Clowns, Lies, a 6-Pack of Beer,
a Map Like Mine and a Night in The Can
A Weekend on the Road With (okay, near) Too Much Joy
By Jeff Holland
Disclaimer: I like the people of North and South Carolina. Really, I do. At least
those who live near the main roads. They are friendly. They are happy – even eager – to
give you colorful and descriptive directions when you are lost. Given the slightest
opportunity, they’ll share life stories with total strangers, including the problems [sick
relative] is having with his [applicable health crisis]. For less than it would cost you to
park your car for a night in New York City, you can enjoy a solid meal and a quality
place to stay for the evening at any number of roadside motels staffed with helpful
southerners who will listen with genuine interest to any story you may have to tell. This
article is not about them. It is about what happens when a city boy like me ventures away
from the main roads and discovers that Mayberry not only exists, like a bad Twilight
Zone episode, it has multiplied. No matter which back road you’re venturing down,
Mayberry is only a few miles away. That is, until you get to Mount Pilot. And that place
will make you LONG to be back in Mayberry.
Who would have guessed that the glorious sight of the unambiguously federal
Interstate 385 shield planted among the knee-high weeds at a rural crossroads deep in the
vast South Carolina boondocks could possibly provide such an overwhelming sense of
sanctuary? Before yesterday, certainly not me.
After all, it had been my intention to flee the chaotic trappings of Washington‟s
concrete and marble for a long weekend with our more relaxed neighbors a couple of
states to the south. But it would not be until I safely embarked up the entrance ramp and
merged into traffic on the wide-open, six-lane, freshly-painted, concrete American
expressway outside of Greenville – on my way back home – that I felt securely out of
Maybe that is too dramatic. Certainly, save for a couple of particularly spirited
Pickens County Sheriffs deputies, it wasn‟t like there was a despotic band of rebel
separatists with big guns chasing me or anything (that I knew of), but it HAD been a long
weekend. And I was more than ready to escape from South Carolina and head back to
Washington – where I would easily be able to avoid incidents with small town store
clerks who stocked no wine that didn‟t say “Sutter Home” somewhere on the label.
Home – where the traffic circles would be grid-locked with the soothing cacophony
of cursing, aggressive, horn-honking drivers – not empty and desolate after 6:00 pm apart
from a gun nut or two hanging a “Jesus Saves. Spaghetti dinner this Wednesday” banner
on the Civil War monument honoring the memory of some Confederate horse.
Indeed, I COULD NOT WAIT to play Bumper Cars with a THOUSAND newly
licensed DC cab drivers trolling for fares if it meant I would never again be stuck behind
a cantankerous, leather-skinned, mesh backed baseball hat-wearing tractor driver
navigating a twenty foot high, five ton piece of antique farm equipment at 6 miles an
hour down the center of the only road in the county.
Yes. I was on my way home – separated from sweet, precious DC rush-hour traffic
and the first operational HOV lane I had seen in days by just a few hundred miles of
glistening federal highway asphalt pavement.
All of that said, I did have one hell of a fun weekend. For three full days, I got to
play like I was a kid on a college road trip, but on the travel budget of a gainfully
employed adult with an expense account. That meant I could spend the entire weekend
getting drunk and acting irresponsibly but at the end of each night I could take a hot
shower and fall into a soft bed at the Marriott instead of passing out in a puddle of beer
on the basement floor of a fraternity house.
Cool, huh? I thought so.
Maybe I should have just started from the beginning.
Since I graduated from college, I‟ve lived in Washington, DC and worked for a
handful of politicians or organizations of varying degrees of intelligence and
effectiveness. Some certainly better – or at least less dangerous – than others. It‟s my job
to take whatever crazy position my employer or client wants to advocate and articulate it
in a way that makes it palatable for public consumption. Sometimes I ghost write
editorials, sometimes news releases, sometimes even speeches. But mostly I write
insistent fundraising letters to senior citizens proclaiming certain impending mayhem and
disaster (usually caused by Ted Kennedy) unless they immediately send the money they
would otherwise give to their grandkids (who would just spend it on drugs) to whatever
cause I happen to be writing about at the time. It‟s not what I want to do forever, but it
pays the bills and it‟s usually kind of fun – grandparent guilt notwithstanding.
But last week I realized I was depressed and I could not figure out why. I was not
dating anyone who was wrangling with my emotions. My finances were in no worse
order than usual. The weather was nice. My liquor cabinet was full. Yet little things like
paying $8.00 for a bowl of soup and a piece of bread for lunch really started to annoy me.
Usually I just laugh when I see a hypocritical vegetarian animal rights nazis wear a Meat
is Murder tee-shirt to an Abortion on Demand rallies. Last week, it really pissed me off.
I mean, am I the only one who thinks that there is something not quite right about hosting
an event to fight world hunger at which everyone in attendance is served a pound and a
half of prime rib?
Anyway, I decided I needed a vacation – away from Washington, away from my
friends, away from work – someplace where I could just do whatever I wanted, whenever
I wanted and not have to answer to anyone but myself.
There was no time to plan. I didn‟t want to make a bunch of reservations or shop for
swimwear that I was convinced would make me look less fat. Atlantic City always kicks
my ass. So my options were fairly limited. I almost gave up. And then it came to me.
What if I took a few days and went on tour with my favorite band? Few people have
ever heard of them, but I have been a rabid fan of a band called Too Much Joy for several
years. I‟ve seen them every time they have come to Washington, and I even traveled to
New York – where they are from – once for a show. Nothing could possibly help me
break free from depression more than a weekend of Too Much Joy shows in bars full of
college kids. As momentum for the idea was building, I checked the Too Much Joy e-
mail network to find out where they were playing the upcoming weekend. If it was like,
in Texas or something, I‟d have to beg off. But I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to
find that they were scheduled to play in South Carolina -- only about 7 hours from DC. I
decided that was drivable and started mapping a route for Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and
Greenville, South Carolina respectively, where TMJ was scheduled to play three shows in
three nights. Suddenly, the idea of becoming a band roadie for the weekend really
appealed to me.
I packed a duffle bag full of clothing, borrowed a car from a friend (I think I told him
a relative died or something and I had to go to the funeral. Meh.), and started driving
south. I had no map – just a general idea that South Carolina was south and east. How
hard could it be?
Over the next several days I found out. I got lost, yes. I got drunk, yes. I got
arrested, yes. But at the same time, I went through an incredible period of self-discovery
and experienced a weekend by myself that changed my life. It was a trip I‟ll never
forget. I may not be the only person that statement applies to. Before I tell you about it, it
will be helpful to have some background about the band.
WHY TOO MUCH JOY IS SPECIAL
As I was driving out of Washington, I began thinking about Too Much Joy and
analyzing why I like them so much. Before TMJ, no band had ever been especially
important to me. Certainly every normal male child growing up in the late seventies went
through the obligatory “Olivia Newton John” phase (right?). But I was never one of
those kids who stayed on the cutting edge of new music in high school and spent his
weekends hanging out at all ages punk rock shows.
As I grew older, however, my musical tastes became increasingly apparent. I liked
loud guitars and real drums and snarky, intelligent, and sometimes angry but always witty
and sarcastic white male vocalists who wrote songs that were fun to sing and filled with
funny, sarcastic lyrics and social commentary – sometimes about current events,
sometimes about history, but mostly about beer. Kind of like the Sesame Street
soundtrack sent to college.
Some of my favorite bands in the early 90s were They Might be Giants, The
Ramones, James, old R.E.M., old Cure, Modern English, The Primitives, Ned‟s Atomic
Dustbin (forgot about them, didn‟t you?), The Mighty Lemon Drops – I‟m sure you get
Three important rules never changed: 1) No female recording artists with drum
machines 2) No rap 3) no constant screaming.
I first learned about Too Much Joy as I was driving a high school debate team I
was coaching to a tournament and one of my students, Kelly Congdon, suggested that I
might like them. He popped Son of Sam I Am (TMJ‟s second album) into my car‟s CD
player and the first song I heard was a punk rock cover of Terry Jacks atrocious 1974
release of Seasons in the Sun. It was beautiful. That sad, painfully slow song that terrible
church organists played at nearly every wedding ceremony I attended as a child had
suddenly become fast, catchy angry and fun.
The next song Kelly played for me was called “clowns” and was about how the
rules of society we are expected to live by were created by idiots, for idiots, who absent
the rules, wouldn‟t know what to do to survive. But for those of us who were not idiots
and would be just fine without forced structure, the “rules” often got in our way and
impeded our progress and success, but mostly our fun.
