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In which Birdmonster rolls through Virginia, plays with precocious teenagers, and ponders the myth and majesty of Bob Barker

October 4, 2008  |  4:15pm
When I was in college and even poorer than I am now, I went with a large group of people to The Price Is Right, hoping to secure a car, a vacation, or at least a poorly made gazebo. Before the show, everybody stands in one of those snaking lines like they have at Disneyland, waiting for their chance to interview with the dour gentlemen who choose the contestants for that day's show. Being that I was 19 going on 13, and being that my enthusiasm level was somewhat below the caffeinated cocker-spaniel level required for Price Is Right contestants, I was passed over. Of course, you don't know this beforehand, so you spend the entire filming in a state of rabid anxiousness while old Midwesterners with Bob Barker on their shirt get chosen, and, subsequently groped by the man silkscreened to their bellies. It's very post-modern.

There are two great things about Price Is Right. At least, there were. First off, there was Bob. Retired now after 15 decades of hosting, Bob Barker was the consummate emcee. He told lame but enjoyable jokes during the commercial breaks, never missed a beat, and admonished everyone to have their dog's balls removed. He was also a decidedly dirty old man. I recall one occasion, where, during a commercial break, Bob was chatting up a particular group of ladies with customized shirts saying things like "Pick Me, Bob!" or "We Love You, Bob!" These were not what you'd call attractive women, especially if you were Bob Barker, an octogenarian who spends most of his days surrounded by ninety-pound Barbies. This did not stop Bob. He walked over to them during the break, and, into that weird, skinny, candy-apple microphone he used to have, said, "Nice shirt, honey."

"Thank you Bob! THANK YOU! WE LOVE YOU!" she responded.

"Why don't you" (and here he laughed in a disturbingly Cheney-an way), "take it off and throw it over here."

And he continued flirting with her all show. And not just her. Pretty much every woman in a 10 row radius of the stage. It was like going to Hooters with your Grandpa and watching him pinch asses and "drop" chicken wings.

The second great thing about the Price Is Right is screaming. On the more staid gameshows like, say, Jeopardy, or the one with no whammies, you aren't allowed to yell the answers at the contestants. Not on Price Is Right. No, no. Here, you can shout anything you want: "Seven Hundred Fifty!" "Forty five Rupees!" "Man's Search For Meaning!" It helps if you've had some Brandy milk punch for breakfast.

I mention this because at the beginning of every tour, we play Price Is Right with our overall mileage. Guesses are made, scratch-off lotto tickets are bet, prognostications are recorded. This time around, the estimates range from eleven thousand miles to seventeen thousand, one hundred and eleven, the last being mine. In the past few days, however, we've all reconsidered. I think my guess, ludicrously high on its face, is now dangerously low. We've gone 3,300 miles already. We've been gone for a week. Barely. And, in total, we're doing West coast to Wast coast to West coast to East coast back home to the West. Which is to say, if we were on Price Is Right, I'd probably win, though, as they tell you when you're sitting down: "Men are discouraged from hugging Bob Barker." I wonder if Drew Carey is as squeamish a homophobe.

Since we spoke last, we've enjoyed Virginia, both in Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. We were pre-empted in Charlottesville by the Sarah Palin Show, which we missed, but that's okay: I'm dumb enough already. I don't need the extra help. Charlottesville is a gorgeous old city, all bricks and trees and pedestrians, and our showmates, Bird Lips, were both tall and excellent in equal measure. They're a folk duo (keys and twelve-string) that sounds nothing like you're assuming. Our best to them.

And then we went to Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is just one of those places, which is to say, a place we happened upon, fell in love with, and hope to come back to every time we're on the East coast. This was our second time there and we played in a 222-year-old bookstore, one which has a truly inconvenient post in the middle of the "stage" but one which sounds surprisingly great. It's got a strange, cozy, D.I.Y. aura to it and the kids that come are really, really fun people to have at a show. They sing along, they clap along, they hoot constantly. And you know what? We've played with three bands from Fredericksburg and they've all been amazing. When I was 16, I was playing horrible metal cheese in my family room. These kids are writing catchy pop songs and playing the shit out of them. So, if you're in the area and you ever see "Rocky's Revival," "Carlos I'm Pregnant", or "Tereu Tereu" at a show, do yourself a favor: go see them. They will blow your mind.

Tonight: Philly. We meet the Rumble Strips. I will make an ass of myself. I look forward to it all.

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