what I learned about the Hawthorne last night, they were probably all metal bands. Exclusively metal. But it was fun to imagine that maybe sometimes a little twee band with a ukelele called “Dig My Way To Hell” might be taking the stage.)

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TOUR Day 8 - Oakland and Mild Panic by Sophie Johnson

I started to freak out last night. It’s good to know my limit: it’s seven days of traveling in a van, complicated by eating one grilled cheese sandwich out of hungry desperation at an In-N-Out Burger. When I hit my limit, I might start to have an emotional break-down in the middle of a show after getting a (somewhat) disparaging e-mail from a disapproving family member. That breakdown will look like this: a bride-to-be will come up to have Air Sex, and when the time comes for feedback, I will say something like, “Um… it seems like you give good blow jobs.” Which (in case it’s not clear), is not a very smart or good comment. And then, like a perfect storm, I might get back into the van after the show and just sob in the back seat quietly while everyone else happily listens to old Adam Sandler albums and while laughing uncontrollably.

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TOUR Day 7 - Los Angeles and Polyamory by Sophie Johnson

I am a sucker for magazine subscription deals. When Conde Nast sends me a letter, I’m automatically down for a year of “Allure” — especially if it comes with a free hideous “clutch purse” (put in quotation marks because no self-respecting woman would do anything with a free magazine purse, except maybe use it to pick up dog poop). If you wonder how many magazines I subscribe to, I am slightly embarrassed to say that I don’t know for sure. More than 20. And “Teen Vogue” twice. I like having piles of unread magazines to bring on vacations, because it can be difficult to carry a bunch of books, and when you’re done with a magazine you can just leave it at a bus stop, or under someone’s couch. 

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TOUR Day 6 - San Diego and The Truth by Sophie Johnson

Yesterday morning I woke up early at the Phoenix hotel feeling like I needed to exercise. Spending a lot of time sitting in a car can make you feel like all the fat in your body is just slowly coagulating in your butt/ hips area — which may make you good for child-bearing, but it doesn’t feel great when you’re walking around. So I went down to the antiquated second floor of this creaky old hotel and hopped on the treadmill, and turned on excellent early-morning TBS.

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TOUR Day 5 - Phoenix and The Universe by Sophie Johnson

Now I’m sitting in the front seat of the van while Rob drives. I usually don’t like to sit in the front seat, because I feel so constantly positive that cars are going to crash, and I tend to reach across the front seat to honk for the driver, or save them from the window crashing into their bodies. So really what I mean is, it’s super-unsafe for me to sit in the front seat of a vehicle. But the guys on this tour don’t care. They’re living dangerously. What would comedy be without dangerous living?

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TOUR Day 4 - Tucson and Exhaustion by Sophie Johnson

Things have been moving so fast for the past I have felt totally unable to process any thoughts at all. Right now I am sitting at a hipster bar in Phoenix. There’s a really hot girl at the counter with waist-length stick-straight black hair, and I wonder if I’m just as objectifying as all the men in the world for wanting to stare at her, so I’m actively trying not to. Phoenix is hot. At this restaurant, they have an outside option, but it’s like they can tell that people aren’t going to tolerate straight-up outside dining, so the entire outdoor area is being spritzed with water — which turns to steam before it hits the people. Everyone wins.

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TOUR Day 3 - Marfa and the Butterfly Effect by Sophie Johnson

We’re driving through New Mexico now — flat and cactusy. To my left there’s an enormous dairy farm with hundreds of sad-looking cows corralled around sadder-looking grain-feeding basins. To their left there’s Mexico. I can’t shake how weird it is to know that just beyond a fence as far away from me right now as my job in New Orleans is from my house in New Orleans, there’s serious poverty and violence and people who wish to get away from it, but aren’t allowed to. I am not equipped to write an essay about immigration and the sad state of affairs around human rights in our country, but there is certainly something profound and harrowing about the view.

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TOUR Day 2 - Austin and Vanessa by Sophie Johnson

I’m in the way back of a van driving through Texas after a big, full show in Austin last night. Austin has all the day-cool of Portland and all the night-cool of Los Angeles, and it’s unbelievably intimidating. Austin feels like the city that’s going to tell me that I haven’t earned my bird tattoos yet, and I’ll have to start an organic energy bar-making company before I can show my face in public. This is not to say that anyone in Austin has ever been anything but kind and loving toward me (they have even complimented my bird tattoos, so there goes that theory). It’s to say that I am innately paranoid, and my decision to stay inside every night no matter where I am is thereby justified. 

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TOUR Day 1 - Houston and Feminism by Sophie Johnson

A long time ago, I told people I did not like to travel. I think felt like, in a sort of backward way, this made me more exotic; sort of like not having any tattoos. Also, when I was 16 my family took me on this really nice trip to Italy (it’s so hard when your class strata forces you to go to Europe — UGH), and I really missed my boyfriend, so I sulked the whole time and sullenly ate (delicious, delicious) pizzas. 

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