When I was a kid my dad had pictures of these clowns
He hung them on my wall and wouldn't let me take them down
I didn't understand then and I still can't figure out
What those goddamn clowns were so sad about
A clown was my boss at every job I ever had
Clowns run all the record companies that ever said we're bad
A clown pretended to be a girl who pretended to be my friend
This world is run by clowns who can't wait for it to end.
I have yet to meet a kid not scared to death of clowns
They can't walk and they don't talk they've got painted on frowns
A clown with a gun I hope I never see
Would he shoot himself or shoot me?
A clown taught every class I took at my old high school
Clowns all wear Speedos when they hang out by the pool
Clowns dress up like cops and threaten to call my folks
This town is filled with clowns who don't get my jokes
They fall on their asses
It takes lots of practice
I have nightmares filled with clowns and you're there too
You have a big red nose and stupid floppy shoes
You're becoming one I can see the signs
I hate clowns almost as much as I hate mimes
They’re evil. They’re bad. They make no sense.
When I die and go to hell I’m not going to be met by the Devil I’m going to be met by a clown.
When the song ended, Kelly gave me some background on the band. Childhood
friends from Scarsdale, New York, the band started playing Clash covers together in the
tenth grade. When it came time to go away to college, lead singer Tim Quirk chose
Stanford, then NYU for grad school. Bass player Sandy Smallens went to Yale.
Drummer Tommy Vinton attended Iona College, then the police academy and actually
became a legitimate New York City cop. Guitarist Jay Blumenfield opted for Cal-
Bright, well-educated and ready to face the world, the four of them decided they‟d
rather become rock stars. So they wrote some songs, bought studio time, and recorded an
album. They produced and paid for it themselves, ordered 1000 copies to be pressed on
vinyl, and in the spring of 1987 Too Much Joy unleashed its first album, Green Eggs and
Crack, on an unsuspecting college radio community. The rest is history.
After that, I was hooked. When we returned home from the debate tournament
one of the first things I did was go to Tower Records and buy everything Too Much Joy I
could find. In addition to Son of Sam I am, I bought Cereal Killers and Mutiny. It wasn‟t
until much later that I was able to track down one of the original 1000 copies of Green
Eggs and Crack at a used record store in New York City. It was displayed on a shelf
behind the counter and I felt like I had just found the Holy Grail, and happily paid the
$80 price tag. For the next several years, I listened to very few other bands. I know that
sounds obsessive, and maybe it is. But let me explain.
After following the band for several years, witnessing dozens of incredibly
energizing live shows and getting to know throngs of other, similarly obsessed and rabid
Too Much Joy addicts, I‟ve discovered that being a TMJ fan is like being in an exclusive
secret society in which all the members know all the words to a bunch of really cool
songs that are so much different from anything any other band has ever written. It‟s
almost like they are on a different level.
And when TMJ fans are around each other, they just exchange these knowing looks
when people who are not familiar with TMJ start talking about other bands. Collectively,
we pity them for being unenlightened. Is it punk rock intellectual snobbery? Maybe.
Are we just assholes? Sure. But there really is something magical about standing in front
of the stage and waiting for the drums to kick in on William Holden Caulfield before Jay
jumps off the amp and the mosh pit goes absolutely berserk. I mean, there is meaning
He called me
william holden caulfield
it was no compliment
what's wrong with
william holden caulfield
all that stuff that bummed me out ten years ago
still bugs me today, and boy I wanna know
who died and made you my mom and me some stupid kid
how can you forget all those things we did
so keep on sleeping on
till your hair is gray
when I turn eighty
I better feel this way
I’m afraid of people who like catcher in the rye
yeah, I like it too, but someone tell me why
people he'd despise say I feel like that guy
I don't wanna grow up 'cause I don't wanna die
when I’m thirty-one
then keep living on
for fifty more years
I respect the man in sunset boulevard
got a heart somewhere just won't let down his guard
doesn't trust happiness or the bad luck that it brings
he's lonely and he's cold and he's proud of these things
I said I’m cold
and I’m lonely
I’m proud of these things
After an hour-long show, the band always ends with the same song. It‟s the Too
Much Joy theme song, appropriately titled Theme Song. Before the final encore, the
crowd starts singing it in unison, banging empty beer bottles like drum sticks on the
stage, as if calling the band back to play its final song. It‟s a powerful feeling – almost
like singing your school fight song after an upset win over your archrival.
meet our band of merry men
shake the hand of every one
we'll eat your food and steal your wife
buy us beers we're friends for life
we only shoot when shot at
we give away what we don't need
we live for fun and freedom
we stamp out fear and greed
to create you must destroy
smash a glass and cry too much joy
we sleep on floors and live on crumbs
we're a bunch of ugly bums
a great idea when we were smashed
turning anger into cash
we ain't seen much
but we don't starve
we drive around
in our moms’ cars
to create you must destroy
smash a glass and cry too much joy
(this part changes every show and is never the same twice)
That’s right. We’re Too Much Joy.
We’re like the reverse Buddha.
Because Buddha teaches you to give up the things from this world
They only tie you down
Too Much Joy knows it is the opposite that is true
It’s the puddle of beer on the floor of the club that stinks
That’s what ties you together and makes you know you’re alive
It’s only having two dollars to fill up your car with gas
And fucking hating it
But loving it, too
to create you must destroy
smash a glass and cry too much joy
After the band is done playing, the crowd keeps singing the create/destroy part –
often several minutes after the band has left the stage and the house lights have gone up,
until everyone‟s voice is exhausted and hoarse. And then it is time to go home, energized
and excited about life.
When we go see other bands play, we might enjoy them. But there is always a small
part of us deep down inside that laments that it is not a TMJ show. And like a secret
handshake, there is a special smile that crosses one‟s face and a unique feeling of warmth
in one‟s heart when someone in a crowd of people recognizes your Too Much Fucking
Joy tee-shirt and gives you a knowing nod of approval.
Meeting Too Much Joy fans you‟ve never met before is like meeting long lost
relatives. There is a Gordian knot of a bond among TMJ fans. We stick by each other;
we take care of each other. It‟s almost like some sort of bizarre cult that we sort of hope
grows because we want the band to be really popular and make it big, but we sort of in
the back of our minds want things to stay just the way they are because we feel really
special – like we‟ve been blessed with knowledge that few others have.
And all that stuff sort of makes the guys in the band a really important part of our
lives. You know, we want them to know who we are and identify with us. And if they
ever really made it big, it just would not be the same.
I don‟t know. Enough about all that. I just wanted to make it very clear how I feel
about this band before I go any further into this story. It‟s knowledge you‟ll need to
understand the chain of events that is going to follow.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON – THE TRIP TO MYRTLE BEACH
I figured it would take five or six hours to drive from DC to Myrtle Beach, so I left
DC before afternoon rush hour hit and headed south down Interstate 95, which I knew
would lead to some other expressway which would dump me out somewhere near the
ocean (I just figured I‟d stop at a truck stop and consult a map when I got close), with my
taped copy of Green Eggs and Crack blaring from the speakers of my friend Peter‟s ten-
year-old Honda Civic. Soon, a crazy idea came into my head.
Anyone who has driven Interstate 95, which connects New England to Florida,
knows that it may well be the most boring road known to man.
I was not in a boring mood.
So somewhere around the North Carolina border, I stopped for gas and looked at a
map to determine if there existed a more “interesting” route that would lead me to Myrtle
I was in luck. From the map, it looked as though a road named 701 was almost a
straight shot to the seashore. So I decided to get a firsthand glance at just what kind of
people routinely elected Jesse Helms to the United States Senate. In retrospect, I still
maintain that it looked like a good idea from the map – which I know understand was
drawn by a complete moron.
But I did not know that at the time and after finding the exit to 701, I was confident I
had made the proper choice. The road was straight, paved, and there were no other cars in
sight. While Peter‟s little four cylinder Honda had a speedometer that reached 120, I
quickly found that the car topped out around 90. Life was great. The volume button was
turned all the way up. Don Quixote blared from the speakers, the countryside looked as
though it could have been used to film an episode of Andy Griffith, and suddenly I felt
like I was in an entirely new world.
I discovered in just a few minutes, that indeed, I was. Mayberry could not possibly
be far. The first town I pulled into literally alarmed me. As the speed limit plummeted to
35 and I slowed down to, say, 70, I hit my first southern traffic circle. It was about 5:00
in the afternoon, and several of the townsfolk had taken to relaxing on benches watching
the “rush hour traffic” pass by. I won‟t swear to it, but I am pretty sure I saw an actual
blade of straw hanging out of one particularly rural man‟s mouth. It was hard to tell
because the bill on the baseball hat that looked like it was literally just balanced on top of
his head cast a shadow over his entire face.
