Idaho Day 1- Big Dogs, Bad Tires, and Blue Waters
I started my first day in Idaho with a big long trip down the panhandle, covering 400 miles down to Boise for the night’s open mic (in case anyone was doubting my commitment to both road tripping and amateur comedy). To fuel up for this lengthy expedition, I stopped at a very cute local coffee cabin (it’s all wood!) in Kellogg, ID called The Bean. They had excellent coffee, and it was one of the coziest spots I’d been to so it made for both a good way to wake up and a nice introduction to the state.
Today’s trip was going to be 8 hours without anything going wrong (spoiler alert it did!) so most of the day was driving but it was an incredibly scenic route. I had almost no prior knowledge about Idaho going into this week, except for the widely circulated fact that they have particularly great potatoes. Because this was the only thing I knew about the state, I just kind of assumed that it would be mostly farmland. Instead driving through Northwestern Idaho, I was struck by how green and lush everything was. It felt much more like the Pacific coast than the farms I’d driven through in the plains and the south, and the route I decided to take would also take me through some really exceptional national forests and parks.
The first stretch of beautiful greenery I drove through was the Coeur d’Alene National Forest. It was a little overcast this morning, so my photos don’t really do it justice but the blend of rolling green hills and the crystal clear waters of the Coeur d’Alene River were really sumptuous.
I was particularly struck by the unusual way the river would sort of permeate and bubble out of low-lying fields to create little blue pools along the riverbanks. It created a really dreamy, otherworldly feel to the landscape and I was constantly fighting the urge to just pull over and really soak it all in.
Ironically my luck took a bit of a downturn just after crossing through St. Joe National Forest, which shows why you should never trust a saint who goes by a nickname. I somehow managed to hit a pothole in the exactly perfect way to completely pop my right passenger tire, which is not what you’re looking for halfway through an 8 hour road trip. I had to wait a while for a tow truck because I’m not some kind of real adult who can change their own tire. Luckily my tire popped just down the road from a local tire shop called Deary Automotive. I had no idea just how lucky this was, but it turns out it was the only tire shop in a 20 mile radius, so as far as bad luck goes I didn’t have it too bad.
Despite the setback of needing a new tire, I was thoroughly impressed by the folks at Deary Automotive, who went way out of their way to try to honor my tire warranty. The way it ended up working out was that because I had weird tires built for Northeastern weather, the only tires they had in my size were used, and the warranty would only get me new tires for free. Rather than trying to talk up the used tires, they were actually willing to lose business by calling up all the other tire shops in the area on the off chance that they did have a fresh tire that would work. The whole time they were on and off the phones for me, everyone there was super kind and friendly taking an interest in how I ended up in the middle of Idaho and in my comedy. I ended up just going with the used tire (which I should point out lasted the entire rest of the trip), but I ended up gaining a few Facebook friends who I’ve still kept in touch with. That level of random hospitality and kindness during a moment of distress really meant the world to me, and I’ll always be grateful.
Back on the road I tried to avoid making any stops to still make the open mic. This is unfortunate because I did drive by a roadside bed and breakfast shaped like giant 30 ft. tall beagle created by husband and wife chainsaw artists (a phrase I never though I’d type), Dennis J. Sullivan and Frances Conklin, called the Dog Bark Park Inn. The main dog is named Sweet Willy and he is thought to be the largest beagle in the world, though I can’t imagine he has much competition. The hotel also features different chainsaw carvings by the founders, which I would have really loved to see, but I know myself well enough to know that if I had stopped I would have stayed for a minimum of half an hour, which I couldn’t really afford. I just had to content myself with the joy of driving by such a ridiculous thing and then going back to look up more photos on line which I’ve shared below:
Purely in the interest of staying awake and not dying, I did stop for some coffee at a place called Crema in Grangeville, because it had the same name and cozy vibes of my favorite coffee shop back in Cambridge, MA (which has sadly closed now).
Refueled, I continued on the way to Boise stopping only to take some pictures of the truly insane rolling hills of the Nez Pearce National Forest and the hilariously named Hell’s Canyon Recreation area which is just on the other side of the Highway. The sky had totally cleared up on me, and it’s crazy how clearly you can see the shadows of the clouds on the hills. It just seemed to stretch out forever, and I’d never seen such serene and undisturbed looking lands.
As calm and gentle as the hills looked in the distance, up close and personal they were impressively rocky and intimidatingly tall even if that lovely greenness can’t help but soften the appearance somewhat.
Somehow I did end up making it to the open mic at a pretty hip Boise Brewery called Mad Swede Brewing. The brewery was viking themed so the beers were all strong with very intense names, but unlike the real vikings everyone there was super friendly and the bar had fun hangout feel to it. I got a flight of their Varangian Nectar Stout (a dark rich chocolaty boy), the Loven 890 Summer Stout (a lighter, sweeter stout), The Naked Sunbather Nut Brown Ale, and the Caber Toss This Ye Wee Lad Scotch Ale. Everything was utterly fantastic and super in my beer wheelhouse, but the darker stout and the brown ale were particular highlights.
