Heartburn Hotel

The Memphis trip is postponed until hopefully mid-December. Had  a little medical crisis Saturday morning that required surgery Saturday afternoon. Acute appendicitis. It showed up late Friday night as a very tight ache and I guessed it was something I’d eaten and would be knocked out with Tums and Pepto-Bismol. I think it was the first time in my life that Pepto-Bismol didn’t save the day.

Saturday morning I only had to Google once to convince myself to hit Urgent Care — something about the phrase “potentially fatal” — and in a few hours I was being admitted and lined up for surgery. They wouldn’t even let me leave to grab my phone charger.

During the prep and CT scan, I was asked twice about The Frye, so I knew I was in caring, sensitive hands.

Around 4 p.m. I woke up in my own hospital room, where I dozed in and out and kept an eye on AMC’s Walking Dead marathon. My surgeon visited Sunday morning and said all went well, to stay down for a few days, not lift anything over 20 pounds for four weeks and if possible to push the Memphis plan back a week.

So, since the three holes in my gut are telling me to please be still, the band is rescheduling that trip. I am home now, lying flat, hopped up on goofballs, eating light and watching TV. I’d much rather be at work knowing we’re leaving for Memphis Thursday, but I’m also damn certain we’ll be on that Mystery Train sooner than later.


Approaching Memphis again

In April my friend Keith Adams and I both turned 50 and drove to Memphis for some music. It was an ideal place to celebrate a pair of personal milestones, this city so full of its own.

The drive down was a blast. We drank lots of pop and talked about what it is we’re doing with our lives so they feel like lives.

With Keith it’s immersing himself – quite successfully – in artisan cheese making. He’s getting awards and accolades worldwide, and it was good to hear him talk with such pride and excitement because that’s what The Frye has been giving me over the past six years. So at 75 miles an hour we were bonding over songwriting and organic Camembert, making it clear we were too old to be screwing around or apologizing for finding value in such things. It is time to take being happy seriously, and vice versa.


Two days later I was taking a walk along a fairly bland stretch of road near the place we were staying and saw a little house with a small hand-painted design out front: Shangri-La Records. It was a vinyl collector’s dream house — hell, it was anybody’s dream house — with these sweet-smelling old and colorful albums and great Memphis music memorabilia covering three rooms.

I found a Neil Young rarity – Journey Through The Past – when a voice behind me said: “Joe Tougas?” I turned and it took me a second or two to recognize Jamie, former Mankatoan and Fillin’ Station barista who a few years ago fronted one or two very noisy bands in town and always seemed like a nice kid. He asked what I was up to and I told him about the birthday jaunt. He told me he now lived in Memphis and when I asked what he did, he said: “I tend bar and book bands.”


So now The Frye is set to play Oct. 19 at the Poplar Lounge, where Jamie tends bar and books bands. It is a dive, for the most part, a dark bar with a small stage. But it is a dive bar in Memphis – Elvis. Johnny. Sun. Stax. Booker T. Everybody. We’re bringing some friends and family and Keepers RV Center is sponsoring the tour.

I’m not sure what to expect. But I know what I’m looking forward to, and I hope I’m not distracted too much by the excitement of the night to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to putting our songs into some sacred air.

Then I’m looking forward to playing Memphis again.

And again.