I chuckled to myself as I slowed down to enjoy the genuine southern culture that had
suddenly surrounded me. I kept half-expecting to see Opie walking out of the woods with
his fishing pole.
And then I saw it.
Strung from third or fourth story windows on either side of what must have been
Main Street, a huge vinyl banner proclaimed in behemoth block letters “TURN TO
JESUS, OR BURN IN HELL.” Flanking the exclamatory declaration was a full-color
picture of the stern-looking county sheriff with his finger pointed directly at me. It gave
me a creepy feeling eerily similar to sitting in a room that has a life-size portrait of a dead
relative hanging on the wall and you feel like, no matter where you are in the room, his
eyes are watching you.
I was raised Catholic and have my own personal relationship with God, but this
banner freaked me out. Maybe it‟s purpose was simply to reminding the citizens who
lived in this town to be good and stay away from their neighbors wives, but it was clearly
paid for and promoted by the local government – a clear violation of the separation of
church and state. And that bothered me so I decided to have a little bit of fun.
One of the things I discovered about being an educated, aggressive, American
white male in my thirties is that when I put on a suit and start issuing orders, people
usually do what I say – without questioning it, no matter how stupid it is.
I had left work early and still had a tie on, so that made things easier. I parked the
car, walked into the Sheriff‟s office and announced that I was working with the United
States Department of Justice and traveling across North Carolina looking for violations of
church and state and that they were going to have to take their banner down.
The poor clerk behind the desk whose job it was to make the coffee, answer the
phone, and call Barney Fife if any trouble happened to occur looked scared at first, then
skeptical. She said that she could not remove it without the Sheriff‟s permission and he
was out of town at a Sheriff‟s conference. I responded by saying that if she had it taken
down immediately, I would not fine her or report the incident to Washington. Sometimes
it is really cool to have a business card that has a 202 area code and phone number on it.
Within 10 minutes, a work crew had removed the banner and promised not to
hang it again. Feeling sufficiently like a huge asshole, I was satisfied and got in my car
and continued to drive.
North and South Carolina are kind of like the states that never seem to come to an
end. I soon grew frustrated with all the small towns and speed zones and traffic circles. I
just wanted to get to the Hard Rock Cafe in Myrtle Beach where TMJ would be playing
to I‟m sure what would be a very small crowd.
I spent what I am sure was the next 1000 miles in deep thought. Then I got close to
Myrtle Beach. At least I THOUGHT I did. Myrtle Beach is one of those places that it
takes FOREVER to really get to. Just when you think you are close, you are still 40
miles away. It got frustrating as I passed through North Myrtle Beach, Surfside,
someplace called Seashore Resorts, and other beachy areas. But there was no sign of the
Finally, after driving for miles and stopping and asking for directions more than
once, because state road 701 does not stay state road 701. Sometimes it‟s called other
things. Even other numbers. But everyone kept assuring me that it was, indeed the same
road. So I kept driving until I thought I was surely lost. Then I kept driving until I
KNEW I was lost. Then I kept driving until I was sure I was being punished for the
banner stunt and was, indeed, burning in hell. But finally, as if the clouds parted and
civilization suddenly appeared, I pulled into the Hard Rock Café parking lot outside of
I was dead tired and sick of driving. And, frankly, feeling a little guilty about what I
had done to the poor Sheriff‟s clerk. I would learn later that evening that karma sucks
and paybacks are hell. But for the time being, the night air was filled with excitement.
The Myrtle Beach Hard Rock Cafe is modeled after the three great pyramids of Egypt.
Except in the Myrtle Beach version, someone apparently razed the other two, because the
hard Rock itself is only a single “great pyramid” – with a huge Harley Davidson
motorcycle parked out front (which made perfect sense, given the ancient Egyptian motif.
I am sure the Pharaohs worshipped the things.)
Amused, I parked and ventured inside, where I was greeted by what seemed like a
nice enough guy who noticed my Green Eggs and Crack shirt that I had changed into at
some dank gas station the last time I stopped. He assumed I was with the band, and
pointed out that they were sitting together, having dinner over in the corner.
Hmmm. So much for security, I thought to myself. After telling the man that I was
just a fan who had come to see them, I headed for the bar. It had been a long trip, and I
needed a beer and some dinner. The guy brought my nachos about ten minutes before the
band came on, so I ate as many as I could until I saw them come out of the dressing
room, walk onto stage, and get ready to play. At that point, I left the bar area and
assumed my position right down in front – right beside – the two other fans who had
made the trip. TMJ apparently had never caught on in the south. There would be no
crammed mosh pit like there was at the Bayou in DC.
When Tim introduced the band and began to play That’s a Lie, I started to dance – or
jump up and down flailing my arms about, which is great in the middle of a crowd of
people. But nearly alone in the middle of the Hard Rock Café where unsuspecting
vacationers were enjoying their dinner, it felt kind of silly. Okay. REALLY silly. One
thing I forgot to mention is that I have a HORRIBLE case of Straight White Boy Disease.
I cannot dance. I cannot sing. I have no rhythm. I really LOVE Too Much Joy, and I
love to jump around and shout the words (which, much to my chagrin, is exactly what
some reviewers have claimed Tim does), but I am afraid I am really ungraceful. And
while I have the power to successfully order city officials to remove unconstitutional
banners from public places, I have no ability to look like I belong in a mosh pit full of
teenage crowd surfers – especially when there aren‟t any of them.
At a packed show, I can sort of blend in. But that night, it was all me. So I said to
myself “what the fuck?” I don‟t care if I look dumb. At least the band will see that
someone is excited to see them play. I just hoped they don‟t make relentless fun of me
backstage after the show (though I am POSITIVE that they did)
So I started to jump around. To make my “dancing” worse, the drive had put a huge
cramp in my neck, and I kept trying to stretch and/or crack it throughout the night.
Between that and my dancing, I‟m sure I looked like some huge retarded kid who was
having a seizure. Jay confirmed this the next day when he asked me if I had been
“tripping” because I looked “really weird.”
But none of that mattered. Too Much Joy was playing. And I was just happy to be
Then all Hell broke loose.
A NIGHT IN THE CAN
Tim, who had a weekend-long problem with breaking guitar strings and microphone
stands, slammed something down onto the stage causing untold damage, which he does
routinely. This sent one of the Hard Rock employees who was in charge of the monitors
into a frenzy. I mean, the guy actually turned off the monitors and stormed the stage,
admonishing Tim for his destructive behavior, shouting at him that he had better leave
the precious mic stand and all other equipment alone.
Big mistake. Uneducated yahoos from the sticks do not talk down to Tim Quirk,
especially in public, without immediate, harsh and continuous reprisals.
At first, Tim looked like he was going to clock the guy. In retrospect, that might
have been the best policy option given the chaos that ensued over the next half hour as
Tim took every opportunity a Stanford grad with a masters degree from NYU could think
of to poke relentless fun at a dim-witted high school dropout from South Carolina. It
was brutal. And then everything went completely to hell.
The show turned into a huge battle between the Hard Rock Cafe and Too Much Joy.
Tim did things like dedicate songs like Weak to “loser monitor guys from small hick
towns who are jealous that they were never able to live out there lifelong dream to play in
a band so they spent their lives doing the next best thing.”
And loser monitor guys did things like shut the monitors off. And as much as I love
TMJ, trust me, they NEED the monitors.
By the time Susquehanna Hat Company appeared next on the set list, it became
evident that fisticuffs were going to be inevitable. Cool, I thought. I might be in a bar
fight with Too Much Joy. I wondered if Tommy was carrying his NYPD badge or had
any pepper spray.
But then, suddenly, after only half the set, TMJ walked off the stage and said good
night. There would be no encore. There would be no Theme Song. There would be no
more making fun of the loser monitor guy and dammit, that was fun. They didn‟t even
make it to Clowns, which was at the end of the set list and I was waiting in anticipation to
hear what Tim was going to say about loser monitor guy during THAT song.
But none of it was to be.
Soon after they left the stage, a member of the Hard Rock staff approached the three
of us fans and told us it was time to leave the bar.
“But wait a minute,” I exclaimed. “The band isn‟t even finished yet,” as I tried to
explain rationally to her that signing Theme Song was the way we called them back onto
stage, and that they NEVER quit until they sang Theme Song.
Then the staff member said “They are done for tonight – believe me. In fact, they
are done HERE, forever, and you all have to leave now.”
That made me angry. Until now, this was all in good fun. Something had to be
done. Would the “suit and tie routine” work here, too? No time. So I asked the lady in
charge “What‟s the problem? I just traveled 500 miles to see my favorite band play
tonight. First of all, why do they have to finish early, and second of all, why do I have to
leave? I am not ready to go yet.”
Her response triggered an anger inside of me that I must have suppressing for a very
long time, because looking back on the incident, I just can‟t believe what happened.
She started treating me like a drunk college kid, the kind on spring break that I‟m
sure the Hard Rock in Myrtle Beach encounters frequently.
“Listen,” she said as she smiled at me, like she was reciting memorized lines out of
some esoteric Hard Rock Café How to Deal With Unruly Drunk College Kids on Spring
Break Handbook. “We‟re both spirits. From one spirit to another, just leave, okay?
From one spirit to another.”
I guess if I were a smashed college kid who had just yakked all over the dance floor I
guess it might be kind of cool to say “yeah, man. We‟re both spirits. Okay dude. Let‟s
both be spirits and I‟ll stumble out of here peacefully, find some similarly tanked sorority
girl on the beach, rape under the boardwalk and then pass out and sleep it off, okay?”
Two problems. I was not drunk. And I was not a college kid.
Surprisingly, I was a stone sober professional, pissed off that I drove 500 miles to see
four songs and feeling particularly emboldened and arrogant thanks to the powers I
exerted during my experience in Mayberry earlier that afternoon. No way was this lady
going to pull this “we‟re spirits” shit on me!
Sorry. It wasn‟t as though I had just wandered into the Hard Rock Café with some
buds, soaked down a few brews and stayed to see some random band. I consider Too
Much Joy to be almost like a religion to me. Going to their live shows is like attending
mass. And it was becoming increasingly clear that I was not going to get to sing the
communion hymn that night.
Too Much Joy was the church and the Hard Rock Café was the state. The two were
about to separate and the symbolism of that was not lost on me.
I had to resist. Writing a strongly worded letter would simply not do. I needed
customer service. This lady and I were not “spirits” together. She probably didn‟t even
know the names of any Too Much Joy albums. She just didn‟t get it. So I decided I was
finished dealing with her. I demanded to speak to a manager.
Amazingly, she said “No. Leave right now.”
“But I have not even paid my bill,” I said, as I ventured up to the bar. “Hell, I
haven‟t even finished my DINNER yet” as I pointed out the few wilted nachos left on my
So I walked away from the woman to ask the bartender for my tab, and, again,
request to speak to a manager.
Before I could get there, this huge bouncer with no teeth and TERRIBLE breath
came out of nowhere, grabbed me by the arm and started pulling me towards the door.
Wow. If there is one thing that everyone should know about Washingtonians is
that the deprivation of good customer service is cardinal sin number one. At that point
nothing else mattered. I was the customer, dammit. A paying customer who was being
treated improperly by the “help.” Surely, a manager would understand, make the spirit
woman apologize for being a bitch and send Genghis Kahn to the men‟s room
immediately to brush his fucking teeth.
Finally, a manager appeared. But nothing got better. The manager told me that the
band I came to see were a bunch of pompous assholes who were getting kicked out too,
and that I had to leave because my Green Eggs and Crack Shirt did not conform to the
Hard Rock Café dress code. Strange, no one said anything to me about it BEFORE.
Infuriated, I dug in my heels. I promised to pay my bill and leave as soon as I
finished my nachos. At that point, I would gladly vacate the premises.
No dice. The manager‟s response was “my staff is too busy to talk to drunks like
you” which I found strange because the whole ordeal had pretty much cleared the
restaurant. But it was clear I was not going to win this argument so I had made the
decision that I would just give in and leave. But then halitosis bouncer guy threw down
“Either you leave right now, or we‟ll call the police.”
Confident that I had not time-traveled back to 1950's Arkansas, and confident I knew
more about the law than he did, I said “Go ahead. Why don‟t you call the police.”
The next thing I knew, two police officers arrived and asked me if I was going to pay
my bill. I told them that I would pay it after I had finished my meal and registered my
complaint with the general manager. That didn‟t work either. Before I could say “Grand
Kleagle” two redneck cops cuffed me, hauled out of the restaurant, threw me into the
back of a patrol car, and drove me to jail.
No questions. No Miranda Rights. No charges leveled. They just carted me away.
This was unbelievable. I had actually been arrested for lodging a complaint in a
restaurant -- and for supporting the paid entertainment. Wow.
Cary Baker, who is working hard to promote Too Much Joy for Discovery Records,
wrote about the incident on the Too Much Joy e-mail network a week later.
He wrote that several Too Much Joy fans got arrested in South Carolina and that the
South Carolina police (pronounced with a heavy emphasis on the first syllable)
maintained that South Carolina law superseded the U.S. Constitution.
He was almost right. To my knowledge, I was the only fan stupid enough to get
arrested. And the parts about South Carolina law superseding the U.S. Constitution were
mostly my words. The sole contribution the Myrtle Beach police made when asked if
that statement was true consisted of the word “yep.”
The whole unbelievable exchange went something like this.
ME: “Aren‟t you going to read me my rights?”
POLICE: Nope. Only a misdemeanor charge. Don‟t have to do that in South
ME: Well, can I at least contact an attorney? Because I‟m confident I shouldn‟t be
here. I didn‟t break any laws.
POLICE: Phone book‟s in the cell -- but there ain‟t no attorneys gonna be workin‟
before 9:30 in the morning.
ME: There is not a court attorney here I can speak to?
POLICE: Don‟t have to give you no attorney on a misdemeanor charge.
ME: Just what is the charge anyway?
POLICE: You‟ll find out in the morning at 9:00 when you see the judge.
ME: Now wait a minute. You are going to arrest me and hold me overnight without
reading me my rights, telling me what I‟m charged with, or at least letting me consult
with an attorney before I speak with the judge in the morning? Anyone who has ever
passed a high school civics class knows you can‟t do that! (It is not clear whether
any present member of the Myrtle Beach police force who was present that night
actually HAD passed a high school civics course.)
POLICE: Boy, This is South Carolina, not Washington. We do things differently
ME (incredulously): I guess so. Let me make sure I am clear on this. You are telling
me that in your considered opinion, South Carolina law supersedes the 6th
Amendment right to Due Process?
I just shook my head in temporary defeat and decided “what the hell? I‟m in Jail for
the night. I might as well make an adventure out of it.”
So I turned to the pay phone and began using my AT&T calling card to call everyone
I knew to let them know I was going to spend the night in jail. I called my best friend in
Washington. I called my roommates. I called the Washington offices of both U.S.
Senators who represent the fine people of South Carolina and told the story of my arrest
on voicemail (really loudly so I made sure the police officers heard me). I called the
ACLU. And I called at least five different lawyers listed in the phone book. And then I
called the Holiday Inn and cancelled my hotel reservation.
My conversations amused the 10 or 15 college kids with whom I was sharing the
drunk tank at the time. I became their instant hero the moment I called “officer
bumblefuck” where they hung their Klan robes.
My words must have struck a nerve somewhere, because a few minutes later, an
older gentleman appeared and asked me what my problem is. I told him that I demanded
to know what I have been charged with and be given the opportunity to post bail.
He left and came back a few minutes later holding three pieces of paper.
The first two were tickets. This particular officer, who was CLEARLY the most
competent of the bunch (although put into context, that is like being the best shirt on the
sale rack at Wall-Mart), told me I was being charged with three offenses. The first two
were minor charges -- trespassing and public intoxication (Yes, in a BAR!). And the
third offense was petty larceny for refusing to pay my bill (they didn‟t seem to care that I
WOULD have paid my bill, had I not been cuffed and dragged out of the restaurant).
The guy told me that the total amount from the fines would be $760, and all I would
have to do is give them $760 IN CASH and I could go about my merry way. No credit
cards. No checks. CASH
One problem. I didn‟t have $760 in cash. I only had $314.
This was the situation: I was being charged with three absurd violations. There were
no attorneys available. I didn‟t have enough cash to post bail. And the law enforcement
officers were thoroughly convinced that South Carolina law superseded the United States
So I did what any reasonable grown man in my situation would have done.
I picked up the pay phone and called my mom.
It was quite a conversation, actually.
“Hi, mom? Are you awake? Yes, I know it‟s 4 am. Listen, I need you to wake up
for a second. I‟m sorry to bother you, but I am in a South Carolina jail cell. I got arrested
at the Hard Rock cafe because -- well, it‟s a long story and I need $760.”
“Yes, mom. South Carolina.”
“Yes mom, I KNOW I live in Washington. Like I said. It‟s a long story.”
“No mom, I don‟t doubt you when you say you saw it on Fox News tonight, and it
probably WAS in Myrtle Beach. But I don‟t SEE any women in here who have recently
been pulled from their automobile and beaten ruthlessly on the side of the road.”
“Hey, listen, Mom. There‟s a kid in line behind me waiting to use the phone and
he‟s bleeding on my shoe. Can you Western Union me the cash and I‟ll pay you back on
“Thanks mom. And, yeah. I‟ll promise to ask someone about the poor woman who
was beaten by the police. It‟s a tragedy. Yes. There ought to be a law. They don‟t seem
to matter here.”
So my parents, being the dutiful parents that they are, called Western Union‟s 24-
hour hotline and wired the money to South Carolina.
When I reported this development to the Officer Bumblefuck he just smiled and said:
“Well fine, then. When our Western Union office opens in the morning we‟ll send an
officer over to pick up your money. Until then, have a good night‟s sleep.” he tossed me
a blanket and directed me to a bench in the cell.
I didn‟t sleep a wink. Being in the jail cell was like being on the set of an episode of
COPS. So I stayed up all night like I was watching some sort of bizarre Nick at Night
Around 6:00 am, a man came in to empty the trash. When he was done, he deposited
the clear plastic trash bag right outside my cell. It was at that point, I made the discovery
that I was not alone in jail. Staring out at me from inside the trash bag, among the paper
and dinner and whatever else gets tossed in the trash, was a gleaming white Too Much
Joy guitar pick.”
Someone ELSE who had been at the show was in jail with me! Now, there were
only three people in the entire place who were big enough Too Much Joy fans to come
down and get excited in front of the stage, and I saw the other two leave. So this must
have been someone else. I have no idea who it was. The jailer would not tell me where
the guitar pick came from. Nor would she let me use the mug shot camera to take a
Polaroid of it (it was 6:00 in the morning and I was having delusions about taking the
picture that would serve as the next album cover).
The next three hours passed more slowly than any three hours I‟ve ever spent in my
life. so I won‟t bore you with recounting them.
At 9:00 am, things began to happen, and this bizarre story took another amazing turn.
A man who I soon would come to know as “the judge” walked in and stood behind
the counter where the police, the jailers, and their coffee machine sit.
He started bringing people out of their cell, listening to their stories, determining
sentences, and letting them either go free, or ordering them back to their cells.
At about 9:15, he called my name.
A jailer unlocked my cell door and led me to the counter. The first thing the judge
did was shake his head in disdain at my Green Eggs and Crack shirt. Before he could
say anything, I explained that it was the title of my favorite band‟s first record, and only
like, 1000 copies were made. The title, I told him was a commentary on Dr. Seuss and he
effect he had on little kids who grew up to be druggies.
I have no idea if this is true, but it seemed to placate the judge, as he smiled and
began reading the charges to me. When he was finished, he offered me a plea bargain.
He told me that if I plead guilty to public intoxication, trespassing, and petty larceny, he
would reduce the fine to $314 -- all the money had in my possession.
At that point, I informed the judge that I was not comfortable making a decision
about that plea without having the opportunity to speak with an attorney. He said that this
would be my ONLY chance to plea bargain, and that if I turned it down, I would have to
show up in court for trial on Monday.
Yep. He was one of THEM. So I told him that I was not comfortable accepting that
plea at that time. I was on the way back to my cell when an officer walked in and told the
judge that my Western Union money was there.
This sort of surprised me because the last time I checked, the only person who could
pick up money from Western Union was the person to whom the money was sent.
Not in South Carolina.
I didn‟t ask any questions because all I wanted to do was get the hell out of there, but
I have my own theories about what may have happened.
The most logical is that “Cousin A,” who works at the police station, went to see
“Cousin B,” who works at the Western Union branch, and together, they have a deal
going that allows them to “avoid the middleman” in the money transaction business.
Whatever the reason, I posted my bail money, gathered my belongings, and took a
taxi back to the Hard Rock Cafe, where I left my car for the evening.
Tired, crabby, and in desperate need of a shower and change of clothes, I hit the road
for Columbia -- the venue for the next show.
THE ROAD TO COLUMBIA
In keeping with the “avoid the expressway” theme I had adopted for this particular
road trip, I took the back roads into Columbia. This trip was fairly uneventful mainly
because I was tired and not as keen about noticing things as I may have been otherwise.
But one thing did strike me as peculiar as I was driving down state road 378 just outside
The road, like most state roads, was a two-lane road that appeared to be well paved
and not particularly busy. But as I was driving, I noticed that the equally-place yellow
stripes that divided the road suddenly became errant. First, they began getting farther and
farther apart. Then, I noticed a huge yellow splotch of paint in the middle of the road, like
someone spilled the paint can. A little further down the road, after the stripes began to
get REALLY far apart, I noticed an even BIGGER splotch of road stripe yellow paint
covering the pavement, followed by splotches of yellow paint that got smaller and
smaller with every splotch until they consisted of only a few droplets of yellow paint that
slowly drifted off to one side of the road and eventually petered down into the ditch.
After that, there were no stripes on the road whatsoever.
I may have just been tired, but I found this REALLY amusing, and spent the next 10
miles developing scenarios in my mind as to how that could have happened. Here is
what I have decided is the most plausible.
The county worker whose job it was to paint the stripes on the road was the
unfortunate victim of a roadside ambush by members of the Turbeville chapter of the
National Rifle Association. Bent on protecting their rights as citizens, the members of
the NRA chapter targeted the county paint truck driver -- the closest thing Turbeville has
to a “jack-booted government thug” -- for a pre-emptive attack.
First, there would be directional lines drawn down the road. Then, they would lead
to suburban streets and front yards all over Turbeville until the county paint truck driver
was routinely dividing the living rooms of innocent, law-abiding citizens.
He had to be stopped.
So some of the more zealous members of the Turbeville NRA in the bushes and
waited in camouflage gear along the side of the road for the paint truck to come by. As
he passed, NRA members began to snipe at the truck with their semi-automatic assault
The driver, realizing he was under attack, hit the gas pedal and began paying less
attention to the stripes he was laying down. But the NRA members were ready. They
hopped in the back of a pick-up truck parked along side of the road and followed in hot
pursuit. As soon as the truck came into range, they fired.
BLAM, BLAM, BLAM, SPLOTCH. The paint truck was hit as paint splattered out
into the road. But he wasn‟t done yet. The truck driver, undaunted, picked up speed. But
the NRA was just too fast. BLAM, BLAM, BLAM. This time it was a direct hit and
paint flew everywhere.
The driver lost consciousness as the reserves ran out and the last little bit of yellow
paint spilled out of the government truck as it veered off the road and into the ditch. And
there is probably still lies.
The result will be hailed in Turbeville as a huge victory for individual freedom over
the bucket-helmeted county government for decades to come.
This story amused me, putting me in a jovial enough mood as I entered the
metropolis of Columbia, SC.
It was around 4:00 when I rolled into town, and the only thing I wanted to do was go
directly to bed. So I checked in to the first hotel I could find that didn‟t look like it was
A)$250 a night, or B) owned by the Clampetts.
It was a nice enough place, located directly behind the USC football stadium, which,
if it isn‟t named after George Rogers, I‟m sure it was just an oversight, since
EVERYTHING else in town related to sports is named after the guy, and he‟s not even
dead yet (Rogers won the Heisman for South Carolina a few years ago and then flopped
big time in the NFL).
The bed was AMAZING. I sank right in after a quick shower and slept until 8:00,
when I decided it was time to venture out into the South Carolina night and find an
establishment called “The Elbow Room.”
Revitalized, it did not take me long to realize that Columbia is like an island of
intelligence and civilization in South Carolina (I guess it would HAVE to be since there
is a college there). With a couple of hours before the show was set to begin, I shopped
around looking for TMJ CDs at the local stores. No luck (but I did find a single of “Carpe
Diem” by BiGod20, which excited me).
Around 9:00, I ventured into the Elbow Room and ran into Tim and Jay standing
together by the door. When they saw me, Jay piped up “Hey, did you get arrested last
Sheepishly, I looked them both square in the eye and asked them if I could come
back to the show that night if I promised to behave and stay out of jail. Then I gave them
an abbreviated recounting of my night in the can. Tim could not believe I got arrested for
public intoxication -- in a BAR. But they shook my hand and re-affirmed what I already
was pretty sure I knew -- that TMJ would be PROUD that I spent the night in jail
standing up for Tim‟s right to break as many microphone stands and make as much fun of
idiot monitor guy as he thought necessary.
We chatted for a few minutes before the guys left to do the sound check, then I went
over and got a beer from the bar. I had already decided that after last night‟s ordeal, it
was imperative for me to drink HEAVILY that evening.
Indeed, if there was going to be a night on which I SHOULD get arrested for public
intoxication, I was going to make it THAT night.
So I got my beer, took a seat at the bar, and started looking around for a couple of
guys from the TMJ e-mail network I was supposed to meet at the show. I wasn‟t quite
sure how we were going to find each other. I guess we would just have to rely on that
TMJ fraternity thing. We just KNOW who we are.