As for the open mic, it proved to be a pretty great intro to the Boise scene because the comics were uniformly great. The audience wasn’t huge (to be expected at a brewery on a Monday), but the people that were there stayed the whole time and were very supportive and it ended up being a super fun night.
My favorite comic of the night was a guy named Montana Burke, who had really sharp and a delivery that could blend laid back stoner-y observations with energetic rants to keep you on your toes and laughing. On both ends of the energetic spectrum my two favorite lines of his were “My Friend's dad said he invented the orange” and “I don’t get why people hate Yoko Ono so much. That’s like asking ‘Why would John pick the love of his life over three guys at work he didn't get along with?!"‘
Aaron Winemiller- I’m working on a crossover called Scooby Doo SVU
Derek Hayden- If you get broken up with by falcon, your day just got that much better
Dylan Hunter - I had girlfriend who used to call me dead fish
Christopher Michael Sudberg- Blue Whale Penises are the longest of all mammals. Ah spring (wild transition)
Jeremy Nelson- The neighbors never even told my parents, “you know he's here every night for dinner, right?”
LJ Sullivan - “Wednesday triple stack. Is this the nirvana you spoke of?” He said on his death bed
Mundek Clement-Stein- I like to dress like a cowboy whenever I do something that's gay. Why would you want me to have a job? I'm not gonna take it seriously.
The mic also had a traveling headliner named Nariko Ott, who had really funny but really dark one liners, but the professional stage presence to not only pull them off but really get the crowd going. Some of my favorites were: “I don't get chaps. You protect everything but your dick and ass.”; “The only thing standing between us and universal health care is one good flu”; “One tomahawk missile is worth 7 Lamborghinis, it would be way cooler to Just drop 7 Lamborghinis on terrorists” ; and “I got fired from working at a pizza place because I named a specialty pizza ‘Parmesan Benet Ramsey”
The material wouldn’t necessarily be for everyone, but his performance was like a masterclass in delivery, because he had the whole bar on his side no matter how dark he got.
As for my own set, it went really well and I remember my jokes about my dad getting older doing the best they’d done in a while which was a nice little confidence booster. The confidence boost kept going when Mundek came up to me after my set, and let me know he booked shows throughout the week and asked if I’d like some help getting stage time while I was in town. He had been so funny on stage, and I was psyched that he wanted to put me on a couple shows while I was there. One day in and the people in Idaho were already so incredibly good to me. It certainly felt like a positive omen of things to come (spoiler alert it was, I had a great week!)
At this point though, my day’s diet of just gas station snacks caught up with me and I had to bid goodbye to all the great comedians and get some real food in me. My definition of “real food” might be lax relative to some people’s because I turned to a local Mexican chain that was one of the only places open 24 hours (it had gotten a tad late for most restaurants) called Los Betos Mexican Food. For a place that had the low prices, business hours, and general aesthetic of a quick and dirty fast food place, I was pleasantly surprised by how dang good my carnitas burrito was. There was real pork (seasoned and slow-cooked and everything), solid rice, a toasty tortilla, and even fresh guacamole included! It was a valuable lesson in judging a book by its cover, and a great way to end the day.
Favorite Random Sightings: 1st Bank of Pizza (my kind of bank, unfortunately they don’t give out loans); Old Lucille Recreation Area (such a hilariously not high octane name for a place to do hiking); Watch Out for Rock (singular); River of No Return (what a welcoming name!)
Regional Observations: I’m basing this purely on feeling and not fact, but I’m pretty sure the Idaho panhandle has the highest waterfall density of any part of the country. I felt like I saw one around every corner. Such oddly prevalent majesty!
Albums Listened T: Surf by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment (a fantastic surprise summer release by Chance the Rapper and friends); Surfer Rosa by Pixies (a hugely influential album for the sound of the coming 90s); Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys (just the title track); Swagger by Flogging Molly (some good Irish punk); Swamp Fox: The Definitive Collection by Tony Joe White (swamp funk); Sweden by the Mountain Goats (just Cold Milk Bottle)
People’s Favorite Jokes: None today so a cheesy one from the web:
There was a little boy named Johnny who used to hang out at the local corner market. The owner didn't know what Johnny's problem was, but the boys would constantly tease him.
They would always comment that he was two bricks shy of a load, or two pickles short of a barrel. To prove it, sometimes they would offer Johnny his choice between a nickel (5 cents) and a dime (10 cents) and John would always take the nickel -- they said, because it was bigger.
One day after John grabbed the nickel, the store owner took him aside and said, "Johnny, those boys are making fun of you. They think you don't know the dime is worth more than the nickel. Are you grabbing the nickel because it's bigger or what?"
Slowly, Johnny turned toward the store owner and a big grin appeared on his face and Johnny said, "Well, if I took the dime, they'd stop doing it, and so far I've saved $20!
Songs of the Day: