Steve Cook's soul, song, and sweat.

Shinybass journal entry 04-01-13

I’m so torn it burns.

All Fools check in, please.  I feel that as a life-long prankster, I should have something really grand and elaborate planned for this day.  I’ll let the cat out – I do not.  I thought about maybe putting my neighbor’s lawnmower on his roof or something MIT-ish like that, but the next headline will read ‘Prankster shot over broken pushmower’.  Are my pranking skills fading? Am I growing up? Am I losing focus here?  Again, I am really trying to do the right thing here, because I feel that I should be serious enough to tell you about shows and update from the road, but the kid in me wants to mess with all of you.  Well, sadly, that ain’t gonna happen.

I learned pranking from my Mom, who used to mess with us for April Fool’s Day in various harmless pranks ranging from a rubber band on the kitchen spray nozzle to mayo on my brother’s door handle.   I took it (many) steps further when I started touring – because, let’s face it, it’s sort of like summer camp – and we had different resources.  Like the time we wrapped the opening act’s entire van in plastic wrap.  Yes, the whole van.   Then there was the time a few weeks ago when I kept walking by Jeff’s amp and hitting the ‘standby’ switch while he and the local hand feverishly tried to troubleshoot his cables for 10 minutes.  I really shouldn’t have let that one go on, but it just became too funny…

Pulling off a great practical joke is really fun, especially in that ‘you got me’ smiling moment.  As long as no one gets hurt, things are OK.  I do like Google’s joke today.  Google pulls off some witty ones, and they have the money to really pull it off and make the joke look convincing.  I suppose if I could pull it off, I would, at some point, wire up a ‘transpose’ pedal to our keyboard player’s monitor rig, so when he hits all the right notes, I can hit a switch to make it sound like he’s hitting all the wrong ones.  It’s a good thing he doesn’t read my journal.

So enough of the jokes – on to the (semi) serious stuff : touring.  That is, as serious as we can make it.  We had two very different shows in very different corners of the world this past week.  We flew to South Dakota to perform for a private convention of dairy farmers.  Usually when we see ‘dairy farmers’ on the day sheet, it means that we’re in a town with a gas station/grocery/post office/taxidermist in one.  This time it was Sioux Falls (not too much different, really – no offense, Sioux Fallians).  There was this lingering smell of hogs in the air, which I would hope goes away in the summer months.  I am not making sport of SD – I have had some great shows there in the past, and this show was a lot of fun as well.  It was a first for me in that the crowd threw cheese on stage.  Not even in Wisconsin has that happened…

The next show on the books was for Columbus, OH.  My wife rode the tour bus with me so we could spend the Saturday together, and that is a rare treat.  It’s sort of an unwritten rule to NOT bring spouses, especially either fighting spouses or ones that make everyone else sick with constant PDA.  Luckily I don’t like to fight, and we can restrain ourselves for the sake of art and social decorum.  But since she is not entirely used to the mode of travel, it’s a little funny to hear the stories of getting in and out of a bunk or how it feels to wake up in a coffin of a sleep chamber.

A day before we left, Tommy informed us that we would be getting a private backstage tour of the Columbus Zoo.  As it turns out, Jack Hanna is a fan of Phil’s, and the two connected a few months ago.  Fast forward to Saturday, and we were in for a morning to remember.  We get to see and do a lot, and this time I was happy to share it with my wife rather than have to tell her about it later.  We’re both big animal lovers, so this day was going to be amazing, even if we just walked the zoo for free.  But we were privileged to much more than that…

We started in the Australian exhibit, where we were told we’d be seeing a koala.  OK, I’ll walk by the exhibit and see it.  Oh no – we were IN the exhibit.  So we walk in and we are literally face to face with a Koala.  As I turn around, there are people outisde of the glass looking in at us, and I apologize for being in your pictures.  Here’s my new friend.


Next stop was the big animal pen – elephants and rhinos.  They told us we’d be petting a rhino.  Wait, petting a rhino? Well, sign me up!  We walked in the door, and there was a 4-year-old ‘baby’ elephant, which they are among my favorites (along with rhinos), and I was instantly 8 years old, craning my neck for a better view, and with a permanent grin on my face.  The handlers put the show in motion when they rolled a melon out and we watched the elephant eat his treat.  Then we all met Rosie, a 2300-lb black rhino.  Now I was in heaven.  After the initial shock that we were within 5 feet of a rhino, we all walked over and fed Rosie apples as we pet her.  We stayed there for at least 20 minutes. Rosie was sweet as can be, and she didn’t mind so much having her ears scratched.


Then we were about to get blindsided.  They shuttled us to the Administrative Center where they keep the ‘famous’ animals – the ones that Jack takes on TV with him.  We were met by one of Jack’s assistants, and given the grand tour.  They paraded out animal after animal, some extremely rare, some just common and fun, but each one made grown men into babbling little kids.  We met Trout, a penguin who took a liking to my wife, a clouded leopard, one of only 800 left in the world, and our favorite, a squeaky little Asian otter named Yin, who stole everyone’s hearts.   I was also told a secret by a dingo.


Then came the big kitties – the cheetahs.  There were 5 of these big, beautiful cats there, and we were in awe.  Not only in their beauty and grace, but also that the handlers walked in the cages and were giving them commands to sit and making them purr for us.  We couldn’t go in the cages, but she did take a phone in, and snapped this shot.  Even through the fence, it was incredible being nose to nose with a cheetah.  Scratch that – 4 cheetahs!


Upon leaving, I asked a zoo official how, as common citizens, we can help in conservation efforts.  I can’t send $1000 in to support the polar bears, but I don’t want them to disappear, either.  She told me something so simple and easy I shall pass it along to you: Reduce your carbon footprint.  Use a water filter instead of plastic bottles.  Walk or bike instead of drive.  Even one trip.  The easiest instant fix is to replace all your light bulbs with CFL bulbs, which use 75% less energy and last up to 9 years.  And they are MUCH cheaper than they used to be.  But imagine if everyone took one baby step, add up all those drops in the bucket, and pretty soon we are actually making a difference.  So in addition to being a patron at the zoo, which helps in the conservation effort, do a little extra at home or at work.

So with hundreds of pictures and a thousand great memories in our heads, we had to get back the the Blustone for our show that night.  The venue is a 120 year-old former church, converted into a rockin’ venue, complete with basement after-party lounge, and stained glass.  If you haven’t caught a show there yet, you need to.  It’s pretty darn cool.

There’s the full report, excluding the smell of rhino and the projectile penguin poo that hit the floor.  Oh, Trout, you little scamp.  So get to a zoo soon, or at least change your bulbs!

And to all you pranksters out there – enjoy your special day.  I get the other 364.

See you on the road!!!


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