It worked. As soon as the band started playing Poison Your Mind for the sound
check, three guys rushed into the bar, one of them carrying a case of Busch Light, and
started singing along with the band.
This had to be them.
I walked up to introduce myself, and sure enough, it was Eric, Kevin, and Ben. Eric
and Ben had made the road trip from Gainesville for the Friday and Saturday night
shows, and Kevin (who is Eric‟s brother) goes to school (at least theoretically) in
As it turned out, Kevin lived in an apartment right across the street from the bar, and
the guys invited me up to help them get drunk. Being kind of a beer snob, I toyed with
the idea of buying some decent stuff before I joined them, but ultimately decided to make
the reliving of my college days as authentic as possible. So I began drinking the Busch
We sat upstairs for a couple of hours with Kevin‟s girlfriend, her friends, and some
random people who stopped in when they heard Take a Lot of Drugs blaring from the
stereo. The pre-party turned into a Too Much Joy fest. We played all the commercially
released CDs, and I brought along taped copies of Besides and Green Eggs and Crack,
which some of the people there had never heard before. So the mood was celebratory.
Around 11:30 I was about 8 beers deep and discovered that Kevin‟s girlfriend and
her pals were not yet 21, and therefore would not be allowed into The Elbow Room for
the show. That sucked. It just wasn‟t fair that someone should be denied the chance to
see TMJ just because she wasn‟t 21. Hell if no one under 21 was going to be allowed in,
how the hell was I supposed to get laid?
As an arrogant and educated young professional with some nebulously important job
in Washington, I was hell bent on finding myself a hot USC freshman on the rebound that
night. So I marched across the street to speak to The Elbow Room doorman about the
policy. No dice. It should be noted, however, that he was much more sympathetic to the
contention that someone under 21 should be able to enjoy TMJ than he was to the
contention that I would not have as much fun scoping out potential hook-ups.
So I went back to the apartment and had beers 10, 11 and 12 before we decided it
was time to depart for the show. There was a point during the evening that I was hungry,
but by midnight, I had sort of hit that “fuck dinner” stage of beer consumption. So I
The band came on almost immediately after we arrived and they were AWESOME.
The club was packed and from the first chord of That’s a Lie I knew it was going to be
the best show I had ever seen. The fans were into it. The mosh pit was full. Skinny
people were crowd surfing. Tommy shared his secret beer stash with me. And at some
point during the show I sprained my ankle and slashed open my finger but have no idea
how either happened.
After the third or fourth song, I decided it would be a nice thing to do to buy
everyone around me a beer. So I left the front of stage, went to the bar, handed the
bartender $50 and told him to give me as many Bass Ales as that would buy (I kind of
felt like a little kid who slammed his pennies down on the counter at the candy store and
said “I want THIS much.”
The bartender gave me a CASE beers for fifty bucks, and I just started passing them
out. Of course, I LOVE Bass, so I went double-fisted, drinking numbers 13 and 14. I
think it was sometime after #14 that I twisted my ankle because when I went back to the
bar to get 15 and 16, I can remember it hurting. I didn‟t really want to drink anymore,
but King of Beers was next on the set list, and . . . well, it was a tradition.
Gonna feel like hell tomorrow
so I won't go to sleep tonight
na na na na na na sorrow
everything's gonna be all right
I am invincible
I have no fear
I am benevolent
I am the king of beers
I love all my friends
I wish they would go away
I say stupid things
forgotten them all by monday
please don't remind me
a man's bar is his castle
and this stool is my throne
why am I such an asshole?
why am I here alone?
she's so beautiful
I swear i'd sleep with her brother
I’m so beautiful
I never met her but I love her
please look over here
I’d take a trip
but anywhere I’d go
my head would come along with me
I am invincible
I have no fear
I am benevolent
I am the king of beers
Sweet. After that, I think Tim did something with a bottle of Jeagermiester
sometime before the end of the show, but I‟m not sure because things were getting blurry.
I remember that they played both encores and some guy tried to dive off the stage during
Clowns, prompting Tim to thank him for demonstrating the meaning of that particular
It would have been cool, but when he dove off stage, everyone else cleared away,
and I was in absolutely NO POSITION to be counted on for quick reflexes. So he fell on
top of me and we both hit the beer-soaked floor in a heap. Sadly, that was as close as I
would come to getting laid that night.
The next thing I remember was calling TMJ back onto stage by screaming Theme
Song at the top of my lungs (I say screaming because I know what I was doing was
decidedly NOT singing).
They came back, and the camaraderie during the song was amazing. We stood arm
in arm, swaying back and forth to the music. We could not have been more proud if we
were singing the Star Spangled Banner while tearing down the Berlin Wall.
Wow. What a show.
Sometime after it ended, I was standing in front of the stage focusing all my efforts
on standing up straight without swaying, when Tommy caught my eye. He was sitting
back stage (backstage at the Elbow Room is literally directly off the side of the stage in a
room which have no doors) talking to . . . well, Tommy is happily married so they must
have just been reporters from the school newspaper who wanted an interview or
something. Yeah. That.
Anyway, he smiled and passed me #17, or whatever number. I had lost count. It
was a Molson Ice with a top that was decidedly not a twist off (I think this is how I sliced
open my finger).
Sometime after the show and before I left, I lost track of Eric, Ben and Kevin, so I
was sort of there all by myself. Suddenly, like a tsunami sweeping unexpectedly onto
land, I decided it was time for me to go to bed. Right then.
So I left the bar and did what any piss drunk, smart, educated man with a borrowed
car would do in the same situation.
I got in the vehicle and began to drive.
I not sure I even realized that I was too intoxicated to drive.
Hell. I didn‟t even realize I was DRIVING.
That said, things went pretty smoothly for awhile. I was sort of on autopilot driving
back to the hotel. Except for one thing.
I had absolutely no idea in which direction the hotel was. I vaguely remembered
something about a Taco Bell and a church and an alley. Or maybe it was a drycleaners.
I had no idea. But, strangely, that didn‟t bother me much. Columbia was a small
enough town. Surely I‟d stumble upon it eventually. Stumble being the key word.
It was at that point that, rudely, the road took a sudden turn to the right. This was a
problem because the borrowed Honda I was driving (sorry Peter) did not. How the hell
was IT supposed to know that the road was going to suddenly curve to the right? It was
perfectly HAPPY going STRAIGHT. And I agreed. So we continued to do so.
BOOM. BOUNCE. BOUNCE. KERCHUNKA. KERCHUNKA. KERCHUNKA.
Before I knew what was happening, I drove/bounced/flew/slid off the road and into
some sort of pit out of which it was extraordinarily difficult to navigate.
When the car came to a halt, the night sky was pitch black -- and that was all I could
see. No lights. No road. No buildings. No people. What the hell had the damn Honda
To find out, I got out of the car and began to survey my surroundings.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, a wholly disturbing scenario became clear.
I looked to my left, and I saw bleachers. I looked to my right and saw more
bleachers. I looked in front of me and I saw what looked like a brick wall and a tunnel.
Then I looked down at my feet, and discovered I was standing on or near what should
have been third base.
Yup. I got drunk and drove my friend Peter‟s car off the access road and into the
The whole ordeal sobered me up quickly and I got back into the car, backed up over
the foul line, drove through the coaches box, around the backstop, onto the access road,
and finally back onto the main drive.
I will never know how the HELL I managed to actually drive that far into Gamecock
Stadium without even the slightest inkling that something might have been amiss.
Unfortunately, I was not smart enough to let well enough alone. I decided I was
So I drove back into town (what the hell? As far as I knew, that might be where the
hotel was) and parked my car right back in front of -- yep, you guessed it -- The Elbow
Room. Across the street was a late night outside diner, which did a booming “after the
bar” business, taking full advantage of the fact that at 3:00 am after a night of heavy
drinking is when our bodies biologically most crave grease – in HUGE QUANTITIES.
I enthusiastically joined the throng of revelers who clearly agreed with me on that
point and ordered a delectable one-pound cheeseburger and some fried mushrooms --
with extra ketchup. A nice man named Frank served me. I remember his name because I
thought it was ironic that his name was, indeed, Frank. He looked like a Frank. If I didn‟t
know and had to guess, I‟d guess that his name was Frank. I would have been right. For
some reason, I found this to be hilarious and squirted about a quarter of a pound of
cheeseburger grease out of my mouth as I attempted to stop laughing hysterically at my
little private joke. Thankfully, an annoying prissy sorority girl stepped directly into the
line of fire and caught the whole stream with the back end of her white skirt. Good thing,
too. That cheeseburger was FANTASTIC. It would have been an awful waste had it
fallen all the way to the sidewalk.
In any event, Frank will remember me if I ever go back. Because I gave Frank a
twenty-dollar bill to pay for my food, which came to (God, I LOVE getting away from
Washington prices) $2.40. And I forgot to stick around to get my change.
Thrilled at the presence of a full pound of dead animal flesh fried in grease, I ate the
whole thing in two bites.
After that, I somehow made it back to the hotel room and crashed for the evening.
The maid awoke me at the crack of two and informed me that I had missed checkout
time by an hour and a half.
Shit. I had to get to Greenville.
THE ROAD TO GREENVILLE
Hung over and injured, I was not sure I was up for another night of debauchery. This
time, I promised myself, I‟d stay sober. And out of jail. About halfway to Greenville I
stopped at roadside diner for lunch and discovered the South Carolina “a-plenty”
Perusing the menu, I noticed that all of the entrees were listed both by themselves,
and as “a-plenty.” Intrigued, but kind of afraid to ask, I did anyway.
“So,” I said to the waitress. “What is the difference between a „cheeseburger‟, and a
“Cheeseburger‟s just a cheeseburger,” she replied. “Cheeseburger-a-plenty will fill
your gut. How hungry are ya?”
Just to see the difference, I ordered one of each (don‟t get alarmed, both entrees
together ran me less than a Washington, DC Super Value Meal at Wendy‟s). I still cannot
believe the meal that was delivered to me. The cheeseburger was, indeed, just a
cheeseburger with all the typical garnishing.
The Cheeseburger-a-plenty was topped with the following items:
1. Two slices of cheese
2. What I‟m sure was an ENTIRE dill pickle
3. More, different, cheese
4. An extra slab of ground beef
6. Sautéed onions
7. Sautéed mushrooms
8. Some sort of murky special sauce
9. Three slices of tomato
10. Red peppers
11. Fried egg
12. Ham steak
I didn‟t want to eat it, I wanted to bronze it. As I was mentally counting the fat
grams contained in the cheeseburger-a-plenty, my fries came. I ordered my fries -a-
plenty too and we don‟t even want to go into that.
All I know is that I left that restaurant a-plenty full, just imagining what could be
included in the “Thanksgiving turkey-a-plenty,” the “meatloaf-a-plenty” and worst of all,
the “country breakfast-a-plenty.
Fat and happy, I drove the rest of the way to Greenville without incident and checked
into the Holiday Inn Express, very ready for a long nap.
I took a shorter nap than I should have and regretted it. There is absolutely nothing
to do in Greenville, South Carolina and I spent five hours doing it all.
Finally, about 7:00 I called “The Gargoyle,” the club in which TMJ would be
playing that evening to ask for directions. A friendly enough bartender answered the
phone knew instantly who I was. No sooner did I tell him I was looking for directions,
when he said “hey, is this Jeff? There‟s someone here who wants to talk to you.”
Oh God, I thought to myself. Who could be possibly sitting in “The Gargoyle” in
Greenville South Carolina waiting for my call? Sheepishly, I agreed to speak to whoever
was on the other end. To my relief, it was Eric, Kevin and Ben, who had been bellied up
to the Gargoyle bar since early in the afternoon. They invited me over to drink with them
before the show.
Privately, my response was that it was 7:00 in the evening, the show would not start
until probably midnight, and I was still feeling the effects of the night before, so it
probably would not be prudent for me to begin drinking that early.
But hell, I was in Greenville, South Carolina and there certainly wasn‟t anything
ELSE to do, so I decided to join them. Besides, this road trip was not about being
After getting directions to the bar, I changed clothes and headed out.
If Greenville has a distinguishing trait, it has to be that the layout of the entire city is
centered around the downtown Hyatt Regency. I mean, the expressway just ends when
you get to the edge of town. The road loops around, and it looks like you are going to
drive right into the Hyatt and up to the front desk. But when you actually get there, you
have to turn left down what is the equivalent of Main Street (that may actually be the
name of it -- I can‟t remember), and pass the broad side of the Hyatt. Finally, when you
want to leave downtown, you have to get back on the same road and drive by the third
and fourth sides of the Hyatt to get back on the expressway.
It was just weird. If budget deficits ever force cities to become sponsored they way
stadiums, arenas and college bowl games have, Greenville should have a lock on securing
the title of Hyatt Regency Greenville, South Carolina.
Anyway, I found a place to park, sniffed out the bar, and walked in. It was not hard
to locate Kevin, Ben and Eric. They were the only people there, and were already half in
the bag. I joined them for a couple of beers, but we were all getting pretty broke and
decided that we‟d be better off buying a six pack (okay, a 24 pack) from a grocery store
and drinking somewhere other than The Gargoyle, as long as we were back before 10:00
we wouldn‟t have to pay cover. So we left.
After picking up a case of some cheap swill that the label maintained was, indeed,
beer a hell of a lot of $.99 roast beef sandwiches from Arby‟s, we went back and hung
out in my hotel room -- partly because nothing in it belonged to any of us and I was smart
enough to pay in cash and avoid giving them an imprint of my credit card, but mostly
because it was FUCKING GREENVILLE and we had nowhere else short of the grocery
store parking lot to go.
We drank all the beer and consumed all the sandwiches without dripping very much
red Arbys sauce on to the brand new salmon carpeting and grinding even less of it in with
out feet as we tried to soak up the beer we spilled with our socks – I can‟t speak for the
others, but mine were on day three. And at 9:45 it was time to head back to The
We got there right before 10:00, and a couple of pretty funny things happened before
the show started.
First, the guy who was running the soundboard introduced Too Much Joy “national
recording artists,” which apparently was very funny to the band and its manager, who all
broke into immediate and lasting laughter.
Too Much Joy has been called a lot of things, but I think hearing themselves referred
to as “national recording artists” was a first. It made it sound like they were being
featured on some bizarre new K-TEL album or something.
My new friends and I had barely started making jokes about how the band could use
the reference to “national recording artists” in the liner notes on the next CD, when two
of what must have been local Greenville women sauntered into the bar.
It was like time had stopped. Eric, Ben, Kevin and I just looked at each other and
couldn‟t say a word. The band, who was sitting at a table directly across from us stopped
their conversation in mid-sentence. I might have been imagining it, but I think the
jukebox quit playing too. I can‟t remember for sure.
Alternative bars (which this bar purported to be) generally draw the same type of
crowd which cuts across all regional stereotypes. And I have to tell you. These girls were
in the WRONG PLACE.
About 40 years of age, these women wore Gloria Vanderbilt jeans that were at least
five sizes too small, sported HUGE -- and I mean HUGE -- blonde hair all teased up into
some sort of unkempt and curly beehive look that must have required a whole CAN of
hairspray. And I immediately suspected that they had run into a hell of a sale at the
(compare to) Lancôme counter at the local mall, because they wore it ALL. I mean, it‟s
not like I wanted to make fun of anybody, but Barbara Mandrel just wasn‟t on the line-up
card that night.
It‟s not clear what everyone ELSE was thinking, but I had visions of these girls
standing right up front during the show and being the subject of one of Tim‟s more cruel
“lies.” Then he‟d slam down the mic stand and scare them away.
The whole episode completely broke my train of thought. Eric and Ben had literally
fallen off their barstools, and were nearly doubling over in laughter.
Around about 11:00 I began to think that perhaps the Greenville show would have
some redeeming qualities after all. A couple of Joy fans who had road tripped from
North Carolina and Ohio respectively showed up and hung out with us.
They were pretty cool and I wrote their names down somewhere to mention in
this article, but I can‟t remember where. Sorry, guys.
Anyway, around midnight we all headed upstairs to get ready for the show. I had
made a conscious decision while sitting in the hotel room earlier that I wasn‟t going to
drink anymore that night (I‟d like to say it was because I knew it would be bad for my
body to get shitfaced two nights in a row, but I think the real reason was that I was afraid
I‟d get sick, pass out early, and miss the show).
To Ben and Kevin, however, the town of Pissdrunk was only a few miles down
the road and they were driving in the fast lane.
The opening band was still playing when we got upstairs. They were called
Slobber, but I‟m sure that‟s just because they didn‟t think of the name “We Suck” in time
to print the tee-shirts.
These guys were REALLY bad. I mean bad to the point that I LONGED for the
stupid commentary of the lead singer between songs. He was an idiot, but it was far
better than listening to the music.
I mean these guys weren‟t just bad. They were bad and they knew it (actually,
that‟s the best kind of bad, because you can make relentless fun of them and they‟ll know
The lead singer wore plaid pants and a DEA hat. He looked like a preppy fratboy
who was trying to appeal to the teenage grunge crowd by wearing clothing he purchased
at a thrift store. He looked really out of place and I think he knew it because he kept
making jokes about how bad the band was and (almost apologetically) kept promising
they‟d only play one or two more songs before they left stage and let Too Much Joy play.
So I guess that made them kind of cool. The bass player had really long blonde hair and
it was apparent to me that he planned to leave after the set and go audition for a new Bon
But this article isn‟t about them. It‟s about Too Much Joy, who came on stage
after a brief intermission during which a scary-looking group of six or seven
thirtysomething motorcycle idiots tried to “mosh” to “I wanna be sedated” by the
Ramones. But they weren‟t just jumping up and down. They were just literally two-
stepping back and forth across the dance floor slamming into each other in some sort of
bizarre Country Line Dancing routine that they practiced on drugs at the local Harley bar.
The one thing I love about Too Much Joy fans is that we all had the same reaction
to these clowns. Simultaneously, we got the same really cocky smirk on our faces and
began verbally degrading them -- loudly -- for acting stupid.
Finally around 12:30 Too Much Joy began to play, and Tim set the tone for the
show by once again breaking the mic stand during That’s a Lie. It was one of those
three-pronged deals instead of the more sturdy kind that have a circular base, and the look
of frustration that crossed Tim‟s face was evident as all three prongs that formed the base
sort of just broke after he slammed it down only once.
Holding the stand high in the air with he legs of the mic stand just sort of dangling
there after the first song, Tim editorialized the situation.
“Ya know,” he said.
“I‟m not one to be very picky, but there are certain contractual obligations that go
along with being a “national recording artist.” I have very few demands and don‟t think
I‟m terribly hard to work with. I mean I don‟t demand to have a big bowl of M&M‟s in
the dressing room before the show that someone has gone through and picked all the
brown ones out. All I want is a decent, sturdy circular-based mic stand.
“I mean this kind of mic stand wasn‟t made for bands like us who actually like to
move around on stage. It was made for guys like Tony Bennett who will just stand up
here and sing.”
Then he tossed the thing to Joe (I don‟t know what his title is, but he‟s a really
cool guy whose job it is to fix stuff when Tim breaks it) who began taping -- yes, taping -
- the thing back together.
The whole ordeal foreshadowed what was ahead.
I‟m not sure Tim made it through an entire song with out wrecking one thing or
another. He went through more guitar strings than Ben went through beers -- and let me
just tell you -- Ben was all kinds of sauced up.
Despite the mechanical difficulties, the show still sounded pretty good.
It was a pretty typical show that featured a few true-blue TMJ fans and a bunch of
locals who have never heard of them before. Much different from Columbia.
Once again, the TMJ “brotherhood” feeling kicked in again as the seven or eight
of us who were right up close to the stage all sang/screamed the words to Weak -- a song
from the new album that Tim claims is about being beaten up by fraternity guys.
We knew all the words, but when I turned around to see if the rest of the crowd
was enjoying the show as much as we were, all I saw were a bunch of wide-eyed locals
who were staring at us, bewildered, confused and perplexed at the same time -- kind of
like starving Somalians would look at you if you just handed them a tray of waxed fruit.
There was at least one local Greenville person who knew of Too Much Joy,
because she approached me and asked me to make sure they played that “fishing song.” I
told her that the song was called Kicking, and it was on the set list to be played in the
second encore. So she was excited.
By the time the show was over, Ben and Kevin proclaimed that they had
consumed just enough beer to get behind the wheel of a car and drive off the first bridge
they cross – in sort of a suicide cult sort of way, which is exactly what Too Much Joy is
Kevin sat drooling on a barstool downstairs and Ben cornered me in the hallway
and initiated one of those “I‟m a straight white male and now, because I‟m drunk, I can
get all sentimental and honest with you” type of conversations.
He told me that just because I was a smart I should not look down on him because
he simply could not “pass college” (his words, not mine). He explained to me that the
world needed janitors, too. And that is what he would always be. And that I shouldn‟t
look down on that.
I had not been aware that I had been a particular intellectual snob to him all
weekend, in fact, I didn‟t even know he wasn‟t in school. Maybe I intimidated him by
going on an outright RAMPAGE over whether it was okay to use dangling modifiers and
split infinitives when writing informal copy when I was drunk on Friday night. I felt bad
and assured him that, while I was indeed an asshole an a snob sometimes, okay – most of
the time – it was all because I had low self-esteem and used my intelligence as a defense
mechanism. I am not sure he understood me, but ordered another beer and gave me a hug
so I figured everything was okay.
After directing him to an empty bathroom stall, I set off to find Eric, who also was
sober. Before the show, we promised Joe we would help him and the band with loadout.
For some reason, they needed some extra help, and we volunteered.
I later discovered something I should have known before. Helping the band with
loadout means that we carry the equipment downstairs and load the van while the band
members sit on the patio and drink beer.
After finding Eric and Joe, they told me that it would be another half an hour or so
before we actually would start to carry out the equipment. So I wandered around the bar
for a while, which had mostly emptied out. It was, after all, past 2:00 am.
Amusingly, I found Kevin sitting at the bar talking to William and Jay. I hoped to
GOD he was not having the same “I know you‟re rock stars and I‟m only a janitor but
you shouldn‟t look down on me because SOMEBODY has to sweep the floor” discussion
He wasn‟t. He was doing something FAR worse. By the time I arrived on the
scene, Jay was holding a permanent black marker and signing his name to the shirt Ben
was wearing which he had borrowed from me
My brand new “Too Much Fucking Joy” shirt now reads:
“Kevin is really drunk,”
“reallyimpossibletoread URINE cursivebritishscribble PUKE thatwilliamwrote.
After that, Eric and I helped Joe load the van. I got to carry down Tommy‟s base
drum -- the one with the cool TMJ logo on it. I was absolutely TERRIFIED I was going
to drop it in a puddle and break the thing, but it made its way into the van without
Joe kept using this musical technojargon to describe the equipment we were
supposed to carry down next. Being a foreign policy major, I didn‟t have a clue what any
of it meant. He would mention something and I would say “You mean the big black
thing with all the stickers on it?” And he would either tell me affirmative or negative.
Joe stayed downstairs to watch the van and converse with this really cheesy local
radio guy who would not stop lobbying for a free tee shirt while Eric and lugged the stuff
downstairs. On more than one occasion, I had to venture out on to the patio and pull
William away from his cocktail to ask his opinion on what we should carry down next.
It took about an hour to get everything loaded, and just as we were going up for
the final trip, the band came downstairs carrying the rest of the gear (is called gear?). I
yelled at Tim, joking that they were “National Recording Artists” and “national
Recording Artists” don‟t carry there own stuff.
He just smiled, shook his head and said “naw.” as he loaded the guitars into the
van and then disappeared inside himself -- but not before thanking Eric and me for our
Then Joe started the van, Tommy handed us a couple of six packs of Molson Ice
for our efforts, closed the door. Seconds later, the (I think it was green) paneled van with
New York plates drove off into the rainy South Carolina night.
And I was sad. One of the most fun and carefree weekends of my life was just
about over. TMJ had only been offstage for a couple of hours, and already I began to feel
the need for another fix.
So Eric and I carted Ben and Kevin to the car, blasted William Holden Caulfield
on the stereo and drove back to the hotel.
“Keep on sleeping‟ on, till my hair turns gray. When I turn 80, I‟d better feel this
way.” The words to that song held more meaning to me than ever before.
After a quick stop at the Krispy Kreme because the “Hot Donuts Now” sign was
on, we drove back to the hotel where Eric, Kevin and especially Ben crashed on my floor.
It wasn‟t Too Much Joy, but we were all fans and that was the next best thing.
We even talked about Theme Song, and we sang it, too.
“To create, you must destroy. Smash a glass and cry, Too Much Joy.”
While I felt like something wonderful had ended as the Too much Joy van pulled
out of the Gargoyle parking lot, I realized that I was wrong. As I went to sleep that
Saturday night, I knew that nothing was ending. Indeed, something AMAZING was only
If nothing else, I knew that I had only scraped the tip of the iceberg (to use an
overused phrase) of finding a whole country full of new friends. And with each one of
them, I would share that unique bond that only Too Much Joy fans can know and feel.
When I awoke, Ben, Kevin and Eric left to head south. I checked out of the hotel
in search of a bona-fide expressway.
Driving down the beautiful four lane road that would lead me back home,
however, I reflected on the weekend and realized that I was still in South Carolina.
I never thought I‟d say it, but as I passed yet ANOTHER billboard advising that I
find Jesus and stop into a particular service station for gas and a “plate lunch,” for the
first time in my life I longed to be Underneath a Jersey Sky.